My parents and grandmother used my semester abroad as an excuse to book their own trip to Ireland. After a week on the Wild Atlantic Way, they headed over to Cork for 5 days of quality time with me including stops in Waterford, Blarney, Midleton, Cobh, and Dublin! See Part 1 here.
CORK CITY, CO. CORK
Upon return to Cork, we hit up Franciscan Well Brewery conveniently located directly across the river from my apartment. This local micro-brewery is often listed on the Top 10 things to do in Cork so it was a must! This was also my first time at the Well and we caught it on a bustling Thursday night. You can actually set up tours of the brewery but we went for the local beer and (mainly) the wood-fire oven pizzas. The four of us ended up consuming 3 of the thin crust pizzas and no regrets were had.
The next morning I took on the role of tour guide and showed the folks around my home base for the semester. The tour included stops at Fitzgerald Park and Cork Public Museum, University College Cork campus, the cafe at the Glucksman Art Gallery on UCC campus, St. Fin Barre’s Cathedral, the English Market with lunch at Farm Gate Cafe (dining room side this time), O’Conaill Chocolates for the best hot chocolate in the world, and finishing off with a fish and chips dinner at The Frisky Whiskey upstairs in The Oliver Plunkett which featured live traditional music and 3 really cute young brothers performing traditional Irish dance.
MIDLETON, CO. CORK
Who doesn’t love some whiskey in the morning, am I right? When in Ireland, it’s a necessity to do some tasting of Irish whiskey, even if you’re not a whiskey fan. The fam and I hopped on the 10 am shuttle (on St. Patrick’s Quay in Cork City) to the Jameson Experience in Midleton where all of your fancy bottles of Jameson Triple-Distilled Irish Whiskey are made and shipped to your local liquor store (or wherever you buy that stuff). Hold up. But the Old Jameson Distillery is in Dublin!? Yes, yes it is. But that’s nothing more than a fancy “heritage site” over-crowded by all the typical tourists who think visiting the capital constitutes as a trip to Ireland. Midleton is the real deal, my friends. Travel back in time and walk through the historic buildings of the Old Midleton Distillery – and glance up at the very modern current production facility. It was actually a really cool tour that goes through each step of whiskey distillation for those of us who have no idea how things are made (personally enhanced by my father who has a chemical engineering degree and specialized in continuous distillation, so he knows his stuff). I even rang the good ol’ lunch bell, to which the tour guide joked I’d have to by a round for the entire group.
Bonus tip: If you like whiskey and want to have more than the free drink provided at the end of the tour, raise your hand when they ask for volunteers in the barrel-making section. Mom and dad took advantage of that while I sipped on my Jameson and Ginger.
Not wanting to consume whiskey on an empty stomach, we ate lunch on site at the Malt House Restaurant before making the trek to the Midleton train station for our next stop in Cobh!
As I stated in my previous post, Cobh is home to the 2nd largest naturally made harbor in the world. What you might not know is Cobh – formerly known as Queenstown – was the last port of call before the Titanic’s fateful sinking in the Atlantic. The Titanic Experience lets you see what the journey would have been like for passengers from rooms and menus to the lifeboats used for evacuation. The dock where passengers boarded the ferry to the larger ship still stands today. As a personal touch, the Experience gives you the ticket of a passenger who boarded the Titanic at Cobh and at the end of the tour you can look up your person an see if they survived or were lost at sea. Sadly, my grandma’s person was the only one out of the four of us to have survived the sinking.
To take in the harbor’s scenery from a higher viewpoint, my mom and I climbed up the hill to St. Coleman’s Cathedral. We quietly wandered around the inside of the church admiring the marble and stained glass. We met back up with dad and grandma at a little coffee shop then walked up another hill to the Cobh Museum. The museum is housed in a small old church building that now displays artifacts from Cobh’s history including memorabilia from the RMS Lusitania – a British ocean liner that was torpedoed and sank off the coast in 1915. We said goodbye to Cobh on the 5:30 pm train and headed on back to Cork City for a relaxing night at their hotel to rest up for our early morning train to Dublin the next day.
DUBLIN, CO. DUBLIN
I had been to Dublin once on my archaeology field trip but it was a short trip only to the National Museum of Archaeology and a cafe for lunch so I was excited to return and figured missing my Monday morning lecture (but making it back in time for the 2nd!) would be worth it.
After taking the Sunday morning train and getting a taxi to the hotel, we boarded the green hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus!
Our first stop was Kilmainham Gaol since it’s such a popular tourist stop and lines can be a fairly long wait. The jail was opened and closed various times throughout Irish history and housed most notable figures of the Irish fight for Independence. Despite being fairly depressing, the tour was quite insightful and packed with history. It was neat to see how the jail expanded and changed architecturally from wing to wing. The tour guide explained how the newest wing was shaped for prime security where inmates were never out of sight. It also resembles the design of modern-day shopping malls. Coincidence? I think not.
Just like Jameson mentioned earlier, what’s a trip to Ireland without a pint of Guinness? Take your pint up a notch and add the Guinness Storehouse to your travel itinerary. Prepare yourself for a self-guided journey through the Guinness lover’s fantasy consisting of a full floor retail store dedicated to all things Guinness, 5 floors of Guinness history, one floor that is only for toilets, and the 7th floor Sky Bar boasting a 360 degree view of Dublin city. Your “free” pint included in your ticket price can be redeemed on either the 7th floor at the Sky Bar or the 4th floor at the Guinness Academy where you pour your pint like a pro, certificate and all. Before you jump into your cold pint, get an extra mini glass in the Tasting Rooms where you can learn exactly how to drink your Guinness to fully embrace every flavor. We chose to pour our pints at the Academy and I think I did pretty well! I stopped my top off a little too early for the fear of it spilling over but I’m content with my new skill. One perk of the Academy is that you get a free picture that you can email to yourself or post to Facebook instantly AND you can take your glass onto the elevator up to the 7th floor to sip and enjoy the view. There are a few cafes located in the storehouse as well if your pint gives you the munchies!
However, I do have a confession to make. As much as I have TRIED to like it, I can’t drink beer. I probably haven’t exposed my pallet to it – or any alcohol – enough to get used to it (I’m only 20, guys), so as long as I’m here I’ll stick to good ol’ Irish cider.
After riding along in the hop-on-hop-off bus for another portion of the tour, we hopped off and walked over to Temple Bar district for some traditional music and good food. Per recommendation, we ended upstairs at The Oliver St. John Gogarty Traditional Irish Bar. We were there somewhat early and ended up seeing the beginning of their nightly Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl before the night’s real gig began. I had a giant corned beef medallion with cabbage and mashed potatoes and it was DELICIOUS. Best corned beef I’ve had yet! The performer was really engaging and made a point to find out where everyone in the audience was from – which was all over Europe plus us from the States. After finally deciphering the difference between a reel and a jig, we called it a night and walked back to the hotel.
The next morning was the FIRST time my parents and grandma had seen rain in Ireland after being here for over a week (THAT’S a miracle) and it ended up clearing up by the afternoon. I said goodbye to all of them and hopped back on the sightseeing bus (I mean, we had already paid for it, why not use it?) for my hour (de)tour back to the train station to get back to Cork in time for my afternoon class.
All in all, I had a great time having my family with me here in Ireland and I know they enjoyed their time with me as well as on the Wild Atlantic Way. They are now safely home and slowly adjusting back to their normal sleep schedules while anxiously awaiting my return for Christmas. 🙂