From coast to Cork

Last weekend I was treated to my first ever Irish road trip with a weekend in Cork or Corcaigh* by my good friend Paul and his boyfriend Dwayne.

Cork is around a 2.5 hour drive from Dublin via newly built motorways. Said motorways however exist sans rest stops. Like I mean none. These motorways are so new, that if you have to wee on the 2 hour journey you have to do it in a bush. So much for that refreshing cola beverage and gummy lolly I was looking forward to. In fact, prior to the roads construction, it took approximately 4.5 hours to get across a country that fits into Australia 109 times. Good job guys. Here I was thinking Gillard was a numpty.

Saturday morning we took off for a day of touristing (the act of being a tourist). We started with a coffee and a bowl of steaming organic oats at Gusto Café on Washington Street in Cork City. I’m giving you the name and location, because good coffee is not synonymous with Ireland (in my humble experience at least).

Cork City, feels and looks more like a large town than it does a city. Built around the River Lee it is a collection of buildings that look as though they were thrown together on a whim. The churches are beautiful and dominate the skyline, but the main streets are dotted with random modern architecture. It’s not unsatisfying, but it feels a little disjointed.

In a building I’d fear you’d walk past without a local attached to your arm are the English Markets. A permanent enclosure that houses stalls with meat and seafood so fresh you can hear the faint echo of a moo.

The University College of Cork, Pauls old stomping ground has an impressive campus with a large forecourt and ivy covered buildings. The perfect setting for wedding photographs, Paul volunteered his services as my photographer for the site.

Late afternoon we took a 30 minute drive to the beautiful medieval coastal town of Kinsale. Nestled between rolling hills and the yacht harbour is a town with streets that beg to be wandered. With cobbled pavements and every building sporting a colour different to its neighbour, even on this typically gray and freezing Irish afternoon I knew this was somewhere I would come back to. I want to eat and drink at each and every café or pub because they all seem as inviting as the next. Kinsale would be absolutely glorious in the summer.

With our tourist activities over for the day, P and I headed in from the wind just as the rain set in. We spent the evening ‘dolling’ ourselves up and drinking white wine before we headed out for a night on the town. Gate crashing two 30th birthday celebrations allowed me a sneak peek of the venues Cork has to offer. From a quiet subdued hotel locale to Corks answer to the Brooklyn in Sydney and then my first ever gay bar experience at Chambers, the evening was one well worth remembering. Fortunately the peculiarities involved in getting cracked onto by a female midget were overshadowed by the misfortune that was Dwayne’s drink being spiked. Thanks to a nifty iPhone locating app, he was tracked down before any further harm could come his way.

On Sunday, with Dwayne safely tucked back into bed, Paul drove me down to another seaside town – Cobh (pronounced Cove – obviously). Cobh is home to the world’s second largest naturally occurring harbour in the world and as one of the major transatlantic ports in Ireland, it played a pivotal part of both the steam boat industry and the mass emigration of Irish citizens in the 18th and 19th centuries. Cobh harbour was the Titanic’s last stop before she met her tragic end. Another (informative and interesting) photo friendly location, the skyline is dominated by the Cobh Cathedral that sits on a hill above the harbour.

After an afternoon in the museum in Cobh, our time in Cork was rapidly approaching its completion. A couple of hours later with bags packed and petrol tanks filled we commenced our journey home.

If Cork was my first taste of Ireland outside of Dublin, I can’t wait for my next adventure. Galway perhaps? Paul?

* Irish is actually a national language. Road signs, information, tv and radio channels all come in both English and Irish. And for the record, it does not contain the words ‘diddley’ or ‘dee’.

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