Cork is very lively, I would definitely go there again, if the party is right ;) The shopping and the pubs!! :) Cork is very scenic but the traffic system is evil. I ended up on the wrong end of a couple of one-way streets a few times in the car!! (doh...)
Not only dual street names
Irish people promote the use of Irish Gaelic, which they call simply Irish, in all areas of life. Dual street names are just one sign of this, but there are also Irish names of pubs, signposts in both English and Irish, and names of people too have their Irish equivalents, or should I say Irish names have their equivalents in English?
Irish is taught in schools, and in some schools it is the language of instruction in all school subjects. There are parts of the country called Gaeltacht areas where Irish Gaelic is spoken on the everyday basis and people, especially school children, spend their holidays there to practise the language and get to know the Irish traditions.
There is a TV channel and at least one radio programme in Irish too.
I have also been told by Denis, my knowledgeable host that all public offices have to have at least one speaker fluent in Irish so that visitors who speak, or insist on speaking, only Irish, could be served.
I do hope that Irish becomes far more widespread as a result of all these measures. I can only wish them good luck with this!
Bring an umbrella! The weather changes hourly in Ireland and it rains most days during the autumn/winter/spring months. It's very rare to see snow or ice in the city, but a warm jumper keeps the chills away when the weather turns cold.
Blackrock is a suburb on the southside of Cork, much of it running parallel with the river Lee and Marina walk, described in the previous tip. Originally a village outside of the city, the village atmosphere still persists around the Pier Head Inn and the large village green area by the river's edge. If you get off the bus here you can walk down to the river bank and sit a while before continuing along Castle Road. Castle Road is one of the most prestigious addresses in Cork abundantly lined with substantial period houses in large and leafy gardens. Towads the end of this road stands the Castle itself, Blackrock Castle, guardian of the entrance to the river and now astronomy centre par-excellence. This is a very pretty little castle, with its small towers and battlements visible for miles around and making quite a spectacular vista as you approach Cork on the other side of the river. Way back in history the castle had a defensive role to play but within living memory it has mainly had a purely decorative role as it experimented with various functions. At one stage it was a top-class restaurant which introduced the citizens of Cork to such unheard of delicacies as Chateaubriand and Baked Alaska and now it has just opened as an astronomy centre.
Apart from the castle and the village of Blackrock, the whole suburb is delightful with some really interesting houses, roads and lanes, among them the home of famous Cork mathematician, George Boole. To get to Blackrock, catch the no 2 bus from the city centre.
The Hi-B is the stuff of legend in Cork City, one of the few bars that has neither changed ownership over the last few decades nor been seriously renovated or remodelled. Owned by a local eccentric, Brian O’Donnell, it can become seriously addictive. In size and interior design reminiscent of a cosy old-fashioned living room it is frequented by all ranks of life: writers, artists, would-be writers and –artists, bankers as well as homeless people, rich and poor all flock in to subject themselves to Brian’s iron rules. No mobiles allowed, no chewing gum, and order non-alcoholic drinks at your own mercy: “For Chrissakes, this is a public house, not a coffee bar!” The sign behind the bar says it all: The floggings will continue until morale improves.
This may at first sound harsh, but truth of the matter is that this is one of the few surviving pub relics left remaining, where you can enter at any given time and are guaranteed to find an ear to listen to. The weirder the stories you can tell, the bigger the welcome you will get from the locals.
Plus: These days Brian is no longer that often in his own bar so the rules have relaxed a little bit over the last few years. The standard classical and opera music in the background is now often replaced by jazz or 50s crooners.
So go in have a few pints, enquire in hushed tones about some of Brian’s shenanigans, but please, don’t take it personal if you end up getting barred on your first or subsequent visit over breaking one of the unwritten regulations. It’s all part of the game and you may even make it into local folklore.
Needless to say: This is my favourite pub in town.