The Ireland Trip: Kilkenny and Dublin

It’s high time for me to finish procrastinating on the Ireland posts so I can start procrastinating on regular posts instead, but that’s not the reason the Kilkenny and Dublin are lumped together here. It’s actually because I have only one good picture of Dublin, which I will get to in a bit.

So on our second to last full day in Ireland, we drove from Killarney to Kilkenny, which was nice but mostly forgettable. Driving across southern Ireland can be easily summed up by two things: Green fields, and traffic circles.


At one point we went through fifteen traffic circles in twenty miles. It’s not so great when you’re still not good at the low gears in a manual.

We arrived in Kilkenny around noon, and parked our stuff at the Kilkenny Hotel, which was big but quite nice.


The bigger hotels in Ireland can best be described as: Impersonal, but with a better breakfast service than you will ever find in the States.

And then we popped out to explore the city, which at first, I didn’t like. That’s because Kilkenny was the first city that didn’t seem to cater exclusively to tourists. There were chain stores, busy streets with traffic jams, fast food restaurants, and all the cool bits of history had been impatiently built around because Irish people don’t have time for 300 year old buildings when they’re everywhere and blocking good building sites.


This tower is inconvenient and blocking a perfectly good parking lot.

Wandering around, it was clear the place had charm, but more so the farther you went from the somewhat garish main street, which I didn’t think to take a picture of and which I now regret.


Entirely by wandering, James and I stumbled across St. Canice’s Cathedral, which was absolutely beautiful but which we were too cheap to pay the fee to see the interior. The round tower was climbable, but also for a fee.

And we were still cheap.


The graveyard was free to explore, though. Most of the graves were worn down and unreadable, like the books I’ve had since childhood.

And then, running low on ideas and eating lunch in a restaurant that was only mildly charming, I started Googling things to see. We settled on the Medieval Mile Museum.

Going purely from my entirely fallible memory, the Medieval Mile Museum was a very new construct, built in the bones of an old church. The place had been stripped down and the inside was spacious and largely unrecognizable as a church, but it showcased the artifacts and tombs found in and around the place very nicely.

IMG_20170630_165642110An example of the way they displayed the old tombs. There were a few of them scattered throughout the museum, and covered in glass so you could stand on top of them if you wished.

On the tour we took, our guide told us that the bones of the main street of Kilkenny had been around since approximately the 12th century, meaning all the McDonald’s we walked past had been built into ancient city structures. The ‘Medieval Mile’ aspect encouraged you to walk from St. Canice’s to… I don’t remember, some other historical destination, but we had inadvertently wandered all over the thing already, so we didn’t do it again.


The museum had a nice view of the Kilkenny rooftops at the end of the tour.

The only thing we did go back and see was the Black Freren Gate, which we had missed. It’s the only part of the old Norman walls still standing.


And it’s just another part of everyday life in Kilkenny.

At this point we headed back to the hotel, stopping briefly at another massive church along the way. I don’t even remember the name of this one, but the priest had stopped by briefly for some priestly business and greeted us with a cheery hello. We pretended we were there for spiritual reasons rather than to take pictures, but I don’t think anyone was fooled.



And then we settled back into the hotel for the night. The next morning we were set to drive from Kilkenny to Dublin early so we could take in a portion of the city before our flight the day after.

We had a wonderful full Irish breakfast with more of their curiously fat bacon, loaded up our trunks and packed it all out to the car. As we popped the trunk, I noted that someone had smashed a bottle on the ground nearby, the blue-green shards lying between our car and the next.

And then James went to get in the driver’s seat, and it turned out the glass was from our window instead. Someone had broken the window and stolen the only thing of “value” from our rental car, the GPS.


This was a terrible situation, you see, because it meant we would have to be adults. Adults who did things like called the car rental company and brought in the police and alerted the hotel. That’s what adults do. And at 21, I’m most certainly an adult, and my parents were in a different country, so I couldn’t call them for help.

So we notified the hotel, who were shocked because they had never had such a thing happen before, and the head of security was more of an adult than us and called the Gardaí while I reported it to the rental company.

The Gardaí came to take the report. Despite being Irish, it was like something out of a British comedy. There were two of them, a genial joke-a-minute older fellow and a younger no-nonsense woman. While she wrote up the report, the cheerful fellow noted that we couldn’t be Trump supporters because, you see, we knew how to drive a stick shift.

(The Irish people were not happy with Trump during the week we were there, because he had said something vaguely sexist to an Irish reporter a few days prior. It was all over the Irish news. I remember watching it and thinking ‘That’s all?’ which is a terrible thing to think.)

