Saturday, June 19:  Classic Day Trip

In England a “field trip” for a group of school children is called a “day trip.” I often correct folks and tell them we aren’t “on holiday,” but are instead doing 86 day trips in a row. Today’s was a classic.

Got away from Water’s Edge on the same schedule as the other two groups there and made our way towards Kilkenny. Blew a turn in medium-sized town along the way, and after a few attempts found the correct way out. Classic.

Had lunch at a coffee shop above a souvenir shop in Cahir. Viewed its castle across the road, but didn’t visit it.

From the Internet I’d obtained a good map of Kilkenny and directions to our B&B. We chose to run right down the center of town, past the castle. Wrong. On a Saturday, mid-afternoon, it was a traffic jam. Eventually we made it to our destination, directly at least. The Meadows is a small operation, in a modest neighborhood just outside of the central city core, barely within walking distance. We are all jammed in one room, but at least its on the first floor, right inside the front door.

We sorted through our gear, tossing excess and noting items we needed to list for Customs. Then we headed out on foot for our final bit of sightseeing. Just on the way into town, we stopped at St. Canice’s, the town’s namesake (somehow Gaelic “Cill Canice” becomes Anglicized “Kilkenny”?) (Photo 236). A combo family ticket got us a walk up the tower and a visit in the church. Pat said no to another tower, while Robert was disallowed since he was not yet 12 years old. A short exterior iron staircase got us in the door of the slender round tower, then six very steep wooden staircases, ladders almost, 20 steps each, led to the top. At the conclusion of each staircase, the wooden landing led you around 270 degrees to the foot of the next flight of stairs, with barely enough room to allow a descending party to pass by. The final steps were stone cut into the side of the top of the tower. The view was great, but the wind was cold, so we descended promptly, taking the stairs down while facing inwards.

The church was unremarkable, only since we have seen so many so similar. Robert was now in a funk for having been denied the tower. Classic.

We walked up High Street, scoping out an Italian restaurant for a final, celebratory dinner. Out the other end of town, we visited the town castle, Kilkenny Castle. (Photo 237) Founded by Strongbow in 1200-something, the Butler family had lived here for 550 years. But in 1935, the contents were auctioned, and in 1967, the rotting building was donated to a conservation group. Now the Irish Government is in the process of restoring it. Visits are limited to guided tours, and we were in time for the last one of the day. The restoration is to Victorian standards since photographs, the auction catalogue and bits and pieces that remained are all allowing for a fairly accurate re-creation. It was a good tour for our final castle visit, especially given the tie-ins with other bits of English and French history. I learned later that Brice Claggget had traced our ancestry to the Butler family, and he had attended one of their family reunions. Classic.

By now David was famished and Robert was also ready for dinner. Back to the Italian restaurant to find that no tables would be available for an hour or two. Back onto the street to consult the guidebook and tourist map. Classic. A decision was taken, Chinese just down the street. This annoyed Robert further, as he wanted something European on his last night in Europe, like pub grub perhaps. David wasn’t happy with the choice either. I ordered a Guinness and they came back much later saying the tap was broken. Now I wasn’t happy, but a local ale, Smithwick’s, appeased me quickly. Eventually Pat convinced the boys to try Chow Mien. I ordered off the Thai page of the menu, and shared out my chicken satay appetizer, much to the boys’ approval. Three Chow Mien’s and one Thai curry arrived, and it was good. It ended up being an enjoyable (but expensive) final dinner.