I'm finally buckling under the pressure to write about the vacations I take. We'll try it this time and see how it goes.
I've hesitated to write about this because I don't think it's all that interesting and feels like I'm just showing the slides and explaining what I did. So let me know if you want me to do another non-travelogue next week in the comments.
I'm calling it a non-travelogue because I don't like the genre all that much, and I'm hoping that, at most, people will have less of an understanding of a place after reading one of these rather than think that any place can be understandable. And, I'm hoping that, in the best of the tradition of blogging, people who've traveled to and live in whatever area I'm talking about can call me stupid or add stories and other information in the comments.
My first non-travelogue on my trip to southwestern Ireland last week is after the jump.
After the flight into Cork, Alberto and I headed straight to the bus station to go up to Killarney.
Mystery for idle speculation
: Alberto went to the bathroom there, and right in front of the machine where you pay to get in, he said there was a woman standing there doing nothing. As he left, a man went up to her and asked her if she saw anything strange. She said no.
What's up with that? Someone assigned to make sure people pay the 20 cents instead of jumping over the machine? Uncover cop to watch out for guys cruising in the bathroom? A couple of people waiting for aliens to land, and they only knew the time and the place it'd happen but not the date?
So we get to Killarney and apparently it's "Drive your car along the strip repeatedly" Day in town. Everything was expensive, the cars were pretty chic, and there was way too much traffic and honking and people shouting from cars for a town that size.
Moral of that story: Killarney is a really, really touristy town.
The next morning we headed off to the Gap of Dunloe, on the right. There's a nice 31-mile bike loop through it and part of Killarney National Park and Muckross Park that leads right back into town. It's a rather hilly path, but with every uphill comes a downhill, so it works out in the end. There are a few cafes and restaurants along the path, but it's probably a better idea to pack food instead of buying it there. Bad cake.
Fun, queer story
: Alberto and I went to the tourist info office in the morning, and the guy working there was really, really gay. Like waaaaaaaaaay gay.
I asked about going through the Gap of Dunloe (that's what he said!), and he said we could take a bike half of the way and then a boat for the other half through the lakes back into town. He called the boat guy, really excitedly, to reserve two spot for us.
Well, he didn't tell us that we had to rent bikes separately, or that we couldn't make it to the boat on time anyway, so we're like, no we don't want to go on the boat ride. So he calls the boat guy back up, all disappointed, apologizes like eight times and promises to find more people to take the boat. "I'll send more people, don't worry. I'll find some more."
I'm actually pretty glad we ended up not taking the boat.
The next day we took a bus to Tralee
and hiked out to the ocean. It's crazy times there, because there were cows all over, and the path ends for a while and we found ourselves in a field with electric wire all around it with a bunch of cows. One even started dancing in front of us.
We hitch-hiked back into town, got halfway hammered in a bar, and went off to search for a barber. We were both in need.
The third day in Killarney we biked to Magnerton Mountain and climbed up it. It's a dormant volcano, and at the top there's a field in between the mountains that more desert than the extreme-green we were used to from, well, everything else in Ireland. There's a magnificent view of the town from up there too, if you can stand the wind to look down.
Day four we took the bus back to Cork in the morning and checked in to the hotel there. We headed off to see the town (didn't take any photos...). Cork is the Republic of Ireland's second-biggest city, and it's buildings have a lot more old-world charm than Dublin's do, if you're familiar with that city. The art museum downtown is worth the visit, and the English Market is fun just to check out (I had the first good cup of American-style coffee there since I left the US for France).
: Why aren't there any good vegetarian restaurants in France? I haven't tried them all, so maybe I'm too quick to judge, but every time we end up in one it's the stereotype of the humorless vegetarian made real: everyone chews slowly, the food is really small and surrounded with a lot of carefully-arranged sauce, and people are really, really quiet. In Cork, on the other hand, we found an all-vegetarian coop the first night we were there. It was fun and inexpensive, with healthy portions and dishes that were recognizable as food.
I'm thinking that because vegetarianism in the West is found mostly in the English-speaking countries, that they've just moved on from the idea that it's an entire way of life that involves shunning sensory experiences. Thoughts?
I do know that when I say I'm vegetarian in France it comes with a long conversation about what that means, but in the US people generally understand the parameters of that term.
The fifth day of our vacation we headed off to the Blarney Castle
. I remembered an old Lorrie Moore story I read where the main character and her mother traveled around Ireland and ended up there where they wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone and receive the gift of eloquence.
Well, that's pretty much what we did. The castle is a great visit and the grounds are beautiful, but we had to climb to the top to kiss that Blarney Stone.
We got up there, and the stone, we find, is a bit off the edge of the castle. We were about 8 stories up at that point. You have to lean over backwards to reach the stone (see right), and the guy who's in charge of keeping you from falling off the castle seemed half-there.
Anyway, Alberto went first, and the guy working there proceeded to hit on him (everywhere we go people hit on Alberto, it's amazing). It was my turn, I went quickly, not sure if I kissed the right stone, and then it was next in line. As we were leaving, there was a sign explaining that guides will often try to make the line go quicker and not tell you the right one to kiss, and I knew I'd regret it for the rest of my life if I didn't get it right. Besides, who doesn't want to be eloquent?
So Alberto asked him and I got a redo, and now I speak really well.
That night we went out to find the gay nightlife in Cork. We found a gay bar that was twice as expensive as all the other bars in the city, and it was completely empty (that's a running theme from all my travels - gay bars are always expensive and empty). So we headed out to find another on the southside of town that was pretty laid-back. After that we headed on up to the third address we had, a disco bar with a dance floor and, like every bar we went to that week, cider on tap.
The next day we headed back to smelly Paris. Ha ha.
I had a great time on this trip. A few of the highlights included the cider-on tap, which I had never seen before but couldn't get enough of; shouting "Look, cows!" or "Look, sheep!" every half-hour, and never getting tired of it; eating Galtee cheese, Ireland's most versatile cheese (it's a lot like Velveeta); and the green, the constant, natural greenness of everything.