Ireland Bling: Waterford Crystal

Ireland Bling: Waterford Crystal

Before we became travelers, we only knew Waterford Crystal from our wedding registry.  We came upon some in Macy’s and noted that it was some expensive “glass”.

After having visited Ireland, we have to admit, the Ireland bling known as Waterford Crystal is hypnotic and more than just fancy glass.

We were thrilled when we learned we’d be taking a tour of the Waterford Crystal plant/showroom.

Before arriving to the factory, our tour guide, Evelyn, shared that in June 2009 the Waterford factory closed leaving tourists out of luck in seeing the famous Waterford Crystal, and many locals out of a job.  But, thankfully, in 2010, a new group took over and brought the factory back with a new improved showroom and tour experience.

Since it was our first experience, ignorance was bliss.  We thoroughly enjoyed the factory tour.  We can say that without taking the tour, we wouldn’t have really known how much work goes into one piece of crystal or just how cool these crystal pieces are.

Step one: the molding process

Step one: the molding process

Right out of the gate, we were surprised to learn that the molding process began with wood.  As you can imagine, wood molds do burn, and, so eventually the mold will be out of commission.

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The next 9 pictures are a series of photos taken in order of the journey that a piece of crystal undergoes.

The molding area

1. The Blowing Department

 

Molding in action

2. Molding in action

 

Cooling the mold

3. Blowing crystal into shape

 

Step 3: Shaping

4. Smoothing out and finessing

 

Step 4: Sanding

5. Quality inspection department smooths out the crystal

We found the Quality Inspection Department to be quite impressive.  One of the most impressive aspects about this process is if the crystal piece has any imperfections, it is destroyed and sent to be re-melted.

Marking station

6. Hand Marking Station

 

Demonstration of marking for the cutting room

7. Demonstration of hand marking waiting for the cutting department

 

Cutting

8. The Cutting Department at work

 

A cutting artist

9.  Another cutting artist at work

The artists in the cutting department were quite friendly and more than willing to share their expertise with us.  One artist, not photographed, shared his knowledge of his station’s technique with us and gave us a glimpse into his life and the journey he traveled to become such an expert craftsman.  He had been with the company for 42 years.
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Waterford Crystal Showroom

Waterford Crystal Showroom

Until visiting the factory, we never noticed that the logo of the seahorse had a clover in the tail.

 

The delight of walking the showroom – luxurious, sexy, and creative – just a few words to describe the imagery dancing before our eyes.

Inside the showroom

One look inside the Waterford showroom

 

Display inside the showroom

Another display inside the Waterford showroom

 

Inside the showroom

A gorgeous setup inside the Waterford showroom

Our purchase

Our purchase: Waterford shot glasses

Fun tidbit:  As we brought King Bombo out for a picture, another guest – not part of our group – made a beeline for where we were standing.  She was fascinated by King Bombo and thought he was part of the Waterford shot set…unfortunately, we had to break the bad news to her, but she chuckled and carried on.

If ever in Waterford, visit the factory – even if you plan to buy nothing.

Peace out,

The Franci

Trippin’ in Dublin – Food, Folklore, Fairies & Randomness

Trippin’ in Dublin – Food, Folklore, Fairies & Randomness

Dublin easily keeps a traveler busy.  While we explored Dublin, we took in an assortment of traveler’s delights.

“Some experiences we enjoyed while in Dublin included the Kilmainham Gaol, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, An Evening of Food, Folklore, and Fairies @ Brazen Head pub, Temple Bar area, St. Ann’s Church, Phoenix Park, O’Connell Street, Millennium Spire, The Bank Restaurant, Trinity College, The Book of Kells, Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours, and the Hop-On/Hop-Off Dublin Tour.”

AN EVENING OF FOOD, FOLKLORE, AND FAIRIES

This experience was by far one of the best we’ve had while traveling.  Knowing that we would learn a bit about Irish history, eat in the oldest pub in Ireland (Brazen Head est. 1198), and hear tales about fairies, we were prepared to enjoy the evening.  We weren’t prepared to be inspired.  The Brazen Head pub in itself provided an experience, but about half hour after our arrival we became part of the building’s history – one of many who enjoyed storytelling and food.

Brazen Head

The oldest pub in Ireland.

What makes this event so wonderful is the intertwining of food, music, and stories – all spread over the evening in their own time.  First, the storyteller came into the dining room to introduce himself to the guests and outlined what’s to come.  We had the privilege of spending the evening with the ever-so-wonderful storyteller Johnny.  After the introduction, we ordered our food and beverage and talked to our table-mates.  A little while later, Johnny came into the room and educated us about Irish history and how the country was affected by the Potato Famine in the mid-1800s.  Shortly after his charming history segment, we enjoyed an appetizer and continued chatting with our table-mates.

Johnny, the storyteller, mesmerized us with his knowledge of Irish history and folklore.

Johnny, our storyteller, mesmerized us with his knowledge of Irish history and folklore.

A cozy room full of charm awaits guests to enjoy its hospitality.

A cozy room full of charm awaits guests to enjoy its hospitality.

