Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Kilkenny by bike!
So my usual weekend post has been delayed by a few days, as we took a bank holiday long weekend cycle trip to Kilkenny.
It all started out bright (well at least it wasn't raining per say, though it certainly was misting) and early on Saturday morning as we cycled to Newbridge to catch the train. The Maynooth train-line runs from Dublin to Sligo, and would not be one of the more touristic lines in Ireland. From Newbridge (a short 31.2km away) you can basically get everywhere else in Eire (you'd still have to go into Dublin to get to Northern Ireland though). The other train news that's exciting is that if you book on-line ahead of time, trips to anywhere in the country will only cost you €10 each way!
The cycle to Newbridge was so flat that I actually felt like we were riding downhill in both directions. The pace of our ride was that quick! Coming from Vancouver where even "flat" routes are in fact hills, cycling towards the very flat Curragh was a treat. The train to Kilkenny (pronounced Kill Canny, and if you were to use your natural American-style pronunciation for this town, all you would get would be blank stares. Frankly I'm not that there is a great difference between Kilkenny and Kill Canny, but my pronunciation was universally not accepted by my friends who are all definitely use to my accent.) was packed (bet you forgot where that sentence started, eh?).
We were a tad worried about having our bikes accepted on the train, mid-route, as Iaronrod Eireann only promises to take 3 bikes on a train. But being Irish, no one seemed too worried about the rules. Even the women sitting on the floor between the rail cars, beside where Brad casually leaned our bikes seemed unfazed. For their safety Brad did manage to eventually eke out a better travel options for the bikes.
Kilkenny is a lovely town, that has a few good sights, lots of high end shopping, and many, many pubs. Of note the local brewery is Smithwicks. A beer that is almost as universal in Ireland as Guinness, but it's a much lighter beer. Kilkenny Irish Cream (the beer) is not brewed in Kilkenny (the location). In fact it's not even brewed in Ireland. Furthermore, it's not ever served in an Irish pub (a tourist pub might serve it??? not sure though never having done the tourist pub thing meself). In fact the Irish don't really drink Kilkenny at all, and you'd even be hard pressed to find it sold in a shop. However, ciders are frequently drunk by locals. In Canada most young men would not be seen drinking a cider, such as the Irish Bulmers. Brad counted that at least 50% of the young men in one of the pubs where we ate dinner were drinking a cider. Perhaps it's related to the really high incidence of Coeliac's disease in Ireland.
Kilkenny Castle gets two thumbs up, and not just for the cafe serving ice cream and the fantastic playground. Rothe house also gets two thumbs up (they let us eat from the garden historically accurate heritage garden!) The National Craft Gallery (I can't get their website to work... but it somehow seems fitting to have a link that doesn't work) gets two thumbs down. I think it's basically a token effort that's actually used to draw tourists into the Design Centre to shop. The museum is a simple 2 room affair with a single exhibit.... which I would have liked to have seen; but surprisingly they were closed at 2pm on Saturday afternoon... on the long weekend... with out any explanation on the door. The arts and craft shops were lovely, and I think that tourists probably would have migrated that way without the "faux" museum front.
On Sunday we cycled to Inistioge (Inn Ish tige), which is a very picturesque town, and frequent winner of the Tidy Towns awards. To be fair, it's probably easier to have a perfect looking town when you're really tiny, and have the ruins of an Priory as your town centre. Maynooth Tidy Towns has to work twice as hard to overcome the student-drinking effects on the appearance of litter.
We then stopped for lunch in Thomastown before cycling over to the very venerable Jerpoint Abbey. In general the traffic was polite, the hills were rolling, the cows and sheep were grazing and we were very, very glad that the classic car show was going in the opposite direction from us! Nikolai much appreciated the classic tractors that comprised a significant portion of the classic car show.
Thanks to Elaine and Ashling who both were willing to lend us a camera for the weekend (ours has decided not to return from the repair shop alive). I could have posted a pic of Kilkenny, or Jerpoint Abbey, but you can find some taken by better photographers than us in the links. Here's a picture of Elvis driving his classic tractor.