Anyway, because I am so anal about getting up extra extra early, it seemed we still could catch a train if we rushed and took a cab, rather than walking to the station. It's a two-hour train ride to Cork from Dublin and on our arrival we walked about half a mile to our hotel. We were a bit early for check-in, so we stored our bags and headed out to explore.
Cork is a lovely city with a lively city center absolutely crammed with shops, restaurants, and pubs. I especially liked the English Market, a network of independent grocers and butchers. It was really extraordinary. No food shop that I've ever seen in the US comes close to what we saw at the English Market for quality and variety.
We headed to St. Anne's Shandon, a church perched high on a hill overlooking the city, with a distinctive salmon weather vane. We ascended a teeny stone circular staircase into the bell tower. On the first level are the bell ropes, which you can pull and ring the bells. You then ascend two more levels, past the workings of the tower clock. Then you must put on the heavy-duty headphones that you're given at the entrance and you climb into the belfry itself. This was kind of terrifying. At the top of the stairs, you're confronted with a dark hole in the wall and once your eyes adjust, you see all the bells, which may or may not be ringing, depending on whether or not there's a tourist yanking away on the ropes three levels below. You climb over a little half wall--the nearest bell is close enough to hit you on the head if you're not careful--and climb a wooden ladder to get out of the belfry and into the next staircase. St. Anne's Shandon is definitely not for those with a fear of heights! At the top of these stairs is a balcony around the outside of the tower, with great views of Cork. This experience made me want to reread Dorothy Sayers' superb mystery, The Nine Tailors.
After St. Anne's, we went next door to the Butter Museum. Now I know everything there is to know about the export of butter and other dairy products out of Ireland.
Later, we stopped for a pint our two at The Franciscan Wells, a local brewery, and ate dinner at a restaurant next door to the Butter Museum.
|Inside the English Market|
|Ringing the bells of St. Anne's.|