Friday, July 15, 2011

Part 4, Kilkenny

Next day is a « free » day. D and I have ordered a dish of cottage pie for his cottage, delivery around 8, so that’s dinner plans for 6 of us already. Looking forward to it.

The three vans go off separately. Ours goes to Jerpoint Abbey, which we all ooh’d and ahh’d at on the grocery run. You come around this bend in one of those green tunnels, where the hedges and trees are so close to road, mowed vertically to about 10 feet, and then allowed to close over, and suddenly instead of hedge there’s this magnificant ruin right there. And then you’re past it. Immediately you know you have to stop there next time.

In a spot of luck, a guided tour is just starting, turning a half-hour superficial wander into more than an hour of discovering its secrets. Claudia is one of those great guides : she knows everything about the place, but keeps it interesting and fascinating without going on too long. The tour is just right. Normally I don’t go in much for guided tours, but I’m reminded here I should try it more often.

Then on to Kilkenny town. The big things for our group here are St Catherine’s Cathedral with its monks’ tower in the yard, Kilkenny Castle, and Kyteler’s Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Ireland still going strong.

D and I climb the Monks’ Tower for the view over all Kilkenny. We spy no Viking raiders rowing up the river, alas. Then we skip the cathedral in favor of lunch. Kyteler’s is having live traditional music tonight and half the group wants to stay for that, having dinner there too. We have cottage pie with our name on it coming, so we check out this pub for lunch. Just to say we’ve seen it too - there are some things you gotta do or see, just to keep in the conversation with everyone else.

It’s sometimes not the best idea to eat at a place that caters to tourists (and this entire street is Tourist Row), but the food is wonderful. My tomato-basil soup is spicy and thick, the bread is great, and our shared plate of roast pork with stuffing, spuds, and veg is perfect. At the end we even opt to test the « Hot Powers » drink we’ve seen advertised so often. It’s quite good !

After lunch we tour Kilkenny Castle, what you can see of it. Not much to report. It was pretty strange to enter this one wing that had been rearranged by one of the latter owners into a single huge gallery, and see the wooden ceiling and its numerous crossing rafters all carved and painted. It was just the sort of decoration you’d expect in Viking territory, from the overall the style down to individual motifs. Though maybe I just haven’t seen enough Irish castles with their decorations intact.

There’s no yarn to be found on the main streets of Kilkenny, so we spend the balance of the afternoon walking at random and up the path that goes along the river. Nice and green, peaceful, and walking on the grass feels good on the feet after a lot of pavement. At one point we see a large black dog coming down the path. It comes near, then goes for a dip in the river, keeps on a ways, then turns around and trots back where it came from. Out for his walk without his people.

The deal was whoever wanted to return to the cottages early should meet at the van at 6:45 - 7 pm, and Joe would run us back there. Nobody is sure if Fred was intending to return early or not, but he is inclined to change his mind so at 7:05 we leave without him.

He was never late for a van again.

We’re back at our digs just in time to settle in and prepare a salad when our cottage pie is delivered, piping hot from the oven.

Ohhhh, that is some good stuff. We’re not sure what all is in it. Beef and lamb for sure, but there’s something else - gotta be venison. Gamey, but not too much, only enough to be Not your Usual Food. Just when we’re nearing the end of the main dish, Mac comes in to announce a van is leaving for a Session at the village pub nearby. There’s a village nearby ? Sprung on us in the middle of dinner, only Darrell joins them. I opt for a walk in the soft late evening light, instead.

It’s hard to go walking around here. The country roads don’t have a lot of traffic, but when there is a car, or a truck or a bus, there’s nowhere to get off the road. The high hedges and stone walls leave you just a few inches on either side. In France, I wouldn’t be walking on the road anyway. Hiking paths abound, and the farm roads between fields are generally accessible to walkers. There are even stiles provided to cross pastures. Not here, as far as I’ve seen.

When I get back, nobody much is around, all either gone to the pub or sleeping off jetlag or deep in their journals and blogs. So I do the same for an hour before turning in to my lovely soft bed.


Titus said...

Really enjoying this holiday with you all. Wow to the Abbey.

steven said...

i say wow to the abbey, the food, and a special wow to walking in country lanes. it's life enhancing in the way that it makes you value each moment . . . as the next one might be your last!! steven