My vacation was coming to a close, and I had some hefty decisions to make as I pointed Seamus to the East in preparation for the drive back to Dublin. Should I swing south and visit Cork? Do I try to make it all the way to Waterford in one day? Or do I go inland to see Kilkenny Castle? There were several other options at my disposal; hundreds, actually, because Ireland is absolutely teeming with things to see and experience. It was at this moment in my trip that I realized how much I still had yet to see in Ireland, and that I would most certainly need a return trip in the future. Considering the Waterford Crystal factory no longer functions in Ireland, it seemed silly to make the longer drive to Waterford just to shop and read a few placards about the crystal making process I wouldn’t get to see. As for Cork, I was advised not to go unless I had a lot of time to spend there, and I only had an afternoon. Also, I was a little wary of running into my ex-boyfriend’s family, considering they are from, and still currently reside in Cork…haha… Kilkenny it was!
I would have moved to Kilkenny in a heartbeat. It is an adorable gem of a city that has just a touch of modern flair, and boasts history, culture, comedy, art, and great food. I was deeply torn that I couldn’t spend more time there to see all the other attractions that were nearby, but ended up taking a lovely stroll to Kilkenny Castle and touring it in its entirety. I’ve seen a few luxurious castles in my time, one of which was the Palace of Versailles, which is grand and ornate — bordering on ridiculous, really. But Kilkenny Castle has a lovely, more down-to-earth vibe, nearly devoid of extreme narcissism. I would dare even to call it “homey.” It is grand, absolutely, and of course dripping in finery, but still holds onto the traditional Irish charm, and makes you feel as though the nobles would still have invited you to place your peasant ass on their gilded couch and share in a shot of whiskey. Its architecture is more modest than some, given that its original purpose was to serve as more of a control fortress than a fancy noble dwelling. There is a section of the castle in which the floor is see-through, through which you can view the original stonework for the moat, which ups the level of badassery considerably. If you ever have the opportunity to tour Kilkenny Castle, I will warn you not to stare through the floor for too long, particularly when about to exit into the next section of the tour. Directly at the end of the see-through-floor hallway, there is a menacing 7-foot tall suit of armor that seems to be strategically placed to scare the pants off of unsuspecting visitors who are too involved in what’s below them (I was one of them). Aside from the real live history beneath your feet, Kilkenny Castle also boasts an impressive exhibit of one of the sections of Morpeth’s Roll, essentially a GIANT “farewell” letter to Lord Viscount Morpeth (a.k.a. George Howard) in 1841 after he left his position of Chief Secretary of Ireland. Somewhere around 300,000 people hand signed the document, which has been digitized thanks to modern technology. The history and circumstances surrounding this event are fascinating all in themselves, but particularly so if you believe you may have familial roots in Ireland. After roaming the great halls and cozy rooms of Kilkenny Castle, I strolled through the masterful rose garden. The drizzly, grey-clouded day seemed only to serve as a perfectly neutral background to some of the most amazing roses I’ve ever seen.
I departed from Kilkenny begrudgingly and headed for my last B&B of the trip, located in Rathcoole. In the morning, I would depart begrudgingly from Ireland, land of good beer, good people, and gorgeous landscapes, and hop back across the Pond to Florida, land of rednecks who swear they’re not Southerners, suffocating humidity, and dirty diapers on beaches plagued with sand gnats. Rather than mope for the last day of my trip, however, I decided to simply breathe as deeply as possible and really enjoy my last 18 hours in such a lovely country. Having arrived in Rathcoole and checked into my B&B, I asked my hostess if she had a recommendation for where I could have dinner. She informed me that aside from fast food, there was really only one pub within reasonable driving distance, and that it was quite good. She said it was called Anposhunil. What? I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. What’s it called? Aumprashientail. Aoanprasteentel. Einpreshinshtil. I asked her to say it probably twelve times, and each time it was as though she either said it faster or changed the pronunciation for her own amusement. I am a linguist. I have a 4-year degree in linguistics, with a focus in phonetics, and I had no idea what this woman was saying. She finally wrote it down for me, and I said, “oh! Of course! How silly of me,” although I still had no idea how to pronounce An Poitin Stil (and frankly, still don’t).
Regardless of my feeble American pronunciation of such robust Gaelic words, I found Aiprawshenteel with no trouble, and was engaged by a waiter who was terribly friendly. *ahem* Extraordinarily friendly. It was truly some of the smoothest flirting I’ve ever experienced, and I thought to myself, “ah, this must be that ‘Irish charm’ everyone warned me about.” His brazen overconfidence aside, he was very nice and quite pleasant to talk to, and happened to introduce me to what is still the best whiskey I’ve had to date. Friends, if you are whiskey lovers, I beg of you to try Midleton Very Rare. You won’t regret it. A big thanks to the amiable bloke in the pub who allowed me to taste it, although I suspect he’s still disappointed that I didn’t join him for a nightcap.
The next morning I arrived at the airport and bid adieu to Seamus, my trusty steed. Having slogged through two security checkpoints and customs, I settled aboard my flight to watch the patches of hunter green, fern green, and shamrock green fade away through the mist. It was an exquisite trip, more than I could have hoped for, and I will absolutely return to Ireland one day. But until the day that I can again experience the overt friendliness, the rugged green hills, the sheep, the thin places, the meat pies, the hurling, and the whiskey, I will simply encourage whoever reads this to go in my stead, where I’m sure you will receive céad míle fáilte.