Killarney is a pretty little tourist town in the southwest of Ireland. My hotel is in the town center, which is packed with small shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.
On my first night in town I meet young rugby-playing raconteur named John in a pub. He is charismatic and knows everyone in town. We traded a couple of rounds and he recruited another Irish American named Patrick from Atlanta, along with several of John’s friends who work in the local bars and restaurants. We were then off on a tour of pubs and after-hours joints that continued into the small hours. I have been properly schooled in the “double pour” method of serving Guinness and now know what a lock-in is, but am otherwise unimproved.
To atone, I hiked the next day from my hotel to Ross Castle in the Killarney National Park. The park entrance is across the street from St. Mary’s Cathedral, which is strikingly beautiful. Nearby is St. Brendan’s College, a diocesan secondary school founded in 1860.
The Park is the largest in Ireland and is home to Ross Castle which has a rich history reflecting Ireland’s troubled past. It was one of the last holdouts against Cromwell’s Parliamentary Army in 1652. The location of the castle ruins is on Lough Leane which, on the day I visited, was whipped up by the wind and tea colored.
Tour groups are carried into the Park on horse-drawn wagons. The lakes and rivers in the park provide plenty of chances for photography. I ate at a lunch place run by young Eastern European women in uniforms with good sandwiches and excellent baked goods. Their no-nonsense efficiency extends to the name of the restaurant itself – Jam.
After an late afternoon nap I went for a walk to pick up my tickets from the train station. While walking past a pub I ran into John smoking outside, wearing the same clothes he had on the night before. His gregariousness was undiminished and he was entertaining a young management-side labor lawyer and his wife from Philadelphia. John quickly got onto a favorite topic: How was George Bush twice elected, since no Americans he has met will admit to having voted for him? I wasn’t up for another late night/early morning tour of Killarney and begged off, although we’re supposed to meet this morning for coffee. Hopefully his onerous duties as the unofficial mayor of Killarney will not have prevented his getting some sleep and a change of clothes.