Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chelsea in Waterford

Again, I am running behind on blog posts. Hopefully I can still remember details from two days ago! We woke up at Dromoland Castle Hotel near Ennis. We were due to check into our next hotel that night outside of Dublin, but there was much to do between the two places!

Since there was no breakfast included at the hotel, we packed up and headed out early. We were heading southeast to Limerick. We stopped for a couple of geocaches along the way out, but decided to limit ourselves to only looking for one every thirty minutes. Geocaching, I've found, can take a lot of time! We didn't want to spend all day caching.

Outside Limerick we found our first cache in a very old cemetery. It was insane to see all the old dates. The oldest year we could actually make out was 1811. Absolutely insane that it was over 200 years old. There were some that may have been older, but weather had rubbed the stone flat again.

We continued onwards from Limerick down towards Waterford. Along the way we needed to find lunch so I consulted Yelp and TripAdvisor; Yelp yielded nothing but TripAdvisor found a highly rated cafe in a small city called Tipperary. When we plugged in the coordinates listed on TripAdvisor, the GPS took us about 10 minutes off the main road to the middle of no where. We suspected that it was the wrong direction, but we didn't know for sure so we followed. Of course, the destination was a sheep field. -__-

We made our way back to the main road and I Googled the correct address. We made our way into Tipperary and found the cafe. Although we had to pay to park, the cafe was delicious. I had a bowl of vegetable soup and homemade brown bread. The bread was amazing; thick and hearty! I also got a smoothie for take away (to go). We took off for Waterford in hopes of arriving in time to make it on a tour of the House of Waterford Crystal before they closed.

Luckily, we got into Waterford at 3:30 and made it on a tour. I didn't have much previous knowledge of the crystal-making process, so I wasn't sure how interesting I would find the tour. We started the tour with our guide, Sean, and about half a dozen other tourists. Sean was informative but spoke incredibly slowly. It was painful to stand there and listen to without wanting to fall asleep. After we had the introduction and AV presentation, we went into the factory. Unlike the Jameson tour when we first arrived to Ireland, this tour went through a working factory. 

I certainly have much better appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes into crystal-making now. We got to see and learn about the entire process. Each piece of Waterford Crystal is handmade, with exquisite attention to detail. We got to see the workers blowing and shaping glass, as well as doing the intricate designs in painstaking detail. I took a million photos and videos! As we learned about quality control, we were able to actually smash "bad" crystal that wasn't up to Waterford's standards. It was a weird thrill to throw a wine glass into a huge bin that held shards of glass. One neat thing I learned is that they use the old glass, melted down and reblown, in the new pieces created. Good on ya, Waterford, for recycling! ;)

After the tour, which lasted about an hour, we were able to take photos with replicas of some incredible pieces that Waterford has created such as the People's Choice Award, the TCU Football Championship trophy, and other pieces. Then came the ubiquitous gift shop. While I was lusting over some gorgeous champagne flutes, there was no way I could have afforded them. I did, however, buy myself a reasonably priced ring stand. I have wanted one for a little while, and the price was right so I treated myself.

We left there and found a nearby geocache. While walking back to the car, we stopped in a gift shop on a small side street. They had the obvious souvenir-y type stuff, but they also had adorable housewares and even clothes and scarves. Now, you will probably think I'm insane, but I got myself two things: a pair of crystal earrings and a butter dish. Yes, a butter dish. Before you judge me, you should take into consideration that I have actually been wanting one ever since I moved out of my parents' house. Butter is way better room temperature when its actually spreadable, and butter dishes are a perfect solution. Couple this long-standing desire with the fact that it had mismatched BUTTONS on it (painted, not real), I really couldn't resist. The price was right, too, at 13 Euros. (I later found a plain white one at Marks and Spencer for 25 Euros!)

We left the shop and dropped our bags at the car, then indulged in a bit more geocaching at the park we were next to. We found 2 more caches then decided it was time to drive to our final hotel near Dublin, a good 2 hour drive away. We got back in the car and headed there.

Throughout the trip, I had been having a feeling that I was missing out on something in Ireland. I couldn't put my finger on it, as I was enjoying quality time with my mom, staying at very nice hotels, and relaxing a lot. On the drive to Dublin, I realized what it was. We had been staying in wonderful hotels... that were located outside of cities, and even outside of towns for the most part. We had a car, but it was still a process to get into the cities and towns and thus, I think we missed out on that authentic-Ireland feel. We didn't get to meet many locals, and only ate at places that we could find on Yelp. I think we would have had a bit different experience had we stayed in locations where we could have walked around villages or taken public transportation easily, meeting more locals and finding those hole in the wall gems that feel like your own little secret place. However, despite this, I had had a wonderful time with my mom. Most of my trips have been either solo or with a friend, so spending time with her was just a different kind of trip that I wasn't exactly used to, but was enjoying very much.

Finally we arrived at Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel south of Dublin. It was in a town, but not really near much of anything. Out of all the hotels we'd stayed at, it was probably my least favorite. Parking was a mess and the entrance wasn't clearly marked so we weren't sure where to go for a while. After we finally got checked in, no one helped us with our bags and it appeared that the only way to get to the elevators was to walk our bags through the sitting room and bar, which would have been very awkward. Additionally, there was a small set of stairs to go down before you could even access the "lifts." It was definitely not wheelchair accessible. Anyway, before bringing up our bags, we went to the room and had a rest as well as planned where to get dinner. We were tired from the long day of driving but also starving. I found a highly rated Thai restaurant on Yelp that had a deal, so we planned to go there.

We headed back down to the car and made our way there. The roads were extremely narrow and windy, and my mom missed the turn so we had to make a loop around. By the time we got there, I was ravenous. I got a yellow curry for take away and we went back to the room. We were lucky and found a parking spot near the handicapped accessible door (which was like sequestered off to the side of the building, but thankfully nearer to the elevators. We used that door to take our bags up and thereby avoided making a scene through the lobby and sitting room, etc. 

Finally in for the night, we relaxed watching the Oscars, the only thing on TV. We tried to get to bed at a decent time so we could enjoy our last real day in Ireland the next day. However, of course, I wanted to check out my new earrings I bought from the gift shop in Waterford! I got the bag from the other shop but the earrings weren’t there. I checked all the bags I brought in, then went down to the car to check to see if they had fallen out in the trunk. Nothing was there. I started to freak out, but I honestly couldn’t think of anywhere they could be. I hadn’t moved the bags much, and I didn’t have any distinct memory of taking the earrings from the store clerk. I told myself I must have forgotten them in the store. I dried up the oncoming tears, telling myself that I would call the store in the morning and figure things out. For now, I needed some sleep…


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