We've arrived and are off and running.

Trip Start Mar 24, 2004
Trip End Apr 05, 2004

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Flag of Ireland  ,
Wednesday, April 7, 2004

This is a trip combining business with pleasure. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes we really hated the "business" part. 
Arrival at Shannon airport to a beautiful sunny morning! After defrosting the rental car windshield with our hands and trying not to look too touristy by trying to get into the wrong side of the car we are off.

First challenges are the round-a-bouts after exiting the airport. Keep reminding ourselves to look right for oncoming traffic, and remember the name of the town not the route number in which we are headed.

What happened to that 4-lane highway N16? It's suddenly turned into a lane and a half, with a curb right up against my tire! Thank God we live in the country with narrow roads or we would have been hyper ventilating when the huge truck came roaring past us.

First lesson - speed limits are non-existent. The only speed is FAST or Faster.
Second lesson there are tractors and farm vehicles driving in and around every town and on every roadway.
Third lesson - the passenger side always has the scariest view.

During the spring every roadway and town is decorated with enormous plantings of daffodils. Every fifteen minutes of driving takes you past the remains of a castle.   
Fourth lesson - getting lost going thru town seems to be easy. The round-a-bout signs must have been hit by those fast drivers and were tilted in the wrong direction so you end up on the wrong road to the wrong town.

Hardest lesson on our first day. The Irish have no sense of time or mileage. I was informed by three travel industry professionals who live in this area, that Shannon to Waterford is a mere two and a half hour drive.
Only if you are one of those fast Irish drivers, and maybe if you are not driving thru school bus or rush hour traffic. Three and a half hours later, we arrive. 
County Waterford Town: Waterford
Attractions: Waterford Crystal Visitor Centre4
Tour of the world's most famous glass maker. A video presentation explains the art of glassmaking before staring the tour. Then on to the specially constructed Millenium Ball room.  Here a replica of the 1999 New New York City Year's Eve Ball is displayed with a video presentation showing the dropping of the ball.  Then on to the heat of the furnaces as globs of molten crystal are transformed into shapes. Next is the cutting room where skilled workers manipulate the crystal against the cutting edge to create the intricate patterns. Then the opportunity to watch chandeliers being made. At the end of the tour meet master craftspeople in the Workshop and watch them perform their skills and answer your questions. Waterford guarantees that their prices are the same in the factory as in Ireland stores.   Allow at least one hour.    
Hours:  Mar-Oct Daily 8:30am last tour 4:15pm. Rest of year M-F 9am - 3:5pm Individuals 7.50, Seniors 6.50. Groups, students 3.50. Children under 12 free.
Food services: Restaurant on site. 
Attraction/rating Waterford Museum of Treasures/5 Overshadowed by Waterford Crystal Center, this 6 story, 19th century former grain store- housed museum has won numerous awards including Ireland's Museum of the Year 2003 and runner up in the European Museum of the Year. An extensive range of rare and beautiful artifacts are brought to life by a personal interactive audio-visual presentations. Original artifacts include Viking gaming pieces and combs, ancient illuminated document, elaborate royal swords and a collection of carved timber Gothic statures from Waterfords' churches. The section describing the marriage of Norman Strongbow to Irish Aoife, which took place in Waterford is convincingly presented in a three-dimensional video, and is an interesting lesson in revealing the ancient and multicultural origins of today's Irish population. The Viking exhibit, who were the founders of Waterford, is a revelation and contains many exquisite carvings in bone. Over 70 Viking houses were excavated in the city, and a short video watched from the rocking benches of a pretend ship paints an imaginative picture of these Viking settlers' and seafarers' lives.
 A good collection of pottery wine jugs from southwest France pieces of black glazed Waterford pottery, Norman arrowheads, horseshoes and household objects.The Royal Charters and elaborate swords presented by Kings of England to the mayor and city of Waterford, a huge Charter Roll, including portraits of many kings and lord mayors, A cannon of the 1490s, a sword dated 1462, and a "cap of maintenance" from 1536,Gothic sculptures from the city's once many churches and embossed tiles. There is a lot of design, artwork and scene setting at the Granary too, and occasionally the original pieces are hard to spot, such as the wonderful medieval floor tiles, which are cleverly displayed on the floor. Allow at least 1 hours.
Hours:  Apr-Sep Mon-Sat 9:30am -6:00p, Sun 11:00am -6:00pm Oct - Mar Mon-Sat 10am - 5:00pm. Sun 11:00am - 5:00pm €6 per adult, €4.50 for seniors/students  €3.20 children. 
Entertainment: Waterford Viking Show (at Waterford Treasures)
Ninety minute celebration of Waterford's Viking heritage through music, dance, storytelling, song and humor. Complementary glass of wine or soft drink before the show and opportunity to meet the cast.
Hours/rates: Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings June, July August 8:00pm  €9.00
Note: not previewed! But this sounds really interesting.
Entertainment: Waterford Show
Evening of Irish music, story, song and dance set in the ballroom of the magnificent 18th   century City Hall. Award winning show includes a pre-show glass of Baileys Liqueur. Complimentary glass of wine served in Waterford Crystal during the performance.
Hours/Rates: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday May to September  9:00pm 7:00pm
Contact 353 51 358397  Waterford Tourist Office of Waterford Crystal
Note: not previewed! I'll do this one also the next time we're back
Town: New Ross
Food services: Dunbrody Inn, 16 The Quay
Modern take on a traditional pub. Light and airy.  45 Lunch menu - sandwiches, salads and fish & chips. Although all items looked good as we glanced around at the platters the waitress was delivering, our first meal in Ireland had to be fish & chips, and for Gary, a Smethicks to go with it. We aren't disappointed. Huge platters of lightly fried Atlantic cod, surrounded by thick fries, cole slaw and mashed garlic and veggie potatoes. Best F&C I have ever eaten. The only thing missing was an ice tea. Lunch total €20
Town: New Ross
Attraction/rating: Dunbrody Heritage Ship
Funded by the JFK Trust. Full size recreation of a timber-built famine ship used for emigration to US during 1840's. View a ten-minute video of the building of the ship and the JFK legacy. Receive a copy of a "Passenger's Contract Ticket" to board the ship for a thirty minute tour.  As you sit in the "steerage" area of the ship, you meet costumed character actors/actresses who interact with the visitors as they tell of the conditions in first class (two small private cabins located near the ship's Captain) and steerage - one room of bunks and a table. These connected bunks each held six passengers (a total of 175 steerage passengers) and their belongings during the seven to nine week voyage to America.  You have time to find the bunk that corresponds with the name on your ticket.  Visit the crew's cabin (a total of 12 crew) to learn about their working conditions, pay and food rations. Near the crew's cabin is a computer area with information on over one million passengers that emigrated from Scotland, Ireland and England to the United States, Canada and Australia.   Allow at least one hour. More time is needed if tracing ancestors via computer system.   This tour brought the meaning of the famine and emigration home. Viewing the stifleling conditions the emigrants lived in during the sailing, the lack of food and sanitation. Being kept below deck. Allowed daily only a half hour time allotment to go topside to cook your food, weather permitting, or to breath fresh air made me humble. These coffin ships sailed with many of my ancestors, some arrived in America, some buried at sea. How desperate they must have been to buy passage to an unknown land.   
Hours/rates Open daily -  Individuals Adult €6.50 Senior Citizen €5.00 Child/Student € 4.00 Family €18.00
Food services: Small dining area with sandwiches and drinks.

