Christmas Getaway at Co. Cork

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cork is such a strange name to call a city because every time I say it, I think of the cork for wine (I like wine so maybe that's why I thought of it) but the city isn't actually known for wine nor corks. The name is derived from the Irish word "corach" which means marsh in Gaelic. City is found in the marshy lands, south-west of Ireland. I spent the recent weekend in this boggy city with my family (My auntie and sister and my sister's husband came from the Philippines to spend the holidays with us) to visit more family.

Despite the frequent mention of mucky marshes in Cork's history, the city is nothing like that now in the 21st century. My family and I took a 2hr train ride from Portlaoise to get there. It was such a hectic morning when we were all getting ready. The temperatures dropped the night before so it was a very frosty morning. We ran out of hot water and we were all rushing to the train station. As there was seven of us, we couldn't all fit in the car. We had to ask a friend to drop us because a taxi would take longer. My older sister, her husband and I were dropped first because I had to collect the tickets we booked online. When my mum's friend left to to go back and get her and my auntie, we realised that we had 10 mins left before the train was about to leave. Panicking that my mom and aunt might not be able to make it on time before the train left, I left their tickers behind the extinguisher at the waiting room so they can show it to the receptionist at the station and take the next train ( I called my mum to inform her where I left it.) Two minutes left before the train leaves, we were looking for our seats and through the window of the train I saw my mum followed by her sister running towards the door of the train. The doors were already shut but luckily there was an old man that let them in. I rushed towards them and asked if they had their tickets. As they catch their breathes, they both said no. So they boarded the train without the tickets and they ran the risk of paying €100 each if the conductor came looking for the tickets. (Luckily, he wasn't checking that morning) When we arrived at Cork station,I explained to the people at the ticket booth what had happened and they just looked at me very confused and said leaving and hiding the tickets behind the extinguisher was stupid (When I think about it, yes it was but I had to do something quick in my defense). The staff at Cork station called the staff in Portlaoise about the tickets and kept it till my younger sister came in the evening train to Cork. No one had to pay any fine. So that's story time over.

On our first day we didn't really go anywhere. Instead we stayed at my second cousin's house and bonded with our niece and nephew. It was on the second day we went sight seeing. There were a lot of places to visit in Cork and its surrounding area but because we were short on time we were only able to visit Charles Fort at Kinsale and the Blarney Castle.

Charles Fort

Charles Fort is a star fort located just about 30 minutes drive from Cork city, in the small town of Kinsale. The fee we paid to enter the grounds were I think €4 for adults. It's a very popular tourist destination during the summer but because we went during winter the place wasn't flooded with tourists. The place was once a military center built by the British on top of Kinsale harbour to resist attacks from invaders like the vikings. They also trained soldiers during world war one here. Since they burnt the place to the ground (I forgot the reason why, apologies!) it has been abandoned and has since changed it's purpose to a tourist spot. It was quite gloomy when we went there (I really won't recommend going winter!) To add to the gloominess, it kind of looked haunting and like a concentration camp because the buildings were in ruins. One thing that did catch my eye was the view of the Atlantic. It was quite obvious why they decided to build their camp here on top of the hill. One could easily fight off attacks because they "have the high ground" (Yeah, I just quoted Star Wars coz I'm a dork like that) 

Look at that. You can just see if a Viking ship was about to attack and by the time they reach the port they'll be like "Nah bruh, we've to turn back. The Irish are on to us"

Gives you an eerie feeling right?

We spent about 30-40 mins around the ground because it was cold and the wind was hitting our faces. Also if you do come here to visit, don't wear boots or heels or in my case heeled boots (I wanted to be photo ready) because the terrain was uneven and I tripped and fell. What made it worse I was wearing ripped jeans, so when I fell the rocks cut my knee. I was thankful that no one saw me fall because it was embarrassing but my older sister saw me unfortunately and started shouting "Oh she fell! MUM! LOOK!". Talk about embarrassing right?  I just helped myself up and walked it off. 

Here you have the view of Kinsale town from the hill. During summer, the docks would be filled with tourist and there are a lot of pubs to visit.

