Ahhhhhh, Cork. Arriving in Cork which is located on the southeast coast of Ireland and walking its streets felt like returning to someplace both familiar and newly inspiring – kind of like bumping into a great friend that you hadn’t seen in many years. And after our somewhat of a disconnect with Dublin, Cork felt like we had arrived someplace that was welcoming, exciting, and fresh. The streets kind of take you in and reveal things to you slowly as you meander between the two forks of the River Lee on the “island” that is central Cork. Walking along the quays (Kays) felt like we had arrived in some timeless place in Europe – the views of the river with old buildings and cathedrals flanking either side, and the reflections in the river – oh what marvelous reflections – made for enchanting explorations each time we ventured out.
We decided to take the train from Dublin to Cork which is about a 2 hour and 45 minute trip on Irish Rails and traveled through beautiful green countryside stopping at about half a dozen towns along the way. The apartment we stayed in (built in the late 1700’s) was located on the south side of central Cork about a 10 minute walk to the center of town. Corkonians, as the locals are called, often refer to their beloved city as the “real capital of Ireland”, and they love hearing praise for their city from the likes of us foreigners, especially when comparing Cork to Dublin. And given that they still feel like they’re more of a “Town” in hospitality and community connection than a city. Expressing to a local how much you love their city is one sure way to get a huge smile out of them and even an invitation to move there. The cleverness of civic pride shows itself on many of the painted electrical boxes that are all over Cork, courtesy of Reimagine Cork. One of them states: “Ireland is like a bottle – it would sink without a Cork” (our favorite). And another says: “It’s always Cork first and Ireland second.”
One of our first stops in Cork was The English Market. The Cork English Market is a large municipal market selling fish, meats, fruits, vegetables, specialty foods, simple and fancy pastries, artisan breads and cheeses and so much more. They opened and have been selling in the current location since 1788, and it is one of the oldest markets of it’s kind in the world. Since we are two food lovers living on the road these open or covered vendor markets have become our first introduction to the local people and foods of the area and help to ease us into our newest temporary home. And whether we’re in a place for 2 weeks or 2 months once we connect with one of these markets we feel like we’re home. Since we had recently fallen head over heals in love with Borough Market in London one of the first things we did was to do some comparisons between Borough Market and The English Market. Both are simply amazing markets, but the thing that distinguishes English Market in our eyes is the abundance and quality of meats, poultry, and seafood which they offer in comparison to Borough Market. And while English Market lacks the quantity and diversity of cheeses, produce and prepared foods that we’d found in Borough Market, we nevertheless loved English Market and spent many hours wandering through the aisles dreaming of what to purchase for our next home cooked meal which was always daunting, but in a good way.
We had the good fortune of being in Cork for the 2016 Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, considered to be Ireland’s premier jazz event. Surprisingly, many of the concerts are free and open to the public, so we were able to enjoy a wide range of music during the four day event with little outlay of cash. For those who want a more varied experience, like in a theater format, there were many paid events as well. The first we saw of the festival was on one of our trips to English Market. As we were leaving the market we encountered the OhnO! Jazzband as they prepared to enter the market. This street band from Holland played its way through the aisles of the market and gave us a good introduction to what we were to experience for the next several days as street music is a large component of the four-day weekend event. We also enjoyed the music of another Holland street band, The May Day Jazzband whom we saw perform several times not only on the main outdoor stage, but also on street corners around town. Throughout the weekend we listened to many acts at the Metropole Hotel including: the Chris Hayward Gypsy Jazz Band, an outstanding rock and blues style trio where the singer had a fantastic voice and played a mean guitar (sorry, I didn’t get the name of the band), and a Dixieland / New Orleans style group called Bourbon Swing Jazz Band. We also enjoyed jazz at the Metropole’s Sunday Brunch while overlooking the River Lee from their charming dining room. The food was outstanding and featured many delicious appetizers to go along with an entree of one’s choice. The quality of the music was great throughout, and perhaps the most enjoyable act was The May Day Jazzband for their energy and enthusiasm and the pure joy they displayed while entertaining.
There was of course no shortage of things to photograph on our many walks around the small central area of Cork, from shop windows, signs, and street art, to the amazing architecture found throughout, to the outstanding reflections that greeted us each time we encountered the River Lee. One of our favorite places to photograph was Saintt Fin Barre’s Cathedral, and much like Parroquia De San Miguel Arcángel in San Miguel de Allende, it seemed we never missed an opportunity to capture images of this magnificent spired Neo-Gothic cathedral each day we were out exploring.
We were also fortunate enough to have been in Cork for their 10th Annual Dragon of Shandon Parade which was on October 31st. You can read more about this wonderful parade here. And our one day trip to the lovely coastal town of Kinsale will be covered in more detail in an upcoming post. We also plan to do a post later on the street art we found in Cork including all of the pieces we found done by the Reimagine Cork people.
Overall we fell in love with Cork! From the ambiance, to the walk-ability, to that bit of European charm, and of course The English Market, we definitely look forward to returning one day soon to explore more.
To see all of our Cork photos please visit our Cork Gallery page here.