Cliff flowers

Originally uploaded by Pat and Amy’s pics

Last weekend, I got a sunburn. In Ireland. In May. Amy and I drove out to Ballycotton in east County Cork for lunch and a cliff hike along the coast. It was a magnificent day, warm, sunny and almost windless, and the hike was fantastic. We were out about an hour and forty minutes and by the end of the hike I was actually sunburned.

Before we began our hike, we stopped in at The Nautilus Restaurant, where I had fish and chips and Amy had the sweet potato ginger soup. The chips (fries) were possibly the best I’ve had here, and that’s saying something. They were so good, after the hike we went back and each got an order of chips, and nearly foundered. I may have been burned and stuffed like a bad Thanksgiving turkey, but it was a wonderful day.

Three weeks ago we went on a trip to two other east County Cork villages, Midleton and Youghal (pronounced yawl, or, if you’re Texan, y’all). While walking down the main drag, I saw a sign across the street pointing back in my direction and indicating there was a castle there. Sure enough, I turned around and there it was, a castle that I’d simply walked by without even registering its existence. So many buildings are made of stone here, and the castle was an unassuming little thing, tucked in between other buildings of about the same size, it hadn’t even made an impression on me. It amazes me that castles can be just another building here.

Castles aside, Midleton and Youghal, while pleasant enough towns, aren’t likely to make the top ten on most visitors’ must-see lists, unless you love whiskey, in which case a trip to Midleton might be a priority. Midleton, you see, is the home of the Jameson whiskey distillery.

According to the Jameson website, the distillery was founded in 1780, before the United States was finished breaking away from England. (A quick aside: I love that there are businesses here that are older than the United States. Actually, the Brazen Head Pub in Dublin claims to be the oldest pub around since there has been a pub in that spot since 1198. Other sources, including the Guinness Book of Records, claim that Sean’s Bar is the oldest, with some evidence pointing to a 9th century and even to a 5th century pub.)

We strolled through the visitor center, and not being much of a drinker, I asked the clerk a couple of questions. So, does whiskey continue to get better with age, or does it peak? I didn’t get a complete answer, but apparently it continues to improve while in the cask, but it declines once it’s in a bottle, so if you’ve been saving that bottle of whiskey for a special occasion, make one up soon. To decide for ourselves if we could tell the difference between differently aged whiskeys, we bought a little sample pack of three tiny bottles (think airline or mini-bar size) of eight, ten, and twelve-year-old whiskey. We decided to pass on the limited edition bottles priced in the thousands of euro.

We just tried all three, and the winner is: Amy liked the 10 year-old whishkey, while I perferrred the 12 yer old, but kkldlo