Monday, September 7, 1998
My Birthday! Today I am 32 years old (single, debt free, and loving every minute of it!!!! Wahooo!). After breakfast I talked with Ann, the hostess. She allowed me to fill my water-bottle from a bucket of spring water that her husband brings each day from somewhere (I would guess a spring). Our first stop today was the Irish National Heritage Park, just one mile away. In fact, we tried to arrange it so that we were staying in the town of the first place we intended on seeing the next day. With only one or two exceptions we were able to achieve this each day.
Arriving at the INHP as it opened we watched the video. It seems that everyplace you go in Ireland includes a video. Some of these were interesting, some were a waste of time (especially when they were too long). We then joined the guided tour that last nearly two hours. The INHP is huge. It includes reconstructions of various structures from different periods of Irish history from the prehistoric to the 1600s. If you go the guided tour is a must. Without the tour the site would be extremely boring. Our tour guide was one of the most interesting tour guides that I have ever had the fortune of hearing. He had a wonderful sense of humor and involved many of the children on the tour with his presentations.
At the end of the tour the only part of the INHP that we had not visited was a reconstructed Norman Castle and Round Tower at the top of a nearby hill. Jody and Sallie decided to visit it while Mom and I made our way back to the gift shop.
When everyone finally made it back to the car, we left for Waterford by way of the East Passage Car Ferry. This was the first time that Jody had ever been on a ferry so this was a small treat. Once we reached the far shore we soon found ourselves in downtown Waterford. Having no idea where the Waterford Crystal Factory was located we pulled over to the curb where the following conversation took place between Sallie and two men on the sidewalk:
Sallie, "Do you know where the Waterford Crystal Factory is located?"
Men in unison, "Sure, take a left at the light and down that road."
Sallie, "How far down the road?"
Men in unison, "Oh, about halfway."
And they were right. The Waterford Crystal Factory was located halfway down the road. Waterford was interesting but I'm not sure how much I would recommend it to others. While I didn't mind the cost of the tour, the tour itself was very rushed. At each stop you barely had time to watch the processes of blowing, cutting, and engraving the crystal. There were many posters throughout the factory explaining different processes but you weren't allowed time to read any of them. Beyond that, what you could see was fascinating. I now see why crystal is so expensive due to the labor intensity involved.
We were shown many magnificent and expensive pieces of Waterford Crystal. Of course, the tour ended where all tours end, in the gift shop. The difference is that you could easily mortgage your house and still need more money to afford some of the items in this gift shop. Without a doubt you will not find a larger variety of Waterford Crystal available for sale anywhere. However, after checking all across the country there was no "factory" discount. In fact the duty free prices at the airport were the same as that at the factory. The best place to buy Waterford Crystal is at one of the Blarney Woolen Mills shops. These sneaky people give customers a general 10% discount on their merchandise thus getting around Waterford's contracted prices.
While in the gift shop we ran into the group of ladies that we had been talking with in Chicago while waiting to board the plane. This happened on several occasions where we would encounter the same people in different places around the country. This is not so coincidental in that we were all tourist and going to the same places.
From Waterford I called Cashel to find a B&B. Since we trying to avoid paying an en suite supplement I had to make four or five calls. I actually spent £6 ($9 USD) in telephone charges to avoid paying the £8 supplement. In this case I am glad we did. We got two rooms at the Thornbrook House B&B which was one of the three nicest we stayed in on the trip. But I am getting ahead of myself.
We left Waterford and after driving five or six miles I realized we were on the wrong road. We were heading for Cork on N25 instead of towards Cashel on the N24. Pulling out my trusty Michelin Map I found a small side road that would take us to the road that we should have been on. Making a quick turn we soon found ourselves on a beautiful small country road passing through quaint villages and many old ruins of churches and castles.
With nary a problem we soon found ourselves in Cashel at the Thornbrook House B&B. We were each greeted by our hostess, Mary, with a kiss on the cheek. While this was one of the three nicest B&Bs that we stayed in, it was definitely the most beautiful. The house was immaculate and filled will antiques. The sitting room had 8 antique clocks and the dining room contained 7 antique clocks. And Mary was a nice as could be. If you find yourself in Cashel book a room at Thornbrook.
Mary recommended a restaurant downtown and we soon found ourselves sitting around a table at Hannigan's Pub enjoying my birthday dinner which Sallie graciously bought. I ordered a Shrimp Cocktail, my first Guinness in Ireland, and Chicken Kiev. Some thoughts on the meal. Irish Cocktail Sauce is equivalent to McDonald's Secret Sauce (not so secret anymore it seems). I even saw it for sale in a grocery store. This was often the case. We would order food with one thing in mind only to receive something very different.
A word about salt. Ireland's salt is unsalty. I don't use much salt at home but I found myself drowning my food with salt just to get any salty flavor at all. That is enough about salt.
Sallie spoke with the waitresses and I soon found myself with a piece of birthday Rhubarb Pie with a candle in the middle. The meal was excellent. Afterwards, Sallie and Jody wanted to walk back to the B&B (about 3/4 mile in the rain) so Mom and I headed back on our own.
Once it got dark, we drove back down the road to a pull-off where you could view the Rock of Cashel which is lit with different color floodlights at night. While the view was lovely the weather had gotten worse. The wind was blowing and the rain had increased. Back at the B&B we talked awhile with the other guest before retiring to bed. All in all my 32nd Birthday was wonderful.