Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Friday, September 19, 2003 Blarney Castle & Waterford Crystal

We had an early start this morning; up at 6:15 am; luggage out in the hall and at breakfast by 7:15 am. By 8:15 am we were in the bus and rolling. We didn’t have far to drive but Bernard wanted to beat the crowds to Blarney Castle outside of Cork. We were able to walk the 176 steps up to the top without stopping. By the time we were down the crowds were increasing. It’s said that a two-hour wait is not unusual. Phil hit his head as we started up the steep, winding stone steps. Nasty gash resulted. But we all managed to “get the gift of gab” by kissing the “Blarney” stone. On the way back over the bridges to the bus, we toss a coin or two for the reward of returning someday to Ireland.

Our next stop was the Blarney Woolen Mills; the largest of the outlets for Waterford Crystal. Waterford is price protected so you pay the same worldwide; the price difference would be shipping. We found a small duck for ourselves; Mary bought a small covered dish for our sister Betty. Barbara found her bathroom chandelier but since the price was the same at home, she elected to purchase at home and not have to worry about breakage during shipping. Jim found a wax cap to replace the one he left in a restaurant in Austria in 2001; we knew where he’d left it on Sunday evening but we were unable to retrieve it before we had to leave town. It was Monday morning and the restaurant was closed until Tuesday afternoon. Now he has another one. He’d purchased the one he’d lost on our trip to England in 1997.

After a brief lunch we were back in the bus and off by 12:30 pm for a two hour drive for a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory in Waterford. Weather today started off early with bright sunshine. We were up in the hills and could look down over the valley full of early morning mist. Then it became stormy to the point that we took umbrellas with us for the walk up Blarney Castle. By the time we were back on the bus the sun was out again even though the skies were still quite cloudy.

The Waterford Crystal Factory in Waterford was very interesting. We were able to see an actual working day with the blowers, the Cutters and the Engravers. Each is very specialized and requires different lengths of apprenticeship over a number of years. No seconds are allowed, all flawed items are broken and the glass is recycled. The store was chocked full of items to purchase and also displays of their trophy items. Our tour started with a wonderful slide show and a display of the ball made for the 2000 New Year’s Eve celebration in New York. Very impressive!

It was raining as we left the factory; me thinks we have seen the last of our Irish sunshine. Arrived at the hotel (without elevators) and found that we were on the 4th floor; a nice walk except when we had our hand luggage. Luggage sorted and in the room we hurried back to the bus for a short trip out to Cheekpoint, a small village in the countryside; for an Irish Pub experience.

We enjoyed the Maggie Butler Pub with music by Enon, Diane and their son Jimmy. We had a pint of Guinness and enjoyed an hour of traditional Irish music. Bernard even joined the group as a fourth with “spoons” on one song. With everyone in good spirits we had a fast and noisy trip back to the hotel…lots of Irish songs were sung by the group!

Dinner was ready so we went straight into the dining room; raincoats and all! Some enjoyed the downstairs Talent Show in the Hotel Pub that lasted until after 2 am. Most of us headed for our rooms and a nights sleep. Pity the ones located above the bar; the music was going till at least 2 am. We heard conversations next door about 3 am, but otherwise it was a good night’s sleep for us.

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