Turns out I really do like talking about the places I’ve been since I learned how to buy train tickets online! Who would’ve guessed? So I’m back to talk about the trip I took to Cork, which I enjoyed despite the time crunch of needing to be back at the train station to catch the 20:25.
Cork is around a 3 hour train ride from Dublin. It would’ve been much faster if we hadn’t stopped at 20 stations in between, but then I wouldn’t have been able to see the cows and sheep as we slowed down, which would’ve been a huge missed opportunity. I also sat next to some interesting characters, but if odd train company is what you’re looking for in a day trip, my experience was down to luck. Whether you call chatty seatmates good luck or bad luck is down to you.
Now, I’m traveling with a group of English majors from my home university, so after walking around and getting first impressions of the city, we went immediately into a used bookstore to browse for half an hour. I have to say, it was a lovely bookstore. I’m not used to seeing many secondhand bookstores in America but here they seem to be everywhere, and it’s one of my favorite things about living abroad.
Beyond bookstores, my friends and I were interested in food and art and pretty much nothing else. The English Market was nice because the man who sold me a bagel with smoked salmon also sold me an apple sponge that had enough powdered sugar on the top to suffocate a grown man. There’s a park just outside that we ate in, valiantly fending off the seagulls, that was sunny and nice and had a fountain with no water that we sat on.
As for art, there was a pretty small gallery that had an exhibition on stained glass and a movie about Caribbean immigrants that was confusing and interesting. I wasn’t so sure about all of the plaster casts of famous sculptures on the ground floor, but I did enjoy the collection of paintings they had on the second floor. A game I like to play in museums is to ask everyone I’m with which painting they would Goldfinch. Goldfinch (v.), meaning, which painting would they take if the museum exploded and they had one free pass. I’ve noticed saying the phrase “if the museum exploded” in front of the security staff hasn’t made me any friends, but it’s a good game if you’re find yourself in a gallery with nothing to do.
There was also a flea market going on, which, in my quest to become broke, I explored thoroughly. I spent a lot of time dialing phone numbers on a broken rotary phone and explaining to my friends that 911 was chosen as the U.S. emergency number for its speed and ease to dial. They were shocked. The phone entertained us for far longer than I’m willing to admit. On to the next activity.
By far my favorite thing to do when I travel (besides buying books I don’t need) is explore religious buildings. In Ireland, those are overwhelmingly churches and cathedrals, where for a small fee you can walk inside and admire the stained glass, stonework, and whisper to your friends because it feels rude to speak at a regular volume inside a church.
The church we went to was called St. Anne’s and for around 4 euro we were allowed up and into the bell tower, where they conveniently left a songbook so we could play Ode to Joy on the church bells for the whole town. My friends pointed out that it probably gets annoying, hearing tourists play the same songs over and over again, especially since it took us a while to get good at it. I pointed out that she only said that after we’d been yanking on the bells for ten minutes, and it was probably too late.
The best thing about St. Anne’s, though, is that if you keep going up they have an observation deck and then if you go down they have a churchyard where families come to play with their children and dogs. We spent a lot of time on the observation deck making noises at birds and looking at Cork spread below us, but we spent even more time in the churchyard, lying on the grass and reading. I met a dog named Benji and was witness to a bunch of kids chasing a soccer ball for hours. It was one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve spent in Ireland.
I’m not going to pretend that I have any restaurant recommendations or that I’m a seasoned traveler who knows exactly what I’m doing and can rate this city on a scale of 1 to 10. I do know that I had a lovely time and took plenty of pictures that haven’t yet seen the light of day and deserve to.
So, that was my day in Cork. We got dinner and a pint or two, headed back to the train station where I left my phone in the bathroom and had it returned to me by a nice group of girls dressed to go out, and went back to Dublin.
Okay! That’s everything! Thanks for coming to my TED talk and visit Cork because the people were nice and the church was beautiful (I could say that about every city in Ireland, but it’s true for Cork too! Promise).