Michael Moynihan: 101 things to enjoy about Cork at Christmas (may not actually be 101)

Michael Moynihan: 101 things to enjoy about Cork at Christmas (may not actually be 101)

YOU shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Cork is a Christmas city. After all, the man who invented the modern idea of the holiday came to Leeside in 1858 to share his blueprint for Christmas.

As I told you last December, that year Dickens came to Cork and gave a reading from A Christmas Carol— “one of the most exquisite prose idylls in any language”, as one of my predecessors in these pages reported at the time.

No excuse, then, for not pointing out the Christmas milestones available to readers throughout the city.

1. The very approaches to the city: Nothing says you’re near Cork quite like a sign which says you’re near Cork.

Special mention to one of those signs, though, which has a place in the hearts of my household — the one on the quayside coming in from Glanmire direction, which has YAY LOL YOKES hand-written across it.

2. Places to drop into (1): This isn’t a sequential list, but if you pass the sign mentioned above your first port of call should be Cafe Gusto on Lapp’s Quay, where the two lads behind the counter make every visit a pleasure. Especially in the festive season.

3. The river: Moving in this general direction — westward through the city — makes you aware of the Lee. Flowing water being so immediately accessible isn’t something you find in every city, though you may need to travel far afield to come to that realisation. Enjoy the soothing sensation, particularly in the deep midwinter.

4. The wildlife in the river: The seals we know about, but the otters dragging fish out to eat on the riverbank? A magnificent development. Beat that, Seine or Hudson.

5. Places to drop into (2): Myo on Pope’s Quay is another gem for a winter warmer. When you stroll down past St Mary’s on the city’s northern bank it’s the obvious place to break your journey. The riverside seating is a winner.

6. The bridges: Everyone has a favourite. Your columnist’s is Shandon Bridge, though for very good reasons it is known to my acquaintances as Hartey’s Bridge (reason available on application).

7. Christmas in the Market: Yes, the Market is great any time of the year. But it seems at Christmas time there are turkeys everywhere. Turkeys hanging from every rafter, exploding up through the fountain. There must be a bylaw mandating turkeys are to be sold everywhere in the Market, including the fish stalls. And the chocolate shop.

8. Christmas in the other Market: The Marina Market has found its way into the affections of the city, particularly among those called ‘hipsters’ by my research assistants (more on this another time). This festive season should show it off and the stroll out of town is the perfect length to warm you up before you land in for a(nother) riverside experience.

9. The laneways: We take them for granted, but they exert a strong pull on the imagination. Your columnist inclines to Widderling’s Lane — which is a nice counterpoint to Hartey’s Bridge — largely because of its steep fall to the river.

10. Places to drop into (3): Idaho — the best place for waffles in Cork is this spot on Caroline St, according to the acknowledged experts in this field in my house. Reason enough, though the warm welcome extended to every visitor is another.

11. The Ferris Wheel: This contraption on the Grand Parade has become a must-visit in recent years. Even the recent arrival of Storm Barra was unable to budge it from the to-do list. Unexpected side-effect and accompanying entertainment: seeing parents argue about whose turn it is to go up with the kids this year.

12 Intersections worth visiting (1): One of the best has to be the plaza created outside the General Post Office which faces onto Oliver Plunkett St, with Pembroke St nearby trying to get in on the action. This is one of those public spaces where you’re guaranteed to meet people (guaranteed).

13. Those Robot Trees: They’re a conversation piece. I’d love to say they’ve grown on me, but I can’t. They’re robots, after all.

14. Intersections worth visiting (2): Where Christy Ring Bridge makes landfall by the Opera House you find the kind of plaza from which our southern European cousins would launch a late-night txikiteo. I think of it as a northside bridgehead on the main island.

15. Random encounters: Meeting people over Christmas in Cork is one of the great unsung pleasures. O. Henry said decades ago that the true adventurer goes forth aimless and uncalculating to meet and greet unknown fate, but O

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