Thursday, 29 November 2012

The English Market

into the bowels of the city
Since the good people of Cork gave the Queen a tour of the Old English Market everyone is beating a path to Cork to walk in her footsteps. Some of you might know that a previous Queen of England had a fondness for the people of Cork when they proved themselves her loyal subjects by rising up in her favour against a rebellion. She christened them "my little rebels". So Cork is often called the Rebel county-not because they were mad for independence (don't believe that "Peoples Republic of Cork " stuff that they are always banging on about) but because they were loyal subjects of the crown. Anyway whats a few hundred years and some bad judgement? we forgive you Cork people.

I decided to grace the people of Cork with a visit a few weekends ago. With my husband and two mothers in tow we headed for the pretty village of Blarney where my poor brother lives surrounded on all sides by crazy cork people.Mind you he does seem to really love them and finds them extremely witty and amusing. My favourite Cork person is Frances from Kanturk who rears my organic Christmas Turkeys. She is universally cheerful and addresses everyone as "dotee" in her sweet Cork accent. Even her turkeys adore her, following her around the field and pecking at her coat to get her attention! She loves them back -O how she ever manages to take them for slaughtering I will never know. Luckily by the time I get them they are plucked and ready for the oven, I don't think I could look a turkey in the eye before cooking it-even if it is dead!

a delectable assortment of fresh breads
feast your eyes jams and jellies galore

So on a cold but fine sunny Saturday we took the two Marys down Cork city and into the depths of the English Market. Most hilariously my mother in law (veteran "Hello!" reader) wanted to meet the fishmonger that had amused the queen with a joke about some ugly fish called the "mother in law fish". Most likely the Queen was laughing out of politeness being quite unable to deschiper a word the Corkonian was saying. I had a similar experience in Wales where three attempts to get information from a welsh man at a train station resulted in me being no wiser in the end than at the beginning, just considerably embarrassed(and I think the welsh train man was too). Maybe he couldn't understand a word I said either! Anyway the fishmonger man himself was no-where to be seen but the fishmongers stall he owns was doing a roaring trade and the walls behind the counter had huge pictures of .....yes you guessed it, the fishmonger and the queen sharing a joke (or laughing politely but not having a clue what the other was saying). They are not called cute Cork hoors for nothing- what a brilliant marketing strategy! That satisfied the two Marys, and on we went.

wonderful displays of delicious veg
Charming stall holders pry cash from Mary & Mary
What always strikes me about Cork is the great bustle of people out on the streets, lounging in coffee houses and warming seats at the interesting and odd bars and clubs scattered around the town. The English Market is no different, a heaving mass of people mostly shopping for unusual and interesting foods, organic supplies, fresh meats and of course fresh fish. Add to that mix a nice assortment of cafes, chocolate stalls, hot foods and sundries and you have the perfect recipe for an indoor market that is conveniently right in the heart of the city. Do I sound like I'm on the PR trail for them? I don't think they need the help!!!

Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas...
all you have to do is look and you feel yourself getting fatter!

Cork city is a funny place and it's history is a complex mix of old English settlement after the Norman invasion layed down over a Christian founded town and a viking port. Over the centuries it has attracted an eclectic bunch making for a nice blend of people and a geography that is not unlike San Francisco with all is ridiculous hills. Even Lance Armstrong ( a man who knew how to get turbo charged) refused to go up one of the cities famous steep hills during an Irish leg of a Tour de France!

the farmgate cafe looks down on the quirky fountain
out on the street Christmas is in full swing (the goats belong to Bothar)

It's a very pleasant afternoon if you have the time and can afford to wander around aimlessly for a while. The market building dates from 1862 ( the original market charter from 1610) and was called the English Market to differentiate it from an Irish Market called St Peters Market. Since St Peter is long gone and is now replaced by the beautiful Bodega (pub, cafe, restaurant and nightclub all in one!) on Cornmarket Street that seemed a fitting place to finish the day.

The sun sets over the city after a wonderful day out

check out the English Market here

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