After weeks in virtual remoteness, it was nice to get a small shot of urbanity in Cork City. But despite it being home to the perfect city bar (The Mutton Inn) and a fantastic food market, it wasn’t quite enough. If we’re not going to do rugged, we want the big city, the one giant enough to hold Joyce, Wilde, Trinity, and U2.
But first…the South. We spent a couple of (very chilly) days in Waterford, home of the small crystal animals Amanda would get and give for Christmas when she was little. News to us, Waterford is also the oldest city in Ireland, founded by Vikings in the 10th century. Needless to say, we soaked up the history (but no crystal — $$$). The best part of Waterford, though, was the French bistro L’Atmosphere. Irish food is undoubtedly yummy — you can’t argue with fish and chips, lamb stew, beef and Guinness pie, endless sausage. However, when you taste really fine French food after weeks of stewy pies, your mouth explodes. After the perfect dinner, including the best risotto ever made, we were completely rejuvenated. Follow it up with a trip to a real old-school Irish bar where they blend their own whiskey (No. 9), and Waterford became a highlight.
Kilkenny was a nice follow-up. It was charming and bustling, with windy medieval streets, perfect pub-fronts, and a castle on a river (that was open!). We had a drink at a 14th century inn once owned by the first woman in Ireland accused of being a witch, and finally heard some live music. It’s a young city, though, and after dark the young get drunk. Our street was swimming with obliterated millennials, girls tottering in micro-minis and oversized stilettos (come on, ladies!) and boys trying to hold each other up. Time to go.
Then, Rathdrum. We had had a run of quite nice inexpensive hotels — give us a big comfortable bed and a bath, and it is the Ritz. Deep down, we both knew that our luck was due to change, and it did. We stayed at a hostel that, while technically open in the winter, really isn’t. A barely-functional radiator that was set to turn off between 9 pm and 7 am, a vague smell of canned spaghetti, a timed shower, a bunked double bed, and an abandoned atmosphere. It was creepy, and the town was a little creepy, too. Like everyone there is keeping a big secret. We did find ourselves in the only bar in town on Super Bowl Sunday, where all three TV’s were playing…darts. The reason we stopped here was to visit the ancient monastic settlement of Glendalough, in the Wicklow Mountains, where poor St. Kevin just wanted to be a hermit, but people kept showing up. An alluring place, for sure.