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May 18, 2006: Ireland Trip -Kilkenny, Day 2

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I think we're starting to get the hang of the weather around here. In the morning, before you've gotten through getting dressed and eating breakfast, it's dry and sunny and you can see patches of blue sky. However, just about the time you're ready to walk out of the door to face the day, back come the rain clouds, prepared to keep things in some range of damp to soggy until just about the time you give up and head back inside for dinner. If you're up for wandering around late at night, it's dry and clear again. Heh.

Today was a bit lower key than the last few. We headed off to see Jerpoint Abbey, which is an ancient monestery located just a bit south of Thomastown. Score another one for the Heritage Card - I think we've now broken even on the price of those cards and we're barely one week in.

Anyway, the abbey. We were all set to wander around on our own, but then a tour guide came rushing out to us. She was just about to start a tour for another couple and wanted to know if we'd be interested in joining in. Lucky for us, because the tour was wonderful. So far either we've been really lucky, or all the tour guides around here really are just this enthusiastic about what they are doing. She told us all about the founding of the Cistercian sect of monks, which split from the Benedictines, and how they spread across Europe, and were the ones who built this particular abbey. She walked us through the chancel, which was always the first part of an abbey to be built, and pointed out details on some of the tombs neither Richard or I would likely have noticed on our own. And she described how to tell which saint is which when we're noticing the saints carved into the sides of some of the raised tombs, plus she showed us a number of the figures carved into the pillers that lined the cloister and explained what they thought they might be. She also explained why it is that we see so many places where there's people buried inside the church. During the reformation, the king (Henry the something) shut down all the churches and religious orders (at least in Ireland) and banned their use, so Catholics couldn't practice openly. So the people would sneak in and bury their family members inside the churches because at least it was still hallowed ground. And they would snag a bit of carving or relic to place over the burial plots so they would know where their family was located, since they couldn't put an actual headstone. Our guide noted that there are still families who have the right to continue to bury their dead inside some of the ruins. She said they'd been trying to do a census of bodies just within the grounds of the abbey itself and there were dozens and dozens that they knew about so far, and likely dozens more they'll never really track down.

After the abbey, we headed back toward Kilkenny, stopping at a brighly colored little building along the way, called the Watergarden, for lunch. Richard had a bowl piled with beef and Guiness stew and I had a bowl of potato, leek, and pesto (I think) soup, with a side of that brown soda bread we see everywhere. And then it was back to Kilkenny to brave the rain again.

We decided to try to get up to the design center which is in the old stables, across the street from the castle. The guidebooks and fliers made it out to be something really interesting, where we'd be able to see local artisans at work, but the guidebooks and fliers, they lie. So instead we meandered back down the main streets of town, poking our heads into a few stores and stopping to try an assortment of little pastries in a coffee shop (note to self - pastries around here are deceivingly filling). We also decided to take advantage of the spare time to get a load of laundry done.

Richard's been wanting to get into a pub to hear some local music, but so far we're usually pretty exhausted by the time evening rolls around. Tonight, however, we headed off to the Kyteler Pub, which is named after a woman who was condemned as a witch. We ate dinner (first time in my life I have ever been served a side of fries with my lasagna - heh) and then lingered over dessert until it was time for the music to start.

The waitress had told us it was going to be acoustical music, and it was going to be traditional Irish music, and while the duo playing sang and played well, it was neither traditional, nor acoustic. Nevertheless we had fun sitting there for a bit, chatting with our table mates - a mother and son couple from England - and watching the crowd of locals near us singing along with some of the songs, and playing with their digital cameras. It wasn't until we were just about ready to head back to the B&B that they finally sang a few Irish songs, so we lingered just long enough for those and then decided to call it a night.

The sky was clear as we headed back to our B&B and the city is so quiet, when compared to cities back home. Richard pointed out that we've not heard a single airplane go overhead anywhere we've been so far. Little things, but enough of them to remind us we're very far from home.

Picture from Jerpoint Abbey are here

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