Sunday, November 15, 2009

Day 4: "C" is for Cork, Color, Crafts & Cod

No, this is not some misguided, tossed out draft of a Sesame Street script. This is Day 4 of mine and Nate's Irish excursion and our introduction to county Cork, the farthest we wandered on the map from Dublin, our starting point.

County Cork is wedged along the southern coast of Ireland between it's smaller, more popular neighbors, county Waterford, home of Waterford Crystal, and county Kerry, home to Ireland's top tourist destination, the Ring of Kerry. Always willing to go against the herd, I decided to forgo the Waterford Crystal factory and the stunning, wind-whipped (and therefore exceptionally cold in November) Kerry peninsula for the quaint, picture-perfect postcard town of Kinsale, with its colorful harbour full of sailboats. Also, Nathan refused to go to Ireland unless we visited Kinsale, so that played a bit of a role in my decision as well.

Kinsale claims to be the oldest town in Ireland, a title that I'm sure many of Ireland's towns and villages are willing to stake a claim on. While its seniority may be arguable, what is not up for debate is the tons of charm this sloping village packs into its minuscule proportions. Here's where the C's begin. Kinsale's charm can be levied on the three C's: color, crafts and cuisine. Amid the subtle greys of a misty Irish sky, Kinsale's many painted shops and cottages pop like the neon lights of Las Vegas at night. Reds, blues, yellows and greens light up the landscape like a technicolor parade. And it doesn't stop there. Kinsale's artsy fartsy residents aren't afraid to expand beyond the primaries. Think Barney purple, hot pink, Arizona turquoise and pumpkin orange, to name a few. No matter how cold and dreary the weather, one peak up or down the rainbowed alleyways of this little fishing village will warm you right up.

If a dozen Easter-egg tinted photo-ops don't do it for you, consider the crafts. Ireland is known for its crafts. I'm not talking Hobby Lobby cross-stitch or painted birdhouses. I mean quality, hand-made, you'll-have-to-write-it-into-your-will-it-will-last-so-long items that combine form and function in a way only the Irish can. Silver, pottery, hand woven scarves, sweaters and hats, photography, sculpture, the list goes on and on. Kinsale is home to many unparalleled artisans who draw hour upon hour of inspiration from the moody nearby sea and the cradling curves of the coastal Cork landscape (there's some C's for ya). Here's their best kept crafty secret for all those who think I'm crazy for passing up the Waterford factory: the Kinsale Crystal Showroom; an individually owned studio with one of a kind, deep cut crystal treasures you won't see the likes of anywhere else, even at Waterford. If you're ever in the area, bring your cash and your sunglasses to Kinsale Crystal. You'll need both to get out of there without retinal damage.

If I still haven't convinced you of Kinsale's merit, let me give it one more shot. The final C is for cuisine. Kinsale boasts that it is the culinary capital of Ireland, and that's probably a title they can take to the bank. Especially when you consider the loads of fresh seafood that float in and out of there daily; prawns, oysters, mussels, scallops and my personal favorite, cod. It may surprise some of you to hear that I chose cod over a platter of shellfish drenched in a creamy concoction of butter and herbs. Cod is my favorite because it's the traditional choice for fish and chips. Yes, you read me right, I visited Ireland's culinary capital and ordered fish and chips. These, however, are no ordinary fish and chips. These came from a little restaurant with harbour views that serves only fish and chips because they know how to do the tried and true classic right, in a top-secret handmade batter that fries up to the most heavenly golden brown you can imagine, drizzled in fresh lemon juice and malted vinegar. Not only that, they have an entire menu of fish and chips, a veritable fish and chips smorgasbord, if you will. Now whose mouth is watering?

There you have it, the three C's of Kinsale in county Cork. I have literally spelled it out for you. But if you think that's all you're gonna find in the county that hosts Blarney Castle and its notorious stone (which I have it on top authority is regularly pissed on by the local boys, "Pucker up sucker and kiss this!") then you are wrong again. Curious? Too bad. You'll just have to wait for the next blog. Stay tuned...

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