Episode 5 - Ma Murphy's and Such

(Click on the thumbnails above for a larger view,
and then use your browser's Back button)

February 25, 2006

Leave it to my wife to go on and on about spring, the flowers, and what people in the other parts of the world call sunshine. No, it never gets cold in County Cork they say…it’s in the Gulf Stream after all. Well, it’s pretty freakin cold. Temps today hovered around 35F, and while Jessamy and I were on a run we took in the beautiful Irish countryside while being pelted with hail. On the drive into town this morning, we were even able to see some snow-capped peaks in the not-so-distant hills. Despite my bellyaching, though, things here are still lovely (it’s easy to say that as I sit next to a nice hot fire). I have even figured out how to get heat out of coal. Add a lot.

Jess and I have been fairly busy, or at least as busy as two people who are not working and have next to no responsibilities can be. We visited our first pub, Ma Murphy’s, which is what they call a traditional pub. When you walk in the front door, there is a small room that is set up like a miniature version of a country store, except that all the goods are behind the counter, and these days, instead of selling what you might imagine to be in a convenience store, all they sell is alcohol. (It seems that the larger markets have forced them out of the dry goods game.) There is another set of doors, however, from behind which comes the contented laughter of men in their element. Upon passing over the threshold into the darkness, you feel as if you are stepping into a room that was made especially for you, a beer drinker.

Most of the “traditional style” pubs have been modernized and now bear more of a resemblance to an average American bar, but the old style still exists and I’m glad to have experienced one before they are all gone. The barkeep at Ma Murphy’s (the twenty-something-year-old daughter of the proprietor) was telling Jess and me that, back in the old days, it used to be that only men were allowed in the back room, so all the pubs had a separate front room where the women would gather and drink their whiskies (while their husbands drank their stouts in the back). Needless to say, we will be back to Ma Murphy’s (as will anyone who comes to visit).

After convincing ourselves that one pint (er, I mean two) was enough, we headed out to our neighbors’ favorite restaurant, The Snug. The Snug is a lot like brew houses you would find near the coast back home, with the beer and sailing paraphernalia on the walls, with one major difference: it has six tables. Jess and I both got beefburgers, as they are called here, but instead of getting the expected two slices of bread with a patty in between you get two patties (that are flavored more like meatloaf than hamburgers) and no bread. Atkins style. The beef burgers were delicious, however, and I’m sure we will be back there as well (you too, if you want). Another interesting side note is that folks in Ireland, when dining as two, share the same side of the table. I’m not sure why, as it would seem harder to talk that way, but that is what they do. So, needless to say, Jess and I sitting across from one another stuck out like the Americans that we are. But we had something that no one else did…eye contact.

We also took a bit of a road trip to the town of Killarney in County Kerry. It was about an 85km drive that our little Ford handled like a champ. As can be expected, the roads that take you there are narrow, winding, and far from smooth. In fact, at one point during the drive, we reached a stretch of road that was straight and flat for about 200 meters and both Jess and I looked at each other in disbelief.

Just outside of Killarney is the Ross Castle (my first), which unfortunately was closed for winter. After walking around the castle and grounds a bit, we headed into Killarney for a quick look and a pint. Killarney itself is a good-size town that we’d have liked to have explored more, but after my Guinness and Jessamy’s new best friend, Smithwicks (or Smithicks, as they say, which is an ale, hoppy and delicious), we had to race against the sun to get back home. (Winding Irish roads in the dark = danger.)

And, finally, this morning we paid a visit to our local immigration officer to take care of the whole “them letting us stay in Ireland” thing. It turns out that problems here can be solved in much the same manner that problems at home can: money. We showed her that we had enough money to live off of while we are here, as well as enough to take care of medical expenses in the case that Jess were to “wake up sick in mornin’”. Though it’s not yet official, she told us we can most likely stay until the middle of August without a problem. With that legal issue out of the way, Jess and I are planning more road trips, with a possible excursion to Dublin next week to visit a friend from Burlington who is there teaching for the year.