I'm falling behind on my blog! And as usually happens, dates and places are running together in my head. I'll do my best here:
The B&B we stayed at in Cork was my only really uncomfortable night - although apparently the second room was great. The first room was a mix-up, and missing a bed, so I wound up on a very hard fold-out cot shoved right up against the heater - not fun. Then we discovered that the shower had boiling hot water...but no cold. Oh well - the food was good, the owners were very nice about the whole thing and gave us a break on the rate.
From Cork, we headed east to the little town of Cobh, which has the distinction of a large cathedral on a hill and also of being the last place the Titanic stopped before it sank. It's a lovely little seaside town, but we were there too early to really do much - just a few photo ops and we were done.
Onward to Waterford! The city of Waterford was not terribly exciting, but it seems that EVERYONE worked for the crystal factory at one point or another before it closed. We talked to a friendly shop owner, who pointed us toward the Waterford Crystal shop and gallery, which was well worth the visit - lots of shiny breakable things. Nearby, a group of local artists have set up shop, and one of the glass blowers was the last apprentice that the crystal factory ever took on. He let me take some pictures as he fashioned a crystal penguin at 2000 degrees - pretty impressive.
From there, we headed back up into the Midlands of Ireland, into Tipperary, and found the Rock of Cashel. The Rock is just what it sounds like, a giant limestone rock, but on top is a collection of castle-esque ruins. Essentially it was a castle until the 1100s, when the owner turned the whole thing over to the church, and it's been a religious site ever since. Still, despite being decimated by Cromwell, the major buildings survived - a beautiful round tower, the main framework of the cathedral, some of the early castle quarters, and a gorgeous sandstone chapel. Note, you would-be castle builders out there. Don't build things out of sandstone in a wet climate - it's prone to getting eaten away, mold, and crumbling. And the frescoes you put up won't survive. But what was there was lovely, and they're putting a lot of effort into the restoration of the place. What remains of the cathedral is very impressive - the "bones" of the place are enormous, and some of the arches are stunning. It's amazing to think that these places were put up by hand, one stone at a time.
After we were castled out, we headed to Kilkenny. It was Good Friday, so we opted for a real hotel with a restaurant attached, since all the pubs would be closed. Everything did look pretty closed as we drove around. The hotel itself was lovely - the kind of place you take your mom on Mother's Day, and a great place for a wedding, just across the river from the castle, which they light up at night. We had a great dinner in the hotel restaurant, then off to bed - one more day in Ireland!