He also noted that the GPS was a ‘Never Lost’ GPS. “Well,” he said, with several elbow nudges, “It’s lost now, eh?” And then he turned to the lady Garda to repeat the joke. She made me sign some papers.

The hotel took over then, and had a housekeeper meticulously clean off the glass from the inside while they gave us complimentary hot drinks. They were very nice and very apologetic.

Kilkenny didn’t have a branch of our rental company, so we were fortunate it didn’t rain- much- when we finally got on our way and drove our windowless car for two hours to Dublin. We were about three hours behind schedule and the Dublin branch of the car company was closed by the time we arrived, so we cleaned it of all valuables and threw it into a parking garage overnight, where mercifully it came out all right, presumably because the resident criminals could already crawl inside to see what was in there.

Meanwhile, we discovered that Dublin reminded us an awful lot of Philadelphia.


Except for the classic river shot.

It was very crowded, and we saw more diversity there than in the entire rest of the week combined. We had a few hours to kill before we had a reservation for an evening event at Dublin’s “oldest pub,” so we just wandered.

Right into the middle of a massive pro-life rally and the counter pro-choice protestors.

We went into a Supermac’s to hide for a while. Supermac’s is an Irish fast food place. We had done a great job of eating at small local joints all week, so we decided to try the fast food in Ireland. Supermac’s, it turns out, is remarkably like McDonald’s, just less salty.

I added salt to my food. I’m an American.

I didn’t take many pictures at all, which I regret, but we were exhausted and if we stopped to take a picture of something we were bowled over by aggressive pedestrians, rather like residents of New York City.

We headed then to “An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies” at The Brazen Head, which I would have taken pictures of were it not so crowded. It was Saturday night, and the pub was packed with bodies, lots of whom were already drunk. From what I could barely see, it was an agreeable place.

We were ushered to the quieter upstairs, where four large tables had been squeezed into a medium room. About half the people seated were Irish, mostly from places besides Dublin, and the rest were tourists from America, Germany, New Zealand. Our story-teller, Ollie, was captivating. He might have been a fairy, there’s really no knowing. He told us stories all throughout dinner, and then brought out a guitar and urged us to sing some traditional folk songs with him.

At the end of the night, an Irish lady who had been at our table pulled us aside. “My husband and I were curious,” she said, “what brings two young folks like yourself to a traditional Irish storytelling?”

I babbled for a bit about loving the culture and the music and the mythology, and she seemed bemused, but offered, “You were quite good earlier. You knew all the songs!”

I’ll be riding on that compliment for the rest of my life.


The next day, we packed up early so we could turn the car in and deal with the consequences. The consequences, it turned out, were to the tune of 300. If I ever go to Ireland again, I’m buying insurance for the rental car.

Then, tired and fatter, we returned home. There was a disappointing lack of stone fences everywhere, but at least everything wasn’t so claustrophobic.

Fairy Houses

I have an app on my phone called “Home.” Home is a bit like micro-transactions in an online game, only for real life. You spend a few dollars on a cute pillow, a few dollars on a neat bracelet, and soon you’ve spent $450 and you’re still not winning.

And the other day, Home, because it knows me better than I feel comfortable with, suggested a miniature tea set.


This is the face hand of impulse buying.

I’m easily enraptured by pretty girly things. Taking care of three to six boys will do that to you. But this set, especially, reminded me of the miniature tea sets my sister and I used to have when we were little. It also reminded me, in a round about way, of the “fairy houses” we used to make out in the woods.

Fairy houses are easy to make. First, you look around for building materials in nature. Then, you spend an hour carefully setting everything into place. Finally, you step back and cry a little because your creation looks like a dumpster compared to what people on Pinterest put together effortlessly. It’s very rewarding.

So as I looked at this little tea set, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be fun to take these out and build a fairy house in the park somewhere for someone to discover?”

I went to the park today.

I hadn’t made fairy houses in years, but I remembered vaguely that purely working with sticks is the devil and that finding some rocks would help weigh everything down. As it turns out, the east coast has no rocks this time of year.


Seriously, there could be diamonds under that foliage and I’d be none the wiser.

So I begrudgingly started with sticks instead. Not only sticks, mind you. There were, fortunately, quite a few pinecones around as well, and they made lovely insulation.


Pay attention, Pinterest.

