Monday, January 20, 2014

Christmas in Cork: Patrick Street in Patrick Sleet

After our very successful trip to Cork's famous English Market, we set out to find a fish and chips shop recommended by our B&B host.  The bright Christmas Eve afternoon was fading to gray, and rain had moved over the area.  Patrick Street (and the surrounding shopping/bar district) was clearing out as shoppers came in from the rain to celebrate the holiday with their families.

Undaunted by a little rain, we set off for our fish and chips.  The chipper was just off the main City Centre drag, up a steep hill.  The rain continued as we left "The Island" of Cork- the area between the River Lee and The South Fork River Lee- and headed up the hill.  As we climbed higher, the wind picked, getting stronger and stronger as we climbed higher.  The main center of Cork on the banks of the river is protected from the wind by high hills on three sides, and we were losing that protection fast.

The climb became something of a determined trudge as the rain turned to a heavy rain/light sleet mix with a strong headwind.  I almost didn't notice the subtle change as I looked desperately ahead for the neon sign of the chip shop.  My glasses were covered with persistent rainwater, but I heard the gentle "tick tick" sound of sleet on my coat turn into a not-so-gentle "TOCK TOCK TOCK" as the size and intensity of the sleet grew, each ice crystal making a hollow thunk on my black winter coat.  Oh how quickly the weather can change in coastal (or non-coastal!) Ireland.

At the top of the hill, after a mile climb through the sleet, we got to the chip shop.  As Poe said in The Raven, "Darkness there, and nothing more..."

"NO!"  They were closed for Christmas Eve.  We had made that long, hard trek to a closed chipper!  We didn't blame our B&B host, he wasn't sure if they would be open (or open late) on Christmas Eve, we just took a gamble- and lost.  Disappointed, (and cold, and wet, and sleety) we set off back down the hill toward The Island again.  The walk back down the hill was decidedly more pleasant than the walk up.  The wind (and rain, and sleet) were at our backs now, and the steep incline kept our pace up.

Back on The Island, we were hungry for... something.  Many of the restaurants were either closing up or jam-packed, leaving mostly fast food joints open to us.  We hunted through the streets for something to catch our eye, but we were so set on those fish and chips, we were almost too disappointed to choose something else.  After several laps around the Patrick Street area, we decided to duck in to Rockin' Joe's, Cork's answer to Dublin's popular Eddie Rocket's chain.  We both got large plates of burgers and fries (not called 'chips' in 1950's Americana restaurants here) with lots of Heinz ketchup.  Uninspired?  Maybe.  Warm and dry?  You betcha.

Rockin' Joe's Burgers in Cork, Ireland
Rockin' Joe's Burgers

After rockin' our burgers, the rain had slowed back to the misty, wet-air feel that is usually called "light rain" here.  We went back out into the Patrick Street neighborhood.  The shops were all closed by now, and the streets mostly empty, but all was not silent.  The pubs were all open- and lively.  We walked by several establishments, all filled with merrymakers celebrating Christmas Eve with friends and family.  The sun had been down since before 5 p.m., so the parties had started early.  Fresh off our burger, we popped in to one promising looking pub for an early-evening 'nightcap.'

We first ordered a round of a highly-recommended local stout, Murphy's.  We both love stouts and porters, so we were excited to try this Cork competitor to Dublin's Guinness.  Murphy's is marketed to be less bitter than Guinness, which I found to be true, but I also found it to be slightly more dry than a Guinney.  I did enjoy Murphy's, but I prefer the maltier (with more hop bitterness) Guinness to the dryer, less bitter Murphy's.

The pub scene was really hopping, with more and more holidaymakers pouring in from the wet, dark street.  We watched the bartenders struggling to keep up with orders of two hot drinks we hadn't seen before.  The drinks were served in tall glasses with handles with a slice of lemon, cloves, and a spoon.  Orders were coming in so quickly for them, one bartender was devoted to just cutting up lemons and sticking whole cloves into the rind of each slice.  After watching this ritual with our first drinks, Sara wanted to try one of "whatever they are all having."  I strolled up to the bar and asked, like the tourist I was, about these mystery hot drinks.  "Hot Port and Hot Whiskey."  Was the answer.  He described each one, but the ingredients were pretty simple.  Port or whiskey, hot water, lemon slice with cloves, and sweetener if requested.  Sara adventurously ordered the hot port, with a little sugar.  I ordered another local Cork stout- Beamish.

Beamish Stout and Hot Port in Cork, Ireland
Beamish Stout and Hot Port

Both drinks were (of course) delicious.  I enjoyed my Beamish (a bit maltier and sweet than Murphy's, still not as malty as the auld Guinness) but the Hot Port was a beautiful warming elixir for the cold evening.  We made some back-of-mind plans to include Hot Port on the menu of our New Year's Eve celebration.

After our second round, we decided to call it an evening.  It wasn't very late, but we had had a long day.  We had arrived at Dublin's bus station at 7:30 that morning, spent four hours on a bus, and were on our feet for the better part of six hours.  It was time to walk back to the B&B and relax with some (only some!) of our English Market snacks and get ready for Christmas morning.

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