Saturday, April 7, 2007

A New Day on Maudlin Street

Ron and I have rented a house in Kilkenny, a small, vibrant city in southeast Ireland, halfway between Cork & Dublin and an hour north of Waterford. Known for a 13th century castle towering above the River Nore, the town features a medieval street plan, cobbled pedestrian passageways and 60-odd pubs (not incidental to our choice of destinations).

On the way into town we phone Sean Nolan, who owns the house. “When you get past Durrow,” he says, “Call me. It’s a bit confusing comin’ into town, I better lead you in.” Ron’s just getting used to driving on the left and dealing with rotaries, so we’re happy for the help.

Sean guides us to Maudlin Street and An La Nua (Gaelic for “A New Day”), the “cottage” where he grew up. A trim man of 40-odd years, he has a shaved head, a tattoo on his arm, and a small earring in his left ear. You can tell he’s proud of the roomy, renovated house. When we ask why his website makes it look much smaller, he says he wants to discourage hen (bachelorette) parties, whose noise would disturb the neighbors.

After showing us around the well-equipped house, Sean is out the door and we’re not far behind him, looking for our first pub supper. Walking outside, I notice the quiet street and the smell of turf, hard-packed peat moss that we’ll burn in our kitchen and parlor fireplaces.

In a few minutes we’re in the center of town. It’s Saturday night, and we’re dismayed to see hordes of rowdy 20-somethings in and around the bars, electronic music blaring. Worse, pubs on the main streets are multi-roomed and multi-leveled, not the cozy locals we hoped to call our own. We wonder if we’ve chosen the right town.


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