Kilkenny, Ireland - Castle and more

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Today's the day that we leave Belfast.

It's it's with mixed feelings that I leave Belfast because I'm finding out that the O'Neill's came from Northern Ireland way back hundreds of years ago. Also this area is so full of emotion because of the "Troubles" especially here in Andersonstown.

We are schlepping our suitcases from where we've been staying for the past five days in Andersonstown down to the bus depot in the city centre.

Belfast has a beautiful, modern and spacious bus depot, one of the nicest I have seen. There's not much of a wait in the depot before we find ourselves on board a very modern bus.

We are lucky to be seated on the left-hand side right at the very front so we get very good views of the countryside. We drive past Lisburn which is where we were a few days ago. We are out in the country with rolling hills, beautiful trees mostly deciduous  and hedges dividing off the  fields. We see many fields full of cows, mostly Jersey cows and some fields full of sheep. We are going through very picturesque countryside.

It doesn't take long before I find myself waking up almost again at the city of Dublin.

Back to Dublin for a bus change, lunch and to recover my misplaced credit card.

The motion of the bus had rocked me to sleep. Once we are in Dublin it feels reassuring, familiar. We drive past the airport which of course is where we first landed here in Europe. Then on into town and we drive past areas by the river that we did a lot of walking through about a week back. The bus depot itself is an older model also quite spacious. I had to spend about 45 minutes in the bus depot waiting for Kenneth. This was quite fine with me as Ken had gone to get my credit card (what a darling) which was left in the safe of a store where I had purchased something at about a week before. He had also gone to get us lunch at a favorite restaurant of our's - Govinda's - which serves vegetarian East Indian food. It wasn't long after he arrived back to the depot that we were back on the bus but this time headed towards final destination of the day - Kilkenny.

After about another two hours on the bus we arrive in the picturesque little town of Kelkenny. I am much too tired to really appreciate it, however. My Kenny wanted to come here because of the Smithwick's beer or ale is produced here. In Canada it is called Kilkenny, but here Smithwick's. We eat a the Kyteler's Pub. There is story about Alice the original owner of the pub. She had a wonderful pub back hundreds of years ago. Some of the towns folk were likely jealous of the great merry making had here and declared here a witch. When they went to track her down to be burned this supposed witch, they could not find her. She had disappeared. Great, old, authentic looking pub where we enjoyed our first, true fish and chips.

I was tired in the extreme upon our arrival at the Kilkenny House Hotel. I did not even remember the next day what floor our room was on, which was the third floor. We had a good view of the surrounding countryside.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

After yesterday's troubles walking I was almost afraid to get myself out of bed, however, when I was I got up...volia...I could walk quite nicely. The rest of yesterday had done wonders for my stiff, sore legs. We could walk into Kilkenny now, and that is what we did via a residential, country walk. Many of the homes were identical to each other and mostly made of brick. Now, being the beginning of June, there were lots of blooming flowers and trees. We saw white lilacs, poppies, golden chain trees, lupins, a colourful hedge of green, yellow and red hedging and glorious smelling wild or old roses just beginning to bloom.

Getting closer into town we found the buildings to become older and older. High, stone fences had little ferns and lichens growing out of them. These stone walls looked positively medieval, and actually could be. We walked up to and around St. Canice's Cathedral. There was an inscription on the stone fence going into the Cathedral which had a date from the 1600's. We did not actually take a tour as we were on a mission to go to Kilkenny Castle. Down the Saint Canice's Steps we went closer yet into town. We went through Black Freren Gate into Kilkenny supposedly the most scenic inland city in Ireland - it certainly is quaint and has retained so many of the old, close to medieval building.

Speaking of medieval we went again to the Kyteler's Pub. We ate in the glass covered outer area which is off the basement. The basement, is Pub area proper, has stone pillars holding up the building with wonderfully arched door openings. Quite a sight to see!

