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June 17, 2008

St Finbar’s

corey says…I’m sitting atop the Cork Hop On/Off bus as I type this. The tour hasn’t started yet, so I thought I’d do a little posting. With the series of bridges and one-way roads, the city streets can feel like a braided knot to a newcomer, so the hop on/off bus will hopefully help me get my bearings.

I arrived right around lunch today and popped into the first carpark I found near City Hall. Yikes, I thought I was going to take off the bumper as I entered the narrow entrance. Then up nine levels (4 stories) until I found a spot.

I was hungry, so despite Cork’s plethora of notable eating establishments, I ended up at a very forgettable eatery…however, I remember that it only cost me €9 for a two course meal, so at least it had value.

First observations about Cork…

1…City centre doesn’t have many benches; I’ve come to really notice these details since traveling with Liam’s mom and her new hip.

2…If you can’t understand one of the pedestrian wayfinding signs, look at the other side…one side is in English the other is in Irish — truthfully, I don’t like this idea…it’s no good to have to cross a street to read the flipside.

3…The city has a much different flavour than other Irish cities…reminds me of some of the port cities I visited in the Netherlands and Australia and elsewere.

4…It’s a “low” city — hat’s off to the city planners for keeping their buildings under five stories which contributes to it’s unique visual identity.

I was wandering without a map, so it took me a while to find the tourist office… they aren’t well-signposted either. When I got there, I had them help me book a room near the city centre. They found me a place for €55 ( $85 ) near the train station.

I returned to the car and fed the machine €4.20 ( $6.50 ) to cover my two hours of parking. Surprisingly, I found my B&B quite easily. However, I wish the map provided by the tourist office noted the one-way streets…I wasn’t able to plan my route before I left without this info.

The B&B is a step above a hostel…and the others near the train station seem to be of similar quality. I parked on the street outside and range the bell, waited and range again. A woman arrived from the B&B next door with a key. She talked fast and handed me off to Fatima who she said was “just doing a bit of cleaning” and would show me to my room.

I got the feeling that Fatima was doing most of the work around the place and the other woman owned it…and probably owned the B&B next door…and maybe the hostel across the street.

Before the owner left me alone with Fatima, I asked about parking. She said, “You’re on the street?”

“Yes, right outside.”

She thought for a second, “It’s three. You should be fine.”

Uh-oh, that didn’t sound good. “Is it pay parking?”

“Yes, you can get the disc at the off-license down the street. Then just mark it from three to five.” Oh my, the old-fashioned scratch off disc parking. I opted to take my chances and, against my better judgment didn’t walk all the way down to the off-license (liquor store) for the disc.

Just finished the double-decker bus tour. It was pre-recorded…when compared to the “live” guides on the Dublin Hop On/Off, I knew what to expect…a decent tour that lacked any personality. I was right…and there were several details of the city that I noticed and figured there were some great stories about, but weren’t mentioned in the audio.

Meanwhile, there were several lines they chose to include that had provided no useful information… “To your left is the Clarion Hotel. One of the city’s newest and most prestigious hotels.” Here I am in a city with tons of history, interesting architecture and I’m sure loads of stories, and they are giving the Clarion a mention? At least give me an interesting tidbit…who stayed there? any scandal? anything happen on the site? Please, please, give me something.

I will say, this tour also qualified as a thrill ride. The driver zigzagged some of the most narrow streets around, but the real amazing part came when he took the hills. WOW! Hairpin corners at nearly a 45 degree angle. Meanwhile the electrical wires were only inches from my head and tree branches swatted at my face.

The tour had about three attempts at humor, but being pre-recorded and mixed with less-than-witty commentary, they fell flat. Alas, I still enjoyed the trip and got to know the city. And because I took the last tour of the day, the bus driver invited me to hop-on tomorrow with today’s ticket. He also climbed up the bus stairs at one point to let the ladies sitting in front of me know he had reached the stop they wanted…that’s good service.

I’ve been sneezing all day, and I think I’m noticing some sniffles. Looks like I might be getting a cold. I’ll have to find some LemSip and vitamins.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

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