Bill and I were still laughing about the boys on the train as we walked into Kilkenny, a town that appears to have recently exploded in population. I was reminded of towns like Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which was once a rural place and eventually became very popular. Kilkenny appeared to be the kind of place that was very small for a very long time and then became busy. As we headed for the the Smithwick’s Experience, I was surprised by how many people were there, trying to get around us and/or otherwise in a rush. On the way to the beer museum, we decided to stop for lunch. We ended up at a place called Petronella, which I spotted as we were passing an alcove.
One of my favorite bits of travel advice is to pay attention to alcoves. It’s easy to find stuff if you’re on a main drag. But I have found the best places are often tucked away, and Petronella turned out to be one of those places. It was a bit of a hole in a wall, tucked away off the main road. We arrived just in time for lunch. Indeed, I think we were the first customers of the day.
Bill checks out the menu.
The first version of my lunch. I tried to make it work by switching with Bill.
Our waitress directed us to the second floor and I took a seat by the window. Right as I was noticing the piped in music on the sound system– mostly music from the 70s and 80s– a busker was warming up outside. The busker was quite a talented guy who played guitar and sang, sounding a bit like Bob Dylan if Bob Dylan could actually sing (and this is no disrespect to Mr. Dylan’s overall talents as a musician. He writes wonderful songs and plays guitar, but he is not a singer).
So, we came in and sat down… and I ordered a steak sandwich and Bill ordered the special of the day, which was a chili flavored tagliatelle. I ordered a Kilkenny beer to go with my lunch, while Bill had a glass of cabernet.
The food came… and unfortunately, my steak sandwich, which was served open faced with fries and a fried egg on top, also came with mushrooms and onions. No problem, Bill and I thought… We switched plates and I tried his dish… It, too, was loaded with mushrooms. So the waitress came up and I had to tell yet another person about my ridiculous mushroom hatred/phobia.
Bill called her over and said, “My wife can’t eat mushrooms.”
Bill’s lunch. I tried to eat that instead, but the mushrooms were awful. Otherwise, this was almost like a really nice chili mac. It was quite good and I would have loved it minus the fungus.
Rebooted steak sandwich. The potato salad was surprisingly good.
The waitress was wonderful. She quickly took the food away and had the chef make me another sandwich without ‘shrooms. She brought me a clean sandwich sans egg, onions, and mushrooms. Instead, it came with a surprisingly good potato salad. I got to tell the waitress about why I hate mushrooms so much. To make a long story short, I have a bit of a phobia. Even as I told her how I knew how ridiculous this story sounded, she was patient and understanding. And she also confessed feeling the same way about baked beans. I like to think she appreciated that I told the truth, rather than tried to tell her I’m allergic. The truth is, I am not allergic to mushrooms. They just really freak me out in a bad way.
At one point, the piped in music was a song by Bruce Springsteen circa 1985. The busker outside was playing a 90s Springsteen song. Synchronicity! (truthfully, it was a bit weird)
Petronella… in case you ever find yourself in Kilkenny.
After we had lunch, Bill and I went to the Smithwick’s Experience, which was very entertaining from the get go. We entered the beer museum and were immediately greeted by a good hearted lady who said we could use the kiosks to pick up our tickets or just talk to her. She immediately recognized my name, since I had just ordered tickets and got engraved glasses in honor of our anniversary. The lady who did the engraving personally wrapped our glasses for us and wished us a good time in Ireland.
At 2:00, we had our tour, along with several other folks. There were a couple of Irish folks on the tour, but the majority of us were Americans. An adorable lady named Ide (pronounced Eee-dah) guided us through the museum, gave us the long history of the brewery, explained the process of beer making (which Bill and I know very well), and led our tasting. Bill and I had a paddle tasting, which included several beers by Smithwick’s. We ended up chatting with a couple from Ireland who were really friendly and wanted to talk about politics!
After the tour, we walked around the town, then headed to a bar. We had to kill some time before our train, due to leave at around 7:00pm. The first bar we went to seemed geared toward hen parties. There were a couple of groups of younger women who were cackling over brews. I finally got annoyed enough to tell Bill we needed to move on to the next place, a pub affiliated with a hotel.
We stopped into the pub, which had the soccer game between Austria and Ireland playing. We sat down and started drinking local brews. A bald guy working the bar came over to talk to us. He was obviously a local and very cool. After a couple of hours, I think we became friends. And yes… there was more talk about Donald Trump.
Shots of Kilkenny…
He told us to come back if we ever made it back to Kilkenny. Somehow, I have the feeling he’ll still be there if we ever do make it back to Kilkenny. He might even remember us!