I forced a few sticks into the ground, dropped some pinecones on top of each other, and did the same thing to the other side. I laid longer sticks across the roof, covered the whole thing with pine needle tufts (only the ones that were already dying, don’t look at me like that), and put in a few additional sticks for support.


And here we the trailer park home of the Welfare Fairy.

It was decidedly underwhelming, but I was running low on childlike wonder and people on the paths were starting to stare at the grown woman squatting under the tree with a bunch of pinecones in her hands.


It was something. It would be something better with miniature teacups.


The table and tablecloth came next, and I only severely injured myself on the bark once. And then…


All right, now that’s adorable.


I needed to improve my fairy house skills, but a spider moved in while I was working on it so a) it couldn’t have been that bad, and b) I wasn’t going anywhere near it again. It actually did look a little less like a heap of randomly placed sticks in real life, fortunately.


It wasn’t completely easy to spot from the path, but there’s enough foot traffic in a day that I think it won’t take somebody long to find it. Hopefully a little girl gets the tiny china.

I still have some china left over, so I’ll try again another day and maybe my building skills will improve.

Naturally soon all the building materials will be covered in leaves covered in snow, so this might be more of a spring activity.

The Last of the Renaissance Faires

On Saturday I packed myself into the car with one (1) man with better hair than mine, eight (8) bags of miscellaneous costuming garb, accessories, and weapons, and a great deal () of Middle Ages-themed excitement.

We were going to another Renaissance Faire. How many Renaissance Faires I’ve been to this season is not important. It’s a normal number. I’m a normal person.

This was the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire again, because it was the only Renaissance Faire still running this late in the year (near me, anyway). It was, effectively, The Last Renaissance Faire.


This time with Halloween!

Most of the Renaissance Faires I’ve attended this season I’ve attended alone, because I find that few of my friends share my single-minded determination to experience everything the faire has to offer many times over while dressed appropriately for the occasion. We don’t have time to dither around by the food court, guys! We have three shows to see and we have only five minutes in every booth, and we can’t miss our hour of relaxing people-watching. The hour of relaxing people-watching is very important, guys.

Fortunately, I found a miracle in a friend of a friend named Paul, who has even more costumes than I do and also has long, silken black hair that he can stand around looking medieval with. I’m not jealous.

Paul has done Ren Faires. Paul has done, probably, dozens more Ren Faires than I have. Paul knows how to do Renaissance Faires with me. It was a great relief.


Paul is also frequently a pirate, and when I stopped to laugh at one of the flags at the faire he informed me he used to have that flag hanging above his computer. Because of course he had.

But today we were in less of a hurry to get things done, because we had each had our fill of Ren Faires for the season (including this one). We wandered around, catching some of the acts, brandishing glorious hair (Paul), trying not to grin like an idiot because Renaissance Faires are still the coolest thing ever (me).

Twice we stopped by the archery booth. The first time, Paul picked up his bow, hit the bullseye something like ten out of eighteen times, and complained that he was “out of practice.” He congratulated me on my three bullseyes.

The second time we stopped by, a few hours later, he hit the bullseye a mere fifteen times, and seemed genuinely thrilled that I had managed five. Curse those talented but kind individuals that you want to dislike but can’t because they’re so nice.


Archery: Where you go if you want to see me spectacularly fail to hit the center of the target many times in a row!


We swung by the joust, presided over by King Henry XIII (in his early days, when he hadn’t yet executed a lot of wives or grown old and fat). The area you sit in in the audience determines which knights you’re rooting for, and we ended up supporting the less than honorable ones. The slightly despicable ones. The ones that, when given the option to kick a puppy for 10 gold, would go “Welllll…”

They’re the most fun to root for. Who really need chivalry anyway. They probably lost, but we didn’t stick around for the after-joust duels to find out.

As we wound down for the day, Paul recommended we see a music group call Tartanic, who were as impressive as they were ear-shatteringly loud (very). When your music can be hear all over the Faire, you’re doing something right.


Tartanic invited anybody who wished to come up and dance on stage if the music moved them.


The results were approximately eighty-three very enthusiastic children who just wanted to sit on the thrones before an audience.

And then, just like that, we were done. We bought some kettle corn for the road and spent fifteen minutes removing our costumes so that we could stop at a gas station without looking like we were bringing the New Crusades. We shoved our new merchandise on top of our old merchandise, and we headed out.

Sure, the both of us will probably be very medieval for the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not terribly sad to end the season. Renaissance Faires are packed with some of the most interesting individuals you will ever meet, and it’s always a pity to leave that behind.


Well, except this guy. You’ll see him again in a few months.