Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kilkenny and Ireland's countryside

Gathering all my stuff together, I bid farewell to my awesome host Suz, drop the key back in their mailbox, and set off for the bus station.

Down at the city centre, I see a sign for a Full Irish breakfast, which includes something called black and white pudding, baked beans, and sauteed mushrooms, among the regular sausage and rashes (sort of Irish bacon, but bigger). I ask the security guard nearby what the pudding is, and barely comprehend anything he says through the thickest Irish accent I have ever heard. So... I walk off.

Two minutes later, I think "fuck it!" and turn around to get my Irish breakfast. The restaurant is upstairs in some kind of department store, and I get the full shebang, all for about 6.4 euros, which is like 9 dollars. Bit pricey, but it was delicious.

Black and white pudding is some kind of pork mishmash put together into what looks basically like a puck: a small, cylindrical object that looks... well, black. The white one just looks like the color of meat. Both of them taste too good to be healthy. It's like a heart attack pill, seriously. Which is why I finish both of them and almost everything on that plate. So hungry, I forgot to take a photo (again).

Off to the bus station. Buy the ticket, get on the bus, fall asleep, wake up. Ireland's countryside is lush and green, owing to the fact that it rains all year round. It's pretty awesome traveling to the boonies and seeing nothing but rolling hills and green everywhere. Not like disgusting brown California. Hooray!

Arriving at the train station, I take off to find the hostel with my printed Google map. I always feel so lost when I arrive at a new place, even with the map. Once I walk it and have my bearings, I can get lost and figure my way out easily, but those first few steps in a new area always mess with my head.

Dropping off my stuff at the hostel, I take off south through the town centre and arrive at Kilkenny Castle which overlooks the river Nore at the bend.

Kilkenny Castle, from the castle grounds.

View from the castle overlooking Nore River.

Going inside, I whip out my trusty UCI Student ID, which has saved me many a buck (and now euro) and buy my pass for the tour. I can put my bag away at the coat check (woohoo!) but I have to check in my camera too (sob). Oh well. Sitting in the room waiting for the intro video, in walks this really cute blonde girl. She looks around, pauses for a moment, and begins to speak. What comes out of her mouth can only be described as ear candy, a core of English honey coated with the sweetest Irish accent ever. Think Veronica Mars doing really thick Irish.

Suddenly it's not so important that I have no camera. I'm really going to enjoy this tour.

Ide the tour guide starts with the castle history, beginning way in the early 12th century, possibly earlier than that. Some Irish king named Strongbow (because he was excellent with the bow and crossbow) takes over the area, eventually passing on the titles and things to a Butler family. Fast forward a couple centuries, the decaying castle was sold to a restoration society for 50 pounds. They restored a ton of the interior and it's what you can see today.

Great looking library room. Fantastically detailed paintings, furniture, wallpaper, rugs, couches---everything looks amazing. Moving onto the highest floor, the gallery room, painted in a deep red. Tons of paintings there, beautiful furniture also, and excellently bright because of the skylight. Too bad I can't show any photos.

After the tour, I went back and got my photo stuff and begin exploring the area. Down to this underground passageway lined with bricks and ... modern architecture. It's kind of a weird composition.

The ceiling is made out of a mishmash of sticks and mud.

Out on the other side, I find that it comes out to where the tour ended. Hey, I can sneaker around a bit and possibly get a photo...

I is such a ninja.

I hear footsteps and (stealthily) sneaker my way back down, past the rope, and back to some other unexplored area. Ide walks by, and I ask her about the photograph policy. Turns out another house had a bunch of stuff stolen and they thought it had to do with allowing the public to take photos. Er, OK. It's too bad though, because next to us are a bunch of photos of the castle itself, and they look beautiful. She tells me of some of the photos, about how some of the rooms aren't finished for the public yet. I love asking her questions. It means I get to hear more of the voice.

She takes off to do some tour guide business stuff. Damn, was just about to ask to take her photo. I head off toward an exhibition with lots of Burma photos, excellent portraits of children and people from Burma. I wrote something in the guest book, and take off.

Oh look, Ide's at the coat rack place.

So I borrowed her from the coat rack for a photo.

Oh God, I love it when she says thingies.

Leaving the castle itself, I head off to the grounds and walk around the exterior grounds. It's a huge park, and on the side is a forest area with trails that lead everywhere. Most people seem to jog in the area.

What a beautiful place to have a jog.

Going further into the forest, I find a door in the wall that surrounds the park. Oh look, more park.

There's a strange looking statue out there by the water.

Back into town, I head north to the cathedral, but alas, it is too late. Closed for the day. Walking past the church, I get to a part of town that becomes a bit more modern looking. Kilkenny is a really old world looking town, thin streets, brightly colored buildings, arches of stone. All signs are painted, there's no neon or lighted signs anywhere.

Sidewalks made of stone. Neat.

Bought some Indian food to try it out, Chicken Tikka Curry. Jeebus, it's helluva spicy. Strange sort of sweetness to the curry also. Their cucumber yogurt thing is SUPER sweet. I prefer the Indian food back home...

Sit down for some blogging. Blog. Photo stuff. Chat here and there. Decide to go out and get a Bulmers cider again.

Heading out, I'm about to take a photo of the night street, and this girl in front of me bends obnoxiously in the way. I'm like.... OK... then I notice that she looks familiar. It's Suz! Ha! She came down south with her friend Kamila (I probably butchered the spelling) for her road trip around the southern/western coast. I join them for a bit of a drink. Heading to a nearby bar, I get the cider (still delicious) and we go upstairs to hang out, and for them to smoke. A bunch of locals come by, one of them singing along to whatever's going on, but his words are more of a slurry mumbled mess.

Drunken Irish Guy + The Girls.

Kamila is quite cute, no? No it's not the beer speaking. Declines my request for a photo. Turns out her degree was in photography. Ah, photographers hating their own photos, totally understand.

Stumbling back to the hostel, it's time for more computer monkeying and then sleep.

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