Sunday morning in Cork ,the Rebel City, and nobody is stirring. James at the Tara House B&B has to get up early to make breakfast for one, so I can get the early train to Tralee in County Kerry. I am not about to miss a good old fashioned Irish breakfast, and I am satisfied with the rashers of bacon, eggs, Irish pork sausages and toast with Kerry Gold butter, and of course a cup of tea.
I am less than a minute from front door to train door for the Cork-Tralee express so there is no problem making it on time, and we wend our way to the city that hosts the world famous Rose of Tralee festival. There is a Bus Eireann coach waiting to take me on the 70 minute journey to Dingle Town on the south coast of the rugged peninsula of the same name. It twists and turns and once does a complete double back on narrow roads with bus-high hedgerows full of wild flowers.
The town and port are very picturesque with houses, pubs and shops painted in pastel buttercup yellow, lime, powder blue and orange, plus lots of loud and bright reds, royal blue, bright emerald green and more. I go to the harbour where there is a statue of FUNGI, the 20 year old bottlenose dolphin that was first spotted in 1994 by lighthouse man Paddy Ferriter. It's now grown to 4 metres long, 300 kilo and can do 25 mph. Fungi is playful with the boatloads of tourists, scuba divers and fisherman that come out into the bay.
The harbour wall is also a great place to start bird watching. I saw oyster catchers, cormorants, a grey heron and lots of seagulls, and there are many more. The seagulls loved the leftovers from my picnic of soda bread, ham and cheese This area of Ireland is GAELTACHIA- Irish speaking, and whereas in the rest of the country road signs are bi-lingual, here they are not. AN DAINGEAN is the sign that greets us , Irish for Dingle Town. Just off the coast are The Blasket Islands, now sadly without residents, but a thriving community until a generation ago. You can still see the curraghs- sturdy canvas wooden boats coated with tar that ride high in the water in the rough waves,in Dingle harbour.
I wander up steep Green Street and stop at Sean Daly's crystal shop. After twenty years with Waterford Crystal, Sean is now his own boss,and a master craftsman. There are boxes piled high ready to ship to Ft Worth, Connecticut and elsewhere. What attracted me was his photos riding his Harley-Davidson and holding some of his magnificent work, deep-grooved patters- 6 styles with Celtic crosses and circles and traditional and modern. Look him up at www.dinglecrystal.com. He would love to fly to your city and show his wares in a collector's home with other possible customers. He will offer you a drink at his store if you visit Dingle,and if you bring your Harley he will join you on a thrill-a-minute ride around. firstname.lastname@example.org
The weather is quite mild here, due to the warm Atlantic currents and Dingle Town is twinned with Santa Barbara, CA-but much less pretentious.!!
Back in Cork that evening I look for a music pub, and found one down the road on McCurtain Street. On the corner with Bridge Street is GALLAGHERS BAR, possibly named after a very famous singer who was born on the street, RORY GALLAGHER. I pop in and order a Bulmer's and there are THE SPACE GYPSIES, Kieran on accoustic guitar who is the singer, and Barry on base. They hail from BLARNEY,not far away, where a quarter of a century ago I was held upside down over the ramparts of Blarney Castle, and kissed The Blarney Stone to give me The Gift of the Gab!!
They start the set with 'Sam Hall, Chimney Sweep', and their range includes 'Great Balls of Fire', 'Fields of Athensay', 'Mustang Sally'(the Commitments) , 'I Never Saw Before' (the Dubliners), 'Fair Thee Well', 'California Dreaming', 'Show me the Way to Amarillo', 'Brown Eyed Girl', 'Molly Malone', 'The Ballad of Jack Doyle'- a famous Cobh boxer.... and finished the night with 'My Way'. All in front of an appreciative audience, including a bunch of 20 something girls celebrating an upcoming wedding for one of them, and an early arrival, Elena from Frieburg, Germany. Kieran and Barry told me they had been together for about 5 years and appear at least weekly at Gallaghers, and in the winter head to South Africa, New Zealand etc,to entertain overseas. where the Irish and their music are popular.
I finish off a few doors away with a pizza from Four Star Pizza - as many ingredients as I want for 6 Euros, so I choose cheese, tomato, bacon, sausage, onions, pineapple, since I am not greedy.