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Cork (city) in General
Member Name: Indiegirl
Cork (city) in General
Date: 31/01/03, updated on 31/01/03 (249 review reads)
Advantages: Quieter, and cheaper than Dublin, Good restaurants to be discovered, Relxaing
Disadvantages: Very little tourism in winter time, Very few 'sights' open, Smaller than Dublin
I've heard that people have said that Cork is a somewhat similar place to Dublin, being Eire's second city and all that.. so after a particularly enjoyable trip to Dublin in November, myself and the other half decided that we would take ourselves off to Cork as a treat and to see what it had to offer people like us (in our 20's and who found Dublin a little expensive).
We arrived early on a Saturday morning, into the tiny Cork Airport (which we later learned is undergoing a complete renovation with a new terminal scheduled to be built), and waited outside for the Bus Eireann service from the airport to the centre. This is a big coach which - at weekends - runs on the hour, and on the half hour in the week. The service was prompt, courteous and cheaper than a taxi into the centre (€5.50 - about £4 - per person for a month-long return). Singles into the centre were available at €3.40 (just over £2). It took about 20 minutes to get into the centre, and dropped us off at the bus station on Parnell Street. The bus also picks up from the same place at the bus station for the return journey.
We only spent about 48 hours in Cork in total, so we obviously couldn't get to see and do everything. I'd actually recommend the city as a good base for exploring the beautiful surrounding villages in Southern Ireland - of course there's Blarney (and the castle with the infamous Blarney Stone), Midleton (for the Jameson factory - Irish whiskey production), but really, I think you'd need to hire a car to get out and about. To be honest, the two days we spent there were enough.
The city centre of Cork itself is a lot smaller than I thought. There's one main street - St Patricks' Street, which is the main shopping thoroughfare and is a wide street similar to O'Connell Street in Dublin. Off St Patricks Street are many small lanes and streets which are worth exploring as they often contain little pubs, bars, rest
aurants and shops. At the top end of St Patricks Street lies the North Channel of the river Lee and Morrisons Quay (there's a lot of quays in Cork as the river Lee splits in two to form the north and south channel.. and the quays are mostly only one block long..), where there's a small shopping centre which was useful for escaping from the rain!!
We downloaded some maps of the city centre before we went, and looking at the maps we wondered how we were going to get anywhere - the streets looked big and a lot of walking was going to be required! Don't let the maps fool you though - the streets really were a lot smaller than we'd anticipated - and in reality Cork was a lot smaller overall than we'd thought. We were staying on Merchants' Quay - on the south channel of the river (separate op to follow on the hotel), in the Comfort Inn hotel there.
We found the tourist office - just off the bottom end of St Patricks Street, and this had a few free leaflets with suggestions of things to do. Be warned, however - most of the leaflets that are available there are charged for, although the women behind the desk were extremely helpful and were able to offer advice on transport, things to do and places to see. I was particularly interested in seeing the Beamish brewery, although we were told that it had 'closed for winter to tourists'.
It soon became apparent that there were few things for tourists to do at this time of year. Cork seemed to be extremely quiet and although we attempted to walk to the city gaol (one of the main sights we wanted to see), after half an hour of walking we didn't seem to be any closer and a horrible hill loomed to walk up (living in Sheffield you'd think I would be used to hills!); and - defeated - we gave up and trundled back along the quaysides to St Patricks Street.
Most of our time in Cork was spent either in the pub or in a restaurant - after all the aim of our visit was
to chill down and treat ourselves, and that we did. There are pubs aplenty over there - some are even next door to each other, and we spent a good deal of time deciding on our favourites out of the ones we'd tested. On Oliver Plunkett Street we tried the Old Oak, and the Traditional Music Inn - both of which were very cosy and dark, just right to relax and chill down in. The Traditional Music Inn could - I imagine - get cramped on an evening as it's a very small pub. We also tried one on the corner of MacCurtain Street whose name escapes me, but was full of locals wanting to watch the Saturday afternoon football. Our favourite though, and the biggest, was The Parnell, which is on Parnell street just down from the bus station - a big old pub with wooden flooring and wooden surrounds and some very comfy seating. Drinks aren't *that* cheap over there, however: we paid around €3.50 (£2.30) on average for a pint of lager or stout, which is about the same as most southern pub prices in the UK.
For food, I will endeavour to write separate opinions, as the eateries we found deserve their own, but we ate at Isaac's Restaurant on MacCurtain St, Fellini's on Carey's Lane, and Cafe Mexicana on Carey's Lane. All provided good food, good service, with reasonable prices, and come highly recommended!
Cork in January is really a very quiet time of year. If I'd gone to tour the area and find 'things to do', I would've been disappointed. However, for a competely relaxing and chilled-down weekend it was perfect. It's quiet, small, and plenty of places to eat and drink in. As a city centre I'm amazed that it's so tiny - on our last day we had a late flight and actually ran out of things to do and shops to visit in the centre after 4 hours. I found the people there quite polite and willing to help if you needed it. I liked the fact that everything in the centre turned out to be well within walking distance, a
lthough I found that there was scant information really on the 'touristy' areas and places like the gaol were poorly signposted.
Also - a word of warning for anyone going in the near future (circa Feb '03): Cork's main drainage system is undergoing a complete overhaul, which meant that there were a lot of roadworks, and at times some funny pongs in the centre. It is anticipated that this will be complete by the summer of 2003. It meant that crossing roads could be difficult, and there were some noisy roadworks ongoing in St Patricks' Street which did get a little irritating. On the subject of crossing roads, another frustration of mine came when trying to cross normal roads at traffic lights. In Cork, there seems to be no logic in the flow of traffic, and this meant that pedestrians - if waiting for the 'green man' to signal it was safe to cross - would be waiting for up to 7 minutes (I kid you not). Also the traffic lights - if you choose to ignore the crossings and try and cross with the lights - do not follow a standard UK pattern. From red they change to green (no red-amber as a warning), so you can get halfway across a road and the traffic will start to move. The pedestrian crossings really were frustrating, although they do have a weird pulsing noise which isn't the same as the ones in Dublin, but which pulse quickly when the green man is on, then randomly slow down as the lights are about to change. You don't get much time to cross a road over there before the green man disappears either - so be quick!!
Overall, I think that if I'd picked to go to Cork in the summer, I may have been a little more impressed with the city. Although I didn't go to see any of the 'touristy' things, and in reality it meant that I could explore more of Cork without that glossy touristy sheen, I still returned home thinking "I could've been in any city this weekend". That isn't to say that I didn
't enjoy myself - we made the most of what was there and enjoyed what we did and saw.
Cork is definitely the quieter, younger sister of Dublin, and for a little more action I'd sooner return to Dublin. However if you're looking for a base for exploring the country, yet you want the hive of a city with plenty of restaurants and pubs, I would heartily recommend it for that.
Note: an exchange rate of €1.42=£1 was used when working out the prices in this op. The rate is correct as of 25th Jan 2003.
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