Kalishman Vacation Day 1 and 2 Friday into Saturday taveling on May 23rd 2003
Like most other vacations I was burning the midnight oil at the office prior to this one starting. I had a few things at the office that just had to be taken care of before I could even start packing. It wasnít till around 2:00 am this morning that I started getting my things ready for this trip, but I was ready by the time Reesa and I had to leave for the airport and I didnít feel rushed but I sure was tired having not slept thru the night.
Security sure has changed at the airports well at least Ft Lauderdale. Not that they are better trained. They still donít know what to check out or look for or how to use the X-Ray equipment. But they really make you strip prior to going thru check point Charlie. To give you an idea of what goes on prior to getting onto the aircraft. First as always you go to ticket check in. After going thru the usual you then take your bags that are to be checked in ( Not your carry on luggage ) to security where they will be X-rayed or something of that matter which lets them look thru the exterior of the luggage. A warning is given to you by the TSC ( Is TSC short for Transit Security Cop? ) Officer that all locks are to be removed and the X-Ray process will damage all photographic film in the luggage so if you have film inside the luggage this is your last chance to remove it. It would be nice if at this station there would be some sort of table where you can open your luggage to find your film and remove it but it does not exist. Fortunately, I didnít have to worry about film so there was no need to have to take the luggage apart right there in the open.
On to the next check point. Here you will remove everything from your pockets regardless of what it is made of. Its no longer an issue about the item in your pocket being made of metal. Itís more that everything in your pockets must be up on the table. You will take off your shoes, remove all metal from your body including jewelry, and if you have a laptop in your carryon luggage you are to remove it not only from the carry on luggage but from its case as well. Now you would assume at this station you would be given a place to sit down while you take off your shoes? A bag to put your personal belongings into while on line to speed things up while waiting? . The answer HECK NO! Imagine what it is like when you get to table and trying to keep track of all your stuff, which is going thru X-Ray piece by piece. The moment you get to the small table prior to the x-ray machine, its hurry up! Keep moving! DAM! Where do you put your wallet and other stuff that was in your pockets? In your shoes! There were no baskets as in the past. I had a lot of stuff in my carry on beside the laptop. Now its all exposed Camera Stuff and accessories which were all neatly packed so that it would all fit are now haphazardly tossed onto a conveyor belt. Now guess what your still on one side of the magnetic archway and your wallet has just come out unguarded in your shoes on the other side. Itís a free for all. And the people who went thru prior to you can very easily and quickly pocket your wallet. Gone are the days when Iíd send Reesa thru first and Iíd stay behind to make sure that my bag got into the machine. In this hectic security I left my boarding pass on the table just outside check point Charlie. Luckily they ask you for this ticket several times so it was not long before I discovered it missing.
But the worst part is they still donít have any idea of what they are looking for. As always my batteries caused my computer bag to be held up. They asked once again for me to give them my computer. Heck. It wasnít even in the bag when the picture was taken. The computer was sniff tested for explosives. Then once again sent thru X-ray along with my bag in separate bins. Once again the batteries showed up. Once again they looked thru my carryon bag and yet once again X-rayed ( Three times now ) and yet still they could not figure out what the dark items were. I want to explain but they insisted that this barefoot person keep his distance from the inspectors. Eventually, they gave up. Now did they ask me what the dark objects were? NO. Did they figure it out? Not a chance! They werenít even close to touching the batteries. So what did these rocket scientists do in this instance? Well they passed the bag to me and said that I could go. Well if you want to sneak some C4 onto an airplane just make it into the shape of a square motorcycle battery and put it inside of a CD Carrying case.
Meantime, Reesa was waiting for me on the other side of the X-ray machine. She was standing there too long so they decided to go thru her bag. Inside her bag they found a small collapsible scissor. Did they spot it on the X-Ray machine? No ! It was only because of me that her bag is inspected outside of check point Charlie. Of course they got all excited over this. No joking, Iíve come to the conclusion that the only way any security person at any airport will ever find a bomb in someoneís luggage is if some one is stupid enough to have a scissor attached to it!
From there we attempted to get into one of those airport executive lounges as we had about an hour and a half o kill. Much to my surprise, my AOPA card didnít due us any good. Only once in the past has this ever failed to work and so like everyone else we sat at the terminal until the airplane was ready to leave. I was tired having been up the entire night so I used this chance to get a little shut eye. Reesa, said that I snoozed in the chair for close to an hour.