Johnny came back in as appetizers were finished and proceeded to tell us some Irish folklore, and just how deep the folklore roots grow. Immediately after the folklore laughs and entertainment, the main course arrived as well as two musicians.  Traditional Irish song burst throughout the room by the men who not only brought musical talent, but their Irish wit. Dessert and Johnny arrived to provide us with the final round of evening.  WOW, what an experience. This fine dance of food, folklore, and fairies is a MUST DO if you visit Dublin!

NOTEWORTHY DUBLIN RANDOMNESS

The famous Millennium Spire.

The famous Millennium Spire.

Easily identifiable signs - love the clover.

Easily identifiable signs – love the clover.

This type of artwork found in St. Stephen's Green is found throughout the city.

This type of artwork found in St. Stephen’s Green is also found throughout the city.

Wildlife enjoying Phoenix Park.

Wildlife enjoying Phoenix Park.

A busy shopping street - O'Connell Street

A busy shopping street – O’Connell Street

St Ann's Church - the church where Bram Stoker tied the knot.

St Ann’s Church – the church where Bram Stoker tied the knot.

St Ann's Church from the inside.

St Ann’s Church from the inside.

We do not know the name of this pastry, but it was heaven in the mouth.  If you see something that looks like it - buy it - eat it - enjoy!  You can thank us later!

We do not know the name of this pastry, but it was heaven in the mouth. If you see something that looks like it – buy it – eat it – enjoy! You can thank us later!

 

In a narrow little path we came upon Little Italy.  This mural resides on the patio of a restaurant.  The Last Supper, modern version.

In a narrow little path we came upon Little Italy. This mural resides on the patio of a restaurant. The Last Supper, Dublin version.

 

While walking the city, we came upon this art - we heart it.

While walking the city, we came upon this art – we heart it.

If you did not know, Trenquilla has a mild obsession for Tokidoki products, so naturally she needed to snap a photo of the Toki Doki location in Dublin.

If you did not know, Trenquilla has a mild obsession for Tokidoki clothing and accessories, so naturally she needed to snap a photo of the Toki doki noodle bar in Dublin.

A statue of Molly Malone resides on Grafton Street.  One of the brilliant quirks about the Irish is their ability to  give names to statues.  This one they affectionately call "The Tart With A Cart."

A statue of Molly Malone resides on Grafton Street. One of the brilliant quirks about the Irish is their ability to give names to statues. This one they affectionately call “The Tart With A Cart” OR “The Dish with the Fish” OR “The Dolly with the Trolley” OR “The Trollop with the Scallops” OR “The Flirt in the Skirt.”

It is not uncommon to see a leprechaun hanging out next to the tart with a cart.

It is not uncommon to see a leprechaun hanging out next to the tart with a cart.

Peace out,

The Franci

 

What’s next?  Blarney Castle

 

Trippin’ in Dublin – Kilmainham Gaol

Trippin’ in Dublin – Kilmainham Gaol

For many traveling to Dublin, the one MUST see location is the Guinness Storehouse.  However, for us it was the Kilmainham Gaol.  (Gaol simply means jail.)

Once upon a time, not too long ago, the jail was where many Irish rebels’ lives ended fighting for independence from British ruling and played a pivitol role in gaining independence from the British monarch.  The jail is now a museum with operating walking tours dispensing the history of this facility to the public.

Upon our 10am arrival in Dublin, we headed directly to the jail as our first experience.  NO ONE was strolling the streets.  In fact, we thought Dublin seemed like a ghost town, but apparently NOT at the Kilmainham Gaol.  We quickly learned that several tour slots had already filled up. So, we signed up for the next available slot.

How can this be?  Oh, well, we signed up for the next available...noon.

How can this be? Oh, well, we signed up for the next available…1:30 PM.

We are sure some travelers who come to see the jail find themselves out of luck.
So, if you are in Dublin and want to check this place out, arrive early or you too might be out of luck.

 

After the potato famine in 1845-1847, many Irish were not happy with the British controlling Ireland.  From the despair and anger rose a group called the Irish Republican Brotherhood.  This rebellious group found themselves in a bad situation when trying to take over major buildings in Dublin on Easter Monday of 1916, also known as the Easter Rising of 1916.  Nearly one week later, the British eventually overcame them and the group surrendered.  The men were later executed at Kilmainham Gaol. The tour gives insight to their cells and where some of them spent their final moments.

The men who were once thought of as nothing more than devious rebels became heroes in the eyes of the Irish, which turned the tide in attitude of Ireland fighting to be its own republic.  In 1921 a Civil War began between the two factions of Ireland (those who were fine with being governed by the British monarch and those who were not).  This sparked another revolution and in 1923 the Civil War came to an end and the last prisoner of Kilmainham Gaol was released in 1924, also the end of operation of the prison.

On the day we visited, it was a cold and windy day. The temperature was somewhere in the low-30 Fahrenheit range.  Walking through the corridors of the facility not only gave us a sense of what it would have been like to be held captive in Kilmainham, but it also made us realize just how poor the insulation was – it must have been a miserable fate to spend time here.

