Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Emerald Shores of Ireland - Part 18

The Emerald Shores of Ireland
A trip journalby David Bowers
Part 18

After a nice relaxing lunch, we went to find the gift shop, we headed outside where a slight rain was starting. At first, we headed the wrong way and into the hotel, before they directed us to go the other way, and the gift shop is next door to the pub. We noted the bus was open, meaning we were in the final 90 minutes, but that meant we could drop off our Blarney Castle photos before heading in to shop. The shop contained three floors of shopping, first we wanted to stop at the foreign exchange window for Bob, but that person was out for a bit, so we looked around the shop. It was much the same as the one in Bunratty, except with a bit more of everything. We headed to the Waterford Crystal department, we both wanted to bring a piece of Waterford home with us, but also didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. I know, inexpensive Waterford is an oxymoron, but we decided to have a look.

Ireland  Cork

Before we left home, Bob had looked through their catalog and thought that he would get a nice nativity set he saw for about $65, but when we looked in the store the nativiy set they had on display was larger and went for €160, which is $240, more than either of us wanted to spend. We took a look around and while everything was very pretty, it was also mostly out of our range, except for some maybe a single glass or serving piece from some of their less expensive lines. We were still looking around, when I spotted the bargain table, with some very generous savings. We looked around the bargain table, and Bob spotted a Madonna sculpture for around €50 and I spotted a standing Kells Cross for about €80. These were prices we could live with, and for pieces that we thought were very pretty. We found a salesclerk and the deal was about to get even better. She asked where we were from, and we indicated the United States, and then she said that if we have it shipped, we don't have to deal with the tax rebate process, as the shipping order would be sufficient evidence. Once she took the VAT off of my cross, the new price was €60, which is $90, which is half off its catalog list price. Of course, I lost most of the cost savings back to the shipping and insurance charges but I'd much rather not have to deal with toting it around the rest of the trip. Bob also had his purchase shipped home, so we were soon walking out of the Waterford Crystal department with our very expensive pink pieces of paper.

Ireland  Cork - Heineken brewery

We went back to the foreign exchange window and Bob was able to get a $100 bill changed into Euro, At first he was only going to change like $60 but the cashier said there is no change in dollars, if we give her a $100 bill, we get the entire bill changed to Euros. We continued shopping, Bob wanted to get a new hat in the traditional Irish style, so we consulted the store directory and headed up one floor to the men's department. We looked through several hat racks before we found the style he wanted, and then once we determined his head size and found a pattern he liked. About €22 later, Bob had a new hat.

Ireland  Cork

We were heading out of the store when I took a look in the Guinness department, I originally wanted some Guinness bar glasses, but I didn't see those, I did pick up a Guinness bar towel and coaster set for about €5. We then left the store, confident in the thought that unless we see something really special, our shopping for the trip is done. We noted we still had about 30 minutes left until departure, so we stopped off in Christy's Pub for a pint of Guinness. Refreshing and it took just enough time for us to head out and join the others boarding the bus.

Ireland  Cork - bus station

We next departed Blarney and headed to Cork, where we would be staying the night, it's not a long drive at all, according to the guide the tour company sent it was just about 6 miles. Cork is an important port town, and Jerry mentioned the names of some big multinational businesses that are located in or around Cork. We approached Cork in an area that is mixed with industrial looking buildings as well as some church steeples visible above them. Oddly enough, one of the buildings we would pass is a Heinken brewery, I thought that belonged in Holland, but outside it was proudly flying both its Irish and corporate flags. We took a short city tour passing by the famed Metropole hotel, a barber shop, labeled a grooming parlor. The still functioning barber pole and the descriptions of services on the window gives it away. I noted they still advertise "Hot Towel Shaves" We passed through a bigger than average city, for Ireland, said to be its second largest city. Amongst the buildings I noted one building that looked to be a Casino, (complete with artwork on the outside depicting casino games, and another was a combination diner and tenpin bowling alley. We crossed over the Lee River that runs right through the middle of town, which makes for a really neat setting. Right about where we crossed is the Cork bus station, and we wound up having to drive around the block three times upon arrival at our hotel, getting a good look at the customs house in Cork each time, as well as the offices of the Irish Examiner, and a billboard depicting hurlers. On that nore, Jerry mentioned to us that as expected, Kilkenny did defeat Waterford in the All Ireland final they day before. One one lap around the block we saw a Coor's Light truck and thought that looked out of place.

