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Ringing In The Rain

June 18, 2008

corey says…Cork is a city that can really grew on me quite quickly. Aside from the Hop On/Off Bus, I simply spent the entire day and evening wandering the city. Since its bridges and curved streets can be a bit confusing, there was a sense of accomplishment with every landmark I recognized and every street I crossed. Within a few hours, I felt as though I could actually give some basic directions.

Cork is a great pedestrian city. The street scheme and sidewalks were restructured to accommodate today’s foot and car traffic…and in many cases, it seems the pedestrians trumped vehicles as cars aren’t allowed on many streets during specific hours.

At about 8:30pm, I started to notice that my sneezing fits and runny nose were turning into a full-on head cold. My throat was scratchy and my nose embarrassed me as it literally dripped down the front of my sweater. As the pressure built in my head, I knew I needed to get some medicine. Of course it was at about this time, the cloudy skies started giving up some moisture. It was a mist that was more like 100% humidity than rain.

I stopped in two newsagents, the only stores open at that hour, and they didn’t have anything but aspirin and its chemical cousins. It was going to be long night if I didn’t get some relief. When I walked out of the third shop a blinking green light across the street caught my eye. It was one of the neon green crosses used to mark chemist shops (pharmacies). The sign starts out as a tiny cross, then a green outline appears, then another and then another. The signs are disappearing in Ireland, so I was very happy they had one.

But could they be open this late? I walked by six closed up chemist shops already…I almost begged a woman who was doing inventory inside one them to help me out. As I approached the blinking light, I saw the sign “Late Night Pharmacy.” Hallelujah!

There were several customers inside, and I marched by them to the counter in the back. In Ireland, you can’t just daze yourself in a sea of cold and flu remedies; they are all kept behind the counter and you must talk to a pharmacist before getting anything. In all actuality, I think it’s a very good system; however, when you’re used to self-medicating, it’s a bit awkward having to disclose your every symptom to a store full of people. At least it wasn’t like the time my feet were burning up with Athlete’s Foot, and I had to describe in detail the way my skin was pulling away from my foot.

The woman behind the counter was quite thorough before assigning me a dose of Sutaphed…which is probably what I would have walked out with even without her help. She also recommended some LemSip for the achey-ness. It was right to my B&B for some R&R…no Cork nightlife this trip.

The remedies helped, but they were no match for whatever bug I caught. I woke several times in the night…my sinuses were draining and irritating my throat. A few minutes upright and the discomfort would subside. In the end, I slept upright for most of the night.

In the morning, I was up very early, so I did my usual sunrise church tour. I visited any church that was open at the hour. Cork has several beautiful ones. The most notable, Saint Finbarr’s didn’t open until ten, so my tour was pretty much limited to the Catholic Churches.

When I entered Saint Francis Church, I thought, “Oh dear, this one reeks of the 1950s.” However, after I wandered around, I realized it had some of the best details of any of the churches. The mosaics were breathtaking and even out-shined the Harry Clarke windows.

Oddly, there was a young backpacker-looking guy in the vestibule sitting on the floor with a dog. I wasn’t sure if he was resting, begging or troubled, but he was minding his own business, so I did the same.

By this time, the mist had turned to full-out rain, my nose was running, but fortunately the rain was disguising drips. I didn’t let the rain or my head stop me. I was heading to the Butter Market…a place that caught my attention on the bus tour.

Having been raised on a dairy farm, the Butter Museum was right up my alley. In fact, I was completely enchanted by it. The story of the changes in the Irish dairy industry mirrored the changes in my own family and the families I know in County Tipperary. I pretty much took in the whole place and the decided to check out Saint Anne’s church nearby.

I was expecting the usual church tour, but boy oh boy, this one was a real treat! As I paid my €5 ( $7.75 ), the man asked “Where yer from?”

“The U.S.”

“Tell me you didn’t vote for bush.” The Irish rarely share a direct opinion on US politics…they usually feel you out a bit and then mirror whatever you say.

Taking his cue, I said, “You’d be hard pressed to find people who will admit to that.”

He smiled and said, “You can ring the bells on the first floor.”