If you would like to learn more about the jail and its history, you can view the visitor’s guidebook PDF online.

Kilmainham Gaol Entrance
The entrance to the Kilmainham Gaol.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - corridor
A corridor leading from the West Wing of the prison where many famous Irish rebells were held captive.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - long view
A long view into the East Wing of the prison.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - East Wing
Rows of jail cells.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - East Wing Stairs
The main stairwell in the East Wing.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - cells
A closer look into the cells – solitaire rooms.

 

Kilmainham Gaol - Looking out
Looking across the way from the inside of the cell.

 

On a much lighter note, this location is often used for filming. Prior to leaving for Ireland, we watched one movie in particular, “In the Name of the Father,” that was filmed in the Kilmainham Gaol.  This movie utilizes the interior of the prison to the degree that it is easily recognizable when viewing.

Stay tuned for Trippin’ in Dublin – Food, Folklore, Fairies, and Randomness

Peace out,

The Franci

 

Trippin’ in Dublin – Trinity College Library

Trippin’ in Dublin – Trinity College Library

For a capital city, Dublin feels intimate. 

But make no mistake about it, once you are out exploring after 11am in the city centre, the streets fill and the crowd continues to grow into the evening.  This probably has to do with Dublin being home to the vibrant Temple Bar area, a part of the city known for its medieval streets and lively culture. According to locals, this surge of people is mostly tourists just like us.

We had a marvelous time exploring Dublin. We even considered taking in the Leprechaun Museum (we are known to visit off-beat museums: case and point – the Hammer Museum in Haines, Alaska – yes, a museum of nothing but hammers), but after reading reviews and seeing the admission price of the Leprechaun Museum, we opted to instead take a walking tour of the city and splurge on a nice lunch.

One of our favorite stops in Dublin was the Trinity College Library: The Book of Kells exhibit and The Long Room.

Besides being a gorgeous campus, Trinity College is home to the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a Latin gospel created by Celtic Monks around 800A.D. But wait.  It’s not just an old piece of gospel; it is a manuscript with detailed drawings and heavily decorated initials or lettering on calf velum.  Good news – if you can’t travel to Dublin to see this amazing book in person, you can enjoy the manuscript for free via the Trinity College Digital Collection.

The day before visiting the exhibit we passed Trinity College on numerous occasions. The campus made us smile each time we passed, simply because the cobblestone walkways and prominent 18th Century buildings provided a sense of academia. However, we prepared ourselves for disappointment when visiting the college to view the Book of Kells, worried our expectations would surpass reality.  On the day of viewing, we conquered pushy tourists eager to hog the glass box holding the Book of Kells. Upon our turn, we stood looking at the book – a dainty manuscript, but quite powerful and equally beautiful.  Unfortunately, the ‘no photography’ rule prohibited our snapping pictures, but trust us – even though only two pages are displayed, they are impressive!

After the exhibit, we headed upstairs to one of the most magnificent places we’ve had the pleasure to visit: The Long Room.  The Long Room houses more than 200,000 of the oldest books.  The library, constructed originally in the mid-eighteenth century with a flat ceiling, needed to expand in the mid-1800s because the bookshelf space had completely filled the shelves.  One of the contributing factors to this full library was in 1801 the library was entitled to a free copy of every book published in Great Britain and Ireland.  That would fill some shelves, especially with the talent coming out of these countries!  In 1860, the barrel-vaulted ceiling and upper level book space was erected.

Before you cross the threshold into the Long Room, your heart stops for a moment and “whoa” escapes your lips.  And, just like any good attraction, after taking in the sheer joy and amazement of the experience, you’re sent into the gift shop.

We learned later that the Long Room looks much like the Jedi archives in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Of course, rumor has it that Lucasfilms denied it was created with the Long Room in mind.  You be the judge!

 

FYI – If you would like to see a larger image, click on the photo. 

Just outside the Trinity College Library is the Berkley Library.  However, right outside the library is a piece of interesting artwork – a bronze apocalyptic ball, also known as “A Sphere Within a Sphere” by Arnaldo Pomodoro, or as John affectionally called it, “Post-apocalyptic Pac-man.”   Until our trip, we did not realize that there are several of these spheres around the world including the Vatican.

Outside the public library resides this art piece by Arnaldo Pomodoro called 'Sphere within a sphere', or as John affectionately called it "Post-apocalyptic Pac-man," was gifted to Dublin by the artist in 1983.

Outside the public library resides this art piece by Arnaldo Pomodoro called ‘Sphere within a sphere’, or as John affectionately called it “Post-apocalyptic Pac-man,” and was gifted to Dublin by the artist in 1983.

 

A closer look at 'Sphere within a Sphere' by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

A closer look at Pomodoro’s ‘Sphere within a Sphere’.

DUBLIN TRAVEL TIP:  Despite looking at Dublin on a map (it seems so big) and as populated as this town is, it can be explored entirely by foot.  However, taxi cabs, public buses and trams are plentiful if a traveler is weary.

What will we share next?  A Jail in Dublin.

Peace out,

The Franci