My second day in Ireland with Corky was supposed to be the day she ran the Cork City Marathon. Instead, a couple of weeks before the race her doctor advised her that a nagging foot injury would need some time off, so we just watched and cheered. A shame, because pre-race scouting suggested she had a chance to win some money.
The city of Cork straddles several islands in the River Lee, in a county of the same name within the Southwestern Irish province of Munster. Unofficially known as the “Rebel City” (and County Cork as the “Rebel County”), Cork is remembered for resisting Anglicization and a strong Irish nationalism. Locals half-jokingly refer to Cork as the “real capital,” owing to the repeated English occupation of Dublin while Cork, mostly, remained Irish.
The marathon course is mostly level, winding around the city and out to nearby Lough Mahon and Cork Harbor. It saves its few hills for the space between miles 18 and 22, but as we watched near the finish, the runners looked pretty fresh. The day was perfect, clear and cool, and I know Corky was disappointed to miss out.
Photo Shoot at University College Cork
Since we weren’t running, we opted instead for drinking, touring some of the city, and shooting photos on the campus of University College Cork, just across the street from our bed and breakfast.
Built in 1845, and now part of the Irish National University system, UCC is rated as one of the top colleges in Ireland, and among the best in Europe. Graduates include famous scientists, athletes, and actors–including Fiona Shaw, who played Harry Potter’s nasty aunt Petunia in the Harry Potter films, and Paulina Novacek, the villain of Undercover Blues, an underappreciated 1993 spy comedy with some outstanding performances.
For us, it was more important that the UCC grounds are beautiful, including that classical ivy-covered gothic architecture common among European universities. Being that it was both summer and a bank holiday, the campus was very quiet, and no one objected as we brought along some cans of stout and did our best to reinforce stereotypes.
Gallery: Corky takes University College Cork
Exploring Cork and Nearly Getting Kicked Out of a Gay Bar
From UCC, we headed north, past our B&B and across the River Lee again, following a little nature path along the far shore, then back again. We wanted to explore, but didn’t want to do too much walking, with Corky nursing her injured foot and me still recovering from an ankle break in February. We stopped by churches and pubs, chatting up some of the locals and taking in sights.
Of course, as tends to happen with a stout or two (or ten), we started feeling confident, and decided to check out Chambers, one of the local gay bars. We also thought it was a good idea to order a fishbowl full of vodka. It wasn’t long before Corky had stripped down to her sports bra and unbottoned her pants, prompting the bouncer to inform me–me, not her, please note–that if she didn’t button her pants again he’d have to ask us to leave. Even in a gay bar, the Irish are still a little repressed.
From there, I’m going to be honest… I don’t remember a lot more of Day Two. I know we walked back to our bed and breakfast, but I can’t exactly say I remember it. At one point during our trip to Ireland, I asked a local about drunk driving laws. He told me Ireland has zero tolerance for driving with any alcohol in the blood at all, and I asked how that was compatible with a nation where drinking was such a common passtime. Simple, he explained: You always drink near home, so you can leave your car and walk.