Cork - The best of IrelandAllana O'Shannessy ▼ | July 28, 2009
Knowing that Ireland is very happy and open country, with friends on every corner, "the warmest city" is one of the biggest compliments a town can get. Cork is a combination of the best of Irish. A simple, and in other cities boring, taxi drive to the hotel will turn into a hilarious experience you won't forget. Everyone has a joke or a story and is more than willing to share it with you, and don't be surprised if instead of a joke someone perform an act for you. And it's your first hour in the city!
Cork is the largest county in Ireland and it wears the name Rebel County with pride. Two of its famous sons are Michael Collins and - Roy Keane. The former is an Irish patriot known in the whole world, while the second is a football player - that is as important as fighting for the county. The beautiful Cork coastline is so magnificent that the Cork Harbour was the last port of call of RMS Titanic but in that case the merry town wasn't of great help, obviously.
Cork is the home to some of the best restaurants in Ireland, it is called "the gourmet capital of Ireland". If the idea of fun is to enjoy some live entertainment in the pub and enjoy a fine meal at the same time, then Cork is the town for you. Cork is also the perfect gateway to continue your journey to the beautiful south-west of the country. The Cork coastline is well-known for its magnificent scenery, especially if you look at the southwest.
The city centre is easy to walk around but if you're feeling lazy, taxis are readily available, not too expensive, and very interesting. If you like a good dinner, there are Café Paradiso an award-winning vegetarian restaurant, or Fenns Quay. For staying, maybe the best place is Jurys Cork Hotel on the banks of the River Lee, with beautiful view to whole Cork. Cork can't be explored in a day or two, so book a week or two and for the start here is what you can see in the centre of the Cork.
St. Patrick's Street (the only logical name) goes through the heart of the city and it offers shopping opportunities, it is a host of some of Europe's largest retail chains. Oliver Plunkett Street runs partly parallel to Patrick's Street and is full of smaller shops, life and color. Heading west, one comes to the English Market. It became a market back in 1788, and all other European markets are just copies Cork English Market, like the Cork itself, has survived the Famine, revolutions, wars and fire. The quality of products goes hand in hand with the always present Irish tradition of friendly service. Drop by and have a look around, you'll be glad you did.
Following St Patrick's Street eastwards you'll see the statue of Father Mathew, the founding father of the Irish Temperance Movement. On the left there stands the Cork Opera House and The Crawford Art Gallery with its impressive modern and traditional collection. At the other end of St. Patrick's Street there's Grand Parade. The advice is to turn right here to the Coal Quay, with its bustling Saturday open-air market, second-hand shops, and enjoy a pint in the spacious Bodega. One block further there's the Cork Vision Centre. It is situated in the historic St Peter's Church and offers the opportunity to really get a feel for the city: it has a fantastic 1:500 scale model of the whole city.
You should not miss the Gothic grandeur of St. Finbarr's Cathedral which dominates the horizon of Cork's South Side. It has been built in 19th century and legend has it that the golden angel, perched on the cathedral's eastern extreme, will blow her horn to announce the ending of the world. If you hear angels blowing, don't worry, it's more probable that you tasted too many fluid delicacies. And when the angels finally come to Earth they have to taste a drink or two before going further with their business. That's Cork. ■