Everyday Life in Cork
Since the third week of the semester, I’ve been finding myself calling Cork home. During trips around Europe, I’ll find myself saying, “This is cool, but it isn’t like home,” and when I return to my dorm in Cork, I’ll flop down on my bed and think, “Man, it’s good to be home.” I finally know my way to my two favorite grocery stores, the best chocolate cafe, the biggest department store, and the cute boiled sweet shop. Instead of scrambling around the city with Google Maps open and at the ready, I wander down the alleys and across the bridges, familiar now with so much of the area.
I grew up in a small town and moved to a campus the size of two city blocks for college. When I first arrived in Cork, I was skeptical about feeling comfortable in a place that had nightclubs, restaurants, and department stores around every corner. At first I was overwhelmed, but now it feels natural. I walk across the river to University College Cork, past the college to the handful of cafes on the river, and past the kebab, pizza, and burger restaurants (that’s many restaurants that all sell all three of those things) to the heart of the city. About a half-hour walk from my flat, I can find a Lidl, which is where I buy my groceries. My groceries, which include a lot of produce and protein, rack up a bill of barely 20 euro a week, where in the States the equivalent groceries could easily cost twice as much.
But often when I head into the city, it’s to shop, wander, or go out for the evening. Penney’s, my new favorite store, has Wal-Mart priced but much higher quality clothes, which made it perfect for me to find weather-appropriate clothes when the rain and wind came. Butler’s, a chocolate cafe founded in Dublin, has a small storefront right across from Penney’s, where I love to order a dark hot chocolate on blustery days. A block down from there is the Olde Sweet Shoppe. I’ve found candy stores to be a very common establishment in both Ireland and Scotland, full of gummies and fudge and boiled sweets. I often go to the one in Cork with a friend of mine and get 3 euros-worth of pick-your-own gummies, which just seem better here than any gummies I’ve had in the States. I would say I’ve unashamedly started a very thorough candy tour of Ireland, and it’s far from over.
Nights out in Cork range from quiet and chill to crowded and crazy. For my traditional Irish music class, I go to different out-of-the-way pubs to listen to live music with a glass of Orchard Thieves (which is by far the best cider I’ve ever had). Similarly, I often go out to a late dinner with a group of friends and enjoy some pints by a fireplace or across a polished bar. But Tuesdays and Thursdays are the nights to party. Irish students often go back to their parents’ homes over the weekends, so instead of Fridays and Saturdays being crazy, it’s a couple nights smack in the middle of the school week. The streets become flooded with taxis and college students, with nightclub neons flashing on either side. Though the nights out are amazing, they are never complete without late-night curry chips from one of the many shops that specifically stay open extra late on these extra busy nights.
In Cork I’ve never felt alone and I always feel safe. I’ve become accustomed to this city and the many experiences and adventures it offers every day. I can now walk, take a bus, ride a train, or fly to any place in Europe, but it’s always good to come back home to Cork.