Our plane was grounded for a little over an hour on the runway due to weather conditions. For the first 45 minutes of the wait I didnít see anything to be concerned about yet we sat and sat with updates from time to time from the captain for those passengers with connecting flights not to worry as arrangements are being made. Then all of a sudden you could hear and see the water from the storm as it approached the open field. Iíd say that the amount of water, which was coming down the windows, was equal to going thru a car wash. It was one of those real Florida down pours. Meantime I was going cold turkey on my computer. While on the ground we are in take off status which means no electronics can be used.
So far. I see that Iíve goofed on two things in my packing. I somehow packed the wrong pair of reading glasses. While, I can get by without them, I can feel the eyestrain as I type up these notes. The other goof up was not leaving a light jacket out of the check in luggage to wear on the airplane. Currently Iím dressed in jeans and a Tee shirt. Now, thatís fine for someone while in Miami, but when we landed in New Yorkís JFK Airport it was in the low 50ís. I was able to blow smoke by exhaling. How do I know? Well we had to get from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4. How does one do this? Well if you take a guess and itís not by walking thru some indoor passageway. You go outside in the cold. Wait for a shuttle bus in the cold and ride in that non-heated bus in the cold until you get to the next terminal. Oh, did I mention that it was cold? Even the New Yorkers that I saw on the bus while riding were wearing coats and to New Yorkers this is May. As in warm weather.
Right now. We are on the final leg of our trip to Ireland. Iíve gotten some more sleep, and in just about 2 more hours the last leg of the 6 hour New York to Ireland airplane trip will be finished.
2 Hours Later
We arrived in Shannon Airport in exactly 5 hours and 45 minutes after take off along with our luggage and all in one piece so far so good. After exchanging some American Money for Euroís we met with the tour guide who took us to our B & B and I was really tired at this point. It was 3:00 AM Saturday morning but 8:00 AM for the Irish. We were told that the bus would come back to pick us up at 1:15 and both Reesa and I used this time for some shut eye.
At 1:15 our bus driver was back again to start our tour. Today was to be a simple day, as we would only see one sight. We were taken for about an hour bus ride to Mohar Cliffs. From what I was told prior to arriving, Mohar Cliffs is the highest point in all of Europe standing some 780 feet above sea level. What I wish that we had been told prior to leaving the B & B is that it would be very cold and very windy so that we should dress warm. I had taken a warm jacket and gloves but had left them in the room and instead only took a light weight wind breaker. The motor coach dropped off the group at the base of the 480 stairs, which lead to the top. Our job was to walk to the top of this staircase in order to get the best view and battle the elements. I was glad that it had not rained today and that the sun was out. Twice, we had to stop our climb, as the wind was stronger then we were and we could not advance forward until Mother Nature let up on her fury. The stairs were made of slate and if they had been wet it would have been impossible to make this climb and not get hurt. For the more daring that didnít mind the cold we saw some try what I would call body jacket wind surfing. They opened there coats, faced into the wind and held themselves such to act as a sail. A smile came to my face, as Iíd see them get knocked off balance and fall and roll from the wind force. These were not kids mind you but grown adults some even jumping up into the wind.
I have no idea of what the wind chill factor was but very soon after reaching the top and getting my pictures in we started back down the stair case for the Gift shop where it would be warm and were we knew we could buy something warm to drink as well. From Mohar Cliffís our group of 23 people was taken to a small Irish Pub for dinner. There was not a single other customer in the place other then our group so we were great for this business. The service was fast and we had a choice of anything on the menu as long as it was either one of two things. Fish or Irish Stew. Both, Reesa and I chose the Irish Stew, but seeing what we were served, the Irish stew looked very much like the contents of a chicken pot pie while the Fish that other people got was of a nice size, and a much better dinner choice. Reesa tried some Irish Ale; I tried a pint of Genesis. The bus driver kept taking about Genesis several times today. Now I donít consider myself an expert on beer, ale or in this case Stout but I guess to enjoy Genesis then you must have an acquired taste. It has a ticker body then Beer, itís very dark in color and has a bitter taste in my opinion. I know what I like and dislike and I have drank better things in my life. We left around 8:00 PM and now I very tired. As soon as I finish typing up these notes I too will be hitting the sack. Tomorrow we have to be up, having eaten breakfast and with bags packed ready for pick up by 8:30 am. I think Iíll need to be up by 6:00 in order to accomplish this goal.