County: Wexford
Town: Ferrycarrig
Attractions/rating: Irish National Heritage Park/5
Occupies 35 mostly wooded acres and has 16 archeological and historical reconstructions. Located in a clearing each settlement is indicative of the differing ages from 9,000 years ago to the Norman's arrival in the 12th Century. This is the number one attraction in the Southeast.
An overview of the time periods/lifestyles is contained in a 12 minute audio-visual presentation, followed by a guided tour (groups) or a self-tour for individuals. Most of the paths are stoned, packed dirt or board walks. Not all areas are handicapped accessible.
Stone age areas include the Camp Site (Hunters & Gatherers- Mesolithic Period)
Early Irish Farmhouse-Neolithic Period, Portal Tomb/Dolman.
Bronze Age displays are the Cist burial and a stone circle.
Celtic/Early Christian age includes an Ogham stone, Celtic Farm, rath/ringfort (this is very impressive), early Christian Monastery with a painted Celtic Cross, corn drying kiln, Horizontal water mill, Fulacht Fiadh (ancient cooking place), crannog (dwellings built on an artificial island), Viking shipbuilder's yard and house.    
Early Norman Period building include a Norman castle, a round tower and Norman ditch. 
Some houses/buildings have audio effects. The round tower is a fifteen minute walk from the Norman Castle. Other hiking paths are on site.
Allow a minimum of two and a half hours.
 Large gift store on site with quality clothing, books, pottery, woolens at good prices
Food services: Fulacht Fiadh Restaurant in Visitor's center. Seats 100 inside 60 outside. Lunch and dinner. Average cost for sandwiches, pork or fish dinners or traditional Irish stew with choice of 3 vegetables or salads is €8.25.

Twenty eight hours with no sleep, my energy flagging, and the realization hits my brain that we will not make the next four appointments including, Jerpoint Abbey, and the attraction that Gary has been waiting all day for, a tour of Kilkenny Castle. Too much crowded in to one long day. I believe I am just a little cranky.   I call ahead to Jerpoint Abbey in hopes Sheila is still in and will let me "jump the fence" to view the inside of the now-closed abbey. Blessed are those dedicated-to- a-cause Irish. Sheila will wait and tour the abbey with us!  I tell her we will drive as fast as possible. She replies "drive safe, no hurry". 

