After a fairly restless night (the thoughts of losing my job kept creeping unbidden into my consciousness) we woke up this morning to find ourselves just about to dock in Ringaskiddy, Ireland. We were originally supposed to be going into Cobh, but had been displaced by a much bigger ship, the MSC Magnifica, so we had to berth across the harbour from Cobh in the picturesque little port of Ringaskiddy instead. Anyone who wanted to go into Cobh could get the shuttle bus round, but we were there last year, so we decided to explore this little town instead.
The sun was shining brightly and the air was pleasantly warm; a proper spring day. At about 10.00am we disembarked the Adonia and decided to have a little exploration on foot as we weren’t due to go on any excursions until this afternoon.
It was very pleasant walking along the grassy verges in the sunshine, and we soon came to a charming little country village pub, with wooden tables and chairs outside. I was just ready for a nice cold Guinness. 🙂 We went inside, ordered our pints, then sat outside in the sunshine, where some other couples from the ship were sitting at tables nearby.
The barmaid brought our Guinness which was just the ticket, and with the sun on my back I felt the last vestiges of gloom lift from me. So what if my contract was being terminated, they can’t cut my hands off! I’ll find another job. Plenty of worse things happen at sea, ha ha. 🙂
We enjoyed the Guinness so much, and we weren’t in any particular hurry, so we had another one each before taking a slow stroll back to the ship in time for lunch. We were due to go on an excursion into Cork afterwards, taking in the sights of the city and then finishing off with a visit to the famous Jameson Whiskey distillery, where we would see how Irish whiskey was made and have a chance to sample it afterwards.
After lunch we once again left the Adonia to join our excursion bus with Tom, our guide for today. Cork is Ireland’s second city and is built on the River Lee which divides into two channels at the western end of the city. The city centre is located on the island created by the channels. At the eastern end of the city centre where the channels re-converge, quays and docks along the river banks lead to Lough Mahon and Cork Harbour, which is one of the world’s largest natural harbours.
As it was a weekday, the busy streets were thronging with shoppers and the workers passing their lunchtime. We passed the impressive City Hall and the upmarket riverfront buildings, and pulled up for a photo stop at the majestic St. Finbarre’s Cathedral (I couldn’t help thinking of the Viz comic character, Finbarre Saunders and his Double-Entendres). 🙂
We passed along the main shopping drag, Castle Street, and then headed out to the main attraction of the day, the Jameson’s whiskey distillery. Notice how whiskey is spelled with an ‘e’; this is how you can tell, just from the label alone, that it is Irish whiskey and not Scotch ‘whisky’ (no ‘e’).
Inside the distillery, we watched a brief film clip about the world-famous Jameson’s before being introduced to our guide, Collette. Talk about enthusiastic! She was so animated and interested when talking about the whiskey distilling process, and her attractive Irish lilt added to her humour really made her a delight to listen to. If ever there was someone suited to her job, Collette was it. We were very surprised, therefore, to learn that she had only been a Jameson’s guide for a fortnight; she was actually a student doing holiday work. She really made the visit, however, and we considered our party (they’d split our large group into two) had struck it lucky to have her as our guide. 🙂
We learnt some of the differences between Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky; the main ones being that the barley in Irish whiskey is roasted using a smokeless fuel (such as anthracite) whereas the Scottish use peat which gives off smoke and imparts a distinctive ‘peaty’ palate to the whisky (think of Laphroiag). Also Scotch whisky tends to undergo a double distillation, whereas Irish whiskey is triple-distilled. We also learnt how the whiskey is often stored in barrels that may have previously held sherry or port, and this itself imparts a subtle flavour into the finished product, as well as adding a hint of colour.
It was fascinating to see barrels of whiskey with glass ends, showing three year old, five year old, 10 year old and 15 year old malt. As well as the whiskey colour getting progressively darker (being longer in the barrel), the amount of the spirit that had evaporated also increased significantly; this is known as the angels’ share. 🙂
At this point, Collette asked for six volunteers; three men and three women. Trevor and I put our hands up and we were selected to be ‘official Jameson whiskey tasters’. Once our tour of the distillery finished, we went along to the bar where our six places had been set out, each with three glasses. One contained American bourbon whiskey, such as Jack Daniels or Jim Beam, one contained Scotch whisky, and the third contained Jameson’s. We had to sniff and taste each of them in turn, then decide which one we liked best. A bit of a leading question really, as we were all bound to say the Jameson’s! 🙂
We then each received a complimentary glass of Jameson’s; I had mine mixed with dry ginger ale as I’m not really a whiskey drinker. In the meantime, Collette asked the six whiskey tasters to write our names on pieces of paper which we handed to her. By the time we’d finished our drinks, she returned with certificates for each of us, inscribed with our names; we were now Official Irish Whiskey Tasters. 🙂
We finished the distillery tour by going into the shop and buying some souvenirs and gifts to take home. Then, back on the bus, we were nearly falling asleep as we made our way back to Ringaskiddy and the Adonia.
Tonight was the smart-casual dress code and we were getting ready for dinner when the Adonia blasted on her foghorn and slowly made her way out of the dock. It was still a very pleasant, mellow sunny evening when we went into the dining room for yet another delicious meal. After dinner Trevor went off to the cinema to see Skyfall, the latest James Bond movie, but Charlie and Linda said they’d join me later in the Curzon lounge, where the ship’s orchestra were doing a Glenn Miller tribute show.
So I went back to the cabin for a while, and as the sun was on our side of the ship I actually went and sat out on our balcony for the first time this trip, with the evening sun warm on my face. On my way to the theatre I went for a look around the shop, where they had handbags on offer; I got a nice tan and yellow one for only 20 quid. Then it was time to go along to the show.
When I got there, however, there was no sign of Charlie or Linda, and in fact they never turned up. It didn’t really matter though, as I enjoyed the show immensely; there’s something so nostalgic about the big band sound, and everyone knows Glenn Miller tunes, so there was much foot-tapping going on.
When I went up to the Conservatory afterwards for the syndicate quiz, Charlie and Linda were already there looking a little embarrassed. They apologised for not coming along to the show; they’d gone back to their cabin for a short nap and had actually overslept, not waking up until nearly 10 o’ clock! But we were all here now, and just before the quiz started Trevor appeared, the film having finished. So we had a full team, not that it made any difference as we didn’t win. Nonetheless, I enjoyed a couple of proseccos before turning in for the night, at the end of what had been a lovely day.