Hypnotized by Hibernia

Trip Start Oct 12, 2010
Trip End Mar 24, 2011

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Flag of Ireland  , County Waterford,
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What's not to love about Ireland??  Green rolling hills, incredible history and culture, the wittiest people in the world, Tim Hortons - yep, I think they've got it all!

My tour rolled out of Dublin today and hit the left side of the road (or as they are fond of saying - they drive on the correct side of the road and we North Americans drive on the right side of the road).  We drove through the Wicklow Mountains (which I think are technically hills but are majestic nonetheless) - beautiful shades of green fields and trees and about 25 million sheep. 

The first stop was St. Kevin's 6th century monastery in Glendalough.  This was quite a settlement way back when and is a popular pilgrimage spot today.  The site contains both ruins and standing structures, including a cathedral ruin, a stone church and a round tower.  Round towers are specific to Ireland and were purported to be a secure building in case of Viking raids (which were numerous) but our guide explained that they would not withstand a raid that razed an entire stone settlement to the ground and therefore were bell towers in religious communities or sites. 

Ironically, after filling our bellies in Enniscorthy, we headed in New Ross, County Wexford to tour a replica of one of the 'Famine Ships" (also known as 'Coffin Ships') that brought Irish immigrants to North America during the Potato Famine around 1847.  This interactive tour was really well done with character players depicting different passengers.  We went on board and below decks to see the appalling conditions that these emigrants experienced, with 7-10 people to a bunk and only bread and water to eat during their 6-8 week sea voyage.  It was a moving experience.  Apparently, these passengers were used mainly as ballast by the shipping companies to counterbalance the weight of the cargo they were also shipping.  Unbelievable.

The last stop of the day was in Waterford - home of Waterford Crystal but once a Viking stronghold due to its strategic location with the meeting of two rivers in this area.  It is a lovely city with a nice riverside walk along its' quays as well as beautiful cathedrals and some very fine pubs!  The Catholic Cathedral has beautiful Waterford Crystal chandeliers along the ceiling that cannot ever be reproduced, even by the company as they were made especially for this site.  We had a fantastic city guide who made the history of Waterford come alive through recreations and an impeccable storytelling talent.

Getting my lip balm out - ready to kiss the Blarney Stone tomorrow!
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