Monday, July 17, 2017

Cobh - You say Blarney, I say Baloney!

"Baloney is flattery laid on with a trowel, Blarney is flattery laid on
with the lips; that is why you have to kiss the stone to get it"
Legend has it that Cormac McCarthy, the builder of the castle, was involved
in a lawsuit in the 15th century. Not being the most articulate person, or
just probably guilty, he appealed to the goddess Cliodhna for her assistance
as he had to plead his case to the judge. She told him that he should kiss
the first stone he sees on the way to court. He did, and with that he
pleaded his case with great eloquence and won. There started the legend that
by kissing the stone you are bestowed with "the ability to deceive without
offending". Very happy with his success, he incorporated the stone into the
parapet of the castle, and the rest is history.
For the first time known to us, the Irish immigration team required us all
to attend a face to face check before being allowed to go ashore. So quick
was the check that I am sure it was all about the pastries and coffee that
Princess served.
Butlers was the tour company that we used for our tour to Blarney and
Kinsale today and Kevin was there waiting for us as we walked off the dock.
His passion was evident as he shared his knowledge of the history and humour
of whereever we went. Our major stops were the Blarney Castle and Kinsale a
small costal village.
We arrived at Blarney so early that we had to wait for the ticket office to
open. Kevin suggested that we head straight to the stone to avoid the
building queues. The castle itself is just a hollow shell of its former
self. We climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the top where we waited our
turn to kiss the stone: "lie back, hold the rails, side down, lean forward,
kiss the stone, slide up, get up" was the constant chant of the gentleman
that was helping us each achieve what many millions had achieved before us.
Splashing the stone with a bit of water every now and then, didn't quite
give us the confidence of hygiene, but what the hell, we have never seen a
headline "Man dies from kissing Stone at Blarney."
Not for the faint hearted, I didn't realise that as you slide into this
crevice backward, if you look down the gap between the stones you slide
into, there is nothing but the ground way down below.
Like all gardens that surround castles, there are little pathways and
bridges that take you to different themed areas. The gardens were lovely
and workers were busily preparing it for a garden show that was on in the
ensuing days. Waterfalls, sculptures and a lone piper all added to the
charm of this oversized cottage garden.
Just a short distance from the castle are the Blarney woollen mills, a
treasure trove for tourists. Selling everything Irish, from woollens, fine
linens, Waterford crystal and leprechauns of every shape and size.
Leaving Blarney, Kevin took us for a drive by tour of Cork. Passing the
points of interest of the city, I think most of us where also interesting in
spotting our fellow passengers wandering the main shopping streets.
We continued driving through the beautiful countryside to the little sea
side village of Kinsale. Once a walled city, we walked the cobbled narrow
streets of the old town admiring the old buildings with now a more modern
purpose. A small group of tourists were gathered in a park listening to
their guide, something that we often see, but it was not until we were back
in Cobh that I saw on Facebook that it was actually a Rick Steve's tour. "So
what!" you say "and who the hell is Rick Steve?". Being an avid holiday
researcher, his guides and videos are a great resource when looking at what
to do, he is my holiday Guru. Having built an empire in the US he no longer
hosts his tours, but does tour bomb them when he is also in town. and today
was one of those days in Kinsale.. Ugh, wish I saw him, now that is a selfie
I would have loved.
"Don't be a wowser, celebrate Australia Day" read the sign in the Rob Roy
Pub. A Cobh tradition since 2009, they celebrate Australia Day when the
world cruise is in town. A large group of Princess Aussies were gathering
at each of the pubs that line the streets of Cobh, seats were at a premium.
We managed to walk into the Rob Roy at just the right time and snapped up a
couple of stools.. Surrounded by princess friends we drank and listened the
resident band who played a mixture of Irish, modern and aussie music.
Patrons came and went but we hung on to our valuable seats. Garry was
chuffed as the evening was also becoming another celebration for this
birthday. His highlight was when the band played and everyone sang a chorus
of Happy Birthday.
For the rest of us, the highlight was when one of the locals, with very
little coaxing, started singing some traditional Irish songs. With no
microphone, her booming voice brought prickles to the back of your neck and
commanded a silence throughout the pub. With even less encouragement she
followed up with an encore.
"Stand up, arms out, bums out, chest out." If Australia has the chicken
dance then Cobh has "singing in the rain" meets "do the hokey pokey" and she
had us all "shaking all about". It was a wonderful way to finish our
evening and arrangements were made to meet on Australia Day again next
year!!

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