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Report 2018: Southern Ireland with Mom

By nikkihop from Texas USA, Spring 2012

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Page 7 of 12: June 16, 2012 – The Rock of Cashel, Cahir Castle and Kilkenny

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The ROCK of Cashel

The Bailey's Hotel in Cashel is really nice, and should be as it was our most expensive hotel in Ireland at €120 per night. The rooms are comparable to a Hilton in the U.S., only with creakier stairs and an elevator so small, they have sliding doors on two adjacent sides. You get in on the south side of the elevator in the lobby, and because they know you're not going to be able to turn more than 45 degrees in any direction with your luggage, you get out by sidestepping west through the second set of elevator doors. The best thing about our room is the bathroom, which is large, paneled in dark wood, and has a full sized tub. I took a long soak last night to wash away my crash anxiety.

In the morning, DM and I headed downstairs for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. It's adjacent to last night's bar/restaurant, so we have high hopes of being able to log on to the wireless Internet and catch up on emails while eating a tomato, bacon and mushroom omelet (me) and pancakes (DM). Unfortunately, there's no wireless in the breakfast room, so we eat up and go sit in the closed, dark bar for a while to get our WiFi fix.

Feeling a bit better after a good night's sleep and breakfast, DM and I hit the streets of the newly-dubbed Crashel, and walk over to tour the Rock of Cashel. It's hard not to say, "the ROCK" like Sean Connery in the movie by the same name. We explore the ruins a bit while waiting for our tour to start, which is led by a nice man named Sean McShanus. Sean is a bit long winded and manages to tell us a lot less than you might think about the ROCK. (See? It's really hard.) Sean spends a lot of time moving his 15-person group around to get us in a position that he likes and then makes several comments about the weather like, "Now, I know yer all likely cold here in this wind, and tis a bit breezy, but I'm going to tell ya about the St. Patrick's cross here in a moment." Ah, Sean? Maybe a bit more about the cross and less about the obvious. In a coincidence about as odd as having a car wreck when you're parked, we notice that Jim Mahoney, our local driving menace is actually in the same tour as us. We act like old friends.

The Rock of Cashel is the traditional seat of the Munster kings in Ireland, and it's rumored that St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave a few miles away so forcefully that the Rock from the explosion landed in Cashel. The Rock is at the top of a large hill overlooking town, and we had several kinds of weather while we were touring. We had wind, rain, warm bursts of sun and cloudy overcast skies. We thought it was interesting that the graveyard is still being used, but only by a short list of families in the area. Sean said there were four people still on the list and I wondered if they have a betting pool going on who goes first.

After our tour of the ROCK, we stopped into the Cashel Woolen Shop at the base of the hill selling sweaters and knick knacks. There, we met our favorite shop keeper so far. She was hands down the most loudly upbeat person in the country, if not the world. She loudly chirped "Good morning, madam!" at every person to enter. When you actually buy something, she goes into overdrive, "Oh thank you, madam! Thank you very much!" A single exclamation point really does not do her lilting over-loud, over-the-top, Julia Child-meets-Mrs. Doubtfire voice justice. She helped these German ladies with some purchases, and by the end of the transaction, those ladies couldn't get out of there fast enough. Having lived in Germany for three years, I can tell you that Germans and loud, clucky cheerfulness don't really mix well. For the rest of the day, and indeed the trip, however, DM and I continued to thank each other effusively in imitation of this lady. "Thank you, Madam, for buying my lunch!"(me, to DM). "Thank you very much, Madam, for opening my door!" (DM, to me.) "Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!" You have to imagine that it's said like "you hoo!" really loudly, or you just won't get it.

Thank You Madam lady put us in such a good mood, we decided to celebrate with second breakfast a la hobbits, who are surely related to the Irish. We stopped in for pastries in Spearman's Bakery and Teashop, where I ordered a yummy apple pound cake square, a coffee and diet coke for DM.

We found out at the Shannon Airport Tourism office that the Waterford crystal factory has shut down permanently since the economy hit the skids. Since we had originally planned on driving to Waterford today, we had to resort to plan B again, which was to drive to Cahir Castle just a few minutes down the awesome three-lane motorway. We were so glad we did.

Cahir Castle is a really cool, almost completely restored castle where you can explore on your own, climbing turrets and spirally staircases to the ramparts. Kids would love this place. Parents might not love this place, as handrails and safety are clearly not the main concern. They also have an excellent fillum, which of course we took advantage of. They have built a complete miniature model of the castle in its heyday, rich with tiny soldiers and knights, trees, shrubs, river and the works. There was also a fascinating exhibit on medieval women. To top it all off, there were white swans floating serenely around the moat as we walked back to the car park. We strolled down the river walk for a while, looking for a pub so we could eat lunch.

We settled on the Galtee Inn, which is a pub with a horse racing theme, including steeple chasing on the telly and riding boots hanging from the ceiling with jockey's pants pooled around the ankles. I ordered the French onion soup and cucumber sandwiches (very posh!) and DM had the chicken and avocado sandwich, both with rocket salad and crisps. Rocket salad is the Irish description for arugula salad with thousand island dressing on it. I'm not sure why it’s called rocket salad. Maybe it has something to do with all the fiber...

Next on the agenda was the city of Kilkenny, which has the narrowest streets we had experienced that far. We reached town during rush hour, and bumper-to-bumper traffic takes on new meaning when it's also side-mirror-to-side-mirror traffic. We also had some trouble spotting our B&B, so had to make the main street loop twice, and went down one alley where I honestly did not think we would fit. I had to pull in the side mirrors to inch down the cobblestone sidewalk posing as a city street. Nonetheless, and I want to emphasize this, we parked in the city garage and got to our B&B with no scratches to our rental car. Why the emphasis? Because I'm still bitter about all this painstaking driving only to be Jim Mahonied in Crashel while parked! Grrrrrr.

The Butler Court B&B (free parking in Ormonde Street, multi-story car park 100 yards away) is another gem, set right on the end of the main drag just behind Kilkenny Castle and close to everything. Our innkeeper, Yvonne, and her adorable black and white border collie, Bob, met us at the gate and showed us to our chic and very comfortable room. We have been so lucky in the hotel/B&B department while in Ireland. I would recommend every single one of our lodgings. Yvonne gave us a map and some recommendations for food, and DM and I set out to walk the grounds of Kilkenny Castle (impressive) and the town. We walked the whole main street again up to St. Canice Cathedral and back down in a loop to see St. Mary's church.

DM started to get really hungry, so we stepped over to the Kyteler's Inn for dinner. We have a knack for picking good restaurants in cellars. This place still looks medieval with its vaulted stone cathedral ceilings and dark cozy wooden tables. First established by the notorious Dame Alice de Kyteler in the 13th century, the Inn is one of the oldest inns in Ireland.

Mrs. Kyteler was a merry widow, churning through four husbands and amassing a considerable fortune. Local jealousies abounded, however, and she was eventually accused of witchcraft and sentenced to be burned. Being the resourceful woman that she was, however, she skipped the country to England before the execution could take place, and her maid was burned in her place. I listened to a podcast on her before we came to Ireland, so I was thrilled to eat at her place.

I had the Irish stew with lamb, potatoes, carrots and celery, and DM had the roast beef, potatoes, and cabbage. Both meals were very good. We were also treated to some live music by an Irish busker with just his guitar. He had a great singing voice, and we would have liked to stay longer, but everyone was smoking out on the patio where the music was playing, so we left rather than contract lung cancer.

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