We back track to New Ross, then north on R700. Looks like a direct route. This too is deceiving. Rural routes are cow paths that have been paved. They curve, dip, then surprise you with beautiful scenery and small village life. The town's multicolored buildings are begging to be photographed as we drive quickly by. Next trip.
Situated in a beautiful rural valley, the abbey is now just ahead. "wow"
Town Thomastown (1 miles south)
Attraction/rating: Jerpoint Abbey
The huge ruin of Jerpoint Abbey is the finest Cisterian site in Ireland. Founded in 1160 by the Benedictine monks, this is a remarkably preserved ruin. The east window above dates from the 14th century and the magnificent central tower, the tallest of it's kind in Ireland, was added in the 15th century. In the chancel are faded wall paintings, said to be of the transcepts, bear stylized portraits of saints. The long run of the nave, where the choristers sang, was completed before 1200. Wooden steps still follow the run of the night stairs (used by the choral monks to reach the night office). Climb them to the roof. The views are the abbey's interior and the Dublin-Waterford railway line outside the abbey's land.  

The restored cloister piers carry carvings of knights and ladies, bishops, dragons, and even a man with stomach-ache, echoing the drawings found on medieval manuscripts. These are within "touching" distance. Unbelievable that these have stood thru the seasons with little damage to their details. 
The capitals are decorated with human faces, animals, grotesque beasts and flowers.  The church also contains a selection of tombs and grave slabs, including two fine effigies of ecclesiasts. The tomb of Bishop O'Dulany (d. 1202) lies in the church transept. On the chancel are faded wall paintings depicting stylized portraits of saints.
The remains of St. Nicholas, the ancient Bishop of Myra in Turkey (and the original Santa Claus) was moved to Jerpoint Abbey by Crusaders and reburied in the graveyard in a tomb marked by a broken slab decorated with the carving of a monk. Jerpoint Abbey has a small visitors' center, which has displays about the carvings at Jerpoint and other religious ruins and high crosses in the county. The well-kept cemetery that is adjacent is worth a few minutes. Old celtic cross graves and new graves decorated with flowers.
Hours/rates: Mid April/Mid June: Tuesday - Sunday: 10am to 1pm  and  2pm to 5pm Closed Mondays Mid June/End September: Daily: 9am to 6.30pm. End of September/Mid October: Daily: 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm Rates: Adults: €2.50 Child/Student: €1.25,
Our options: Drive north 17 kilometers to get a glimpse and a photo of the of the Kilkenny Castle and do a hotel inspection or drive directly to Cashel and crash at the B&B. Gary decides to "see" the Castle.  The scenery keeps me occupied and as we drive thru Bennettsbridge. I consider stopping to take a picture of my namesake bridge but dinner and a bed is foremost in my mind.

Kilkenny town is a medieval jewel! If only we were able to schedule an overnight or two here.
Town: Kilkenny
Attraction/Rating: Kilkenny Castle - Note: not previewed but I would rate it a 5! Huge 12th century castle with extensive parklands. Central block includes library, drawing room and bedrooms decorated in 1830's splendor. Also Long Gallery and Butler Art Gallery (contemporary art). Tea room in old castle kitchen during summer.
Includes a 45-minute guided tour of the Castle's central block and east wing, as well as a 15-minute film presentation outlining the history and restoration of the building. Individuals are advised to secure tickets early on the day of their visit, while groups of ten or more should pre-booked. Hours/rates: Oct - March daily 10:30am to 12:45pm & 2:00pm to 5:00pm,  April - May Daily - 10:30am to 5:00pm. June -August Daily 9:30am to 7:00pm. September Daily - 10am to 6:30pm 
Tours take place every 20 mins during July and August and take approx 45-50 Minutes.
Adult:€ 5 Senior/group(20+): €3.50 Student/child: €2 Family: €11
Groups in excess of 20 cost €3.50 per person and must be pre-booked. Closed Over Christmas and on Good Friday 
Kilkenny is a "disk parking" town. After finding a place to park, find an open store that sells the "parking ticket" which you put on your dashboard.
We decide that little procedure is just too much energy. It's time for food and bed. Unfortunately as we are driving thru Kilkenny town, one of those damn curbs grabs the front tire. Fortunately, we are aided by a wizened old Irishman with wonderful stories to tell as the guys change the tire.
Looking at the map we take rural route 693 for 29 kilometers, even though we are now going north again.  The advantage is we will be on N6 sooner. A little over an hour later we see it. Sitting high on the hillside, the golden-lit Rock of Cashel. So impressive, we pulled off the road to stare. It ranks right up there with the Roman Colleseum.  In the dark, it resembles a huge medieval castle. The buildings look complete, not in ruins.  

It is still visable  as we drive around it and through town to our B&B.
Our B&B is only a short walk to town (and of course within view of the Rock), but we wimp out and drive. Searching for food, we find an Italian restaurant open. (Cashel is pretty well closed down after 6 in the off-season we discover.) What I can remember of the restaurant: located on the northern edge of town on N6. Park on the street. Walk up a long flight of stairs. At 10:00. the place was dead. The margherita pizza was the best we have had since Italy. Then back to the B&B and down-filled bedding.     
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