I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I took a detour into the church proper before heading up the stairs. At first, things seemed pretty standard…a big stone room with a windy window letting in some light. There was a series of pulleys and ropes on the wall and some examples of counter weights on another.

I was much more interested in what was up the narrow stone staircase on the side. Up I went. The passage wrapped upwards around the steeple to another large room, then another. There I found some mechanisms encased in plexiglass and yet another even narrower stair case in the corner. As I climbed, I rounded the corner and came face to face with a giant bell. It was one of eight hanging from a grid of ancient beams.

I stared at them, first thinking about their age, second thinking about the fact that I could actually reach out and touch them. Before I did that though, a HUGE gong let out. The bells were beginning to ring. Simply amazing. I was sitting right next to these amazing bells…those ropes and pulley’s downstairs must be the secret.

As the bells tolled, I noticed another stairway just above my head. As I looked more closely, there was a short ladder allowing access and a hand painted white arrow inviting me to climb higher. I couldn’t believe it; I was being encouraged to climb among the bells and view them from above the grid. WOW…the wind was blowing through the vented opening, but it’s whirling sounds were being masked by “When the Saints Go Marching In” being played on the eight bells.

This was the most fun I had had in a long time. I then continued up the narrow stone passage to the walkway around the steeple. From there, I could see most of Cork…well, whatever the clouds and rain weren’t hiding. The rain was lashing at me. I did a quick loop around and then returned to the door.

When I reached the bells, there was another couple coming up the narrow stairs. They must have played the song. They were wearing big headset-type ear protection. Where’d they get that from?

The woman was afraid to go any higher, so they backtracked to the lower level so I could climb down. As I walked down the steps, I noticed the ear protection hanging above my head. Ah-ha, that’s where those are.

I rushed down the to the rope and pulley room and played Kambyah and Oh Susanna…two of the many songs provided on laminated sheets of paper. The ropes were surprisingly easy to pull…and the bells could just be heard two stories above. After being completely enchanted by this engineering masterpiece, I peeked down at my watch…12:30. Uh-oh, my parking disk runs out in a half hour…how did the time go by so quickly?

Unfortunately, this was the end of my visit to Cork. Liam’s guests returned tonight and I had to get Liam’s mom back to Liza’s cottage. Plus, it’s deadline week, and I had about four hours of work ahead me as well.

It poured the entire trip home. Fortunately, talk radio had a few interesting topics besides Ireland’s No Vote on the Lisbon Treaty. One topic was vacation. Ireland ranks among the shortest guaranteed vacations days in Europe (20 vacation days/9 holidays per year). People were calling in bemoaning the “dismal” number and demanding that they needed more days…Germany had nearly double the the number of days.

Thankfully, the topic of US holidays came up. The Irish can’t even comprehend the idea of 10 days vacation and 5 holidays that most American’s get per year.

Now, I’m home dosing up on Vitamin C, Echinatia Tea and my pharmacy purchases before heading off to sleep.

This Week’s Photo Album

My Ireland Expense Report

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 20, 2008 10:59 AM

    Dear Corey,
    So sorry to hear about your cold – hope that you are much better. It is bad enough to be sick in Ireland, especially when you only have less than a week left, but also when you have lots of computer work to do.
    I am so glad that you wound up liking Cork. It is a great city for walking, and there is an unmistakable friendliness in the air. We are heading back again to Cork in October and we are looking forward to it. It is no fun to drive through (if you don’t know the pattern of the one-ay streets), but it is a delightful city to walk around once you get the lay of the land, so to speak. Hope you get to go back and spend more time in the city (and surrounding area like Kinsale and Cobh) in the near future.
    Sorry to hear that you encountered some rain on the drive back to Tipp. Hopefully, by now, it is nicer. Enjoy your remaining days in Ireland. Your trip has gone so fast, and I really have enjoyed your daily postings, and the special enhancements like the Expense Report – so helpful to all future travelers. Your Blog made it seem like we were there in Ireland with you. I know it was a lot of work for you, but it was most appreciated by all of us back in the US.
    Well done, Corey.
    Best regards,

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