On the recommendation of an acquaintance or two, I decided to join Living Social, an online business that contracts with different merchants and service providers to offer deals on various activities and services. We have taken advantage of a few health-related services but when the offer for an overnight stay in a hotel room, a 2-course meal (with bottle of wine) and breakfast in Limerick for €69 came along, I decided to take advantage. I researched the hotel on Trip Advisor and figured the positives outweighed the negatives, so I booked it. Allow me to digress a moment here by saying that Trip Advisor has been a trusted resource for me for about 6 years now. I can usually trust the overall score of the hotel – in this case, Patrick Punch’s Hotel – by the average score as related to the number of reviews; I tend to read through the most recent reviews to determine how up-to-date they are and how enthusiastic the reviewers are, whether it’s good or bad. I have found them to be pretty accurate. Trip Advisor also provides ideas of activities and places to go while in the city to which you are traveling, so I usually read over the first 20 – 50 entries in that category as well.
Limerick is the third largest city in Ireland whose history goes back to its beginning as a Viking settlement around 812 CE. I was simply gobsmacked by the fact that we were experiencing a place that had been there for over a thousand years. It blows my mind every time. The cab driver who took us into town on Sunday, when asked what he would take his friends to do while visiting in Limerick, said there isn’t anything to do! In a city that has existed for 1200 years?! Gee whiz, talk about your lack of civic pride!
Suffice to say that we booked our tickets on the bus and made it to Limerick by 10:45 am Saturday. The bus dropped us off at the People’s Park in the city, the regular stop. This is a gorgeous park very near the railway and bus stations with walking paths, a huge playground just for little ones, lots of pigeons and crows, and vast fields of daffodils. (I’m a big fan of the daffys so the abundance of them all over Limerick made me very happy!) We walked through the park and came out the back side, a poor choice as we ended up in an area that would have put the word “seedy” to shame. My initial observation of Limerick was that it’s kind of a dirty city, not well cared for by the residents, and not particularly loved by them either. Claude had heard that it was the knifing capital of Ireland (at least a couple of years ago) but we managed to walk unmolested to the hotel, and the desk clerk was kind enough to get us checked in even though we were so early. After resting up for a few minutes we struck out into the city on our adventure through Limerick.
The hotel is situated on the main drag, O’Connell Avenue, a common main street name in Ireland apparently. It was lined with wonderful Georgian and older but modernized homes featuring little gardens out front that included a patch of grass and flower beds. We saw some ornate fences and railings featured on the homes, most of which also featured brightly painted front doors that added a lot of character to the home. We came upon a pub and realized that we were fairly peckish after traveling. By the way, the difference between a pub and a bar in Ireland is that the pub offers food, spirits and possibly sports while the bar offers only liquid refreshment of the alcoholic variety and plenty of sports. This pub turned out to be very friendly – especially to Munster Rugby fans! It was at that time that we realized we had ventured into Munster country (our team being Connaght Rugby, a rival team). We had a delightful breakfast and discovered through conversation with the barmaids that the closer we got to the city center, the more shopping we could find. So we settled up and headed into the city.
Claude had blown a hole in his old walking shoes so we decided that we might as well shop for some new ones. We took in all the wonderful Georgian architecture of the city center, amazed and amused by the variety of businesses and goods one could find in these lovely old ornate structures. Once we got to the heart of the shopping it took us probably an hour or so to find a decent pair of shoes for him. Once that chore was accomplished, we made our way farther along to Arthur’s Quay Park. I had read horrendous reviews of this place on Trip Advisor and so was prepared to forgo it entirely, but Claude being the goofball that he is insisted that we might as well look at what was so tragic about it. And it turned out it wasn’t tragic at all!! It was a cute little park featuring tons of daffodils and a small amphitheater structure that they apparently use as an ice-skating rink in the dead of winter. The tourist office is located there. The sun was shining, people were strolling and enjoying a chat in the sun, and the view of the Shannon and King John’s castle and the homes all along the riverbank was spectacular. I’m so glad I married the goofiest adventurer on the planet or I never would have seen this little gem of a place.
