Monday, September 7, 2015


How shall I best relate the events of our Saturday morning...  We had our breakfast (finishing the last precious drops of our Aldi smoothie) and then decided to head back to Aldi to pick up some fruit and crackers so we could have a picnic lunch for the day.  We returned to our hostel car park and attempted to leave, only to find out that we might not be able to get out.  I thought there was a possibility we could fit, so decided we should at least try.  Please excuse my diagram, but it is my only hope of you understanding what I'm trying to relay.
*not to scale*
We were parked in a walled-in carpark, of course, the most direct route out was a bust because the car beside us had not back into their space completely.  This entire story is about inches.  I couldn't make the left hand turn to get past them and with all my inching along and trying to get my car perpendicular to my original position made me afraid I wouldn't be able to get back into my spot to try and turn right.  I did manage to get back into the starting position so I could try to back out of the car park.  Poor Heather was not having much luck guiding me out, and thankfully a German couple saw our troubles through the window and told the manager.  They were at the very back of the car park and were afraid they would soon be in the same predicament.  Since we'd not registered our cars with the hostel, there was nothing the manager could do because he didn't know to whom all the cars belonged.  Thankfully the German man was excellent at guiding me and with an inch (no exaggeration) I managed to squeeze past car #2 so I could back out.  The German woman thought for sure I was going to hit car #2, and to be honest I'm rather surprised we didn't.  What an ordeal, but God sent that couple just in time.  With our daily dose of excitement out of the way we headed to The House of Waterford Crystal.

Heather had really wanted to visit, and to be honest, I would have been content to skip it and never give it another thought; but it was her trip, so we went.  I'm so glad we did, because it turned out to be an incredibly fascinating visit.  I was beyond impressed with the process, it is a true art to create the pieces they do: 95% are created completely by hand!  We did the factory tour, and our guide, Naomi, was lovely; she did a fantastic job explaining everything.  They have been manufacturing crystal for 200 years and are world famous for it.  The crystal is hand-blown and we were able to follow the process, watching every step (except the marking department, which wasn't operating that day).
Each of their craftsmen has trained for a minimum of
eight years to master their craft.
"Waterford Crystal is one of the few companies today, which still practises the ancient craft of mould making. Very little has changed in this craft over the centuries. Wooden moulds and hand tools are used by our Master Blowers to shape the molten crystal.  The wooden moulds and hand tools are made from beech and pear wood, which are a smooth wood, which has a high tolerance to heat. Even so, due to the searing heat of the crystal these moulds have a relatively short life span of approximately 7-10 days."
Their crystal is inspected after each stage of production, and if the crystal doesn't pass their quality standards at any one of the 6 stringent inspections it is rejected, smashed and sent back to the furnace for re-melting.
The majority of the patterns (i.e. non-specialty pieces) do not have
the pattern marked onto the pieces, just a grid, so the cutters
must have about 150 different patterns memorized!
 They make lots of the golf tournament trophies, the People's Choice Awards trophies, tennis awards, and special commission pieces as well.
9/11 Memorial Piece -- "In remembrance of Fr. Mychal Judge who
was one of the 343 FDNY, 37 PAPD & 23 NYPD officers who lost
their lives on September 11th 2001 while trying to save others.
This piece is dedicated to all the rescue workers."
When they make special commission pieces they usually make 5-6 copies, so many of the pieces we saw were the extra copies.  I'd really like to visit the 9/11 Memorial in NYC to see the original one, it's been awhile since I visited the memorial there.

Our next stop was Hook Lighthouse, the world's oldest operational lighthouse.  The lighthouse has been in place for over 800 years, and "according to tradition, the monks from Dubhán’s monastery erected the first fire beacon to warn seafarers to keep away from the dangerous rocks."  They have a list of the lighthouse keepers going all the way back to 1810, the year the tower was handed over to the Corporation for Preserving & Improving the Port of Dublin.  Don't be confused on the geography though, Hook Peninsula is almost 200 km south of Dublin.
We were able to take a tour, which allowed us to go up to the top.  Along the way we learned that the lantern has been lit using a coal fire, whale oil, gas, and eventually electricity.  The light and fog horn were automated in 1996 and the light keepers departed after almost 800 years.  We had a lovely day for our tour and were able to see quite far, with beautiful views of the water.

We'd enjoyed our picnic lunch on the tables they had out in the yard while waiting for our tour to start, so once the tour was finished we headed north on our way back to Dublin.  Since we had time, I decided we should stop in Bray on our way past.  We stopped, and I really didn't recognize anything.  If it weren't for the cross on top of the hill, I wouldn't have known for sure we were even in the correct town!  I asked a couple different people about Kate's (a pub we'd visited when I'd been in Bray back in 2007), but they didn't know.  The one girl, who seemed a bit young, said that many places went out of business with the economic downturn in 2008 and never reopened, so it's possible it had closed.  After wandering around town for a bit we decided we'd just finish the final drive on up to Dublin and call it a day.  And thus ended our journey. Sioban took good care of us, we drove nearly 1,000 km on our journey around Ireland.
lighthouse (noun)

1.  a  tower   or other structure displaying  or flashing a very bright light for the guidance  of ships  in avoiding  dangerous areas, in following certain routes, etc.

2.  Either of two cylindrical metal towers placed forward on the forecastle of the main deck of a sailing ship, to house the port and starboard running lights.