Morning panorama

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Sometime in the mid-1990s I was invited to a December wedding in Cork and I have been wanting to get back since. Life got in the way, but I am here now, enthusiastically, to spend 5 days, the last leg of my 3-city trip in the Irelands. Since arriving in Belfast I’ve been fighting off a tough cough and cold. By the third day in I was ready to turn around and head home. 6600 miles is a long way to go and come back empty handed, so after my doctor said it will clear in a week, I decided to tough it out. I am glad I did. In spite of a deep cough that scared the crap out of anybody with 50 meters of me, in spite of the drain on my energy that limited what I could do in any given day, in spite of everything else, I am still quite happy to be here and now enjoying every minute I am out on the street.

It was raining when I boarded the train to Cork. It was raining harder as I tried to hail a taxi to the hotel. I’m staying at the Mauldron South Mall, a not inexpensive hotel with no bellman to help with the luggage in the rain. My Yelp review won’t be glowing. I got to the room, unpacked, looked out the window, downpour. Looked at the weather forecast for the next few days, 70% chance of rain. Ugh. Note to self, stick chin further out.

Saturday morning I was greeted with dry streets. I ventured out early and encountered cloudy, but brightening skies. I was hopeful and then … sunshine!

Despite the weather forecast, I reveled in sunshine, puffy clouds, soft skies, all good for capturing images. There were intermittent showers, lasting twenty minutes or so, but otherwise a fine day. After walking about for an hour or so, I went in search for breakfast. If you find yourself in Cork, and want a fine breakfast in a cozy environment, Greenwich on Caroline Street is the place for you. Jazz in the background, quiet bistro atmosphere, and wonderful food. I expect it will be my go-to until I leave Cork.

 Getting the lay of the land is easy. Cork city center is a small island circled by the River Lee. It is a very walkable, mostly flat until you cross the bridges to the mainland. There is much to see, and a famous highlight of Cork is the English Market. If you have been to the Boqueria in Barcelona or the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia, you’ll get the concept. The point of pride with the English Market is that all of the produce, breads, meat and fish is local. If I had a room with a kitchen I would have bought some Irish lamb and some of the great looking produce. I did buy some olives and dried figs.  

Day two, Sunday. I like to get out early to shoot, so grabbing a little breakfast would be nice, but I didn’t find a sit-down place to eat as they do not open until 10AM on Sunday. I did find a bakery however, so a cappuccino and pastry would have to hold me over. The sacrifices I make for my art are almost incomprehensible!

Yes, the streets are fairly quiet at 7:30-ish on Sunday. So far it looks to be another good day for photography. One of the things I enjoy most about traveling outside the USA is the lack of homogenization in architecture. This seems to go for storefronts in particular. Cork is a multitude of design, color, and signage. Not all of it great, nor ugly, but for the most part, not boring. The images below give you an idea of range, from near monochromatic to tapestry. 

A lot of color

Minimal Color

Singer Sewing Building

Citizen art is a big deal here as well. While graffiti is everywhere, there are some beautiful murals as well. Some with a commercial message and others more esoteric, that means I couldn’t figure it out.

The esoteric one

A smile in Ireland usually elicits one in return, and if I have an idea for a street portrait in mind, that smile leads to a nice chat and a lovely photograph. This morning I wanted to take second pass at the English Market. I got there a few minutes before 9 AM, saw there was no one preparing to open up. Another gentleman was standing out front looking as confused as I so I started talking to him. 


Danielle was in town for the Ironman competition but found the logistics to getting there difficult, so he decided to come to the English Market. It turns out it is closed on Sunday. We got to talking about where we are from, usual tourist chat, and it turns out Danielle is Mexican, living in Dublin for the past few years, working in a Japanese restaurant. 

Awhile later I was walking around the Paul Street area, home of St Peter & Paul’s Church, a.k.a. St. Peters Cork, there is a St. Peters in Belfast as well. 

 Walking further along I heard the sounds of a tin whistle. Like one of the mice following the Pied Piper, I headed down the path by the church to meet 72 year old tin whistle busker, John Collins. 

John Collins and his tin whistle

Born in Ireland he set off to Australia when he was 18 years old. He didn’t bother to mention it to his father who was living in London at the time. He met the woman who would become his wife, lived and worked in Australia for 47 years, albeit with a tug in his heart for a return to Ireland. When he retired he talked to his wife about returning to Ireland, she being Australian wasn’t interested. Impasse. Eventually, the heart wanting what the heart wants, he moved back to Ireland without her.   

John can also sing and he has a beautiful, mellow baritone voice. I asked him why he doesn’t sing instead of playing the tin whistle. He said a number of Americans, among others, had asked the same question. I asked who gave the biggest tips and he said Americans. I suggested he give the people what they want and start singing.

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