Monday, August 8, 2011

{backpacking 1}: just a bunch of blarney

prologue:  because i did not take this lovely little macbook with me whilst backpacking and i was not about to waste precious europe time uploading & editing pictures, i was unable to blog for those beautiful six weeks.  however.  i am BACK.  and that means catch-up (or ketchup, if you're into heinz), loads of pictures, and enough reminiscing to keep me happy till the next time i find myself eating a crepe in front of notre dame or listening to opera on the spanish steps.  enjoi!

(and a tip for travelers: TAKE THE LAPTOP.  or at least an ipod touch.  free wifi is available everywhere, and boy would i have preferred typing my thoughts each night to the slow slow process of handwriting them.  we didn't have a single problem with pickpockets, and having a laptop wouldn't have added too much to the backpack load.  i'd have ditched two of my four skirts and two of my five shirts to have a fast way to keep notes.  just something to consider.)

(and in the off chance that jordan crook ever reads this blog, i say again: my macbook will take down your pc any and every day.)

june 11, 2011: Cork, Ireland

after spending a somewhat harried and rainy day in London, Diana, Holly and I boarded that RyanAir flight to the lovely island of Ireland.  ryanair, what a NIGHTMARE.  their prices are unbeatable, which probably explains why so many people fly with them, but you can only take a very very very small carryon.  so imagine us, with our backpacking packs, trying to board the plane without the attendants seeing our backpacks.  it involved rather extensive contorsions, bodyblocks, and teamwork to keep our fronts facing the attendants while we handed them our boarding passes and graciously thanked them (turning around, of course, to keep them from seeing the size of our packs as we passed by them to get on the plane).  phew!  thought we weren't going to make it.  (saying goodbye to london that day was hard...i rode with amber to the airport to pick up diana, and about cried the whole way.  such a special place now to me.  and such special friendships.)

we get into cork, and a lovely taxi cab driver takes us to our hostel (sheila's hostel--one of the best we stayed at!).  he gave us all kinds of warnings about "do NOT go down to that side of the river.  it's dangerous at night, and there is no reason for you girls to go down there."  later we decided that must be where all the restaurants are that stay open after 9pm...because come night, we could not find a single place to eat!

good thing we grabbed lunch at the market first...a little honey lime chinese food tastes so good when all you've had all day is cadbury chocolate and airplane peanuts.

well first things first: get ourselves to blarney castle.  blarney was a favorite.  definitely the highlight of ireland.  it is magical.  (and yes, magical is to be said whimsically and kinda breathy.  because i'm telling you, the place will enchant the living daylights out of you.  but i'm getting ahead of myself.)

ahem.  in case you don't know what blarney is, a definition, provided by monsignor fulton sheen:

"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."

so the legend goes something like this:  Cormac MacCarthy (not to be confused with this literary genius of the same name) built Blarney Castle 600 years ago.  to help him get out of some hairy lawsuit in which he was involved, the goddess Cliodhna told him to kiss the first stone he saw the next morning.  wouldn't you know, it was the blarney stone.  he pled his case with eloquence and won (yes i stole that sentence from wikipedia), and then he took the stone and built it into his castle.  so the blarney--the "legendary stone of eloquence"-- gives you the gift of gab...the gift to operate in that very fine area between flattery and lies.  the gift to bend and wind and weave words without breaking truths.  the gift to never be short of conversation.  (and if any of you have ever been on a blind, first, or last date with me, you know this is def something i need.)

but before you get to kiss the stone, you must first climb the castle!

a little word from the bard donal na tuile (1696) on the joys of the castle:

"they were a people accustomed to bestow wines, and tender beef and holiday dresses!  they were graceful and beneficent; their strongholds were filled with beautiful women, and quick-slaying cavalry viewing them; mirth, playing on harps, poems and songs were at their feasts; their women were prolific, and accomplished; silken, chaste, white were their slender bodies, and sedate the eyes of their maidens!  hilarity was at their festivals!  loud sounded the song of the bards."

the view of ireland from the top of the castle:

kissing the blarney--there was the delightful man perched atop the castle, whistling to himself some old irish tune, lowering people over the edge of the castle to kiss the blarney stone...which is a good four feet down the wall, so you have to lower yourself very carefully or else CERTAIN DEATH:

the view of us from the top after kissing the blarney stone.  you are looking at three recently gab-endowed ladies:

so you get done with the castle and, lo!, they have a poison garden!  

the best was the cannabis which came with the following apology stapled to the signpost: 
"we apologize for the absence of the plant in this cage.  it has been seized by the irish police.  we hope to plant a replacement in spring 2011 once the licensing issue has been resolved."  

and then "the rock close", the grounds around the castle: 

oh sweet rock close, an area of fairy enchantment and ancient druid mystery!  this was probably the most magical place visited this summer.  the landscape is "so exquisitely beautiful that no just idea of its influence over the feelings can be conveyed by the tameness of prosaic description."  (that's from a plaque in the forest.  a plaque!  if that kind of beauty appears on a plaque then you can only imagine what the actual land is like.) 

a little taste:

it's no wonder old willy shakespeare's midsummer night's dream is so magical--two hours in a forest like this and you can't help but imagine fairies and enchantments in every shimmer of light.

the forest was 

twisty trees
with all of life's secrets in their branches

grown old with climbing.


foxglove for good measure,

and a tire swing to really seal the magic of the evening.

looking back at these pictures now it's so funny to me how we had no idea the adventures awaiting the two of us.  the people we would meet, the wonders we would see, the things we'd learn about ourselves...

and who's to say that maybe the adventures were exactly because we started them all at the rock close, making wishes on the wishing steps and protecting ourselves in the druid circles and otherwise entirely bathing ourselves through to the bone in the long light that turned everything golden and hopeful,
 like eva cassidy's "fields of gold."  
this is the river that leads to the castle, and beyond, fields and fields turned golden green with the evening.  the picture can't capture the feeling.  it was out of a dream.  it was eva's sweet sweet voice embodied.

the evening at blarney was perfect.  we sat in the park and enjoyed the greenness of ireland, the quaintness of the village, and one of those moments of perfect calm when you couldn't be more content than you are at that moment,

then back on the bus to lovely old cork, where the sun didn't set till 10 pm...

which may have contributed to our confusion as to why all the restaurants were closed when it was still light outside.

but have no fear, i found me and my sore throat some hot chocolate that saved the day.  imagine that.  heroic hot chocolate.

slept like a baby, happy happy happy.


  1. That's so awesome, Carolyn! I'm so glad you had such a great time!

    See you back at school! :D

  2. Love the story about the blarney stone...I am freakin' in love with Ireland and i have never even been there