Preamble: My travels are moving faster than my travel blog. But rather than posting one very long blog entry about the past four cities I’ve visited, I’m parsing it out into three or four entries to post in chronological order over the next few days. The first is Kilkenny, the town I visited last weekend (meaning nine days ago).
Within two hours of meeting my new English-Irish host, Hannah, she had me wading up the cold, chest-deep water of the River Nore in the countryside near Kilkenny where she lived for much of her childhood. We spent a couple of hours cutting and stripping willow branches in one of the fastest-flowing rivers in Europe for her pet project: building a traditional sticks-and-mud Celtic roundhouse. Hannah recently quit her job of ten years as a successful rock-and-roll journalist and now teaches fly fishing on the Nore, running the business that Alzheimer’s took from her father four years ago and donating all the proceeds to a charity that battles the disease.
That night, the fields outside illuminated by a full moon, she made “Kyle curry” (inspiration from her recent five-month trip to India; peppers from the three-month stay in Tanzania that followed). We had fantastic conversation for a few hours before I retired to my surprisingly posh quarters in a pimped-out shed annexed from her 1930s cottage. The next day Hannah’s mom, Kathie, drove us through the lush farmland to a nearby town for a school-fundraiser fair. I manned the beanbag-tossing games as well as the soccer-shootout game, learned to juggle and played a round of hit-someone-in-the-face-with-a-wet-sponge before we left, fresh strawberries and cream in hand.
After that, Hannah took me to the town of Kilkenny itself for the famous 11th-century Norman castle and a 700-year-old pub for three fingers of sweet and smokey Powers Irish whiskey. When we got back, I saw that Kathie had washed my clothes and hung them to dry.
The next morning, Kathie offered to make me a sandwich for my bus ride to Galway that afternoon. I thanked her but refused, not wanting to impose after they’d already fed me for two days. But while Hannah showed me the historic church in their country neighborhood (it was pillaged four or five hundred years ago but still stands, roofless and half-swallowed by ivy), Kathie made me two veggie-and-cheese sandwiches for the road, wrapped them and also sent me off with bottled water and fresh fruit.