Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Cork and Waterford, Ireland


Map picture

Today is Monday, September 12th and our ship is at sea. I waited to write about our visits to Cork on the 9th and Waterford on the 10th, because those days were a blur of activity that left little time to write. Since our departure from Waterford, the ship has been fighting a mighty duo of storms, and frankly, sitting at a table and writing was simply out of the question until today.

First, let me begin with Cork, Ireland. There we experienced one of the more memorable days of our journey. In order to explain, I first need to back up just a little. Some while back Lisa and I were sailing on the Silver Wind down the East coast of Africa, and while on that voyage, we made the acquaintance of two wonderful ladies, both from Cork-- Joyce Kingston and Patricia O’Mahony. Each owns a farm in the Cork area, and after their husbands passed away, they became acquainted and eventually best friends. On occasion they will travel together, and that is how we met them in Africa. As is sometimes the case at the end of a cruise, people exchange contact information. We did this with Joyce and Patsy, and in so doing mentioned that we had a cruise scheduled to Cork in September, 2011. They graciously invited us to visit with them when we were in the area, and I made a note of it in our trip file. When time for this cruise arrived, I found the note, but hesitated to get in contact. As many of you know, I have had several bad experiences from opening my mouth to invite people to visit “when you are in the area,” and so I did not want to be a bother to these people.

Well, imagine my surprise when out of the blue I received an e-mail from Joyce at the start of our cruise saying that she had us on her calendar for a visit to Cork on September 9th and wanted to know if we would be willing to join her and Patsy for lunch! What a wonderful surprise.

Joyce met us at the ship at 10:15 am and whisked us off across the estuary on a nearby ferry on our way to Patsy’s house. After picking up Patsy, we set out on a scenic drive through Cork’s picturesque countryside on our way to the historic town of Kinsale. Believed to have been founded by Anglo-Normans in 1177, this lovely little town has a unique character. Sadly for us, the darn weather continued to ruin our picture taking. We were being plagued by an almost constant barrage of drizzle, sometime light and sometimes “drizzling by the bucket full.” We drove around the narrow streets and saw the many interesting sights, but in the end sought refuge in a wonderful little Irish tea room known to Joyce, where we could get a good coffee and a pastry.

Home of Patsy O'Mahony, Cork, IrelandWe drove back to Patsy’s lovely home where we would have lunch, and I did manage to stand in the drizzle to grab a quick picture of her 300 year old farm house. It is of course completely modernized inside with a spanking new kitchen off the back, but it has more character than almost any place I have had to honor to visit. We started our visit with champagne served in Waterford crystal for the ladies and an Irish Jameson Whiskey for me, before proceeding to the kitchen for a wonderful lunch, accompanied by white wine and more Waterford crystal. Before we finished, Patsy’s daughter, Katherine, stopped by for a quick visit and lunch.

Patsy O'Mahony and Joyce Kingston

I will relate two quick antidotes which I found interesting. In a recent census count, it was revealed that in the local district comprising 500 homes, Patsy’s house was the only one that did not have central heating. Each room of course has a fireplace, and a hot water system was added during the remodel, but it is a very unique home. For that reason, I was fascinated by the warmth of the kitchen and enamored by the AGA Stove she used for cooking. Well, actually as I learned from a little research, it is actually a “stove/heater” having been invented in 1929, but still manufactured today. It is powered today by electricity, and is left on all the time. The stove tops are covered with very heavy insulated caps which only need to be lifted and the pot placed on the stove. Otherwise it is just the residual heat from the stove which keeps the kitchen and adjacent rooms warm. Since the climate here is typically cool and damp, it is a perfect device for the situation.

Anyway, the time came way too soon for the girls to have to drive us back to the ship, where we parted with hugs and kisses all around. All I can say is a very sincere Thank You to Joyce and Patsy for an absolutely wonderful day.

Our next visit was only 80 miles north of Cork, to the city of Waterford, Ireland. Considering the short distance, it was somewhat of a surprise that the ship actually moved overnight to Waterford. Our scheduled departure was set for 5pm, but the Captain delayed the sailing until midnight in order to spare us the discomfort of the storm that awaited us outside the harbor. It was a rough night, and once there we were supposed to anchor offshore and tender into town. However, because of the high wind and seas, our Captain once again found a way for us to enter the harbor and tie up alongside a real dock; thank goodness.

We had arranged for a private car with a driver/guide for a 4 hour tour of the area. I did not want to just see the little city of Waterford, so I had made some notes about things in the surrounding countryside that seemed to be of interest. I was completely caught off guard by what greeted us dockside. Our driver was a very jovial Irishman who had taken this “gig” as a favor to a friend of his who was taken ill. He had been doing this sort of thing since “forever” and within minutes the two of us were “chatting it up” as if we were lifelong friends. While standing there, I pulled out my little list to discuss our plans, and he laughed and said, “Let’s be getting in the car and stop wasting time here. We can be on the road and talk at the same time – we have a long day ahead.” Once inside before I could get a word out he said “I have just a few questions; do you want to spend two hours walking around a dusty old castle? And if not, then what are you looking for?” My answer to the first question was “no” and to the second, I said we loved good pictures and wanted to see the area. “Good, then that settles the day” and off we roared. Our 4 hour day turned into 5 ½ hours of pure fun. I can’t even tell you all the places we saw or photographed, but I bet there was nothing in the area we missed.

Jerpoint Abby, Thomastown, Ireland I do know that we visited the ruins of Jerpoint Abbey, which was founded C. 1160. It was a beautiful old structure and as if to tease us, the sun briefly came out to provide some good photographs, before the drizzle returned. We drove through little towns, stopped at churches along the road, crossed bridges, ended up sitting in a little pastry shop in some small town, and thoroughly enjoyed the blur of activity.

Finally he said “I have to show you the three most important things in this area, but I have waited to the end, so the crowds could clear, and in the hopes the weather would improve. First, we drove into the historic city of Kilkenny, the medieval capital of Ireland. Parking was non-existent, and so he let us off for 30 minutes to photograph the famous Kilkenny Castle, but as he said, we did well in deciding to avoid the 2 hour dusty tour of another old castle.

Kilkenny, IrelandAgain, the sun tried to peek out just long enough to tease, but quickly disappeared again in a steady drizzle. Then we drove into the town of Waterford itself. Here there were only two things to see. First was Reginald’s Tower, the earliest fortification erected in Ireland. It was pouring down rain when we got there, so we simply drove by, and checked that off the list. Lastly he insisted we go to the remaining “House of Waterford.” He said that not to do so would be like going to Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower. However, the famous Irish Crystal that is synonymous with the city of Waterford is no longer made there; in fact, it is no longer even made in Ireland, but rather in Eastern Europe. All that remains in Ireland of that legacy today is the Waterford showroom, where tourists ship out the crystal as fast as it can be packed. According to our driver, David, the labor unions had such rich contracts, that they were pricing themselves right out of work. The company did everything it could to keep the plant in Ireland, but in the end, the unions would not budge and so the company moved its facilities to Eastern Europe. I pushed Lisa though the showroom as fast as possible for fear that the buying urge would overcome her, and we departed in just a nick of time for our ship.

David refused to let us pay him for our extra time, nor for the many admissions fees he paid on our behalf. I did manage to sneak some money into his pocket, but not nearly enough for the value of the experience. Our hats are off to David – thank you!

Finally the moment arrived when we would set sail to cross the North Atlantic. All of us knew that a storm awaited us outside the harbor, and there were rumors that hurricane Katia was going to be a problem, but at least for now we were safe and waved good bye to the people dockside as we pulled away.


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