Visiting Cork made me feel like I had come back to civilization again
The bus pulled into the city of Cork, an hour away from the tiny town of Youghal, where we were staying, and I remember thinking immediately that it was familiar. It took me a while to realize that the Industrial Harbor bore a striking resemblance to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where Rusko´s American family is from. We drove past the cranes and large, box like buildings that blended into the grey morning and tumbled off the bus at Parnell Place Station. There we got our bearings and set off to see what the city of Cork had to offer. This being the third largest city in Ireland, we were hoping for a bit of a return to civilization.
I will admit that although Youghal is a charming town, and gorgeous to visit for a few days, that I am a city person. I have been a city person since the beginning when my mother and I rode the public bus downtown to the story hour at the public library, and when I learned to swim taking classes at the YWCA, with peanutbutter crackers from the machine as a snack afterwards. I love the feel of pavement, the knowledge that I can lose myself in a museum, shop or maze of streets at any time, the sounds, the smells. Everything. The countryside has its benefits. I don´t deny it…but after a week of small town life in Youghal, I was very excited to be back in the city.
We decided to start out walking down Patrick Street, which happens to be right near the bus station and is one of Cork´s main shopping areas. We passed by the statue of Father Mathew, a 19th Century Capuchin Priest who served most of his life in Cork and was known mostly for his work to ease suffering during a cholera epidemic and the Great Famine. As we passed many of the familiar shops on the street I immediately started wondering how to get off the beaten path and see what Cork really had to offer. We turned down a side street, and made our way, winding through the city center towards the River Lee.
The River was bordered by row homes painted in bright pinks, blues and reds. It proved to be a stark contrast to the grey skies, and what lay on the other side of the River was a steep hill that would take us to the Shandon area of town. We crossed the bridge and began climbing the hill to see this typical neighborhood of Cork. Immediately we realized that this area was more residential, and lacked the commotion of the commercial Patrick Street shopping area. This was a quieter neighborhood with butcher shops, old fashioned toy shops, Indian restaurants and churches.
The most well known land mark in Shandon is the tower of the Church of Shandon. It is known as the Four Faced Liar because when you look at the time from the base, it appears as though the clocks on each side read all different times. I didn´t put it to the test, but we were struck by the height of the tower which stuck out against the shorter buildings in the area.
Nearby we found the Cork Butter Museum. I had no idea that Ireland, and more specifically Cork, had such a history in the manufacturing of butter. We decided to go inside, and I was amazed to learn about the history of the butter trade. It turns out that trading butter was one of the main ways that people earned their money in County Cork. The museum detailed how people made butter in their homes, how it was stored, transported and traded. I think the most interesting part of the museum, though, were the old tools and the advertisements from years gone by for Kerry Gold brand butter.
After leaving the museum we headed back down the hill and back to the other side of the river. It was lunch time, and we decided, in order to not waste time, to buy a cup of soup and a sandwich at one of the many chain shops selling Panini sandwiches, salads and soups. In the area around Patrick Street and Princes Street there were a good number of these places in addition to the requisite McDonalds, KFC and Burger King. We then made our way to the English Market. This marketplace had its start in the time of James I, around 1610. It is a covered market where you can buy vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.
When we walked past the market it was bustling and full of people looking for unique products that might not be available at the regular grocery store. I don´t know about the rest of you, but I am always intrigued, especially in another country, by marketplaces. The products that are on display are at once familiar and different, unknown and desirable. We walked past stands with baked goods and real Irish soda bread. Other stalls held vegetables in bright colors (remember, Ireland has a lot of rain). And still others had cuts of meat that were unfamiliar to us, such as Ox tongues. There was even an old fashioned Joke Shop with toys and tricks that children of all ages might want to purchase. The market is open Monday-Saturday from 9am-5:30pm.
We had time for one last stop before leaving Cork: St. Finbarre´s Cathedral. This gorgeous (and huge) church is built in the French Gothic style of architecture and dates back to the year 650. I was particularly interested in the gargoyles and the buttresses that are visible from the outside, as well as the gorgeous rose window. You also might be wondering who St. Finbarre is. I know I was! It turns out he is the founder and patron saint of Cork. He founded a monastery in the seventh century in Cork and in later years this same monastery attracted the attention of Vikings who came to raid the city, but later settled there. An interesting bit of history to go along with the beautiful church.
After seeing the Cathedral we made our way slowly back to the bus station, stopping along the way for a late afternoon snack of ice cream. Don´t forget, this is dairy country, so the ice cream was home made and very delicious! Apart from that, we visited the Barney Castle where the Eloquence Stone is placed. Finally, I would like to add that it’s easy to reach Cork from the different European cities. We ruskommend that you visit the Momondo website to find good offers for your escape to this beautiful city. We ruskommend a visit to Cork with 5 boquerones. This is a unique city that I wished I could have spent more time visiting.
Map with places we visited in Cork