Day 10 / Thursday, 20 September 2012
I woke up around midnight with extreme congestion and problems breathing; I spent the rest of the night dozing, sitting up, as lying flat made it too difficult to breathe. I was awake every couple hours and knew I would have to see a doctor as soon as possible.
You see, this time last year, when I returned from a trip to California with a cold that became pneumonia, I noticed a pattern: every time I’d been on a plane since 2006 (about a dozen flights), I’d gotten a severe respiratory illness. It started with bronchitis, and these bouts got continually worse. I’d been diagnosed with pneumonia twice already.
The next morning I asked the innkeeper about a walk-in clinic; as it turns out, Kilkenny doesn’t have one. But there was a doctor’s office just a block away; an easy walk, he said. “I’ll call for you.” And while we sat in his cheerful dining room and ate his wonderful breakfast, he called and made me an appointment.
Jill and Alli headed off into town while Margaret and I lingered over a pot of tea until it was time to walk to the doctor’s office. Thank goodness it was downhill; I was in terrible shape. Thank goodness, too, it was just another block to Kilkenny Castle, which sits right across from the city center. I encouraged Margaret to go on down to the castle and take the tour without me (I’d been in 2003), since the doctor’s waiting room was packed (and with sick people! ha!) and I figured I’d be there for awhile. I told her I’d meet her at the Kilkenny Design Centre afterwards.
I have a wonderful guidebook I bought at Kilkenny Castle the first time I visited. It has three drawings that show how the medieval castle evolved from the time it was built in 1195 (the previous castle, a tower house built by Strongbow, was a wooden structure), through the seventeenth century as a Restoration chateau, to the Victorian country house it became in the nineteenth century. This is the aspect preserved in the castle now. Fascinating stuff, really.
The first stone castle was square with towers at each corner; three of these survive today. In 1391 ownership of the castle was transferred to James Butler, third Earl of Ormonde, and the Butlers continued to occupy the castle until 1935. Like the home we saw in Celbridge, Kilkenny Castle has a magnificent long gallery that should not be missed. (A long gallery—in which all the family portraits were hung—is roughly equivalent to our hallway hung with family photos. Only a lot fancier!) Admission to the castle is by tour only, and if you get the chance, I highly recommend it. If you’re the sort of person who is charmed by such things, it is very castle-y. 🙂
As it turns out, Jill and Alli did get a chance to see the castle grounds, so you can see this spectacular building even though I didn’t this time.
In the meantime, I was at the clinic. The doctor listened to my respiratory history and to my lungs; the right lung, he said, was almost full: “You have pneumonia.” This explained so much: my lack of energy and my shortness of breath. It wasn’t good news, exactly, but at least I now had access to drugs. 🙂 I was prescribed antibiotics and low-dose steroids.
I figured Margaret was still on the tour (as it turns out, she wasn’t, and we missed each other) so I walked past the castle into town (High Street) to the chemist (every step was like I was dragging a boat anchor) to fill the prescription. Then I needed to take the pills with food, so I made my way back toward the castle, where I’d seen a little farmers’ market arrayed along the outer wall.
I found a stall that was serving sandwiches, and sat down on a bench to catch my breath, eat, and phone Gerry, while I kept my eyes peeled for Margaret. I didn’t see her, but Jill and Alli walked by, with groceries, to have a picnic on the castle grounds.
After a while, I crossed the street to the Design Centre, which is absolutely one of my favorite places to shop. (It occupies the buildings that were once the stables of Kilkenny Castle.) I spent two hours there, working my way through the various shops … very slowly. Every ten minutes or so I went out and sat in the courtyard to rest.
Eventually I concluded I must have missed Margaret, and began to walk back up the hill toward our B&B. It took awhile. You no doubt would have walked it in five minutes without any problem; it’s not that steep and not that far. But it took me about twenty minutes. One interesting sight I passed along the way was St. James’s Asylum.
But it wasn’t for crazy people, this asylum. No, it was an almshouse—for the poor. The building was constructed in 1805, endowed by James Switsir. It’s been refurbished and converted to what looked like condos.
Finally I made it all the way back and found Margaret. While she read, I took a nice nap to recover from my (ahem) big day. At 6:30 we went out for dinner—I called a cab to take us the short distance because I didn’t have the energy to walk it; “Don’t laugh,” I said to the dispatcher—to the café at the Design Centre. Actually, after hours the café becomes the “Evening Restaurant,” and it’s a posh/modern oasis in this very old building. We caught their early bird special too.
The food was spectacular. Everything is cooked on site and sourced from local suppliers. I had vegetable soup, beef and Guinness stew (and, as the menu states, “each table will be served a bowl of seasonal vegetables”), and apple tart.
The same taxi returned to get us and carry us “home” and to bed. Whew. It wasn’t the best day I’ve ever had in Ireland, but what can you do? Keep putting one foot in front of the other, that’s what. Slowly.
Irish table service is extremely slow. I don’t want my meal to be rushed but I don’t necessarily want to take three hours to eat a three-course meal and I really don’t want to wait thirty minutes for a check, which happened here and several other places on our trip. Margaret and I finally concluded that as Yanks we must not be giving the right signals to the server. Perhaps we have to specifically ask for the check? In the States, the server will bring the check and just leave it. No one interprets this as a subtle suggestion to move on, but I wonder if that’s what’s at play here. We never asked for the tab; we expected it to arrive.