We'd requested an automatic because driving a large van on the wrong side of the road seemed potentially problematic enough on its own. But no such luck. All they had was a stick shift. Needless to say it was a cringe-worthy ride as a front seat passenger to our hotel in Cork. Joel did a good job and I did a decent job keeping myself from audibly gasping (once I closed my eyes at least).
We chose to start our Ireland adventures in Cork because there were several areas we wanted to explore that we could do as day trips from there. We stayed at The River Lee Hotel, which was a nice new modern building right on, you guessed it, The River Lee. I was excited to hotel it after our apartment stay in Edinburgh--the apartment was perfect for our needs, but I was happy to have hotel service for a bit! The kids were too, but they insisted on taking "serious face" photos for a bit. And after our ride to the hotel, I was beyond happy to locate the biggest Guinness I could get and sit out on the lovely patio in the sun.
We didn't do much that first day besides relax at the hotel before heading out to dinner. There seemed to be lots of foodie options in Cork, but they all had strict requirements on dining with kids. Like you basically had to eat before 5 o'clock, which wasn't going to work for us. We ended up eating at Cornstore, which was perfectly delicious and happy to have the kids. After dinner, we put the kids to bed and their grandparents stayed with them so the rest of us could go out to a few local pubs.
We have no problem having a good time, but I have to say that I wasn't as enthralled with Cork as I was with many of the other cities on our trip. It was a good hub, but I don't know if I'd make it a destination in an of itself. We were headed on a long day trip the following day, so we didn't stay out too late. But I'm going to skip around a bit and share the other day we spent in the Cork area first.
One of the places high up on my list for Ireland was Blarney Castle. Yes, it's cheesy and touristy and a silly myth. But it was also the highlight of my very Irish grandmother's trip to Ireland years ago. My Grammie Kaye (or my "Irish grandmother" as she would say) died last year so I really wanted to go kiss the Blarney stone in her memory. The kids were also psyched about it, so everyone else graciously relented.
After a delicious hotel breakfast (really, it was just delicious) and several more rounds of thumb war and staring contests, we headed over to the castle. I pre-bought admission tickets, but you still have to wait in line, so I don't know if it really saved any time. The grounds of the castle are gorgeous (and were yarn bombed!), but I was on a mission to kiss that stone, so we wasted no time.
It didn't even occur to me until we were on our way up that the kids might not be able to plant a smooch. The climb up is steep and in a small passageway, so Kane started right in about his fear of heights and feeling claustrophobic. Once we got to the top, it was clear that Cam was going to be too short to make the stretch over the open gap to kiss the stone, which you have to do by lying down, arching backwards, and kissing it upside down. And she. was. pissed. She wanted to kiss that stone. She wanted the gift of gab. And she wanted to complain about it once she found out that she couldn't. But she sullenly cheered us on as we made successful wishful kisses.
The views were fantastic and the cloudy grey day almost made it better. But everyone else wanted down, so we didn't hang out up top very long. We spent a little time exploring the grounds and then headed back to the hotel. The kids were super excited to spend some alone time with their grandparents as we had a tour and tasting at the Old Midleton Distillery planned.
It was cool to tour a historical distillery since we'd already had the working view from Glenkinchie, but this one was far more commercial in nature. But the tasting was fun and it turns out I like a lot of Irish Whiskey more than Scotch since it's not as smokey.
After our tasting, we hightailed it back to the hotel to meet up with the kids and my inlaws because we were headed to the nearby town of Kinsale for dinner. Kinsale is a historic port town that is a little Sausalito in nature and is known for being Ireland's foodie town. The cute streets are dotted with brightly painted shops and I wished we'd been able to spend some time during the day there. But we were psyched to get a reservation at Fishy Fishy which we'd all read about. Everything was insanely fresh and delicious.
We left happy with full tummies and tired kiddos. The next day we were heading up to Dublin, but I'll loop back with our next vacation post to share our A-MAHZING day trip to the Dingle Peninsula.