Thursday, July 18, 2013

Oh My God, They've Kilkenny!

Yeah, like I'm the first person to make that joke.

But first, the Windstar update:  Day of week -- Tuesday.  Journal access -- none.  Number gross stains on new duvet -- none.  As I'd mentioned before, they are responsive.  I just wish they'd be a bit more proactive, so these issues wouldn't arise in the first place.

Also, I'm sitting in the Library -- about a half deck away from the lounge -- and I can hear a lounge singer singing "Like a Virgin."  This is on a par with a Bat-Mitzvah band playing "Gangnam Style."  Credit where it's due, though, at least she knows the words.  Which is more than I could say for her rendition of "The Rose," the other day.  (No.  Wait.  I spoke too fast.  She's moved on to "Material Girl" (good Lord, it's a Madonna medley) and she screwed up a verse so badly, she ended up singing the same line twice.  Quick, let me sign up for tomorrow's talent show.  I won't subject anyone to my singing; I'll just recite accurate Madonna lyrics.)

ANYWAY, this is the second-to-last night of this cruise, and since it's obvious that my journal is still blocked, I'm now trying to burn up the internet time they've given me.  Which is harder than it sounds, because they weren't kidding when they said the connection was (a) slow; and (b) unreliable.  (They say that watching videos would eat up my megabytes quickly, but if they think this connection could support actual streaming, bwah!)  

(See, I am writing this post while checking my mail.  Because I'm writing in an offline app, while every new screen on AOL takes its own sweet time to load.)

So, OK, Kilkenny.  We took a shore excursion called "A Day in Medieval Kilkenny."  It was somewhat misnamed as we didn't spend a whole lot of our time on Medieval things.  The highlight was a castle (it's always a castle), which did, in fact, have Medieval roots -- and some of the preserved exterior and excavated lower levels were on display.

But the bulk of the castle was restored to its Victorian era glory.  Which is all well and good, but I could see Victorian restorations in (and around) London -- I don't need to cruise to Ireland and take an hour on a tourbus to get out to a Victorian restoration.  Our tour guide pointed out that the family that had lived here picked up and got the hell out around the time that Ireland voted itself an independent republic.  Seeing as the family were loyalists (who made all their money from taxing imports to Ireland by grace of the royalty) and seeing how well they were living behind their high castle walls, well, if I were them, I would've grabbed the art and hit the road, too.

Our tour then took us to a local pub lunch at a pub which allegedly won a "pub of the year" award a number of times.  Now, I realize that a certain percentage of my posts here could be read as complaints, but that's mostly because whenever I sit down to write, I get grumpy about the whole journal situation.  This is actually a pretty enjoyable trip.  Also, the food has been quite tasty.  So, please, believe me when a tell you:  If the restaurant in the Langam hotel at Kilkenny is pub of the year, I have monkeys flying out of my ass.  Perhaps, sometime in the past, it was pub of the year.  I assume that was before their cook left and their servers quit -- because the food we ate was ... well, I could honestly call it food ... and the service was slow and not entirely competent.  Slow was a real problem here, as we were on a strict timetable -- and, indeed, we ended up getting back to our ship a 1/2 hour late, to the serious pissed-off-ness of our captain, our tender crew, and the other passengers that were waiting on the dock for a half hour (while they held the tender waiting for us).  The food we were all served (no menu options -- we were all given the same meal, so there really was no excuse for not having it ready for us) was allegedly Irish stew.  There were potatoes and carrots and random other vegetables, and small bits of (fatty) meat we were told was lamb, all boiled until there was no taste left in them.  Served in a clear(ish) broth which was very likely the water it was boiled in.  (Irish?  Yes.  Stew?  Not so much.)  The best thing I could say for it was that it was inoffensive -- although it likely caused offense to real Irish stew, which was diminished by the fact that tourists coming to this pub may actually believe that this stuff is good Irish cooking.  Somewhere, someone's Irish grandmother is weeping.

The tour then went to a Cathedral, which was pretty impressive (the second longest in Ireland) even though a lot of it was also restored, as Cromwell and his cronies didn't take much to religious art, so destroyed what were some very beautiful stained-glass windows.  We also learned about the town witch, who, although "convicted" of witchcraft, managed to skip town, leaving her maid (who was also implicated) to have the dubious honor of being the first person burned at the stake for witchcraft in Europe.  Interesting to see how the cathedral handled this, as both the Bishop who prosecuted her and the alleged witch herself are memorialized in the same building.  Don't get me wrong, the cathedral clearly takes the position that the Bishop was in the wrong on this one, but he still has a place of honor.  At the same time, they've got a memorial to the convicted witch in there, and a line of exclusive jewelry based on a cross design associated with her.  (Then again, it's all about the witch herself, not the maid, who was the one who really suffered for all of this.)

You get no pictures of the castle or the Cathedral.  (I think I got one of the castle exterior, but that's about it.)  No pictures of the interior of the castle, because they were forbidden.  No pictures of the cathedral because it feels totally disrespectful to walk around a house of worship snapping pics.  I've done it on occasion, when they've been very clear about photos being allowed and encouraged; and I'm more likely to do it when the church is more of a tourist attraction than a functioning house of God.  Here, the place was somewhere in between -- the Cathedral's administrator took us around on a tour, but the little brochure she gave us talked about the building's holiness and peaceful serenity and such, and I thought I spotted a couple people in there actually trying to pray, so I kept my camera to myself.

did get some pictures at our final stop, which was, in fact, a photo stop, at a little town which didn't have much going for it except a couple shops and a very beautiful river, complete with picturesque bridge and some horses delicately placed in the landscape on the other side.  I tried it from a few different angles to the get the best shot, and I have hopes that at least one of those pictures will work.

(The little town also had some public toilets (to which our tour guide directed me), and I so wanted to take a picture in there -- except for the whole problem of wanting to douse my camera in anti-bacterial gel if I took it out of my purse in there.  You walk in and there are three stalls.  One stall has a bunch of toilet paper jammed in the toilet.  Stall number two has a relatively clean toilet, although I discovered that the lock on the door wasn't functioning.  I didn't even check the third stall -- I figured I'd found a clean toilet, so I just pushed the door shut and hoped.  One could see the toilet had been replaced -- because on the floor, you could still see the yucko-encrusted outline of where the old toilet used to be.  On the wall next to the toilet is a chain -- an actual, made-of-big-heavy-links chain -- and hanging on the chain are two rolls of toilet paper.  One roll has paper falling in a cascade to the floor.  Clearly, I'd use the other roll -- and in using it, I understood the cause of the situation with the second roll.  See, both rolls were next to each other in the center of the chain, and their edges were touching.  Pulling paper off one roll turned it.  Turning the first roll turned the second, like gears in a clock, resulting in the second roll spilling more paper to the floor.  (Move the rolls apart and gravity pushes them back to the center of the chain.)  You finish your business in there and turn to flush, discovering that, over the toilet, someone has scrawled "Push Three Times" over the flushing button.  Do as you're told and everything works.  Go to wash your hands and there are two sinks, each with a single tap.  One is blue; the other is red.  Both are rusty.  There is no soap.  I used my anti-bacterial hand gel and got the heck out of there, declining to stay any longer to snap a picture.  My father reported that he used the toidy in a nearby coffee shop -- he'd had to buy a cup of coffee for the privilege.  In retrospect, given that we'd each paid over $200 for this tour, the tour company should have slipped the coffee shop a twenty and obtained permission for us all to use their facilities.)

I should really find another picture of the pretty bridge to put here.

(OK, not the bridge -- that's Kilkenny out the window of a moving tourbus.  Not bad, eh?) 

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