Kalishman Vacation Day 3 Sunday May 26th 2003
It was easy getting up this morning as the 5 hour Jet Lag right now is our favor. On my own I was up at 6:00 AM Irish time. Our Host at the B & B made us a beautiful breakfast of eggs, toast, cereal, and waffles along with sausage and bacon. Don't tell anyone that I'm not even eating Kosher style these days. At 8:30 the driver came by to take us to our first stop called Bunratty Castle. The castle for an all stone structure is huge both in height and building volume but once inside a lot of space was wasted in these extra thick walls. I think there was only 14 rooms inside and of those perhaps only 4 were large enough to be of a size that a banquet hall would be. The other rooms were perhaps 10 by 10's at best. I did find how these rooms were furnished, with some very large pieces of furniture, very surprising. For the life of me I could not figure out how they got this furniture inside. Reesa and I were climbing circular stairwells as we traveled from room to room. These stair wells at best were no more then 24 inches wide and Each step at its widest point was 12 inches which then would narrow to no more then perhaps 3 inches. Every step was made of stone. Now imagine how someone would get a full size dinning room table up these stairwells. There were also full size dresser's desks and chairs and other then these stairwells there was no other entrance into the castle and the windows were only about 3 inches wide and about 5 foot tall. I can only imagine that the raw materials were brought into the room and then the furniture was constructed inside of the room. Or perhaps prior to the window being closed off the furniture was hoisted up the side and then placed inside. Afterwards the window was closed in. It's something that you would have to see on video to get an appreciation of. We toured Bunnratty Castle for about a half hour and then exited. Much to my surprise there was no gift shop at the exit where one could buy Castle Pens, Castle tee shirts, Castle post cards etc. But they did have what was called Folk Village Shops, which is a mock village of what life was like in those days. As you toured the village some of the shops was set up to sell souvenirs which I had expected above.
We then traveled to the next town going by way of Limerick. ( Like I once knew this man from Mantuckit type of Limerick ) to a place called Adare. ( Pronounced A-deer) Adare is a pretty little town with cottages that have straw thatched roofs. Our bus load of 23 was dropped off at the visitorís center to just stroll around for a while. In our travels of this town, I found a hardware store, which I had been looking for. I was in need of an Irish male electrical plug end to mate with the electric outlets here. I had made a universal adapter at home but it wasnít exactly safe to use by any UL standards. The home made adapter consisted of two parts. The first part was a 3 to 2 prong American adapter with wires soldered onto the spades. Onto the ends of those wires which are soldered onto the spades , I attached alligator clips. The second part consists of two nails with electrical tape on the ends which serves as insulation. Itís an easy adapter to use. Basically you shove the nails into the electric outlet and then attach the alligator clips to the nails and then plug your device into the standard american 3 to 2 hole prong adapter. Yeah I know the voltage is 240 volts and not 110 but I have that part under control. I just wanted something a little safer then two nails sticking out of the wall and alligator clips attached with 240 volts exposed.
From the town of Adare, we then traveled to the town of Killarney where we will be spending the next two days. By 3:30 PM we had checked into our hotel and in less then 10 minutes we were back on the street walking around. This is a lively place and I found two Internet Cafes, one, which will even let me, attach my laptop to their network.
Tonight we had a very nice buffet dinner downstairs in our hotel and afterwards we found our way into an Irish Pub with live entertainment. Kilarney is just filled with different pubs and each one has its own flavor. We chose one where the entertainment was singing Irish folkloric drinking songs. Most have the same tune. By the way, I had thought that the Finish were heavy drinkers. Well they are but they donít get drunk or loud. The Irish can really put them to shame. While the Finish tend to drink the hard stuff, they are quiet drinkers. The Irish on the other hand really know how to have a good time. The amazing thing is that today is Sunday with tomorrow being a work day and at 11:00 PM everyone was still going strong. There was a lady sitting next to me who came to this pub really equipped for drinking by bring drinking props. I donít mean this in a bad way everyone is just wanting to have a good time and very polite. I think the best way to explain this experience is like going to a movie called the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" now you would have had to experience this movie to get the full flavor but most people in the audience has seen this movie once before and the audience becomes part of the movie by bring props for different parts of the movie such as toast, lighters and rice. This lady next to me came with a green hair wig and Leprechaun hat. Well to make a story short I didnít have my camera with me but this one time was a real Kodak moment that could not be repeated. Before the evening was over I was wearing the green hair wig and Reesa the Leprechaun hat while this nice lady took pictures of us with her camera. While the people in the bar sung a song called "Sitting Drinking and Nuts". It goes to the tune of "What do you do with a drunken sailor". Mind you, I was not drunk and only had one pint of Murphyís this evening. I gave this lady one of my traveling calling cards and I do hope to hear from her.
