Friday, July 17, 2015

A Fairly Fabulous Friday

After our night at Anna Marie's house we headed south-east with our first stop being Cahir Castle (it's pronounced "care").  It was a very nice castle, not too big and not too small, plus it was on the water.  The staff were very helpful and informative as well.
Once the stronghold of the powerful Butler family, the castle retains its impressive keep, tower, and much of its original defensive structure. It is one of Ireland's largest and best preserved castles. It is situated on a rocky island on the River Suir. 
From there we hopped back into Sioban and were on the road for Kilkenny Castle. Kilkenny was a lovely town and the castle there was impeccable, quite possibly my favorite.  It has existed for over eight centuries, so with the many additions and alterations it has plenty of architectural variety.  They also have a huge park surrounding the castle, complete with a wall and gates!

 The castle has been refurbished in a faithful recreation of the furnishing style of the 1800's.  Sadly, we weren't able to take any photos inside.  They were able to exactly replicate or reuse a stunning amount of original materials, I found it all very impressive.  They found a fabric remnant behind a skirting board and the French silk poplin on the was was able to be reproduced in its original pattern and color by a firm in France.  They even found the original receipt for the carpet in the library, and they were able to trace the original company who had retained the design records!

For lunch we stumbled upon a place called Uncle Sam's.  They made the pizza fresh, in front of you, and the pizza maker had an Italian accent :)  Excellent pizza, so I would definitely recommend a visit (and according to TripAdvisor they also have great burgers and chips).  After our pizza we headed back through castle's park and then we were off to Waterford for a visit to the SS Dunbrody Emigrant Ship: "a unique insight into the bravery and fortitude with which Irish people faced up to a desperate situation".
an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel

Our tour guide Jason was really funny and made the tour very enjoyable, despite the sad information we'd come to learn.  It was a bit disheartening to see the conditions these people endured and to hear the stories that forced them into such a situation.  Many were basically kicked off the island and put on a ship by the owners of the land they farmed.  Most of them had never seen the ocean, nor heard of "America" and had no other choice but to leave.  "In 1845 potato blight killed the staple crop of the Irish tenant farmers. This economic blow was exacerbated by the disinterest, and outright hostility, towards Ireland by British politicians. Due to the inaction of Westminster, famine ensued. Within seven years, 1 million people had died and 1.5 million had emigrated. A new pattern of mass emigration was in place, and would continue for a century and a half."  Because JFK was the son of Irish immigrants, and Wexford County is where his family came from (you can also visit their former homestead), they love him here: his picture is all over the place, as is a life-size statue of him.

In addition to the ship tour they also have the Irish America Hall of Fame; since the attraction is located in Wexford County where JFK's family came from (he also visited), it seems fitting. "The Hall of Fame commemorates the critical contribution of Irish men and women to US history, as well as acknowledging the continuing contribution of contemporary Irish-Americans. Each year the Hall of Fame inducts new members; most recently Donald Keough, Michael Flatley and Maureen O'Hare."

After checking into our hostel in Waterford we wanted to find another activity, but apparently there's nothing to do in Waterford (or if there was, we didn't find it).  We walked around town a bit and then ended up in Aldi.  Call us crazy, but we kind of enjoyed our trip to the grocery store.  We bought Jive candy bars (they're kind of like a Twix), and I even found an off-brand of Weet-Bix (I was incredibly excited about that - I ate a similar breakfast cereal in Australia all the time).
Canned Hot Dogs, is that really what they think we eat?!
 We also got this fruit smoothie, it was incredible and we were both saddened that our Aldi back home doesn't carry such a treat.  We took our purchases down to the river and sat on a bench in the sun.  Some local kiddos were sitting not far from us and surely thought we were crazy - with our random purchases drinking smoothie from the carton...

Emigrate (verb – used without object)

1.  to leave one country or region to settle in another; migrate:

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