Blarney Castle

The next place we visited was the acclaimed Blarney Castle which was 10 mins drive from Cork city. Having had visited castles and palaces in France ( ie. Versailles and Carcassonne) I had mixed feelings towards this Castle. Like I said, we didn't pick the most sunny of days to visit so it was hard to appreciate it (Maybe during the summer or autumn it would've been better). The grounds were very pretty I must say. There was a small stream of water flowing beside the castle. The bare naked and leafless trees and chilly air gave a perfect mix for a winter walk. At the back of my head I was expecting it to be like the medieval towns I've seen in France or something like the castle in Killkenny but it wasn't. It was a tall block and one side of it was covoured with a big white billboard because they were constructing something at that side. I honestly couldn't compare this castle to the others I've been to. The only thing I could say about it was it reminded me of  House Frey's castle from Game of Thrones, plain and cold.

Me and my younger sister, Dianne paid €11 because we were students (€13 for adults) but I still felt it wasn't worth that much for a small castle. (I didn't even have to pay anything in Carcassonne and it's size was of a town). The dinning hall was tiny and the staircase was very narrow and steep. I couldn't grasp the size of the rooms because they were no more than 10m². Again, I recommend to wear trainers or runners because climbing up the spiral staircase was very hard and long. We had to hold on to a rope that was dropped from the top, in the middle of the spiral just to help us from not falling. If you're claustrophobic, it wouldn't be the best place for you. When we reached the top of the castle we were very high up. The ramparts as well were tight so trying to walk ahead someone who was taking pictures wasn't possible.

The only highlight I had with this castle was having the opportunity to kiss the Blarney stone. Legend has it that if you were to kiss it, you were granted with the gift of eloquence and persuasiveness. All I had to do was kiss the stone and.. poof.. great gaelic gods grant me the skill! Wrong. They left out the part that I had to dangle upside down the rampart walls and kiss the pavement from there. It was adrenaline rushing. I had to lean back upside down as far as I could to kiss the stone (For saftey. there were railing below the part I laid upside down and there was a man holding me for support). It didn't occur to me to ask someone to take a picture of me doing it but there were staff that takes pictures for us and we collect it downstairs. Going down the stairs was easy as this time there were railings and not a rope. When me and my sister  tried collecting our pictures we were told to that we had to pay an extra €10 to print them and €18 if we wanted both. This really put me off because to me, it looked like I just paid €11 to kiss a stone and €10 for the picture. Its such rip off! I Just thought it wasn't worth the money especially with the architecture of the castle. Still had fun dangling at the side of a castle though!

A perfect camouflage.

Food Time!

Of course, what is a holiday without a lot of eating right? After a long afternoon of walking and tripping on my muck filled suede boots, the family had dinner at an Italian restaurant called  La Dolce Vita. We hadn't eaten anything since breakfast so everyone was starving and I didn't hold back on my meal. Everyone ordered pizzas and pastas but me. Being away from home not being able to eat some Irish potatoes really gets to you so I had wedges and chicken fillet with bacon wrapped around.The white sauce was really good, I kinda regret not asking for more.

The following day was our last day in Cork so we just the day in the city centre, shopping and eating. (More on the eating part) We found Cork's Christmas markets and we pretty much had our appetisers there.

My older sister has a weak spot for jellies and despite my efforts of telling her not to get them I ended up eating the bag with her...

Mini Doughnuts! How could you not say yes to them? Especially when they're only €4
For lunch we went to Nando's, which was right beside the Christmas markets. Ever heard of the phrase "Cheeky Nando's"? Well it's a term we use in Ireland when we're off to eat some grilled peri-peri chicken at Nando's (Don't really know the definition but thats how I understand it anyway). The whole point why we went to the city was actually so we could bring my aunt and the others to Nando's (A restaurant founded in Portugal) because it's quite popular here in Ireland. (I think of it as the Portuguese version of  the Filipino restaurant Mang Inasal)

I didn't eat a salad because I was on a diet but because this salad is sexy with some balsamic vinegar dressing! 

Tadah! The world-renowned Nandos's chicken with accompanied some spicy fried rice. You really have to try it guys!
I think our walking around cancels out the food we ate during this weekend in Cork. Despite my bad luck, I had a great time admiring the countryside scenery and spending some quality time with the family. After all, Christmas is about the two F's. Family and a taste of domestic food! Something I needed and been looking for since I moved to France for my 3rd year of college. Hope you're enjoying the holidays with your family because nothing is more important than them!

Happy Holidays!

A bientôt, Dawn 
Follow me in Instagram @discoverdawn

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  1. This sounds like the most amazing Christmas getaway and you ladies look absolutely lovely and like you had an incredible time!

    Rae | Love from Berlin

    1. we really did! One for the books. Hope you had a lovely christmas and Happy new year!