Time and again we’ve learned that the best way to get to know a new place is to find a local and get their recommendations. Fortunately, this is a skill Ella seems to have picked up quickly.
With Ella safely sprung from prison, we decided it was best to get out of Cork and lay low for the day. We hit the train station and headed toward the coast to visit Cobh, obviously pronounced ‘Cove’.
Cobh is a small town on the coast. With many cruise ships stopping here, it’s largely a tourist town today. One thing I wonder is whether many of the people on those cruise ships take into consideration, as they’re coming to Cobh, that it has connections to both the Titanic and Lusitania. Might just be me but…
With time to kill on the short 24 minute train ride from Cork to Cobh, Ella took advantage and checked that her photography equipment was functioning properly.
Cobh is a quiet town when there aren’t any cruise ships around, or at least it was when we arrived. The lack of crowds doesn’t mean you can just wander off without a plan. Katy, being more of a fly-by-the-seat of her pants kind of person, let the responsible members of the family sit down to formulate a plan.
After much debate, we agreed to take a tiny train to visit St Colman’s Cathedral, one of the tallest buildings in Ireland. It wasn’t long before a wrench was thrown in our well laid plans. The mini train would not be leaving the station, aka curb, for several hours.
Fortunately, armed with the information she gathered from some friendly locals, Ella knew the way. She quickly took charge and headed up some stairs. Conveniently, this was also the same direction as the cathedral. Ella’s love of stairs served us well, this time.
The cathedral? Have you seen a church in Europe? Well, it looked like that. Don’t get me wrong. It was a nice one and Ella was kind enough to stay quiet, as there were actual churchgoers inside, but it was a church.
The location on the hill did provide for some nice views around town though.
What happens when a kangaroo and an deer mate?
Cathedral seen, and with only hours until nap time, it was time for a bold decision. Rather than stay longer in Cobh we would get on the train back to Cork but make a quick stop at the Fota Wildlife Park, which has its own station on the rail line.
The big question, can you see a whole zoo in an hour in order to catch your next train? You bet your Mara you can! (It helps that Fota is not a huge zoo.)
Fota is basically laid out in a big circle, which made it ideal for our quick tour. It wasn’t long before Ella was quickly enthraled. Shortly after we entered the zoo grounds we were at the gibbons exhibit. Obviously playing to the crowd, they were howling away proving that we had not been lying to her all this time and that monkeys do actually say, ooh, ooh, aah, aaaaahhhh.”
A couple of unusual things about the Fota Wildlife Park, at least in my relatively limited zoo experience. First, though they tell you not to feed or touch them, they let you get surprisingly close to some of the animals, like the lemurs.
Second, they allow for what seemed to us some odd species cohabitation without any barriers for the zoo goers. Like this peacock and kangaroo duo.
This mixing, led us to jump to strange cross-species mating theories the first few times a Mara darted past. Seriously, until you get a good look, does this look like it could be the love child of a drunken encounter between that free range kangaroo and a deer?
Oh, it’s to go to the park, ok.
With that mystery solved, we hurried back to the station and caught our train to Cork in time to get Ella down only slightly late for her nap.
When she woke up, we decided it was time to give her a little break from being a tourist. We found a playground that was about 2.5km from our apartment. Fortunately, Google knows everything. Normally more of a runner, Ella is surprisingly cooperative about getting in the stroller when you tell her it’s to go to the park. In no time we were on our way.
The playground was located in Fitzgerald Park near the university campus. As it was the only playground in a large area, at least according to Google, it was teaming with toddlers.
These weren’t the toddlers were we used to though, they were aggressive. On the walk over, Ella had been pleasantly chanting “swing, swing”. When we arrived at the park all of the swings were busy but before long one opened up. We had barely stated to head in that direction when it was set upon by a wild horde of children. This scene repeated itself several times before we were able to get in the groove (and maybe set our sights a little lower on the playground implement higherarchy).
Having been a little too passive, when Ella saw a balloon blowing through the grass she set off running and screaming “catch’em”.
I know, I know, you’re probably a little worried about the foaming at the mouth. Don’t worry, it’s not rabies. We may have given her a little ice cream sugar boost to help her compete. That’s not wrong, is it?
With the sugar high waning and dinner approaching, it was time to head home. On our way to the park exit, we came upon an art installation that featured balls of of different sizes and colours embedded in the gardens. Despite her best attempts to “catch’em” Ella had to go home empty handed, but she did enjoy those balls while she could.
Our last stop of the day was an Indian restaurant to grab some takeaway. Normally I wouldn’t mention this but we met two interesting people while we were there. One was loaded. He managed to order before falling asleep at a table while it was being cooked. Much to the restaurant owners disappointment, he insisted that he wanted to eat in rather than take away.
The other was a very nice man with grown children of his own waiting for some takeaway. He and Katy got to chatting while I chased Ella up and down the street. During the usual, “they grow up fast” conversation he had a rare moment of honesty when he said, “the person who invented quality time should be shot.” It sounds bad, but what he was really saying is that one of the reasons children seem to grow up fast is that you don’t spend as much time with them as you think. Largely because what little kids like to do is mindnumbingly boring for most adults. His advice? Find something you can both enjoy when they get a little order, that way you can actually enjoy the time. For him and his daughter it was cycling. Might be time to buy Ella her first bike? If nothing else, she’s shown a promising love for running.
Until then, I should probably go spend some time with Ella taking the caps on and off some containers.
Up next, the trains from Cork to Belfast.