Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Final Stop in Ireland, Kilkenny

The last stop on my epic tour of Ireland was the town of Kilkenny. At this point I would like to give a shout out and a big "Thank You" to Roland's colleague Martin, who comes from Kilkenny and helped us out majorly with suggestions and pointers as we were frantically planning my last-minute trip. He suggested Kilkenny as a last port-of-call before returning to Dublin to fly home, so I spent my final day and evening here.

Unbelievably, I managed to get through my first 9 days in Ireland without any major rain or weather-related obstacles. This was incredibly lucky for me, as I had intended to focus on photography for much of my trip and managed to avoid juggling my camera and umbrella together for much of my adventure. However, this lucky streak ended in Kilkenny. I was greeted there by lots of rain and a windy cold front, which means that although I really enjoyed exploring the town, I have a bit less photography to share.

As with many of my stops in Ireland, Kilkenny had its own castle to explore. This castle was built in the early 1200's, and has been fully restored for visitors today. Unlike the other castles I visited during this trip, this castle is not in ruins. It is fully decorated in all of its historical splendor - with much of the decor having been carefully chosen to exactly duplicate that of its past. I was free to wander through and look in each room without a tour guide, which was great as I got to take my time - the downside being that photography inside was unfortunately strictly forbidden. The formal dining room was finished with a massive long table, fully set with fine china as if expecting royal guests at any moment. The bedrooms were dressed with huge iron beds complete with chamber pots. The study/library was stunning, decked out with floor to ceiling bookcases, oversize desks and stuffed leather chairs. One of the highlights was the portrait gallery. This long room featured painted portraits of each generation to live and rule in the castle. It was really interesting to put faces to those who had walked the same halls through the centuries. I really enjoyed this visit, with my only regret being that I'm not able to share photography. The castle also featured sprawling grounds, which were open to the public. I didn't go for a walk at the time because it was pouring, but they looked beautiful!

As I left the Castle I stumbled upon a food festival, which was in full swing despite the weather. I visited a few trucks along my walk back to my hotel, tasting a few sweets and purchasing some amazing Irish cheddar cheese to take back to Rome. This was a very happy moment, as there is no such thing as cheddar cheese in Rome and I miss it dearly!

Kilkenny Castle 

Food Festival! 

Kilkenny streets 

Smithwicks Brewery! I didn't get to take a tour, sadly, because I was there on Sunday and it was closed. 

This is the end of the road for my Ireland adventures. Following my Kilkenny visit, I headed North back to Dublin to fly back to Rome. Let me tell you, I have never been so happy to return a rental car. After I handed over those keys, my blood pressure finally went back to normal.

Ireland, what can I say? I love you. Your people are some of the warmest and nicest I've met while traveling and your scenery is among the most beautiful I've laid eyes upon. I'll miss seeing your cows and sheep along the side of every road, and what will I do without your rolling green hills to inspire me? I had an amazing, once in a lifetime visit. Except, it probably won't be once in a lifetime. In fact, I am already planning my return. The only difference for next time? A few more people to join me for pints in the pub. And someone else to take the wheel. Until we meet again!

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