As previously mentioned, Chad and I finally arrived in Ireland for a nine day tour in June of 2022. The first evening we met our fellow tour group members, we were somewhat gleefully informed that we were the only two members of the tour group who weren't retired. The elder Brits eyeballed us with some suspicion at first. The few elder Americans who were also on the tour didn't find us until the next morning.
I'm not going to lie, although Chad and I were on our very best behavior, dinner the first evening was rough. We were seated at a table with four British people who were each about thirty years our senior. We exchanged pleasantries of names, hometowns, and what brought each of us on this trip. Then the Brits started talking British politics, somewhat heatedly. Oh no! This is not we-just-met conversation! Regardless of age or nationality, if you choose to start a sentence with the preamble, "I'm not racist, but...", you are likely about to announce your prejudices. Oh no! Chad and I just met these people, and had another eight days with them, so we reacted to their opinions with chilly silence. Plus, they were each interrupting themselves to make requests from the one and only server for our group of twenty-four diners, so our disapproving silence likely went completely unnoticed.
Near the end of dinner service, our tour leader introduced himself and gave a quick verbal orientation of our tour itinerary for the group. As soon as politely possible, Chad and I excused ourselves from dinner. We took our jet lagged selves back to the seen-better-days hotel room for much needed showers and sleep.
Bright and early the next morning, we strategically secured a table for two (only two!) at breakfast. After breakfast as we lined up to board the tour bus, we met more of our tour group members. Thankfully these other group members did NOT immediately express their strong political beliefs, instead opting to ask how we slept the night before, and if we were experiencing jet lag. Our bus dropped us all at the Dublin train station where we caught the 9:00 AM train to Cork. On the train, Chad and I sat with our tour leader, Richard. He is a delightful man from Yorkshire with a dry wit. We chatted about pre-pandemic travels, pets, and hobbies. Richard overheard me refer to Chad's rain boots as his Frankenstein boots (the boots are green and black and boxy.) He told us about Whitby Goth Weekend in North Yorkshire, which he finds very interesting and amusing.
When our group arrived at the train station in Cork, we met even more members of our tour group. (There were twenty-four people total including our tour leader.) We chatted about weather, tea preferences, and other polite topics as we waited for our bus to Cork City center. Tour leader, Richard, gave us a bit of history information about Cork, handed out maps, and told us what time we should meet the bus again. We were thankfully on our own to explore Cork for a few hours and feed ourselves lunch. Chad and I made a beeline for the English Market, which is an indoor market hall comprised of many different food and beverage stalls. We found really good veggie sandwiches at The Sandwich Stall. We also bought some fruit and baked goods.
After lunch we wandered around Cork, pausing to gawp at churches, cathedrals, a big statue, and ducking into cute shops. We also went to Costa (a coffee and tea shop) for some tea and to find a restroom. (There are so seldom enough public restrooms in tourist areas.) After waiting a few minutes for our turn in line for the restroom, Chad let me go first. This may seem to be very nice of him, but it was more like I was the advance scout going to check out the situation. There was no toilet seat. I hovered above the cold porcelain rim of the toilet, which was surely crawling with a mind-boggling collection of germs, bacteria, and grime. Upon exiting, I warned Chad, but he's a man who can easily urinate while standing, so the lack of toilet seat wasn't as big of a deal for him. There was a sign in the restroom from Costa corporate asking patrons to inform the manager if the restroom wasn't clean and comfortable. I did NOT bother the manager of the busy Costa about the missing toilet seat. But Chad and I joked about the sign, and the lack of toilet seat, and the manager's possible response if we had chosen to stand in line to inform them. "Really? I am shocked! Shocked! Please accept my sincere apologies. I'll have someone leave this busy beverage service establishment to procure a new toilet seat and make repairs post-haste!" Like they don't have enough to deal with at the moment with staffing shortages, cranky customers, and supply chain woes.
|National Monument in Cork City honors Irish patriots
After our free time in Cork, the tour bus transported our group to a guided tour at Jameson Distillery. I was surprised at how massive the buildings and grounds are at the distillery. Our tour guide was a quick witted, fast talking, young man, barely of drinking age. He told us all about the history of making whiskey in Ireland, the science of whiskey fermentation, and the history of the people of Jameson Distillery. The rooms we visited on our tour were dark and cool. Despite the interesting material, I felt myself starting to doze off while standing upright, because my jet lag and lack of sleep on our trip thus far left me so drowsy. I almost skipped the whiskey tasting, thinking it would complicate my jet lag, but I'm glad I decided to partake. I rarely drink alcohol these days, but that Jameson Irish whiskey really was smooth and delicious.
|Jameson Barrel House
|Jameson Cask Room: perfect for a nap
|Jameson and ginger ale cocktails, refreshing
|My adorable travel companion at Jameson Distillery
After Jameson, our group checked in at the next hotel. Midleton Park Hotel is clean, modern and lovely. As our tour guide, Richard, likes to say we had "time for a wash up and a brush up" before meeting our group again for dinner. Chad and I sat with a different older British couple on that night. They told us all about their children and grandchildren, not asking anything about Chad or me. Fine, good, that's nice, oh what cute photos of your grandkids, etc...
Quick sidebar about the hotel dinners: every single dinner, Chad (a pescatarian) had a fish filet atop a mound of mashed potatoes. Every single dinner I (a strict vegetarian) had a veggie curry, which is apparently the unofficial vegetarian dish of Ireland. This happened at many different hotel dining rooms. They share just the one recipe book industry wide, I guess. There were no green salads on offer. *sigh* I love green salads, and need to eat approximately five to seven green salads a week. The veggies typically on offer in Ireland are potatoes (of course), carrots, radishes and swede / rutabaga. Creativity and variety occurred only when it came to desserts each night: bakewell tarts, deconstructed red velvet cake, chocolate Guinness cake, and even an exotic (by Irish standards) Key lime tartlet.
Quick sidebar about the different plugs and voltage in Ireland compared to the U.S.A.: of course Chad and I brought outlet adaptors for our electronics, but I did not bring a voltage converter for my curling iron. I just hoped my curling iron would work in Ireland, which is not an effective or diligent way to prepare for a trip abroad. My curling iron did kind of work in Ireland, but I had to set it to the absolute lowest heat setting, and even then, the curling iron seemed too hot. I think I fried the wiring in my curling iron by not having a voltage converter. It bravely lasted for the duration of the trip, but I had to lay it to rest (or risk seriously burning my hair) shortly after returning home. Sorry, curling iron, you deserved better from me.
|Alas, poor curling iron, I mourn your death.
Tune in later (not committing myself to a schedule) for more Irish tour shenanigans.