I wasn’t particularly worried about lodging when I got to Cork, but I had a sense of urgency as I set out to find a place to stay. After a full week of hostel living, I had even mentally justified spending a little extra for a private room at a bed and breakfast. I entered the first B&B I found as I exited the Cork train station, turned on the charm (at least I think I did), and spoke to the lady behind the counter. As friendly as she was, she had no vacancies and seemed uncertain whether or not I’d be able to find a place to stay at this hour.
Thankfully, she took pity on me and started making phone calls to other B&Bs on my behalf. While I could tell she was speaking English to those she phoned, I had a difficult time understanding the one-sided Irish phone conversation. I chose instead to focus on her body language, which continuously suggested “no dice” for ol’ SG. At this point, I contemplated what my “worst case scenario” was, and decided I would sleep in the train station as a last resort. The lady said she would make one more phone call to a friend of hers who owned a B&B, but had recently stopped advertising and wasn’t really in business anymore. Wouldn’t you know, the friend was awake and open to the idea of helping a desperate American. I jogged down the street and checked in.
Helen had owned this B&B with her husband, Tom, for decades. While they were no longer in business, she was more than willing to accommodate me for the night. I was beyond starving as we made small talk for a while, but it would have been rude of me to cut her off and head out. Although I made it clear that I had no intention of taking a bath, she took an extraordinary amount of time to explain how the bath worked and dismissed my repeated (although courteous) inquiries as to her WiFi password. I told her my intention was to get up early, see as much of Cork as I could see in a few hours, then hop on the 12:00pm train to Limerick station, where I would meet up with Padraig’s parents (Michael and Mary Hourigan).
“Ok then,” Helen said. “What time will you have breakfast?”
“Hmmm…I’m a bit of an early bird. How about 7am?”
She laughed at this, telling me 7am was far too early for her. When I suggested 8am, she shook her head. “I’ll have Tom make you breakfast at 9. That work for ya?” At this point, I realized that a 9am breakfast was the plan all along, and was not up for negotiation. Although this would no doubt whittle my envisioned four hours of seeing Cork down to, at most, two, I didn’t see any other way to play it.
“9am sounds great, Helen. Thank you.”
I considered a jogging tour of Cork before breakfast, but I woke up sore as hell from the mountain climb and decided to sleep until breakfast. Contrary to the lackluster breakfasts I had at the hostels, Tom cooked me up a three-course Irish breakfast, entertained me with stories the whole time, and kept my coffee cup full. My two-hour tour of Cork was down to about 30 minutes. On my way out the door, I introduced Tom and Helen to the concept of a “selfie”: