Well, today was my last real day for adjustment and exploration. I slept in, had a nice breakfast, and caught a bus to Blarney Castle.
That’s the short version. The long version is that finding the right bus was a little challenging – I didn’t know where exactly to go, and it turns out the bus departed from somewhere other than the main station, but the bus wasn’t at the stop when I started looking for it…ack! But I made it, and rode for half an hour behind a New Zealand goth couple.
Going to the castle was sort of the final reminder that yes, indeed, I have returned to Europe. My oblivious inner twelve-year-old popped back up again and said “Yeah! Castles! Sweet!” and went exploring. The people who run Blarney have kept it as close to its authentic (as in, crumbly and almost ruined) state as possible. Before entering the castle itself, you get to actually crawl into the dungeons, and it’s dark and dank and creepy and I did not go in, sorry. I took a picture.
Getting to the top of the castle, well…that wasn’t as much fun. 95% of the time I’m okay with heights, but this was definitely part of the 5%. You have to climb multiple flights of steep stone stairs, which are both uneven from wear and wet because it was raining. There’s a rope you can hold on to, but that’s about it. Even when I took a break on the landings, I was surrounded by barred windows and standing on uneven ground, and there was nowhere for me to regroup. All I could do was keep going up.
But then I got to the top, and then I was surrounded by uneven ground and wet stones and barred-off windows and people and the view was spectacular, but it was sort of hard to enjoy when you’re trying not to slip and fall to a newsworthy death. I had already decided I didn’t want to kiss the Blarney Stone (kissing something that’s been kissed by decades of strangers does not appeal to me – neither does the hullabaloo about swine flu, or the rumor that the locals pee on the stone), and once I got to the front of the line, my decision was reaffirmed.
Imagine this, if you will: You’re standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon, looking down at a metal grille. A few inches beyond this grill hangs a bar of gold. You’re allowed to get this bar of gold for yourself, but in order to do so, you must lie on your back, wriggle backwards so your head is hanging over the Grand Canyon, and grab the bar of gold with your teeth.
It’s a little like that, only there’s a park employee to hold on to you. So I booked it off the top level and crawled back downstairs, clinging to the rail the entire way.
The grounds, though, were well worth the fee and the torment of scary scary stairs. There’s a very beautiful mansion out on the grounds, and past it, there’s a whole menagerie of waterfalls, groves of trees, hidden walkways, even a mini forest of devil’s club. The waterfall spilled into a pond covered with green, and behind it was something they called the “wishing stairs.” Apparently you’re supposed to go to the top, make a wish, and then walk down them backwards. I had had my fill of old wet stairs, so I just went up and stayed there, wishing the whole way not to fall.
My favorite part was the “witches’ kitchen.” Under the roots of a huge tree, someone had built a miniature kitchen, with a little fireplace in the back of the cave. The chimney is built up next to the tree, and you can walk right past the chimney over the roof of the cave-kitchen. I may or may not have made ringwraith jokes to myself.
I’ll add pictures later – picture posts take a long time, and I’d rather get my thoughts out first. Maybe I’ll set up a Photobucket or something and just throw them all in there. In the next batch, I’ll have pictures of the English Market, St. Patrick’s Street, and Blarney Castle. There was practically no one on the streets this morning because of church services, so I finally got to be a shameless tourist and take pictures of the more public areas.
Oh, dinner last night was very nice. Mary made steak and potatoes and broccoli and gravy and all that hearty Irish stuff. After dinner, we just sat at the table and talked about university costs and cool family members and Obama. Later, we all sat and watched some Irish TV, and I bonded with her daughter (who’s about to get her PhD in the states) over the British version of “Survivorman.” The guy’s name is Bear, seriously, and he got himself stuck in a bog after trying to get a dead sheep to eat. He took a bite out of its heart and everything.
Maybe I should have opened with that story so I could close with proof of my cultural enrichment. I promise I’m learning and I’m sure my first day of work tomorrow will be all kinds of enlightening.