I have neglected you! It has been so long since my last blog post!! I’m sorry! To be fair, a lot has happened in the past couple weeks and I barely have had time to breathe. Today, it is forecasted to rain all day, so I am seizing the day. I am in my pyjamas and bunny slippers, sitting on the recliner, looking over gathered material and photos from the past couple of weeks readying myself to bang out a few posts about my adventures around Ireland.
On February 17th, Elaine invited me to hitch a ride to Limerick for the day. She was attending a course there with coworkers, so I had from 10am to 4pm to get in as much as I could of Limerick. About a 1 hour drive South of Galway, Limerick is seen by outsiders as the not-so-friendly city of Ireland. Remember when people used to refer to Edmonton as Deadmonton? Well, Limerick is the equivalent. Unfortunately, the news surrounding Limerick has been mostly negative and people assume it’s a bad city.
I spent 6 hours in Limerick, so I am not a fair judge of the accuracy of that accusation, but I am happy to report that my time in Limerick was overall positive. So let’s get to it!
Limerick is in the Mid-Western part of Ireland. It is the capital of Munster, one of Ireland’s four provinces. More on Irish geography another day. It is home to around 100, 000 people making it one of the most populated cities in Ireland. It was one of the first settlements in Ireland, established in the year 812. The city was redesigned in the 12th century and some of its most notable architectural triumphs still stand in the city’s medieval area.
When I got to Limerick, I quickly sought out the tourist office to get a map and get to it. I started my day at the Hunt Museum. The museum houses thousands of works of art from all periods of the past. A personal collection of the Hunt family, it was donated to Ireland for all to enjoy.
I walked around the museum alone. No really. I don’t think anyone else was in there to check out the exhibits. To be fair, it was a Friday morning, in February. Not exactly high season. Most of the works were religious in nature, but there was some great exhibitions on specialized metal work and another on delicate pottery and porcelain works.
Some of my favourite pieces included this shield:
It is likely from the later part of the Bronze Age and dates back to 750BC. I mean… C’mon! People from that era could put together something this beautiful, and I can hardly start a notebook in pretty enough handwriting that doesn’t make me want to tear out the page and start over. It’s a weird quirk of mine, what can I say.
I was also drawn to a work of art that I found to be fun and inviting.
Turns out it’s a Picasso work. It’s the front of a menu card for the restaurant he spent the bulk of his time in in his early days. He held his first art show there. None of his works were actually framed. They were simply pinned to the wall, much like the décor in my teenage bedroom. It wasn’t indicated so I am curious to know how many people attended Pablo Picasso’s first art show. Can you imagine being able to boast that you were there? What a concept!
My absolute favourite piece, though, was a multi-disciplinary piece that included a photograph, a set of headphones with background sound, and a story explaining the harrowing experience of this young lady’s voyage towards Canada from Ireland.
The photo I captured sucks because the glass was so reflective, but you can imagine my initial reaction to seeing this from a distance when I first walked up the stairs. It reminds me of something you would see in a horror movie. It’s a bit creepy. Well, the haunting part of the piece was the story. Honora Walsh was a passenger on a ship called the Astraea that was bound for Québec in a harsh time in Ireland. Her family had scraped up just enough money for a family ticket aboard the ship hoping to start fresh in a new country. In her narrative, Honora describes the dreadful conditions of the ship and its passengers during their long voyage West. When the ship was nearly at destination, the ship crashed into some rocks and sank, taking with it 248 of the 251 passengers aboard. 3 survivors. The most frustrating part of the art installation is that we have no closure. There is no indications as to whether or not Honora was one of the survivors or if she succombed to the shipwreck. I was so distraught by the cliffhanger that I took the time to email the artist and ask her. No reply yet.
I left the museum in hopes of finding something a little more lighthearted so I set foot towards the Milk Market. The market is, I am told, bustling with people and artisans on Saturdays. It was Friday so the place was dead. I sat down to have lunch anyway. I had my worst meal experience of my entire trip yet at this little restaurant. Vietnamese food isn’t as popular here as it is back home. If this restaurant is indicative of the quality of the Vietnamese food around Ireland, I can understand why it hasn’t caught on. It was SOOO salty. Unbearably so. I ate a few bites and left, explaining that I wasn’t as hungry as I had thought.
If you’re ever in Limerick on a Saturday, DO go to the market, but DO avoid the Vietnamese restaurant.
Next on the list was Saint Mary’s Cathedral. An imposing building like many of the European cathedrals, it was built in the 12th century and has since been restored in the late 90s. If you’re in to visiting cathedrals, I recommend you stop here. It doesn’t take very long if you don’t want it to, but there is a lot to see and marvel at. There are information sheets that you can follow or just take for future reading.
King John’s Castle was up next.There is SO much history surrounding the castle. If I were to tell you the whole story, we would he here for ages. This has already been a tremendously long blog post. If you’re still reading, I’m making you a brownie. Just kidding. I’m thousands of kilometres away, and by the time you received it, the brownie would be stale and hard. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Just come visit the castle. Or Google it. Up to you!
I thought for sure that going down these stairs would be the end of me. I later learned that there are ‘trip stairs’. Basically, a stair that was shorter or taller than the rest designed to trip up an intruder should they be running from the guards. I did not trip. Joke’s on you, trip stair!
Mute Swans are the biggest bird you will find in Ireland. They’re known to be quite feisty, but they’re still my favourite. Appropriately named because of their lack of melodic singing skills, the birds are better known to squawk or hiss. So friendly! Admit they are so cute though!
Limerick is also filled to the brim with public art. Here are some of the ones I found.