Day 5   

This day was a driving day. After spending half of the tour in western Ireland, it was time to head east. And that meant putting some miles behind us. Day 5 was also marked by a distinct change in the weather. Heavy rain held off most of the day, leaving us with dreary clouds, damp drizzle, and an annoyingly chilling breeze. All of which made for a rather challenging visit to Blarney Castle. I didn't realize until later how lucky we were to get to visit Blarney Castle. Why? Because nearly every other castle on the tour had been closed to visitors due to foot-and-mouth disease precautions.
My protection from the elements rested in what amounted to a cheap plastic bag. The crappy pocket poncho that I wore most of the day usually failed to keep any rain out, and often got whipped around by the wind and tried to suffocate me. To make matters worse, of all the right days to wear a cap, I somehow decided that this day wasn't one of them...
It was quite an adventure getting to the famed Blarney Stone. The "stone" is actually part of one of the walls at the top of the castle. So you have to climb up to the top via really old stairs. They've tried to help you out a bit by installing handrails, but those steps are narrow and steep. They were made all the more interesting by the fact that everyone had tracked in wetness from the rain and the stairs had become slick, slippery stones. But I made it to the top, where I had to wait in line, in the cold rain. And yet, I still managed to smile!
Kissing the Blarney Stone isn't as simple as it may sound. They make you contort yourself into a fairly uncomfortable position, all in the name of "tradition". You have to lie on your back, and lean your head backwards over the edge of the floor. That way your head is kind of dangling over a good 20 foot drop. No fear! Some strange man holds you around your waist to protect you. Then, they tell you to kiss the stone, which means stretching your strained neck towards the wall, grabbing the rails, and giving the dirty wall a kiss. It's even more fun when it's raining and you accidentally sit on your glasses in your pocket! Ha ha, who am I kidding with this sarcasm. I'd do it again if given the chance.
Here I am, gaining the gift of eloquence, and showing everyone where I went to college.
Here's a picture of me after I got nasty with the Blarney Stone. Yeah, it's been kissed by all kinds of people, so I'd say kissing it is kind of nasty! But as usual, I'm just a grinning idiot, happy to be in Ireland and not at work.
Getting to the ground floor of the castle was even more wild than trying to get to its top. The arrangement was such that you took a certain stairway up, and then a different stairway down. The trip down was via a spiral staircase not more than 4 feet in diameter, with a center rope stretching from top to bottom to aid you down. The individual steps were each at best 18 inches across and maybe 7 inches high, with a triangular platform on which only half of your foot could step at the widest part. (Sorry I don't have a picture!!) It was treacherous, especially with the wetness. But it was also a blast!

When we were done wandering the grounds of Blarney Castle and the surrounding gift shops, we headed out to Cobh, a port city south of Cork. Cobh is the site of a mini-museum showcasing the history of Irish emigration. It also shows how Cobh was the last stop for the Titanic before it headed out to sea. Overall, it was rather boring, and the tour was made worse due to the fact that there was virtually no heat inside the building and the temps kept dropping outside...

We rolled into Waterford early that evening, and prepared for a night walking tour of the city. The weather was pretty much uncooperative, but luckily the rain let up enough so that we were able to go out and take the tour. (The group as a whole had to vote whether to go, and we almost got tripped up by some older people. But I didn't care about a little cold rain and wind! I wanted to get my money's worth, dammit!)
Waterford is a very old town, having been started as a Viking stronghold. Much of the old town wall and defensive towers still exist, and we were allowed to view them on our short tour. I had tried to take some pictures of cool church architecture, but I hadn't yet figured out how to use my camera at night without a flash, so almost none of my pictures turned out. I did get a couple pictures of some pub signs I saw during the tour, and I also snapped a shot of these used kegs sitting on the street behind another pub. I guess you have to figure that after all the drinking, the empty kegs have to go somewhere!

After the tour, I was wet, cold, and tired. This night, Thursday, was the only night I didn't get to a pub or the hotel bar. I sure would have liked to, though, since Waterford seemed like a really cool town, and the hotel bar looked first-class as usual. But I needed sleep, and Friday would arrive soon with more stuff to do.
Day 4: Killarney     Day 6: Waterford to Dublin