After 14 days of non-stop walking, a day’s rest in the nearby city of Cork is a welcome change of pace.
Cork itself is a place that calls out to the walker. It’s a bustling little city with streets that lead into still smaller lanes, encouraging us to lose ourselves with the throngs of fellow flaneurs in the maze of shops and pubs.
Early morning we follow the quieter promenades lining the River Lee, crossing over to leafy Fitzgerald Park before crossing once more on the “Shakey Bridge”, as a local describes it to us. It’s a quaint pedestrian suspension bridge, old and vaguely Victorian.
We head up the steep streets towards the historic City Gaol for an informative tour placing more emphasis on the lives of its unfortunate occupants than on its grim architecture.
Winding our way along the city slopes, we head for another unusual museum, the Cork Butter Museum. It seems like an odd theme until you realize the importance of the centuries-old butter industry to the economic vitality of Cork as well as the entire region.
Time to cross the river for lunch at the English Market, one of the largest covered markets back in the 17th Century. On the main floor, fish mongers and butchers hawk their goods. We retreat to the second level, where the Farm Gate Cafe prepares meals using the best foods from the market below.
I am on a mission. I’ve heard of a local dish served here and feel obliged to take on a challenge: tripe in a creamy onion sauce with dirsheen. Our wait person asks if I know what tripe is (I do) and, what about dirsheen? I guessed wrong. It’s blood sausage. “Literally, just blood” I was informed. The tripe and its rich, sweet sauce is wonderful. I could eat it all day. Blood sausage is another story. All five slices are downed but, by the last tidbit, I’m close to an involuntary gag reflex.
Enough with walking and challenges. It’s time to head off on a bus to nearby Midleton for a mid-afternoon tour at the Jameson Distillery. I’m especially fascinated with their single pot still whiskies. It would be a treat to pick up a bottle but we are walkers and weight is everything. So I do the next best thing and order up a rather expensive tasting of their four best single pot concoctions, complete with a personal tutor to lead my tasting.
My new walker’s mantra: If you can’t carry it outside, carry it inside.