To the Castle!

Kilkenny Castle – the big attraction that pulls the tour buses to Kilkenny by the dozens. Especially on summer weekends.

DSCN0610

To be fair, I do understand why the tours would want to come. The Castle is beautiful and well worth a visit. Especially if you enjoy history. But if, on the other hand, you’ve had your fill of castles and the idea of wandering through corridors and  dining rooms doesn’t appeal to you, take a stroll around the Castle grounds.

(Admission to the grounds is free and open to the public all day.)

To be honest, the grounds were one of my favorite parts of visiting the Castle. Beautiful grassy lawns, wooded pathways, and even a duck pond; all tucked into the radius of a few kilometers.  And after gathering lunch items from a nearby street market one sunny afternoon, I enjoyed a leisurely walk and a wonderful picnic.

DSCN0609

Another day, when the weather was wet and miserably grey, I went to the Castle’s Tea Rooms and cozied up with a coffee and a scone.  Later, I wandered down the hall to the exhibit in the Butler Gallery (free admission).

As simple as this adventure might sound, like my picnic, this is a fond memory of my time spent in Kilkenny; particularly because I enjoyed the exhibit so much.

Song of the sea open

The Kilkenny based animation company Cartoon Saloon had recently released their film Song of the Sea.  A tale of last Seal-child and the fantastic journey she and her brother embark upon. This same company created the Oscar nominated film The Book of Kells, and their work continues to display a beautifully magical and authentically Celtic feel to it. I’ve borrowed a few photos from the Internet to give you some idea.

crawl.0

The exhibit was an interactive, multi-media illustration of the animation process. Hundreds of sketches, prints, and storyboards lined the walls of the gallery; some black and white, some in color.  As I strolled along the walls, moving from room to room, it was as if I were following the pathway of creativity and imagination. At the end of that pathway, I entered the third and final room. It was dark, decorated to resemble a cave, with blue and white lights dancing all around. You could almost feel the magic.  Then suddenly, before you, the animation come to life. Projected onto the wall in a way that made you feel a part of it.

song-of-the-sea-2

Standing there in the dark, I realized I was grinning in that childish “I just saw something that made me wonderfully happy” kind of way.  Because it was one of those moments; the kind where you can’t quite explain what you’re experiencing, but you can feel it.

Of Pubs and Music

Kilkenny is a great town for music. In the evenings, some fellow travelers and I would simply stroll around the downtown; lazily deciding which pub we would land in for the night.  That’s the wonderful thing about pub music…there’s no cover charge, so you can literally wander the cobblestone streets popping your head into different pubs. And when you hear something you like, you can sit down, order a pint, and stay for a while.

And the variety of music in Kilkenny is extensive – especially considering it’s not that large of a town.  So despite differences in musical preference, you are almost guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy.

During my stay I listened to traditional Irish music (which also featured some Irish dancing), contemporary folk and bluegrass, blues & rock and roll, and – although I didn’t go into the pub — nearly had my ears blasted out by loud rock music as we walked by.  🙂

And the best thing?  All of this is within an easy walkable distance…all of this is available for the price of a pint.  So the next time you are in Kilkenny, don’t worry about going to a particular pub; just go out. Stroll the streets and have a listen…go where the music calls you.  🙂

St. Canice’s Cathedral

St. Canice’s  – Gothic cathedral, and home of the best preserved round towers in Ireland.  (And I might add, one of the key tourist sites in Kilkenny.)  If you love architecture, it’s worth a visit in that regards alone, as the Cathedral dates from the 13th century and the round tower is even older.  And although, I personally did not pay the entry fee to go inside or climb the tower, I thoroughly enjoyed strolling the Cathedral grounds, reading gravestones….  Some were faded illegibly; others lichen covered.  And still more clean and recent; with flowers laid by their gravestones showing the grief felt by their loved ones.

That’s what’s beautiful about walking around this Cathedral.  Over 800 years of stories are buried on these grounds….people who lived, loved, and worshiped in this place.  You can feel the history.

DSCN0586

And check out this tower!  Perhaps proof as to how it was feasible to keep Rapunzel in a tower so long?   😉

DSCN0593

(Note: it is a long, narrow climb to the top of this 30 meter (~98 feet) tower – do not undertake if you get claustrophobic.)

This is just me being nerdy about architecture, but this door is SO cool I had to share!

DSCN0585

And finally…. Sometimes, unexpectedly, you find an image that is simply poetic: life and death twined together…. Life growing in the very heart of  stone.

DSCN0597

My photography flaw

I confess I’m not a huge photo taking person.  I never take selfies, and I almost always forget to take a photo of something unless it’s beautiful scenery or a historic site. As a result, my pictures can be somewhat limited in number and scope.  I’m sorry.  I’ve only just realized this flaw in my travel documentation. I’ll try to do better in the future, but for this trip, readers, we’ll just have to make do.

Walking in Kilkenny

Someone once said, “Walk until you feel like a local.”   When I first arrived in Kilkenny, I did just that.  Walked and wandered my way up streets and around corners, peering into shop windows or aimlessly browsing the merchandise they had for sale.

Kilkenny has a cheerful, bustling feel, and although touristy, is by no means as cluttered as some of the other highly touristed towns of Ireland (ie. Killarney).  And it is so walkable; the entire downtown an easy stroll filled with brightly colored shops and pubs.  And when I was tired of my meandering, I sat down in a small cafe, sipped a cappuchino, and simply watch the world go by.

Kilkenny only has a few major tourist sites and I suppose many could argue it’s not worth staying for more than a night.  In fact, many of Kilkenny’s tourists simply glide in on a tour bus, see Kilkenny Castle, snap a few photos, and then go on their way.  But I believe that sometimes it is worth getting to know a place, and for me, Kilkenny was one of those places.  I stayed there five days and, perhaps, even enjoyed it more the longer I stayed.

Of I certainly enjoyed the tourists sites (more later), but I also found pleasure in smaller, simpler things: a bench in the sunshine, browsing the bookshelves of a charity shop to find a book worth reading, a stroll along the river, listening to a talented musician….  Life  – and holidays — don’t have to be a constant barrage of entertainment; sometimes the best parts are made from small, wonderful moments.

 

 

 

To Ireland:

Ireland is the place of my dreams — a place where traces of long ago magic are still buried deep in the earth; a place where all the elements blend together. Blustering wind, shimmering water, grassy hills, and just that hint of persistent sunshine.  I have traveled there 3 times now, and still, even still, would go back in a heart beat.  These next few posts will be about my latest adventure.  Enjoy.

Hello world!

Welcome to my blog…or, to be perfectly honest, my attempt at a blog.  And if we’re really being candid, this isn’t my first attempt.  Yes, I must admit I’m that person….the one who failed miserably at keeping a diary, let alone a blog…the one who started a million projects only to give up on them halfway, leaving a trail of half-knitted items, fabrics, collage items, and sketches in my wake.

So that’s where we’re starting with this blog. Straight up. But we’re also starting with a challenge.  A challenge to keep writing; to keep sharing and interacting.  So here we go, adventuring together….