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From Ireland (Cork, Kinsale, Dublin)

By Sahand Rabbani

from Ireland (Cork, Kinsale, Dublin): Land of stout

Dear Friends,

A convenient one-hour flight away, Ireland was the top candidate for an auspicious jaunt to avoid the royal wedding that was to paralyze productive activity in London on Friday the twenty-ninth of April. Out on the street by three in the morning to catch a bus to London's Stansted Airport, followed by a Ryanair flight of comparable duration, my companion and I had reached the center of Cork, Ireland prior to the start of business on Friday morning. A delicious Irish breakfast of coffee, bacon, eggs, and black pudding compensated for complete lack of sleep the night before and would ultimately carry us through the long day that followed.

That morning, we explored the central part of Cork, which is located on an island formed by the splitting of the River Lee. The center of town is primarily geared toward visitors, with ample coffee shops and clothing boutiques. Early afternoon sent us through the enclosed English Market lined with stalls selling fresh fish, sandwiches, and gourmet sausages. The style of the market evoked the memory of Budapest's Great Market Hall (see from Budapest II).

A short bus ride had us in the nearby fishing village of Kinsale, which came highly recommended by a number of our Irish acquaintances. The Charles Fort, located a pleasant forty-minute coastal walk from the town, featured serene views of the water and countryside. By evening, we dined at the fabled Fishy Fishy restaurant, recommended by every Kinsaler who found the opportunity. Incidentally, no native Kinsalers whom we interviewed had actually admitted to having ever eaten at the celebrated restaurant. The food was in fact good, but perhaps not commensurate with the lore that preceded it.

Back in Cork, we tried the requisite Beamish and Murphy's stouts, both brewed locally, at a modest crawl of some of the pubs near our hostel. We concluded the night with a sinfully massive serving of fish and garlic-mayonnaise-smothered chips from Lennox's, a fast food chain.

The following morning had us on a four-hour bus ride to Dublin. We were let off on the banks of the Liffey (of Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely" fame). Our first order of business was a pilgrimage to the Guinness brewery, where we enjoyed a very shallow and distant self-guided tour of the brewing process and a more entertaining journey through decades of Guinness advertisements, all to arrive at the ultimate goal: a pint of Guinness at the top-floor panoramic observatory. I have long heard that the Guinness in Dublin outperforms the Guinness that it exports. Perhaps it was a placebo enhanced by the view of Joyce's city, but at that moment I may have agreed with the prevailing claim.

We dawdled about the city and avoided dining at many an unappealing restaurant around Dublin's touristic Graphton Street. By the time our hunger would accept any meal, our only options were McDonald's and a Malaysian restaurant, the latter ultimately providing a satisfying meal that, we agreed, beat any of the expectations we had of the more typical restaurants that we declined.

On our final day in Ireland, we visited the Kilmainham Gaol, former prison and now museum that played a crucial role in both the Irish War of Independence and the ensuing Irish Civil War. The tour of the gaol was educational and well worth the time, serving as the high point of my short stay in Dublin.

We spent the remainder of the day walking about the less traveled parts of the city, stopping at Bernard Shaw's place of birth for a photo and passing by Copper Face Jacks, a nightclub notorious for its frisky men and easy women. Unassuming in the light of day, the club has been called a "meat market." Though we had been given advanced warning to avoid it, we did partly regret not having spent at least five minutes there the previous night just for its anthropological dividends.

As the sun inched toward the west and the wind stirred the smell of roasted barley from the Guinness brewery, our trip crept towards its conclusion. I enjoyed a half pint of Guinness at the airport prior to our flight. City Jet, our generous air carrier on the return leg, fed us a satisfying meal of red wine, sandwich, and chocolate, and dropped us off at London's City Airport in Zone 3, a short ride on the Docklands Light Rail back into town.


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