Ireland  Cork - ad showing hurlers

We finally stopped when they arranged to have us park blocking an alley adjacent to Jury's Inn, part of the same chain we stayed at in Galway. We were happy the rain held off long enough for us to get inside and collect our keys off the reception counter as has become the custom. We took the elevator up to the third floor, opened up our room, and found out we had a spectacular view of the Lee River and the shops and the like on the other side. Not much to say about the room itself, except it was based on the same floor plan as the other Jury's Inn, right down to the same bathroom furnishings. It's back to the body wash for us, it would appear. I noted we would not have to worry about people getting in through the adjoining room, because not only was the adjoining room door locked, but it was blocked by the bench which was now holding my suitcase. We got our carry on bags repacked with the days purchases, and awaited the arrival of our luggage. We had just gotten freshened up, and just when you think it would be a nice time to take a walk, the rain starts pouring down, hard.

Ireland  Cork - view from our room at Jury's Inn

We go down to the hotel restaurant for dinner, and in truth I'm not feeling all that hungry. I noted that unless they had a hidden dining room somewhere else, I think we took up the entire restaurant. The places were set with heavy placemats at each seat, about the size of a mouse pad. We waited, and waited for the bartender to come around taking drink orders, but they never did make it to our table, I solved that problem as the bar was just on the other side of the restaurant. I walked over and fetched our drinks, following the lead of some others in our group. For my dinner I selected the melon salad, and for the main course I decided to go with the vegetarian option, which was angel hair pasta in a marinara sauce with grated cheese. When it arrived I noted that they follow the Italian method of applying just enough sauce to turn the pasta orange and have the tomato flavor, but not enough where there are pools of sauce. It was a very generous bowl of pasta, but I was a bit dismayed that we did not get the mixed vegetables or potatoes with it. I had a bowl of ice cream for desert which was much like our Neapolitan in that it includes strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate, except that instead of being mixed together they were three separate dips in own bowl.

Ireland  Cork - Guinness at Jury's Inn

After dinner, we asked at the bar about getting some ice for our room, and the barman first gets out an ice bucket which would be too much just for us, so we ask him about something smaller, so he takes a pint beer glass and fills that for us. Perfect. size for us to split, only problem is he used a Carlsberg beer glass, had he used a Guinness glass, it may have gotten lost. We returned the room, and I did the evening chores of putting the camera on its charger, checking the weather, yep still pouring down. Some news and baths and all that good stuff, and it was time for bed.

Ireland - Jurys Inn Cork

Day 8 - Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today, we had to get up, put bags out in hall and all that before heading back to the restaurant for breakfast. I did remember to return the beer glass to the pub before falling into line for the buffet. While waiting for the buffet to open I snagged a paper from the stack waiting at the head of the line, the Irish Independent. I like how they have both the traditional style paper with different sections, or a magazine like version, where its all in one big book. I grabbed the magazine like version for ease of handling. We headed down the buffet line and picked up the traditional Irish breakfast, with the food options being pretty similar to the Galway Jury's Inn. What was particularly interesting was the coffee machine. It was one of these brew a cup at a time machines where you press the button for what you want, all the way from hot water, to coffee, hot chocolate, cappachino, latte, etc. I went with the Café Mocha button, and soon the machine prepared and dispensed a cup of Mocha into my waiting coffee cup. We finished breakfast, headed back upstairs to get our things, then back to the lobby to check out and wait. It was still raining so we weren't eager to walk outside. The bus pulled up on the river side of the street, so we had to cross the street, and that was when I noticed the sides of the hotel looked ivy covered, nice touch I also liked how they do have water rescue equipment alongside the Lee river, just in case something were to go wrong. Today, the seat rotation program put us in seat 7, which is right in back of the rear stairwell and exit. As I noted before, these are still on right hand side of the bus, or on the opposite side of the bus than the front door, and I also noted the restroom is at the bottom of the rear stairs right next to the back door. That must be awful cramped, and the sink for it is at the top of the stairs. We headed out and with the rain streaming on the windows, I realized this would not be a good morning for photos, but then the rain stoped, and the sun dried the water off the windows.