OíKalishman Ireland Vacation Day 4 Monday May 27th 2003
I got up early this morning and thought that would send these E-mail notes back home from our hotel room but got hit with some frustration thanks to AOL. I had loaded AOL into my laptop once again prior to leaving but experienced some problems with the newer upgrade so I went back to what I knew was working of Version 4.0. I feel that all AOL is good for is the FREE one-month of service which I use every time I go on vacation. However, itís not really free when you go overseas as there is a connection charge per minute that runs about 10 cents and the hotel usually hits you up the same way for using the Hotels phone. Our hotel get 35 cents for every 5 minutes. Well to make a long story short, although I tested AOL from at home to see if I could bring up my Normal browser in the background with an AOL connection I did not test to see if Yahoo mail would work in this combination. The short of the story is that I could not surf the Internet using either Netscape or Internet Explorer 5.5. AOL sort of puts the breaks on the same way Zone Alarm locks the Internet from your personal computer. Well OK then two can play that game and if Mohamed wonít got to the mountain then Moses, will go to the mountain and Iíll surf using AOL if I have to. However, here I am with an old version of AOL in the laptop. Version 4.0 to be exact and Yahoo whom I was planning to use for Web mail does not does not recognize the old Version of AOL anymore. It looks like tonight Iíll have to walk over to the Internet shop with a floppy disk and upload it. When I get home Iíll have to upgrade the browser on this computer to AOL version 7.0, which was the last version of AOL that would still work with the Windows 95 operating system and see what happens. Yeah, my laptop is a bit on the old side.
So friends if your wondering why I have not sent you the E-mail as it happened on my trip this is the reason.
We had breakfast downstairs in our hotel. It was a nice buffet breakfast with all the fixings and choices as the day before. All that was missing would be Freedom Toast and Pancakes. By 9:00 AM we were on the motor coach once again for touring. Itís a tough job but someone has to do it. Today we were to see the Ring of Kerry. The Ring of Kerry is a 110 mile Loop around a coastal part of Ireland and was supposed to have some magnificent views but unfortunately this morning it was raining. Our bus driver suggested that we stop in about a hour at a Pub called the Red Fox for some Irish Coffee. Personally, I thought that he was joking as it was only 9:30 AM, but shortly afterwards our bus load pulled into the Red Fox Pub and as we walked thru the door better then 30 glasses were already stacked all about a ľ way filled with whiskey just waiting for the coffee to be poured into them. The first off the bus were already having and Irish Coffee and What can I say but when in Rome do as the Romans do. No if Johnny was to jump off the roof I would not jump as well. Mom, Iím sorry and I know that you bought me up never to even have a glass of soda before 11:00 AM but your son had Irish Coffee at 10 AM in the morning. It was an experience.
The group stayed in this Pub for the next half-hour before continuing on to the next stop which was a Sheep herding demonstration. I was beginning to see that this was just another add on commission by the driver and after having seen this demonstration several times in New Zealand and for FREE, Reesa and I just decided we would just walk around the gift shop and wait in the coffee shop till the demonstration was over. I was hoping while looking around in the gift shop to find an Irish Pub Song CD with the tune of "Sitting, Drinking and Nuts" which we had heard the night before. They had a few CDís and there must be an awful lot of drinking songs out there but "Sitting Drinking and Nuts" was not on any of them. It was still raining and when then group of 21 came back to the bus and every one of them was soaked. We continued our drive higher and higher up the Coastline Mountains. As we got closer the clouds got lower and the visibility got worse. Eventually, when we reached to best spot for picture taking, the driver said to the group. " Iím not even going to stop the bus, in two years I have never seen conditions as bad as this. All you will be able to see is the nose in front of your face." So on we went to the next rest stop where we watched a video of what we should have seen with our own two eyes. This brought back memories of the time Reesa and I were at Mount Rushmore and just our luck that day the mountain was fogged in as well so once again we watched a video tape of what we were supposed to see with our own two eyes.
