Waterford: Crystal, beaches, and beer

Our time in Waterford is over. I was working a few hours most days to cover for a vacationing colleague. This, along with the furry beasts under our care, meant that we ventured no more than about an hour away from our home base. Since the home was comfortable and spacious (designed by one of our hosts), and we were so warmly welcomed each time we returned, staying there did not cause us great suffering.

Our daily walks on the beach with the girls were a delight. Though quite chilly, we had sunny weather most of the time. What better way to start your day (after morning coffee watching the sunrise) than laughing at the antics of two dogs romping through the waves and chasing birds.

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Waterford Crystal tour

It would have seemed wrong to be in Waterford and not visit the Waterford Crystal factory, like going to London and not seeing the London Bridge. Hmmm, maybe that’s a poor example since the London Bridge hasn’t been in London for 50 years.  Perhaps, though, it is a reasonable analogy since Waterford Crystal was shut down 8 years ago, thanks to the bankruptcy of then-owner Wedgewood Group, and much of the manufacturing is done in countries such as Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Hungary.

To the great relief of Waterford residents, a new version of the company was opened later that year. Most of the work completed in the Waterford plant is custom pieces like sports trophies and other custom commissions. It takes 8 years of practice and training to become a master Waterford crystal cutter.

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Kilkenny and the Smithwick’s Experience

Our main goal for taking the 45-minute drive to Kilkenny was so Ken could check out the Smithwick’s Experience (pronounced smiddix, sort of). This tour demonstrates the process of making a traditional Irish ale using a brewery mockup rather than the real brewery, which is nearby and has been at the same location for over 300 years. The tour is followed by tastings in their pub. Ken had upgraded to a three-tasting paddle, which included Smithwick’s Red Ale (which he has enjoyed in Canada) and two new ones for him, Pale Ale and Blonde Ale. All met the Ken stamp of approval.

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The town of Kilkenny was an enjoyable one to walk through. The Kilkenny Castle sits at one end of what’s branded the Medieval Mile, and St. Canice’s Cathedral sits at the other. In between are colorful shops and several historic buildings.

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Kilkenny Castle
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A door on Matt the Millers pub

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St. Canice’s Cathedral and Round Tower
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Rothe House, built around 1600 and now a museum

Dunbrody Famine Ship in New Ross

On the recommendation of our Oliver, BC house sit homeowners,  we drove up the River Barrow to New Ross. We didn’t have much time, and it was a drizzly, blustery day, but we still joined an interpretive tour of the replica Dunbrody Famine Ship.  We learned a lot about the potato famine and its 1 million deaths and 1.5 million emigrants, and how these ships were reconfigured to transport hundreds of desperate people to what they hoped would be a better life overseas.

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Chickens and ducks

Though Ken has had some exposure to taking care of fowl, I have never been up close with the feathered critters. I learned a few things during  this house sit:

  • No matter how often you clean and fill their water buckets and pond, chickens and ducks in a dirt pen will always have muddy water to drink and bathe in.
  • Chickens put themselves to bed at dusk. If only we could figure out how to pass along this instinct to children.
  • Chickens know how to play possum. Occasionally a bird or two would stray out of the pen, and one of our dogs got quite excited and ran at the chicken. Ken found it lying on the ground, seemingly dead. While we were stressing about what to do and who to call, the chicken got itself up and wandered back into the pen.
  • Ducks are a hardy breed. On our last full day, we left the dogs outside after our beach walk so we could roll up our sleeves for the final house clean. I heard barking and couldn’t see the dogs, so went out to see what they were up to. I found them in the chicken pen, barking at a partially de-feathered duck who was lying on the ground, chickens pecking at its back. This city girl was a little upset, to say the least. We got the dogs out, the poor thing isolated and calm, and by the next day, she was waddling and quacking along with the rest, no longer being tormented by her pen mates, and showing only a little physical evidence of her ordeal.

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Reginald’s Tower

One last look at the apex of the Viking Triangle in Waterford.

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Reginald’s Tower and a Viking ship replica

TripBits

  • Smithwick’s Experience: €13 if purchased online, plus €3 to upgrade to the three-tasting paddle. If you’ll be exploring Kilkenny, check out the Medieval Mile Pass, which includes admission to the castle, Smithwick’s Experience, and several other attractions.
  • Dunbrody Famine Ship Tour: €10 per person, €8 for seniors (typically 65 in Ireland, but they tend not to specify and are quite vague when you ask, often opting to charge you the senior price just because you mentioned it).
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