We had never been to Cork and had prearranged a guided tour. The tour took us to Blarney Castle where we both had the opportunity to kiss the Blarney Stone. We now have the gift of “gab” or at least we are supposed to be a little more eloquent in our talking. The Blarney Castle is located in a large area with gardens and other interesting areas to visit around the castle. Our tour took us through Cork where we stopped at the English Market and tried some pastry and coffee. The tour ended with a trip to Kinsale which is a small fishing village at the southern tip of Ireland. It had some nice shops and restaurants to visit. We also learned that Disney had made a lot of road improvements in the area because of all the movie production work being done in the area to produce the various Star Wars movies. When we arrived back at our ship we decided to walk into the town of Cohb which was very colorful and well kept up. We saw some women who were dressed up in turn of the century outfits. It is amazing how beautiful the flowers are in these port cities. The cool and moist weather must be really ideal for flower growth. Everywhere we go we seem to see flowers in bloom and on display.
Dublin - Ireland
Dublin is a city we have previously been to but we got to see a lot more of the city center on this trip. Unfortunately it was a cold and rainy day but the rain stopped later in the morning. We had a free walking tour scheduled early after arrival of our ship but we found this tour to be more of a history tour than a sightseeing tour. After a short time on the tour we got very tired of hearing the opinionated talk of our tour guide. All we did was to stop at uninteresting parts of the city to listen to more of his rhetoric about Ireland’s history and revolution. As soon as he provided a short break for the group we left the tour and went off on our own. This is the first free walking tour we have found to not be very good in all the cities we have visited that offered tours. Once on our own we went to Grafton Street to check on the primary shopping area of the city and then went off to see St Patrick’s Cathedral (the most famous Irish saint). We visited the Medieval Viking Area which has Dublina (a visitor’s center to show the origin of Dublin), Christ’s Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle. From there we took a walk to the Guinness Storehouse and Brewery. We elected to not go on the Guinness Tour this time and we were a little surprised you could not even go to their souvenir store without going through the tour. By this time we had walked over 10 miles and decided to take a break in the Temple Bar area on our way back to the ship. This area of Dublin has many of the more famous and popular bars and restaurants. We stopped at the Quay Bar and Restaurant and had some cheese bread and vegetable soup along with some Irish coffee and Guinness.
Belfast - (Northern Ireland)
Today we visited Belfast where they built the Titanic. Unlike Cork and Dublin, Belfast is not in Ireland. It is in Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom while Ireland is an independent country that fought for its independence against England and the United Kingdom. In the not too distant past you used to hear about the IRA and all of the fighting going on in Belfast against the English police and military but that seems to be a thing of the past now. In each of the tours we took in Cork and Dublin we received detailed history lessons on Ireland’s fight for independence from England but in today’s tour we heard nothing about it.
We had found a Groupon for a Segway Tour around the shipyard where the Titanic was built. It was strange to find Groupon used in the United Kingdom and how similar it is to the Groupon in the US but we were able to get a nice tour for a very low price. It was fascinating to walk on the same ground that the Titanic and her sister ship the Olympic was built. There were white lines on the concrete showing the outline of the ship, the smoke stacks and the life boats, which allowed you to understand the exact size of these two huge ships. Although they were the largest ships ever built at the time, they were very small compared to today’s standards. The ships were actually not too much shorter than most big cruise ships today but they were not nearly as wide and had many fewer decks. We learned about how the Titanic was built and launched out of the dry dock and read many stories about the disaster that sank her. Belfast has built a unique building that has a museum for tourists to understand more about the Titanic. We also saw one of the tenders (SS Nomadic) built to transport passengers to these large ships when they could not dock at a port. This tender was very large compared to today’s tenders where cruise ships just use their own life boats. The Nomadic transported many more passengers at ports such as Cherbourg, France which was the last port the Titanic visited prior to its sinking.
After visiting the Titanic we walked into the City Center of Belfast where we first went to St George’s Market which was a nice local market that sold fresh foods, various crafts and some flea market type items. Some of the food we saw must have made us hungry because we stopped at a place called Granny Annie’s Kitchen. It was an extremely interesting place that was uniquely decorated. We had a local sandwich and chips along with a Guinness and some cider. After our light lunch we went around the city taking a few pictures of city hall and some of the other interesting sights we saw before taking a taxi back to the ship.
Tomorrow we have a day of rest with no port stop and can’t wait for the break. Over the past three days we have walked 37 miles.