As we continued our decent back down the mountain coastline, the clouds started to lift or we got lower and the visibility came back. We made several more picture stops along the way. We got back around 5 PM if memory serves me correctly and Reesa wanted to try calling her Mom again. Calling home is not an easy task with the phone card from home as all the phone booths belong to either one of two companies and both require that you either use their calling card or your credit card. After the experience in Mexico with buying a calling card in a bank for a phone booth that didnít exist or later giving into the phone booth system and trying to use my Credit Card which was later charged $ 15.00 for a call that never went thru, I was not about to duplicate the experience. So we walked to the Internet café to make an internet café call. It really wasnít that far away but the weather was a bit nasty. I had to go to the café anyway to send the prior E-mails which I composed. Once again Reesaís mom was not home at the time when we called.
On the way back to the hotel we bought a calling card for the phone systems that we had found here in Killarney and I hope that we will get at least another use out of the card as we continue on toward Dublin. The girl who sold us the card didnít know much about how they work and you donít get to see the card nor itís instructions until after you pay for it. What we bought was not even a plastic card. Its nothing more then a slip of paper that prints out like a cash register receipt similar to the type you get when you go thru a mechanical car wash Florida and donít get it wet as you leave the store because it is printed on some glossy fax type paper with water soluable ink. Do you want to guess how I know that?
It wasnít getting dark yet but Reesa was hungry and tonight for the first time since the trip started, we were going to be on our own. We were going to eat without being told when and were by a bus driver. It was a pleasure to feel the freedom. Now where do we eat. Silly question with todays Internet at ones finger tips. Prior to us leaving, Reesa did some research on the Internet and the Restaurant of choice was of Indian Cuisine. The place was either called House of Bombay or Bombay House. It was within walking distance from the Hotel. Actually, everything is within walking distance from the Hotel as the town is really that small. I have to say, that since our visit to Canada I have not enjoyed Indian food this good and there have been a lot of Indian restaurants that we have eaten at in-between. I had a Chicken with garlic and ginger. I think it was called Chicken Rogen Josh. Reesa had a chicken curry dish. Our food was just delicious. After dinner the night was still young but we called it a night anyway. It was early, and still daylight but both of us just wanted to retire back at the hotel room and that is exactly what we did. Iím going to get some shut eye as soon as I finish this E-mail.
OíKalishman Ireland Vacation Day 5 Tuesday May 28th 2003
Today we leave Killarney Towers Hotel and take off for Blarney but not before getting a little aggravation at check out. Iím not sure whatever possessed Reesa to check with Registration from the room but she did. According to them we made a long distance call to Dublin at 7:30 last night to the tune of about seven dollars. I have no idea of how long one can talk in this hotel for $ 7.00 but it certainly wasnít us and they were adamant that the call was ours and it came from our room. We werenít even in the room at that time as we were having dinner at the Indian Restaurant a few blocks away. Eventually the hotel called the number and it turned out to be a fax machine. Had the call posted the day before and at a time that we were in the room then I would of assumed the charge was for the few moments that I was on AOL even though it was a local call and supposed to of been free of long distance charges.
After having our breakfast, we were off to the town of Blarney, Todayís stop was first to see the Blarney Castle but more importantly, for the women there is shopping right next door at Blarney Woolen Mills as well. All the women had been told by our Bus Driver that the best buys in town were at this shopping stop and to hold off until we get there. ( Can you guess why? )
Blarney Castleís construction was a lot more impressive then Bunratty Castle although Blarney Castle was missing some minor things that some might not notice such as the upper floors to walk on and a roof to keep the rain out. Mostly you walked up the stairwells and when you got to an opening you used your imagination as to the size that the room would have been. The stairwells were wider and easier to get thru although for some reason at the very top they became much thinner. The castle had much better crowd control with Separate Stair wells for going up and down and of course at the very topÖÖÖÖROOF LEVEL or where the roof should have been is the home of the Blarney Stone which just about everyone who climbed to the top kissed to day but not yours truly. Until today I always had imagined it being slightly below ground level. NOPE! The stone is not located at or below ground level. Iíll have to find out some more information on the Internet about this stone and why people have made a tradition of kissing this stone above all others when I get home. I was surprised that the information was not readily available right there and I didnít want to act stupid asking P.J. our driver for more details. Anyway from what I have observed, there is a chapel directly below the Blarney stone, It looked to me almost as if the Blarney stone itself is part of the roof of that chapel. I have a strong suspicion there is some Catholic religious connotation connected with it. If you were in my shoes today would you still want to kiss the stone? This is what you must do.
