Friday, September 17, 2010

By The Dockside On An Evening So Fair

Last Sunday, despite being plagued by the continued incompleteness of that ridiculous essay, I decided to take a little solo side trip south to the city of Cobh (pronounced like “cove”), formerly known as Queenstown, in case that name rings any bells*, which it might if you know your history. It’s the major port on Cork Harbor (hint hint).

The only way to get there is by train, which was fine with me because I far prefer trains to buses, and for short trips trains here seem to be as cheap or cheaper than buses (although the opposite is still true for long distances—I’m still torn about whether I want to plan to pay twice as much to take the train to Dublin next time I go rather than endure a bus ride that long). The downside is that the train station is almost an hour from my apartment by foot—and I walk pretty fast. I guess I could have taken the bus to get to the train, but I kind of want to see just how long I can go without resorting to using the bus system to get around the city.

I did pretty much what I did the day I went to Howth, in that I knew basically what I wanted to do once I got there, but went without a map or a train schedule or directions of any kind. Turns out, the exhibit about the history of the port (specifically, its history as a major departure point for immigrants, as the last port of call for the Titanic, and as the site of the sinking of the Lusitania during WWI) is actually at the train station, which felt like cheating a little bit. It also felt like extortion a little bit, because even student admission cost almost as much as my train ticket (read: not a lot in purely monetary terms, but a bigger investment than the amount of time put into the same venture). But it’s a very well-put-together exhibit and was very interesting, and putting it in perspective, I’m a lot happier to have my money go to something seriously educational and genuinely respectful of history than to the historical playground that is Blarney Castle.

Afterwards, I wandered up the street into town, found the memorials to the victims of the Titanic and the Lusitania, and bought some funny postcards and some ice cream from a convenience store. I ate the ice cream in a lovely little park next to the water. The view of the harbor is beautiful, and despite a rainy start to the weekend I wound up with an equally beautiful afternoon on which to be there. And the city itself is adorable, despite being built on a very very steep hill. It might be my favorite town so far.

When the ice cream was gone, I climbed up the hill (and I do mean “climbed”) to the cathedral, which stands looking over the harbor and the downtown area. The view is amazing, and I took every imaginable picture and stood watching sailboats for a long time. Then I walked around the cathedral, and read the little visitor’s guide they put out (in English, sadly; at Christ Church I picked up a visitor’s guide in French just because I could, but the same did not occur to me last weekend), and gave pointed glares to an absurdly noisy group of either French or German (I CAN differentiate those accents, I just don’t remember now which it was) tourists who clearly had no idea how to behave inside a church.

I’ve observed that European tourists (and French tourists in particular, as long as I’m already generalizing) are often just as obnoxious as the stereotypical American tourist, and in many cases I’ve found them to be more obnoxious than the actual American tourists. That’s not to say Americans are not obnoxious in general. There’s just something about tourists that apparently transcends nationality.

Anyway, I spent most of the afternoon killing time by wandering in and out and around the cathedral, mostly studying the stained glass or staring out at the harbor. I was waiting around until 4:30 because on Sunday afternoons there are carillon recitals. The cathedral in Cobh just happens to have the biggest carillon in Ireland, and I am sorely tempted to stop debating which Irish music class to take and just take the carillon class knowing that A) I will probably literally never have another chance and B) at the end of the semester the class gets to go to Cobh and play that very carillon. Will a semester of carillon lessons EVER be useful? Absolutely not. Would it be worth it just to be able to say that I did it? YES. RESOUNDINGLY YES.

I didn’t stay for the whole recital, because it had clouded up and was starting to get dark and chilly and I was thinking about how I still had to walk an hour after my train got back to Cork. It turned out I could have stayed longer than I did because I ended up waiting a bit for the next train, but it wasn’t terribly bad timing. And in the time I was there I managed to hear a carillon arrangement of the tune for “The Water is Wide,” which is also the tune of my very favorite hymn (“Though I May Speak With Bravest Fire”), and that was worth more to me than all the rest put together.

So that was a pretty good day. Another destination down and another beautiful afternoon by the sea. And a carillon to boot.

* Hahahaha I made an accidental pun. (If you don’t get it, you just haven’t read the whole post yet.)

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