by Donna Lanclos
I’m ready. It promises to be a good time, and a worthwhile time. If you are going to go to the trouble of travel, it should be both.
I’m always ready to go to Cork. I have been since I first got there, in the Autumn of 1990, ready for my undergraduate junior (3rd) year abroad. Up until September 1990 I had only traveled in North America (the US, with some day trips to Canada and Mexico). As of September 1990 I had my first international home away from home: Cork.
Undergraduate me, extremely enthusiastic.
I grew up on US Air Force bases, and so big urban centers have always seemed fun to me but were not necessarily always my comfort zone. I went to college in suburban feeling low-rise town Santa Barbara, CA. Cork was a big enough city to have Things to Do (Concerts! Films! Museums! Restaurants! Festivals! etc.) but also small enough to walk around (or occasionally take the bus) and feel like I could get to all of the important parts easily. And it was (and still is) well-placed as a base to explore the countryside, and occasionally get over to other cities like Galway and even Dublin…
My mental map of Cork City remains very much that of an undergraduate in the 1990s, complete with pubs that are no longer there (RIP the Western Star), a focus on the university I attended (UCC), and a sense of how long it would take me to walk with all of my shopping from the city centre to my house (RIP Quinnsworth’s, although the Dunnes is still there I think…)
Since the 90s much has changed in Cork, and there is much that I recognize as the same. I can still walk around the Lough, cruise by the Abbey pub (and cruise in for a pint), walk past St. Finbarr’s on my way to the city centre, and criss cross St Patrick’s St and the Grand Parade, eventually winding up on the North side of the river in range of the Shandon Bells. Or I can walk along the Mardyke to Fitzgerald Park along the Lee, and take the paths across to Franciscan Wells, which was not there in the 90s but is one of my new favorite places to eat, drink, and hang out in the city. I can walk past “the Wash,” The Washington Inn, one of the extremely student-y pubs that I don’t go in anymore but that is very close to Costigan’s, where I am likely to encounter a music session if I get there on a weeknight.
I am sentimental about Cork. To me it’s a city that feels easy to live in, at a scale I can handle on a day to day basis, and with a rich list of things to do. My experience of the people in Cork, my friends, my teachers, colleagues, and the folks I encounter when I am out and about, is that they are generous and hospitable and especially keen that you remember where the real capital of Ireland is even after you have left it.