Ireland - Beer Taps (Jurys Inn Cork)

Ireland - Jurys Inn Cork

On our way to Waterford, we passed by a Renault dealer, and here I thought they were long out of business. Jerry noted we were heading into County Wateford, who had just lost the All Ireland final. This quickly became apparent by the number of white and blue flags posted nearly everywhere in the county, alongside streets, on houses and businesses, with big signs wishing the team support at the major intersections and roundabouts. One house even had their front lawn decorated up as a hurling pitch, and here I thought we went crazy for sports. It was a bit of a drive to Waterford but it was also a good drive to rest through. About an hour or so later, we arrived at the Waterford Crystal factory. Jerry explained we would have a fully guided fatory tour here, some time to shop the factory store, and that by the time all that is done, we may as well have lunch here as well. Before the tour, though he allowed us to go into the visitors center for a rest stop, and we could look around before being back on the bus in about 15 minutes to begin the tour. The visitors center has, as you might expect, a gallery of their finest work including some of the trophies they have made for major sporting events, a grandfather clock made out of crystal, and a big harp, the symbol of Ireland made out of crystal. Another display in the visitors center is a bronze statue of a glass blower, under which are vials of the sand and other raw materials they use, a miniature wood mold and even a miniature oven. Nearing our tour time, we exited the visitors center to wait out on the porch. I note they were proudly displaying the US Flag in their flag display.

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Factory

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Factory

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Factory

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Factory

Typically one would board a bus at the visitor's center and be bussed back to the factory, but since we are a coach tour, and have our own bus, our assigned guides board our bus and we use that to get back to the factory tour. On the way to the tour they give us the big welcome, and let us know that camera usage is okay for about 95% of the tour, and they encourage us to take as many photos and video as we'd like, all photo restrictions would be made clear as we went along. Some safety notices about how we are going to be walking through a live factory environment, so be sure to stay with the group, stay on the designated tourist trail, and don't touch anything. Any pieces you see lying about may not be properly finished and may still have some sharp edges. It was explained that we would be split into two groups for a better tour, and that the split would occur after the orientation video in the auditorium. On the drive back our guide tells us about how they make glass from sand right here in the factory, and along the driveway back to the factory they have pictures of various flags, with a welcome message next to each one in the appropriate language. It should be noted that several coaches and tour groups were lining up to go back to the factory. It's a very practical approach, they bus you to the far back of the factory, and during the tour you work your way back towards the front. They advised you might want to take an umbrella as we would have to walk outside between the factory and the visitors center.

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Factory

Ireland - Waterford Crystal Company - factory tour

We enter the factory through a set of automatic doors and into a fancy hallway with more crystal on display. This hallway serves as a waiting area until you are admitted to the auditorium. This part is like an amusement park experience where automatic doors open to admit you into the room. It was noted the screen was located above the doors we are entering, so we should walk to the back of the room, turn around and face the screen. There were some seats in the far back provided, then the doors closed, the lights went out, and the movie started. The movie was essentially a PR video that did more to inspire us to live a finer life with Waterford Crystal than it was about showing how the product is made. It did win a few points for being a special format movie shown on three screens with the two side screens being set at an angle to the main screen. The octagonal shape of the room was employed to help with this. After the video a different set of doors open and we were led into the factory, in the first section there were two wooden walls so we could not see into this area, and it directed us to where they wanted us. In this area they split us into two groups, assigned group leaders, and then the first group took off for the tour while we waited a few moments in the hall.


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