We were sad to leave Bansha Castle on Sunday morning, but we loaded the cars and paused outside the castle to take pictures of everyone together. It’d been a great week at the castle, and we’d created some fond memories of the place and its people. There never seems to be enough time when you’re traveling, does there?
We headed southwest to Waterford, the birthplace of Waterford Crystal. My mom organized for us to take a tour of the factory, and Sunday morning was a perfect time because we made up the majority of the tour group. The factory really gives you an appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into make each and every one of Waterford’s pieces. Even though it was Sunday morning, there were still men hard at work throughout the building.
The Waterford artisans are especially talented craftsmen, and they had trained from anywhere between eight and 40 years—all had achieved the title of “master.” The process begins in the mold-making department, where a craftsman creates wooden molds for each piece. The molds only last for 7-10 days because of the heat and pressure, so it’s a pretty much a constant process. Then, the master blower heats the crystal in a “glory hole,” a portable reheating furnace that the blower uses to reheat crystal to make it pliable, and shapes the crystal using the molds. Next, another craftsmen inspects the pieces and smoothes the edges—any piece that is not perfect is smashed and recycled at a later time.
Afterwards, another craftsman individually marks where the master cutters should cut the pieces. The master cutters use diamond-tipped saws to carefully cut each piece to the prescribed length, width and depth. The pieces are then taken to engraving and sculpting where more artisans add unique touches to the pieces as needed.
What results are some pretty incredible crystal objects, from stemware and platters to sculptures, trophies and other commissioned items. The showroom in Waterford is, of course, the company’s largest and it’s gorgeous.
We were worried about getting the rental cars back in time, so we stopped at McDonalds (not my first choice) for a quick bite. I got something called a Chicken Legend, basically a glorified chicken sandwich on Ciabatta instead of a bun.
We arrived at our new hotel, The Burlington, which I don’t highly recommend. It was in serious need of an upgrade, but apparently with Ireland’s severe economic problems the owner could barely afford to keep it running—and it was still considered on of the nicest hotels in Dublin. We all preferred the Croke Park Hotel we first stayed in.
While everyone else caught a nap, my cousin Meredith and I explored the area around our hotel, which was situated near a lovely canal.
The family headed to an Italian restaurant, DaVinci, around the corner from the hotel, for dinner at 7:30. Again, I don’t highly recommend it. It was palatable, but as my sister Annie said, “It ain’t no Italy.” I got veal scallopine with an artichoke sauce. The veal was tasty, but the potatoes that came with it tasted like something from a horse’s arse. If you don’t know, white pepper is a very pungent spice, and it literally stinks like cow manure. In culinary school I would often wonder why the kitchen smelled like a barn, and then one day I realized why. I’ll be glad to have my giant black pepper grinder in my hand, believe you me. The Irish seem to stick with white pepper on all occasions.
We stayed up and played cards and drank Jameson in the lobby until we all decided it was time for bed. We had all of Dublin to explore on Monday.
Day 10: Race Around Dublin
To conquer Dublin on our last day in the Emerald Isle, we split up into two groups—the “kids,” as we’ll be called until we start producing our own children, and the adults. My dad, of course, chose to race around with the kids because he couldn’t say no to the Guinness factory.
Our first stop was Kilmainham Goal, a former prison that’s now a museum. The prison is important to Irish history because many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and executed there by the British and later by the Irish Free State. Before Kilmainham Goal, built in 1789, prisons in Ireland consisted of only one room, so all prisoners roomed together. In an effort to keep criminals from sharing tricks of the trade and to keep disease from spreading, Kilmainham Goal was built with one-room cells and separation and silence were practiced to reform criminals. When prisoners started going insane from solitude, the prison changed its tactics and allowed inmates to work together in silence during the day. Besides political prisoners, the prison was also home to thousands of petty criminals arrested during the great Irish famine who knew they would eat better in prison then on the streets. Children as young as 5 were arrested sentenced to months in prison for stealing things like potatoes.
After all that horror and sorrow, we were ready for a pint—the Guinness factory was calling our name.
We took a tour through the factory, which wasn’t a factory at all but a Guinness museum. At the end of the tour we learned to pour a perfect pint of Guinness.
Our next stop was the Old Jameson Distillery, but we grabbed a bite near the distillery first. The Jameson distillery tour wasn’t a tour of the actual distillery either, but a walk-through of a recreation of what the distillery used to look like. My sister Annie and I volunteered to do a whiskey tasting (who wouldn’t volunteer for that?) at the end of the tour. We tasted Johnny Walker Black and Jack Daniel’s to Jameson and had to say which one was our favorite. Of course, the Jameson was everyone’s favorite. I bought my boyfriend Doug a bottle of 12-year whiskey you can only purchase at the distillery. So smooth!
Afterwards, Annie, Meredith and I hopped in cab to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells before the exhibition closed. We got there just in the knick of time, but unfortunately a busload of French high school kids showed up to ruin our peace and quiet with the gorgeous manuscript.
We walked through the shopping district on Grafton Street and through St. Stephen’s Green on our way back to the hotel. It seemed like we had literally seen everything there was to see in Dublin that day.
I returned to the hotel to find that we had no dinner reservation—the place we wanted to eat couldn’t accommodate us. That restaurant was BYOB and we had already purchased the wine for dinner that night, so I knew I had to find us another BYOB in the vicinity. Also, with the triplets’ and my birthday coming up, the restaurant had to be special. My sister Paige and I rushed around with the concierge to find a place to celebrate. On one site I came upon a little French place called Brownes Deli and Café in the Sandymount area that offered a great French menu. It doesn’t have its own website, but I found the menu here.
We all fell in love with the place upon our arrival, because the maitre’d was so welcoming and helpful. A man of French and Irish decent, he had worked in NYC for a time in the same restaurant as Anthony Bourdain (Brasserie Las Halles) when Bourdain wrote Kitchen Confidential. Can I pick ‘em or what?
This great little local restaurant offered us the best food we’d had since we’d arrived in Ireland. Even better was that there was a two-course tasting menu with a complimentary glass of wine for 20 euros per person. Several of us started with one of my personal favorites, duck confit, while other’s opted for the goat cheese salad.
Almost everyone at the table got the steak frites, and those who ordered something else were sad they did.
We finished our birthday celebration and our wine with dessert. I got Le Sticky Toffee Pudding, because I’d read so much about how great it is here in Ireland. I think it was the best of all the desserts, and I know my Aunt Margie agrees with me.
Our last night in Ireland was officially over and our vacation was about to come to an end. While the food wasn’t always fit for foodies, the incredibly hospitable Irish people and the gorgeous countryside made our stay in the Emerald Isle one of the most memorable family trips to date.