It was a pleasure walking the winding streets. The air was much warmer here than our previous locations. There were many usual shops to pique our interest, staying out of them was the thing because we had to get ourselves to Kilkenny Castle with enough time to check out this very old building.

Kilkenny Castle is on a river. It started out as a wood structure in about 1120. The son of the original owner built the first stone structure. Three of the four original towers are still standing. It has been renovated several times, the last time in the 1990's. After many generations the original family lived in the home up until the 1930's. In around that time zone most of the furnishings were auctioned off. Fortunately some art and tapestries were held in trust somewhere and are now back in their home. Certain rooms have been lovingly restored as authentically as possible.

They found pieces of wallpaper which they copied or one bookshelf that was original and copied. They used Victorian era furniture but did not have what was original to the house. Before the last renovation was done some archeological digs were completed. This helped give them information about where moats where, when the original structure was developed and what it was made out of.

We could not take photographs, unfortunately, inside the castle. Across the street in what was the barns or stables was now the Crafts Centre. It holds arts and crafts made in Ireland - woolens, linens, jewellery, clay works, wood work, etc. Wonderful first castle for me, Ken has been in one before. I look forward to many more castles in the furture.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The socks that Ken washed and hung out the window on a plastic hanger last night are still not dry. We have read that people come to Europe and pack real light, for example have one or two pair of underwear or only a couple pair of socks. We did not do that. Having not done laundry for about a week, however, we find ourselves in the situation of running out of clean clothing necessities. Ken took it upon himself to enhance his clothing lot in life for the immediate future - he washed some socks yesterday morning. They were still not dry this morning even though they were hung outside at night for the fast dry experience. This quick dry thing did not happen and Ken decided to use a blowdryer to finish up. Funniest thing, but it worked.

We are leaving our lovely Hotel room here in Kilkenny to proceed with our journey to Cork, IE.
We take a taxi ride with all our suitcases to the train/bus station. Here the station master stores our bags while we go for a walk about town. Kilkenny is a touristy town with well preserved buildings from the 1800's and much older. It is a pleasure to just walk and see the sights even though my left knee, front and back is hurting (likely from the cold, the cement, hard sidewalks and the length of our walks). We look around in the shops, purchasing nothing. At lunch we decide to go to the Craft Centre and eat at the cafeteria. I have the main meal's potatoes and veggies (huge helping, too) for a fraction of the cost of the main entre. Ken tries the traditional mushroom soup. Then we walk the grounds of the Kilkenny Castle seeing

Again we get the left, front seat of the bus, the best place to see the scenery. Keep in mind that in Ireland the driver is on the right-hand side and he or she drives on the left-hand side of the road. Neither of us is driving here but for crossing the street safely it is hard to remember which way to look when crossing the road. We are careful to obey walking cross lights.

The green, rolling hills of Ireland dotted with herds of sheep and cows is a reality here not just a painting from yesteryear. It is a wonderful, rich green. The farm homes and yards look well cared for. Most are big homes exuding lots of Irish charm, likely wealth from the prosperous looking, fertile soiled land. The land of my ancesters. The story goes that my O'Neill relatives come from came from county Cork. I felt such emotion roll over me knowing I had entered the county of Cork, Ireland. All my life I had wanted to come here and see this place. My Great-Grandfather, Simon Riley O'Neill, my Grandfather, Charles Edward O'Neill, having not left Nova Scotia until his late sixties and my Mother, Almeda Clara Bray (nee O'Neill) would have envied my travels to Cork. I wish they could all be with me now, well they are definitely in my heart and in my thoughts.

University College of Cork was our destination once in Cork city proper. By the time we arrived it was cold outside, colder than previously in the day.  Our dorm at the college was small but effiecient. I was was so tired I could barely keep awake to eat. Ken graciously made us supper in the dorm kitchen. It was so nice to be served supper in bed under the warm, cozy duvet. Ken is such a darling, wonderful man to do that when I know he must have been cold and tired, too.

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