The door swings open to our room, and we breathe a sigh of relief. Thirsty and tired, we've returned after a long day of trekking around Cork City. We hurl shoes off sore feet, pour two tall glasses of cloudy apple juice, and take long sips. Luckily our hostel is centrally located, so we have not come far to come home. It is pretty idyllic -- we are on a hill with a spectacular view from our window. We are happy to have this spot to refresh in the midst of the exciting city.
I look out the window and see the tips of churches, building tops, and the steady river. Soon we will be sleeping, then awakening to the sunset lighting this skyline. During the summer Ireland vacation months, the sun sets at about 10:30PM, making each day extremely long. Long days are wonderful for the traveler who wants to see it all. Tonight's sunset signals the beginning of a short renewal, and then a whole new day of sightseeing tomorrow.
Location, location, location. It is the number one. Kinlay House Hostel is it - located in the downtown Shandon area atop a historic slope, it is walking distance to any area of the city. With its picturesque lanes and avenues, Cork City is made for walking. It is a very popular destination with backpackers, and the hostel is a home for these travelers.
The lanes around Kinlay House are the perfect place to poke around. Wind through the neighborhood to the Shandon Arts Centre, an old building housing artists studios, The Buttermarket Café, and an outdoor greenway. Visit the Butter Museum to learn about the history of this important Irish export. Stand beneath St. Anne's Church as its clock tower bells sound across the city. Take in some tea at The Three Liars Bistro.
If you want to taste the real heart of the city, wander down the hill and across the river. The English Market is alive with shoppers and chefs, attracted by the farmers' produce, strung salamis, cheese, and baked goods galore. Cork city is renowned for its fabulous food, and we are not disappointed. We devour a fresh sandwich of roasted chicken, cranberries, and brie. We stroll the aisles, above which hang full-color, Avedon-style portraits of local people. We spot Ellen Gowan, the owner of The Rodeen Country House in Castletownbere. The photography exhibition is her son-in-law's, and it's nice to see a familiar face. The Crawford Gallery is a fabulous fine art gallery located on Emmett St. near the water. It houses some amazing sketches by Harry Clarke.
Hungry again, we hit the Dunnes for some groceries and haul them back to the hostel to cook dinner. The kitchen is a place to roll up your sleeves and get social. I share pots and burners with an Australian lad, a Spanish couple tag-team-preparing rice and salad, and families boiling pasta and flicking each other with towels. It is a zoo. The hostel is long on counter space but short on pots and working burners. But it is a bit of a drag, but I laugh it off with the fellow travelers. Everyone is hungry at the same time, so plan your cooking here according.
Our shower was hot, and our room clean is and tidy. It is a secure building with 24 hour reception. We did our laundry in a breeze, an 8 euro service to wash and dry. There is free wireless internet if you have your own laptop, a major plus. And there is an internet room with multiple pay-workstations. The TV room is a good chill-out space to eat, nap, play games, or catch a hilarious episode of The Simpson's.
The staff at Kinlay House is very friendly and full of information about the city, as well as useful tips. Don't hesitate to ask. Their recommendation to take the Air Coach to Dublin was very much appreciated - it was less crowded than the Bus Eirann and with more foot space - www.aircoach.ie. We are grateful for their hospitality and would not have stayed anyplace else.