Oct 23, 2012

Cork, Part III: in which I crouch, climb, and dangle

I probably wasn't supposed to do this, but it felt necessary at the time.
As you can see, the Blarney Castle gardens brought out my inner child.  And yes, that's Blarney as in the Blarney Stone.

As soon as I passed through that turnstile, I turned absentmindedly to my left...and saw this pasture.  It's going to be strange to return to New York and not see cows and sheep everywhere.
The famed Blarney Castle.
As I approached the castle's base, I figured that when one is presented with a tunnel, one is obligated to explore it.  So I corralled a few of the others and ran inside without a second thought.
We weren't running for long, though.  Within two minutes, the ceiling dropped so dramatically that someone wondered aloud if we'd have to crawl the rest of the way.  (And yes, for all of you who are wondering: even I had to crouch.)
A little dark, but you get the idea.
After ten minutes of clambering through this most excellent tunnel, we discovered that it was a dead end and turned back.  I have no regrets - zero.
The castle grounds were colorful enough to remind me of home.  Between this and all of the pictures of campus popping up on Facebook, I'm slightly jealous; I miss New York in the fall!
Soon, it was time to climb into the main castle.  It's a stone, I thought.  I wonder what all of the fuss is about.
Well, I assumed that it would be at the top...but thanks for the confirmation.
Skinny windows like this were on every landing and in every nook.  My overactive imagination guessed that medieval snipers used them to spy on - and attack - unsuspecting invaders.
As I ascended the spiral staircase (which was somehow narrower than the one at Bunratty), I saw rooms like this on every landing.  The higher I got, the more derelict they appeared.
One of the walls, up close and personal.
The light had a gentle way of slicing into into this otherwise-dismal corridor.
I peered through one of those slotted windows to get a sense of just how far I was from the ground...and quickly retreated into the staircase again.
That said, that momentary glimpse was exhilarating.

And eventually, I did end up on the roof.  See those people gathered in the right half of the picture?  I think you can guess what they're all up to...
One by one, they were dangling - yes, upside-down - off the side of the roof, to plant a big one on a footlong slab of stone.  That kind soul clutching my sweatshirt was there to make sure I didn't slip.  (My friends will understand that I really wanted to Purell the stone before we got down and dirty, but the line behind me was long...and who really wants to be that tourist?)
On my way back to the ground, I was delighted to encounter this sign:

I mean, it was called the Murder Hole.  I had to test it out.
So that was the castle, friends.  I spent the rest of my time at Blarney exploring the gardens.  But the first one I ran into, of course, was no ordinary garden.
"Do not touch..."  You can already tell where this is going, right?
Ladies and gentlemen, the opium poppy.
And the deadly nightshade...
...right beside the tea plant?  I mean, come on.  This makes my affection for caffeine sound a lot more dangerous than it is.
There were many other plants in this garden, too; among others, I remember seeing (and maybe touching) yew, hellebore, and wolfsbane.  Harry Potter, anyone?
The rest of the castle grounds had a sense of peace about them.
Such natural beauty...I could see why this is a popular location for wedding photos.
Blarney House
"Just and tenacious", perhaps?  Help me out, Latin scholars among you...
This hedge along the side of the house brought to mind The Secret Garden, which I remember identifying with as a child because Mary has ties to India (it's her birthplace) and an ayah, too.  If only the gate hadn't been locked...you know I would've been in there.

I wanted to climb this rock, too...but it was a choice between that and missing the bus.  Sometimes, life hands you lemons, right?  But, to round out the analogy, the first thing I did after clambered aboard the coach was settle in for a two-hour nap...and that right there, friends, was some sweet lemonade.

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