Luck of the Irish? Part Three

Meandering Mandy
6 min readDec 16, 2023

On Monday morning, we boarded a bus and rode on the wrong side, I mean left side, of the road to the south of Dublin. It was fun to see the countryside and the highways on our way to Kilkenny. Once in Kilkenny, we were given a few hours of free time in which David and I walked to Kilkenny Castle and purchased tickets to walk inside. We were going to explore the castle with another couple, but they had to put their items in a locker and decided to go at a different pace, so we split up. The Kilkenny Castle was originally built in 1195, and it was beautiful! I am glad we were able to see it!

We then walked through the small village, grabbed a quick lunch at a café, and then found our way to Smithwick’s, a brewery that has made red ale since the 1700’s. We went on a brewery tour, and I sampled Rockshore Apple Cider, which is made by Guinness. I believe Guinness now owns Smithwick’s? Who knows! I loved the cider! Unfortunately, I cannot find it sold in the United States, which is quite disappointing! Both the Guinness and the Smithwick’s tours were included in the overall Ireland tour price. I could have just done with the Guinness tour. It was a bit much to have two brewery tours two days in a row.

Next, we walked to our hotel which was across the river from the Kilkenny Castle. We put away our luggage and split up on our own for dinner. David and I ate at a restaurant called Left Bank, a former bank. The waitress seemed a bit put off that we did not want to order alcohol with our meal, but we just wanted water after having drank at the Smithwick’s tour. (Oh, did you know that the ‘w’ is silent when you say Smithwick’s? Well, now you do!) At Left Bank, I ordered a chicken sandwich, and David ordered their signature burger. It wasn’t the best food, but we didn’t have time to find a better restaurant, and Kilkenny is pretty small, so there weren’t too many options.

We then walked back to our hotel across the river and boarded our bus to go to a bar in a very small village. Side note — what is the difference between a bar and a pub? Apparently, pubs offer food, and bars focus on alcohol. Okay, back to our travels — This was an extra excursion that if we wanted to participate, we had to pay Euros to our group leader. There were several of these extra excursions throughout the trip that were not initially included in the tour. The bar was quite a small village and the bar closed down specifically for us and another EF tour. It was nice knowing that we were with like-minded travel individuals, so I felt safe. The only locals there were the employees and the singer; we had a good experience even thought we didn’t get to interact much with the locals. We each got a drink, and we could buy more if we wanted to. David gave his drink to one of our travel mates because he wasn’t feeling the best and had already drank at Smithwick’s earlier that day.

We were taken outside of the bar where there was a large grassy field, where we learned more about the Irish sport of hurling. I had heard of hurling once before. I had heard about it briefly from a college student I advised who said he had joined the college hurling team, but it was not an official sports team affiliated with the university. Instead, it was a club sport. I had thought it was like lacrosse. I believe I looked it up on the Internet briefly and then returned to work. But here in the Irish countryside, I learned more about the sport and how it was played. The object of the game is to hit a ball between your teammates with a wooden stick and get the ball between the opponent’s goalposts. The ball can be kicked, held in your hands, or slapped with your hands, but with restrictions. The only protection that players wear is a plastic helmet! The wooden sticks are quite heavy-duty, so I am surprised they don’t wear more protection! Oh and a hurling pitch (field) is larger than a rugby pitch, so there is quite a lot of running! I remember walking by a statue of hurlers in Kilkenny by the river!

After trying our hand at knocking the ball around with clubs, we went inside to listen to a live singer, drink, and be merry. It was a bit warm and crowded inside, so David and I went outside to the picnic tables and talked with the group members from our EF tour group, as well as with the young adults from the other EF tour group who was sharing the bar and hurling excursion with us. Some of the girls from the other group started playing a card game, and my group leader nudged me to join them. I am grateful that Julia did that because I think she could tell that I wanted to join, but was too shy to do so, so she found a way to get me to join their group. They were playing Dutch Blitz, which it turns out, is very similar to the card game, Nerts!

I love playing Nerts! Nerts can be described like a competitive version of Solitaire. I learned how to play Nerts in college at a Relay for Life event. It was one of those events where you had to have someone walking from your group for a full 24 hours or overnight or something like that. While we were waiting while others were walking (I do not ever remember walking myself, so maybe there was no walking?), a friend taught me and others how to play Nerts. I instantly fell in love with the game, and I taught my family how to play when I went home from college. My family and I have been playing Nerts for over 10 years!

Okay, back to Ireland — I played Dutch Blitz with travelers that I had just met on a picnic table in the middle of the Irish countryside while shivering due to the cold weather. I did win a few games, and I had a blast! We then had to board our bus to take us back to the Kilkenny River Court Hotel across the river from the Kilkenny Castle.

Later that night, I woke up to a horrendous sound. I thought, “Thank goodness David and I are not heavy drinkers! Poor guy!,” referring to what I thought was a fellow travel mate from a nearby hotel room. Boy, was I wrong! As I became more conscious, the sound was coming closer and louder. Oh no, the sound of someone vomiting was coming from my own hotel room’s bathroom. I rushed over to find David getting sick…



Meandering Mandy

Hello! I am a young woman living in Indiana who loves to travel and share my stories with the world!