I got in through Cork airport yesterday at 7:30 am. I had zero problem with immigration. The guy in Cork was very nice and said he was sorry about all the bollocks over in Kerry. Go figure. I took a bus into Cork City, which is really a big town, but very charming. I plan on going back there for a couple days when my time at the farm is done rather than spending all my time in Dublin. I took a bus from Cork to Tralee in County Kerry and got picked up by Gerard there.
I spent most of the afternoon doing some transplanting and getting to know the farm. There are six polytunnels and a bunch of raised beds that make up the vegetable part of the farm. Gerard keeps about 20 milk-cows and a number of calves while Claire also manages about a dozen hens and geese. There is also a big shaggy dog called Nero, who refuses to give me a moment's peace. Every time I go to put my boots on, he's there to sniff my face and try to lay his head in my lap. Crazy dog.
Saturday night I went out with Gerard and his friend Kevin to see Robin Hood. The film wasn't the utter hatchet job I expected, but Russel Crowe's accent was all over the place. Afterwards we went out for a couple pints at one of the Tralee pubs to celebrate the birthday of one of the women in Gerard's walking (hiking) club. I met a women named Katrina who invited me to come along with them on a walk on the Blasket Islands. For 20 Euro, I could hardly say no.
The Blaskets are the westernmost point in Europe. They have been uninhabited for 50 some years, although they are well visited by walkers and home to a number of sheep who keep the grass short. Apparently, several notable Irish writers made their name writing about the Blaskets and their former inhabitants. The literary snob in me just made a notch in his belt.
I should note at this point that the weather since I've been in Ireland and England has been uncharacteristically nice. It's been about 70 F and sunny, which is very odd for Ireland. The Irish all refer to this as a "heat wave."
The Blaskill walk was incredible. Check my facebook for a few photos. Several of the people on the tour had a very good grasp on local history and told me all about these starkly beautiful chunks of land. Apparently, the Spanish Armada, on their retreat from being whooped by the British tried to pass by the Islands and were wrecked in a severe storm. Several places that looked to me like nondescript rockpiles were actually ancient Celtic forts. I ate my lunch on the remains of an old hill-fort without even knowing it. There were no trees on the island, due to the wind and the frequent grazing. There was grass, heather, cliffbrake, moss, and very little else. The most obvious animals are sheep, though I also saw hares, rabbits and seals. There are quite a few seabirds such as gannets and puffins.
All the walkers from Tralee and Dingle were very friendly and eager to talk as long as I had wind. One chap called John talked my ear off for an hour about crooked Irish politicians using language which I will not repeat here. Politics seems to be a favorite subject here, since almost everyone I've run into seems to know a lot about American politics. People have pretty diverse opinions, althought they're all scared of Sarah Palin and they're all sick of the Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen. The Irish in general seem to like Americans, although John warned me that not all of Europe would be this friendly. The lack of a language barrier really helps. I mean, yes their accents can get rather thick and a very small minority speak Irish (so far, I've met three, even though everyone takes classes in school), but otherwise I feel pretty at ease here.
We stopped in Dingle on the way back. I'm definately going to visit that town again. It's a cute little shore town with great food and drink and lots of traditional music. Plus it's Gaeltacht, so you can hear Irish spoken on the street. I got a seafood chowder and a Bulmer's cider. The cider is quite good here and a very popular drink for both men and women. Certainly a far cry from Woodchuck back home which is sweet, but a bit pissy. And yes, I can officially confirm that the Guinness is better over here. Gerard tells me that I need to try Murphy's, which is a Cork stout that he claims is much smoother.
Tomorrow will be my first full day of work. I'm a little apprehensive all in all, but I think I'll have a good time.
By the way, does anyone know of an easy way to upload large numbers of pictures? Facebook albums are okay for now, but for some reason it's only letting me upload one at a time. Ideally, I'd like to use my google accound so I can link through this blog rather than having to get a Flickr or something like that.
Slan for now.