Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Sweet Cove(s) of Cork

For once J has no choice but to indulge my love of the Pogues. I've never been a huge fan of the traditional song The Irish Rover (let's call the Pogues version of it my 81st favorite Pogues song), but it does begin with a reference to County Cork, where we have taken shelter from the August cold and rain ... and you have to love a young Shane McGowan -- in a suit! -- singing with the bearded dude from the Dubliners. Plus, you have to love his teeth captured in the frame below.

It's been a little disheartening after a couple days in Ireland to learn that Shane McGowan is just a well-liked and -known musician but not, in fact, a bona fide national hero. I mean, seriously, the tacky Irish-themed tourist gift shops don't sell Pogues albums along side "Celtic Dulcimer Ballads," "Irish Drinking Songs," "Emerald Isle Rain Sounds," and many more examples of why the CD is dead? So much for the Irish saving Western Civilization.

But at least they've joined what's left of it, the crash of the Celtic Tiger notwithstanding (wow those are some big empty new houses on the coast). J and I got to Dublin Sunday night, and in time-honored tradition, our first task was to find a pub away from the tourist area we could call our own. I love Germany, and man did we have a great time in Slovenia and Croatia, but it took all of 5 minutes to feel like we were back home (even though we aren't). The menu for this random, average-looking pub far enough down the street from Trinity College to escape the tourists was on a BLACKBOARD. God bless them. And, dear and patient reader, I can finally announce that the long wait is over. Yes, Rob, Carlsberg is distressingly big in Ireland, but this average and random pub had about 10 beers on tap, including an honest-to-goodness LOCAL CRAFT IPA, Gallway Hooker to be exact. (Irish or India for the "I," who cares.) It was one of the best beers of my life, equivalent to the one that launched this blog.

And in the please-take-a-hint-Germany-it's-possible-to-borrow-from-another-county's-beer-culture-and-do-it-well category, J had a damn good Irish-made German Weis as well -- Friar Weisse.

This stopover in Dublin was just a prelude. The next morning, after discovering the joys of a "junior" Irish breakfast (no less than four pieces of meat, if you include the blood pudding), we enjoyed our throwback, no-GPS road trip to Cork with Trevor and Aurelie.

We liked Cork a lot. It's not huge but quite vibrant and still a major working port.

Although the Church of Ireland only holds sway among 2.9% of the population, it has a cool cathedral, in the dunce-cap style of a lot of churches around here,

including Catholic ones, like Trinity Church

The Catholics have a nice cathedral, too.

Unfortunately we arrived at the Butter Museum after it had closed, so no pictures there.

Still in indulge-our-pent-up-cravings mode, J had a "classic American" burger at Burger Bistro. While I might quibble with the assumption that classic American burgers have barbeque sauce on them (as much as I love barbecue sauce on burgers), it was excellent. 

No, Martin, most burgers in the U.S. do not actually come with a little flag on them.

From Cork we headed to our friends Sheila and Graham's in an undisclosed location -- their cove is just too sweet to mention by name (e-mail me). They were fantastic hosts. The first order of business was the requisite pot of tea at an old hotel on a lake with a 600-year-old church, next to a cool forest reserve.

This was just the warm-up -- trust me. The day after was spectacular and warrants its own entry.

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