Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pucker Up!

Getting the skinning on economic downturns and the barrage of signs offering office, apartments, and full buildings for rent, sale, or barter with the bank did not make it all too appealing as a place to stop, but it was not a scheduled event anyway. We were off to see the famous Blarney Castle and the infamous Blarney Stone.

Our guide explained we had 3 hours at the Blarney Castle, quite generous. His suggestion was to see the castle, kiss the Blarney Stone, go to lunch, and then go shopping in that order. We were somewhat obedient.

Ron really wanted to kiss the BS (funny how Blarney Stone shares the same abbreviation as…). I really wanted Ron to kiss the BS for an adjustment to his lack of verbalizing. Off we ventured to the castle in ruins. Over the little foot bridge there was a line of people, so I got in it. Wrong thing to do! It was raining and chilly, my only recourse for stupidity.

As the line moved along, we entered a cave. Hollywood could not have done a better job than nature did. Dark with spiny walls it had such a low ceiling I had to crouch to get into it. Now picture this. I am 6’1”, but strapped to my back I had my backpack with my netbook computer, my wallet and the extra lens for my camera snuggled inside. After 5 feet of crouch walking making me 4’5” tall, we were faced with a cave hole that looked like an inverted spiked dog collar. We needed to pass through it. There was no duck walking any longer, the next option was a crawl.

With the backpack on, I could not crawl well. Being too high, it was scraping along the top of the hole and the tunnel that followed. There was not enough room to maneuver to get it off of my back, but at the same time the floor was moist. I had fears of my lens or computer getting wet. The backpack is very waterproof. I was close to being on my stomach in my new winter raincoat trying to transition into the next chamber. Good heavens, the next chamber was more claustrophobic than the hole and tunnel. My severe claustrophobia spurred me to move faster to the next section. The damn thing was elevated and narrow. This forced more crawling, but having to crawl as well as climb. This is the exact reason I never joined any of the Armed Forces, just too much physical activity. I don't even like pub crawls. They just sound too energetic. Chamber after chamber, I went. Was Ron following me? I did not have enough room to turn my head to find out. Four chambers and enough tunnels to connect NYC with NJ, finally I found two young men standing in an area where an average man could stand upright. In my ecstatic state, I am blindly looking around for the rest of the line to kiss the blessed stone while praying there is a back entrance to this thing.

Not only was there no back entrance, but this was not the way to the Blarney Stone. This was the way to an old torture chamber of the castle and the two oversized leprechauns at the end surely didn't offer any magical solutions. They did say "Ready to party?". Had there not been a whole swarm following me into this geographic closet... The only exit was the reverse of the way in. I surveyed the crowd to see if anyone was willing to kill me then and there, but no takers. Back out I went. These tunnels were not made for two lane passageways.
By the time I reached the rain soaked air again, what used to be my legs were just flesh colored gluttonous masses. A good dose of Geritol would hardly have given me the strength not to have to crab walk to a bench to catch my breath. Come to think of it a little Geritol concession stand right there by the castle would not be a bad idea. Had this been a year ago, after seating myself on a bench, I would have lit a cigarette. Now, I just gasped for air like a fish out of water without any props to cover my mouth. After we were able to remove the oxygen masks, Ron asked me what possessed me to venture in there to begin with. Not reading the signs is what possessed me.

Around the side was the entrance to the Blarney Stone. I made sure of it this time. One hundred steps up to get to the BS. Not just any steps, these steps are an adventure a stunt person would enjoy. The staircase is circular and narrow. This means that each step is about ½ the depth of one of my feet is long and that is at the deepest part of the step. With every step you have to concentrate to make sure you really have a foothold on it before lifting your body weight upward. Along the right side is a rope acting as a moveable bannister. The sensation is similar to indoor mountain climbing, I would guess. Never did it for real. Too much exertion involved.

We reached the top. On the left of the stone is a photographer who snaps two pictures of you in unattractive moments that you really will never want to share with anyone, whether you want him to or not. On the right side of the stone is the guy who helps you position yourself for this kiss of a lifetime. First you have to get on your back on this rubber mat. Holding two metal rails on either side, you bend your head backward in unnatural positions hanging into the opening between the castle and the stone. If you lose your grip, the guy could possibly grab your toes if you are lucky. I chose not to kiss the stone for two reasons. 1.) I have too many problems with my back as it is. Why risk these contortions? 2.) I took a good look at the people in line ahead of me. I watched what was passing their lips in line and could imagine where their lips may have been. Did I really want to kiss a rock that they had just kissed? I don’t think so.

On the castle grounds, one day a week they have a farmer’s market. This was the day. One offering was a waffle with ham, broccoli bits, and onions, which we tried and it was delicious.

Our return trip was yet again through Cork, but via a different route, still not charming, but still raining buckets. This could have caused what looked dreary to look dreariest. Onward IrishRail adventurers, our next stop is Cóbh (pronounced Cove).
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