Sorry about taking so long to update! I have to take the time to make sure my posts are witty and fun so I don’t bore everyone. Now that I’ve said that, I hope everyone actually thinks my posts are witty and fun or I’ll just sound like an idiot. Anywho, from where I left off..
Last Saturday I went to Blarney Castle with a group of people. I’ve gotten to know other international students (a lot of them from the Midwest…I might start calling soda “pop” if I’m not careful) so we’ve been sticking together on our nights out and day trips and such. Anyway, Blarney Castle is actually really close to Cork, only about a 30 minute bus ride. (Oh yes-the bus. We missed it at first. Oops…at least we know how the bus station operates now.) We got lucky with sunny weather, although there was plenty of mud. We went straight to the castle once we got onto the grounds. It isn’t a lavish royal building that many of you are picturing…it’s a big rock with a staircase and rooms carved out.
I’m sure there was some rockin’ decor back in the day (hah..get it?) but that’s long gone. It was a lot smaller than I expected. And by small I mean you probably need to be around 4 feet tall to feel comfortable in there. The staircases were narrow and steep (not to mention circular and wet with only a trusty rope to hold onto that has been there for longer than I care to know). Some of the stairs were barely wider than my foot. I hope that the people who lived there were sure footed (or didn’t mind breaking a lot of bones from falling).
The view at the top of the castle is actually beautiful. The top of the castle is open, and you can see all around the grounds and beyond. And, because of the small window of precipitation-less weather, we were able to enjoy it and take far too many pictures. But of course, the main event at the top of Blarney Castle is to kiss the Blarney Stone. This was not at all what I pictured. You do not, as I thought, walk up to a stone and simply kiss it. No, no…something that is such a famous tradition needs to be much more of a production. I didn’t realize the stone was over a ledge about 100 feet from the ground. To take part in the ever-popular kissing of the stone you have to lie on your back while an old man holds your hips (he didn’t seem that creepy) and slither backward and down toward the stone. The whole thing takes about ten seconds, but it was still pretty cool. It was actually a little scary because when you kiss the stone you’re looking at the ground that is way too far below you and trusting this little old man not to drop you. I mean, yeah, you get to hold onto two bars and there is a sort of grate below you to make sure you don’t fall, but it was still scary. First thing crossed off my European Bucket List!
Kissing the Blarney Stone is supposed to give you “bua na cainte” (“the gift of gab”). Winston Churchill kissed the Blarney Stone and he was one of the greatest orators of his time. Coincidence? No sir. Other famous people that have kissed the stone are the guys from American Choppers, Bill Clinton, and Mick Jagger. So I’ve basically kissed a few celebrities. Kind of. Plus millions of other people who are probably nowhere near as cool. After telling that to one of my friends he said, “do you realize that it only takes one case of the herps to start a Blarney Stone epidemic?” Direct quote. Thanks for that.
After kissing the stone we wandered around the grounds a little more. Unfortunately Blarney House was closed, but still pretty to look at. Next we came across Rock Close, a sort of garden on the grounds. There were big boulders and plants around part of the river and a little waterfall. The site is actually a bunch of Druid relics, including a “witch’s kitchen,” a sacrificial altar, a set of wishing steps, and a Druid cave and rock circle. Of course, my camera died before we got to this point so I will have to steal pictures from friends (thanks, Facebook). After this we’d seen most of the grounds, minus the part of the gardens where all of the flowers have signs with skulls and crossbones, so we decided to get some food. We went to a cute little pub with a fire and traditional Irish food to get a cultural experience (scrambled eggs are soo cultural). The bartender knew where Poughkeepsie was. Small world.
“‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
He never misses to grow eloquent;
‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
“A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or
An out and outer to be let alone;
Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,
For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”
-The Groves of Blarney