To kiss this stone one must lay down on ones back and slide themselves downward some 100 feet above the ground to the point that your head is pointing downward so much so that your lips would be 90 degrees below and to the floor which your back is still on. I guess if you want to get into practice at home then just lay down on your bed ( stomach pointed up ) with your head hanging off the side of the bed. Now continue to move your body forward until your head touches the floor. You should now be in the correct position and remember your torso is about 100 feet above the ground level eyes wide open looking for the real wet spot on the wall where most likely, on just this day alone, hundreds have already kissed that spot already. Forget about Lipstick, SARS, Mono, trench mouth, cold germs and other such things because now youíre going to have the luck of the Irish, the gift of gab or what ever kissing the stone brings.
We then walked over to the shopping center but not prior to PJ our driver telling us to ask for raffle ticket when we buy. ( Commissions? ) He went further to say we should make sure to put down his name. Why? His story is that if we win the raffle, then he also wins a plane ticket to the United States. He is a good storyteller. Anyway Reesa tells me that she found some good bargains today. Personally, I think you can do better these days shopping E-bay on the Internet. By around 1:00 PM it was back on the bus for the next stop Waterford as in Crystal. Well, we did make a stop in an out of the way place called the Marine Pub. More, Irish Coffee more Murphyís and more commissions for our driver P.J. One of the owners sang some songs for us while we were there; he also gave us a subtle hint that he had is own personal CDís for sale and pointed them out prior to the start of the singing.
Tonight we are staying at the Faithlegg House Hotel. Itís a fairly large hotel and the food was very good. We have Ethernet connections in the room but no one here at the hotel knows how I can use my wired Ethernet card to connect. I donít know why management even bothered to have it installed in every room. Tomorrow we will be taking a tour first thing in the morning of the Waterford Crystal factory.
OíKalishman Ireland Vacation Day 6 Wednesday May 29th 2003
Once again we had a nice Irish breakfast this morning. It was buffet style as in the mornings before and once again the choice was eggs that were either sunny side up or scrambled, Canadian bacon and sausage. Missing once again was pancakes or waffles. Iím really getting tired of having eggs every morning and having them for seven days is not at all healthy.
We left the Hotel by 9:15 AM and it was a short ride to the Waterford Crystal Visitor Center Factory and Showroom. On the way there our bus driver made it a point to ask if anyone is allergic to strobe lighting as we were going to see an exact replica of the Millennium Ball that was dropped from Times Square. I never knew that you could have a reaction to strobe lighting. Personally I didnít think I was allergic, but then who knows for sure. I know that when Iím driving and see flashing lights behind me that my heart usually skips a beat. Especially if Iím doing a little more then the speed limit. Anyway, tuck this away for a Trivia question someday. It took 9 months of engineering to make the original Millennium Ball, which was dropped December 31, 1999 at Times Square. The actual ball was later disassembled and each crystal was auctioned off for charity. Every year a new ball is made. For the 2002 design, each piece of crystal had etched onto it, one of the firemanís names who died in the World Trade Center and the proceeds from the sale of each crystal piece went to the families of Americaís 911attack.
As we walked thru the doors of the Waterford Visitorís Center we saw a video tape about Waterford Crystal and then our group was escorted into a room very similar to Disney Worldís Monsanto Exhibit. There we saw a multimedia show with the highlight being the Millennium Ball. When the show ended the back doors to the room we were in opened automatically and we were suddenly standing in the actual factory watching the Waterford Crystal pieces being made. Our group was taken from one processing stage to another so that, we could follow a Waterford piece thru production much like a cooking show seen on TV. We didnít follow an actual piece but saw where it went from one processing department to another.
The first area was the actual furnace where a glob of molten crystal is removed and attached to a blowing tube.
