Thursday, July 14, 2011

Part 3, Cork

Our first full day is spent going down to Cork, and we do miraculously manage to get on the road by 9 :20. The two stragglers aren’t at all happy to be told to hurry it up, but the vans go together or they don’t go. We aren’t very clear on where to head once we actually get to Cork. Separation could be fatal.

It’s a couple hours’ drive, straight down toward Waterford, turn right at the big bridge, then straight on to Cork. Now the backs of the vans aren’t full of luggage, Darrell and I make the trip on the jumpseats in the back. There aren’t any seatbelts back there, but there is a great view out the windows. Whoever named this thing Van of the Year had obviously never been a passenger trying to see over the high headrests or out the side windows that are blocked just at eye level by the frames of the sliding windows. Dumbest windows I’ve ever seen. If you’re the unfortunate soul in the center seat, just nod off now.

Anyway, having seen a bit of the spectacular view of the country (to me ; I’ve not been to this part of Ireland before) and small parts of Cork, we find (eventually) space to park. This is in a multilevel lot just tall enough for the vans as long as you don’t mind the sound of the antennae dragging along the ceiling. Height, however, is just one parameter. This is just about the largest vehicle you could manoeuvre in a lot full of steep ramps and tight turns made for typical European compacts. Our driver scores a spot at the end of a row easy enough to pull into, but backing out will take us several tries in front of an impatient but bemused crowd. Look, Ma : No scratches !

One of the differences in the reasons we travel comes to the surface here. One of the group, who has travelled abroad several times, explains that the easiest thing for lunch would be to pop into the nearby Marks & Spencer and grab something quick and cheap from their sandwich counter. Bagels, wraps, they’ve got good stuff.
And I’m sure they do. For sandwiches. But this plus the self-catering, when do we dive into the local cuisine ? You can get a sandwich back home. I like to eat my way across a new country.

Darrell and I decide to skip the Butter Museum where the rest of the group is heading, in favor of fish&chips and Irish stew and a glass of stout at a nearby pub. Murphy’s or Guinness ? We’ll test them head to foamy head. Score 1 for Uhrhammers. And 1 for Murphy’s.

The other reason for skipping the Story of Irish Butter is my camera has suffered a terminal breakdown and I’m looking for a replacement. The photos on the blog are all taken with the point&shoot backup that I only packed for its capacity to record short movies. There’s a Sony boutique on the main shopping street, but they don’t have anything on hand that’s both compatible with my lens collection and affordable, so I guess I’ll just not take good photos of this trip. That’s fine. I’ll just pay more attention in other ways.

Darrell discovering The Real Cork.
After success for lunch and failure shopping, we go off in search of this church where you’re allowed to ring the bells. That sounds cool. It’s right near the Butter Museum, too, so we figure we’ll catch up with some of the group around there too.

Indeed, as we pass a corner café there’s a knocking on the window. A good part of the Navvies have gathered there for lunch or at least dessert, and I’m treated to a hearty round of Happy Birthday. They would have gone on with the Special Hogeye Navvy Birthday Song, but I plead we should do that back at the cottages. Mac says, Oh yes, with the full force of the band present. That should be great.

Now for the bell-ringing at St Shandon’s, just up the hill. It’s half-price today because the top part of the tower is closed for maintenance and you can’t go up there and hear the bells up really really close, or enjoy the view over the city. For 2.50 you get up to the lower level, where eight bell ropes await. A collection of tunes written out in rope numbers is available, including Don’t Cry For My Argentina (apparently written for the bells of this very church), Three Blind Mice, You are my Sunshine, and a dozen others. I choose the Bells of Saint Shandon, and pull the ropes as Darrell calls out the rope numbers. I don’t know what it’s supposed to sound like anyway, but it can’t have been a very good rendition, as the number five bell doesn’t seem to be well balanced and I have to pull on it twice to get it to ring.

Bell number 8 is never called for in the tune, so D gives it a ring at the end, just to hear it. It’s surprising how faint the bells sound from here, just a few yards from them.

Once the 24 of us are gathered back at the mall where the vans are parked., we have our little unparking adventure and it’s off to Cobh (pronounced « cove ») Heritage Site. This was one of the main points of embarcation for Irish emigrants fleeing the potato famine and various other troubles or just looking for a new life in America. It was also the Titanic’s last port of call, and the Lusitania was a frequent visitor. There’s a statue of Mary somebody, the very first person registered at Ellis Island, because she set off from here too. Some in our group have ancestors who made the same trip.

Exhibits at the Cobh Heritage Site.

Cobh is a nice harborside town with colorful rows of shops and then houses hugging the hillside down to the water. There aren’t any big ships putting in here any more, though we can see freighters across the way serving factories. An assortment of small fishing and pleasure boats adorn the marina.
Cobh marina

Getting in the vans to head back to the cottages is another adventure. This will always be an adventure. 3 vans for 24 people, 11 seats per van, 6 possible drivers but each one is assigned to a particular vehicle. You can’t just assume that there will be a ride for you if you wander off. Everybody might think you hopped into one of the other vans. Just now a ride is guaranteed, because everybody is waiting. Impatiently. With their own plans. So people wander off, and when they get back somebody else has wandered off, and others are undecided or change their minds yet again.

Eventually it is decided.

One van is going to stay out late, looking for a pub with music. One van is going back now (it’s 7), stopping for dinner on the way. One van is going back now, stopping at a grocery store and for photo ops. But who is in which van ? Are we sure Fred, who has wandered off, really wants the late van, or has he gone in search of a snack before catching an early van ?


steven said...

group travel is so filled with conundrums and work that in some ways makes it funny and even fun but i find solo travel works better if only because then it's just me and my issues!! the pictures and the stories are great nancy!! steven

Bagman and Butler said...

Your point and shoot is fine -- it is the eye of the photographer more than the tool that counts. Sounds like a great trip. I also tend to like the adventurous and the native side more than the touristy.

NanU said...

Traveling in a group certainly is different than going solo, steven, and i like to go with a group now and then as long as i can get away from them from time to time. Solo travel for me can be too isolating, because i won't ever talk to strangers and get to know people. The best is going with one or two other people.

Ah, but these photos are selected from the best the p&s had to offer, Mark. You should see all the really good ones of my friends and brother that were wrecked. Plus the zoom capacity is nil, and what you (can barely) see on the screen is _not_ what you get.