Monday, 3 April 2017

Wide-Eyed And Travel: 36 Hours In Cork

I am surrounded by great people, by people I love dearly and have a fantastic gang of friends and family. Much as I enjoy being in the midst of these groups of wonderful human beings, I am also a big fan of one-on-one quality time. Hard as it can be, I try my best to make sure and set aside time with my favourite people - no easy feat when I have so many. Cara - my college best friend, former housemate and wifey - and I had been talking about going away together, just us two, for ages. And finally, last weekend, we made it happen with 36 hours in Cork.

Despite the bus strikes and wildly increased train fares, we managed to make it down to Cork at just after eleven on the Saturday and, luckily, were able to check into the lovely Montenotte Hotel early. After dropping off our bags, showering and changing (neither of us expected it to be quite so hot), I was drying my hair when I got a text from our bus company saying that, because of the strikes and intimidation from drivers from other services, our bus back the next day was cancelled. Thankfully, we were able to resolve this relatively quickly and find an alternative service home but that twenty minute window of stress wasn't fun. Great way to kick off a weekend of relaxation! But we were determined not to let the whole mess ruin our entire weekend.

We hopped along to the English Market to browse the market itself and to grab lunch as I was getting hangry and that's really not a good look on me. Situated in the stunning historic market, upstairs above the central fountain and stalls, is the Farmgate Café, The Farmgate is over thirty years old and has two locations - one in Midleton and one in Cork City - and serves traditional, seasonal, regional and centuries old food. It is one of Cork's culinary constants and did not disappoint. After all the running around, travelling and panicking, I cannot overstate just how good it was to be digging into perfectly cooked hake and vegetables and sipping on an Aperol Spritz (with a little umbrella that they added and made us giggle!) on a balcony overlooking the sunny English Market.

Refuelled and happy, we wandered the market before heading on to the Crawford Art Gallery. One of my favourite galleries in the country, it is housed in the stunning former Custom House and became the local design school in the 19th century and then the art college shortly thereafter. Now it is a public art gallery and, currently, it has several excellent exhibitions on - it is easy to get lost for hours in the place. After leaving and strolling about in the sun and having a goo around some of the shops, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and then drinks on their incredible terrace as the setting sun painted the Cork skyline in vivid blush tones. Though we had only just dolled ourselves up for dinner, we promptly changed into our pajamas and popped into the in-house cinema for a movie.

Wholesome as our weekend was, we were both asleep by midnight and up before nine to go for a swim, steam and sauna. Once we'd packed up and left our bags at the (almost overly friendly) hotel reception, we went back down the town to pick up coffee for a friend and a pick-me-up for us in the famous Cork Coffee Roasters. Then we had a very tasty brunch in the cute and quirky little Brick Lane - who were incredibly helpful and kind about making the menu as gluten and dairy free as possible for Cara.

The rest of the day was spent on the stunning campus of UCC, exploring the beautiful architectural gem that is the Glucksman Gallery, drawing and colouring in the educational section (though it is, admittedly, aimed at kids), and walking along the riverside. We then found time to squeeze in some cake and tea at Quay Co-op before hopping on the bus back home.

The Montenotte is a beautifully decorated gem with amazing facilities and exceptionally helpful staff. One could easily spend the whole weekend there without stepping a foot outside the building; going to the cinema, hanging out at the pool, enjoying drinks on the terrace and eating in the restaurant. But, with Cork unfolded and lovely right before your eyes, exploring her architectural wealth, historical and cultural heritage and multitude of cool eateries and foodie havens is a must. We would, without a doubt, come back to check off the endless list of things we couldn't fit in this time around. In the mean time, I have to convince Cara not to leave me for the city, so enamoured is she by the place...























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