We continued on our way toward three of the top rated attractions in Limerick: St. Mary’s Cathedral, Hunt Museum and King John’s Castle. We came upon the Hunt Museum first, which features art and antiquities. I noticed a sign saying admission is free on Sundays so we chose to save a few euros, pass it by and return the next day. We decided then to walk over to the castle and visit the cathedral on the way back. Our visit to the castle was so fascinating and the history is so extensive that I’ve decided to give it it’s own blog post in order to properly convey all the history contained inside this building. It was pretty darn amazing though.
We headed back toward St. Mary’s Cathedral in order to check it out but couldn’t get in. We ran into a man who had also wanted to see inside, had come to the building on several separate occasions over the weekend and had no luck getting in. Instead we walked around outside, checking out the mausoleums and graves and marveling at standing near a building that had been there since the early 1100’s. We wandered across the bridge over the Shannon River, which was flowing fast and roiling strongly. As we meandered back into the heart of the city I began to burn out so we caught a city bus back to our hotel to rest up before the evening meal.
That night we had what turned out to be an acceptable meal and I polished off half the free bottle of wine. We retired to our room and hit the sack after some television.
Sunday morning found us relaxed and moving at a leisurely pace. We had a decent breakfast over which we decided to try the Hunt Museum and see if we could get into the cathedral one more time. We also decided to see if we could split town early because Claude had to come home to repair his bike before the ride to work Monday morning. So instead of waiting for a bus or burning out on walking too early, we hailed a cab and had that sad encounter with the driver. I still can’t get over why on earth you would tell visitors to your city how unappealing it is to you as a resident!
We got to the museum to find that we had neglected to note the opening time: 1400 hours – 2:00 pm! It wasn’t even 10 am! We are pretty good at changing directions on the fly, so we wandered over the bridge to view the Anti-War Memorial (strange and interesting) and then decided to see if we could get into the cathedral. No luck. So much for the number one attraction in town. There’s a trail right next to the river so we walked up toward the castle from there, watching the river and pondering the little intricacies of life, such as: Do swans fly? (The answer is yes, yes they do.) We walked around the castle and across the Thomond bridge, reading the historical signs along the way. We saw the Treaty Stone at the river walk on the other side – more about that in the castle post. We took the river trail all the way back toward the city center, greeting passers-by, looking for and identifying Curragower Falls – which isn’t a falls at all but more like a really rapid part of the river – and stopping once at a gathering of Garda officers. Turns out they were the water rescue team and someone was missing. I sure hope they found that person safe and sound, but it wasn’t looking good.
We crossed the Shannon Bridge back into the city and meandered up the street toward the Tait Clock, named after Sir Peter Tait, a past mayor of Limerick and quite an interesting man (information culled from my 30 second Googling of his name). We were very close to the People’s Park again, the origination of our adventure in Limerick and the last stop before catching the bus. However I had my timing & schedule kind of jumbled up in my head and thought we had several hours to wait before our bus home arrived, but we could have left a lot sooner. Oh well, it gave us a chance to see the Limerick City Gallery of Art, a library and art gallery founded by Andrew Carnegie. They have a nice cafe that looks out into the park so we stopped for snacks and coffee. We conversed with a man who had spent a little time in Denver years before and had nice memories of the city and of the skiing.
The gallery itself is an interesting space, very open but unfortunately without anywhere for the public to sit while visiting the galleries. However we enjoyed walking through the entire gallery observing the exhibition which had something to do with local people’s choices of items from the permanent collection that spoke to them as individuals. It was suitably eclectic. I particularly enjoyed the sculpture of the Tree of Life, and a couple of the female portraits. On the exterior of the building an artist had installed a number of his bronze pieces, little figures doing various activities that he had affixed to the facade. That was a really whimsical and fun way to display his art!
We walked the park again and by now it was starting to mist and the both of us were suffering from wobbliness (me) and pained feet (him). We found another nice pub across from the railway station and found a comfy place to sit and watch sports. The France – Scotland 6 Nations rugby match came on while we were waiting so we at least got to watch something interesting while waiting! Finally caught the bus and headed on back home where Claude effected a successful repair to the bike and the Indian food delivery man actually found our house without needing directions.
Another weekend of adventurous day-tripping survived and numerous memories to accompany it!