Me, not the rambles, at least not yet. At my age I should know better than to launch straight off the plane into twelve miles of rambles. But but but – it’s hard not to be greedy for the green hills and sunny steeples and dappled lanes that lead ever onward. Mind you, I know that’s what’s called a humblebrag these days – twelve miles was good for me when I was younger, and I’m now five years past the age when we were all going to be sitting in rocking chairs on the porch, yelling at kids to get off our respective damned lawns. Still.
I wrote yesterday’s bit on the train back from Greystones. Did eventually get my sim card, did make it to Glendalough for more mountain/woods/waterfall/ruins exploration. Glor-i-ous. But by the time the sun dropped behind the hills, I was ready to drop pretty much anywhere. A quick game of “spin the B&B” came to ground in Macreddin, a lovely little hamlet near, uh, near, well, it’s in Ireland.
Sunrise at the B&B brought an Irish breakfast and conversation with a lovely woman who turned out to be the singer for Swiss-German Celtic Pop/Trad (yes, that’s all one thing) band Pigeons on the Gate. We compared itineraries on our respective rambles toward the west, snapped shots for our respective blogs and wished each other fair winds.
As per my prior complaint, I decided to make it a short day: Aughrim, Avoca (home of the fabled Avoca handweavers), followed by some intergalactic tangle of one-dimensional roads through a universe populated by sheep, gorse and inscrutable road signs that spit me out in Kilkenny, the next county over. Sure.
Kilkenny has a castle, an imposing Black Abbey and famed “Medieval Mile,” all apparently guarded by large fiberglass cartoon cats. Also, according to the guidebooks, excellent food and trad music sessions pretty much everywhere – what’s not to like? I picked the Hibernia, an inexpensive place around the corner from the castle bearing positive reviews for both. Dropped my bags and took a ramble around town. Just a little ramble. Okay, it ended up being about six miles, once I’d made it back for dinner.
I set myself up in a corner where a glass partition gave me some shelter from the crowd (really folks, remember COVID?). They looked relatively local, but I perhaps should have taken it as a sign when I asked the pleasant young lady who took my order for a recommendation on a local single single malt. “Have you tried Jameson’s?” she offered. “That, or Jack Daniels.”
Of course, by then I was already in for a pound, having ordered the house specialty burger. That, too, was inauspicious, turning out to be one of those taller-than-it-is-wide Jenga tower of ingredients that would have made Adrian Gray proud.
But there would be music. At least, I was counting on it. I’d timed my dinner based on the sign out front reading “Irish trad session – 8:30 every night!” The bar was still rocking Springsteen and Billy Joel when the clock rolled past the bottom of the hour and two older gentlemen bearing instrument cases peered in wearing the expressions of spelunkers contemplating a new and unfathomed cave. The first picked his way to a spot in front of the dormant fireplace, between a couple of occupied tables, and began struggling to set up two folding chairs in a space that had no room for two folding chairs. His compatriot, still in the entryway, watched the delicate operation from a safe distance.
I caught his eye. “So there will be a session tonight?”
He weighed the situation at the fireplace and offered something that sounded more sanguine than predictive: “I hope so.” The tone was what you might expect if you’d asked one of the aforementioned spelunkers whether their ropes would hold.
Okay, wrapping it up, because it’s late and I’m tired. Our two intrepid musicians did manage to get their set going, the burger fell over, and the whiskey (Powers, from Dublin) was entirely drinkable. I think I’m just not in the mood for a city right now. Onward into Tipperary in the morning. And no, this is Ireland – it’s not a long way.