Irish Tales of Woe and Wonder, Part 3

The plan today was to wake up bright and early and set out for Cork City, stopping in Blarney along the way. This, however, is not what actually happened.

Rather than following the itinerary I ever so diligently planned out, my mother decided that she wanted to instead drive down to Kilkenny to see Kilkenny Castle. I have to admit, I was a little put off by this—it's not that I minded going to Kilkenny; I didn't mind it at all. What irritated me about it was that I had asked my mother several times over the weeks preceding the trip what she wanted to see while we were there (since I was the one planning the trip, I wanted to be as democratic as possible, allowing everyone to see what they wanted to see). Every time I talked to her about the trip, she would tell me, "Andrew, this is YOUR dream vacation. Morgan and I are just going along for the ride. Plan the trip however you want to, and we'll be happy just to be there."

So I planned the trip the way I wanted to. And Kilkenny Castle was not part of my plan.

The other thing that irritated me about my mother changing my plans was that I had a set itinerary to see the touristy things that I really wanted to see (which, really, wasn't that much because I loathe acting like a tourist when I'm on vacation). The plan for Tuesday was to see the Blarney Stone. This, in my opinion, is the penultimate tourist attraction in Ireland—everyone traveling there should kiss the Blarney Stone. Everyone living there should kiss the Blarney Stone. It's just one of those things. It's kinda like how you can't go to Chicago and not take a picture of your reflection in The Bean in Millennium Park. It's just something you have to do at least once in your life. Going to Kilkenny, going pretty far off our route, to see this castle would pretty much disable us from seeing Blarney Castle. We'd have to see it the next day, putting us a half day behind schedule, which meant something else that I wanted to do would have to be taken off the trip. But we'll come back to that in a future post.

Kilkenny was actually a pretty cool place. It's one of the bigger cities in Ireland, though nothing like Dublin,

Galway, Limerick, and Cork; however, despite its big-city environment, it maintains a small-town feel. It's fairly bustling with a lot of corporate business and retail, and at this town's cultural center lays Kilkenny Castle—a beautiful, decadent (by Irish standards anyway) 17th century castle. After seeing it, I tried hustling the three of us out of the city to get to Blarney, thinking we just might have enough time to see the highlights of Blarney, but my traveling companions were taking their sweet time, visiting every single gift shop on the way back to the car. This would prove to be the detriment of the trip—in every town, my itinerary kept getting pushed further and further back because my mother and sister were wasting a really good portion of time that should have been spent driving on visiting every single gift shop. I kept protesting, "Guys, they sell the same stuff in every shop! This shop has nothing different than the one before it!" but my protests fell on deaf ears. So while they'd do that, I spent my time like a local, stopping in pubs to watch the World Cup and drink Guinness, then heading back outside into the rain, and ducking into alleys to smoke my Dunhills.

Since we didn't have enough time to see Blarney Castle after all the time wasted on postcards and souvenir t-shirts, I decided, "Let's just see Blarney tomorrow, and head to the Rock of Cashel today since we're out here anyway."  And that's what we did. I made good of a bad situation. Because I'm an improviser. Fortunately, the Rock of Cashel proved itself to be one of the highlights of the trip. I fell in love with the town, and the history surrounding it—such an utterly fascinating history. If you want to learn more about it, do some research! I'm sure you'll find your reading just as intriguing as I found it.

We rolled into Cork City, where our bed and breakfast was, pretty late that night (because, once again, my mother and sister wasted a solid hour in Cashel's gift shops). What also didn't help any was that this bed and breakfast was nearly impossible to find! In our travel voucher, all the directions we had to get to some of these B&B's was "Take the N17 and we're just off the main road." While driving around Cork City, the second-largest city in the Republic, those directions didn't help a whole lot. So we drove around the city for a little over an hour, just trying to figure out the road signs (which, I will get more into in future posts, are damn near impossible to follow). We stopped at an extremely American restaurant on the outskirts of the city for dinner (it was almost like a Steak 'n' Shake—really tacky), and asked for directions from the waitress but she had no idea where this B&B was based on the directions we were provided (coincidentally, our waitress had just moved to Cork City a few months ago from Naperville, IL, a town that I used to live in—small world).

She pointed us in the direction of a hotel where we could get more exact directions, which, considering the amount of difficulty we were having with this B&B, we found pretty easily. Again, the receptionist didn't know where the B&B was based on the directions we were provided, but could fortunately tell us how to get to the road indicated in the directions. She pointed us in the right direction and after an extended period of trial and error, I managed to find the B&B on my own—we finally got checked in around 10 at night.

We were all exhausted by the time we got there, but I couldn't fall asleep because I was so restless. So I walked around the neighborhood, smoking Dunhills and praying for the country and churches that I walked past along the way. I came back home after an hour or so and, still unable to fall asleep, played cards in the guestroom with the proprietor of the B&B. The gentleman was an older man, probably in his late 60's, named Oliver. We spent the evening talking about his life and his family and the country he loves so much; we talked about America and the city I love so much, Chicago, and how different the two cultures are even though we're both in the Western World and even though both cultures have had a tremendous amount of influence on each other. He was very familiar with America from his holidays here and the Americans that stay at his house, so we has able to speak fairly authoritatively on his view of American life. He spoke at great length about how Americans are so focused on rushing and hustling and bustling about and striving to be better than the Joneses, if you will. He didn't understand why Americans couldn't just sit still (he said this with a sigh of exasperation, as if he felt sorry for us—I believe he did feel that way, and it shamed me).

I had to listen very intently to understand what he was saying through his incredibly thick Cork accent, but after a couple hours of listening, I can tell you this about Oliver—he is a man that is passionate about life, about living life and experiencing as much as one can in the time God has allowed him. I learned a lot from him in the couple of hours we spent together, and I went to bed wishing even more that I could just stay there forever. After listening to Oliver talk about how much he was enjoying life by just living it, I dreaded my return to the States, where it's so easy to lose focus on just living life.

I think this is the lesson of the day that God was teaching me: don't get so wrapped up in doing, just be.

No comments:

Post a Comment