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Travel shorts: Remembering Paddy’s Day 2009, Cork

July 17, 2010

St Patrick’s Day last year, despite my best efforts with the Guinness, will go down as one to remember. On the morning of 17 March, my friend Jay and I met at Earl’s Court Tube Station in London before travelling to Heathrow, where we boarded an Aer Lingus flight to Cork in the Republic of Ireland. The plane was not full of drinking English louts heading to the Old Country, as I had been lead to believe would be the case.

In Cork city centre the novelty comedy shamrock hats were already out in force. Huge crowds and a parade on St Patrick’s Street (Cork’s fantastic pedestrian-friendly main road) greeted us as we disembarked from the airport shuttle at Cork Bus Station and made our way up the steep hill to Sheila’s Hostel, where we would stay for three nights.

St Patrick’s Street – now that’s what I call a high street

South Africans participating in the St Patrick’s Day parade – I felt very welcome in Ireland

Though not the tipple of choice in this part of Ireland, we spent much of the rest of the day in pubs getting reacquainted with Guinness, a stout I had previously avoided. This was part pretension, part misinformation, part brilliant decision. I can attest to the fact that, contrary to the cliché, Guinness does not taste better in Ireland. I now know this hearty “meal in a glass” is great everywhere, at any occasion – it took a trip to the Emerald Isle to make me realise how good it is in the first place. Likewise, a doner kebab in Cork is just as brilliantly disgusting as a kebab in Kent.

The remains of the night before

Our four days were meant to be a relaxing break from work. However, I could not resist strapping on my road worn Converse All Stars and indulging in a spot of urban rambling. Though not the prettiest of cities, Cork sits proudly on an island in the River Lee, upstream of a large natural harbour. A stroll through its compact centre reveals some subtly beautiful architecture and quirky and colourful back streets. Diversity abounds in people and in places, with the Cork dialect mixing freely with accents from all over Europe. As mentioned above, St Patrick’s Street, which was remodelled in 2004, is a fantastic place to shop – an example to all cities.

Pedestrianisation at its best

Residents of Cork are known as the Rebels – I doubt I have encountered a more politically aware city

St Finbarre’s Cathedral was completed in 1879…

…Its gothic spires remind me of dark early 90s television, Twin Peaks perhaps

A certain something is present in the atmosphere of Cork. It’s indescribable but very appealing – so much so that I was loath to leave the city, even for my beloved London. Sitting on a sidewalk outside a pub and later stumbling around downtown Cork and laughing with the locals felt like a particularly good New Year’s celebration.

Incidentally, a visit to the Cork Butter Museum is recommended for shear comedy value, and if you’re tired of Guinness, may I suggest taking a guided tour of the Old Jameson Distillery in nearby Midleton?

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From → Cork

One Comment
  1. Your travel experience let me think back to when I had to help Christiaan with his travel school task. Well it looks like you needed a good budget for walking shoes, socks, feet powder and some guiness. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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