An apprentice blower then forms a hollow ball on the end of the tube by blowing into it much like the window demoís of the blown glass that once existed on Miami Beach. The newly shaped pieced is now once again placed into the furnace. A master Blower then gives this piece its general shape. The piece is then put into a cast iron mold while still soft so that it becomes uniform, both in shape and size. The piece is then removed from the mold and blowing tube and it goes to quality control where it is checked for defects. Only 28% of the crystal will pass quality control. The rest is smashed and melted down once again. We were then taken and to the next department and shown how the piece is marked to be cut, then actually hand cut by craftsman and finally polished. The whole factory tour lasted about 45 minutes and as all normal tours end, we found ourselves in the factory showroom where one could buy anything that Waterford currently makes at retail list prices. There were no bargains to be found here. I enjoyed this tour and found it very interesting to watch and of course video. I shot 15 minutes of video here, which I will just have to edit, when I get home. This is the most video that Iíve taken in any one place so far on the trip. Looking back now at what I shot. One third of this tour I spent looking thru the lens of a camera taking pictures.
Our next stop was in the town of Kilkenny. I went to see Kilkenny Castle while most of the group including Reesa went shopping in the stores. The grounds of Kilkenny Castle are huge, as is the castle itself. I had to walk at least 1000 to 1500 feet away from the Castle in order to get the whole Castle into the viewfinder of the camera. The grounds of the Castle is a walled in meadow that was so vast I gave up in trying to walk to the ends of its grounds. The land was more then the eye could see. When I was done exploring, I met up with Reesa in the very first shop that I chanced to go into. This was lucky, as I was not expecting to find her until the bus was to leave at the designated time. This truly was lucky as there were more then just a few shops to explore and Reesa could have been anywhere in the town. Reesa walked with me into the town where other types of business could be found and I discovered another Internet café. It was there that I transmitted the past to days of my travels back home. Lately, I carry a floppy disk with me for just such a find.
The last stop for our tour today was at the Hotel in located in Dublin. We are staying at a five star place called the Towers which is one of the Jurys Doyle Hotels. Neither Reesa nor I was happy with the first room that was arranged for us. The moment I opened the room door I got hit with a tobacco smell that was like an ash tray. This room just reeked of this smell. The smell from picking up the telephone to call the front desk almost knocked me over. They apologized and gave us a non smoking room, which we were to have had in the first place, and it met our satisfaction. It was 4:30 already in the afternoon. We dropped off our bags and walked around the area a little. There wasnít much we could do, as we had to be back by 6:30 for dinner. However in short period of time we managed to find out about the bus system and made our way to store similar to a 7 Eleven where we bought an unlimited one day pass for the bus system which we will be using tomorrow and Reesa was able to call home to speak with her mom making sure all is well back home. Tomorrow we will get a half-day city tour of Dublin and then will be dropped off someplace in the center of town where we will be able to explore on our own.
OíKalishman Ireland Vacation Day 7 Wednesday May 30th 2003
It seems that in every place that we stay itís the same old breakfast. Not that it is bad but Iím really tired of Eggs, canadian bacon, sausage, mushrooms and tomatoes. Anyway after breakfast it was back on the Motor Coach for a tour of the city.
Today we are in Dublin and in this city there are some rules of the country where the driver canít wear both the hat of Tour guide and that of Driver as well. We were assigned an official city guide who just never stopped talking from the moment that she entered the bus. At every light at every turn or on the move this women had something to point out or tell us concerning her city. It was a nice hearing a different view of the city.
If one was to of done their research or brought along a guide book then they would be in a good position to make a just call as to say, in about 4 hours time we had seen a very good part of the cities highlights. There were only two stops that made as a group of 23. One was at St. Patrickís Church and just in time for the one-minute mass for the day. The church had been in this location for about 800 years and the church had seen its fair share of war and politics in that period of time. In itís history the church had been an armyís campgrounds and stables. Inside of this church is the tomb of Johnathan Swift author of Gulivarís Travels. The other stop our group made today was at Trinity College where the book of Kellís is kept. What I saw didnít get me excited. Yes, there are imprints on the page which was exposed. Yes, one has to wonder who had the skill and technology to make these tiny etchings on the page but the history of the book is nothing like seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Around 1:00 after having been given a overview of the city, our group was let loose in the center of town to wander and do as we pleased. We hit the National museum on our own and had lunch there. Afterwards, we headed to Grafton Street for shopping and what ever it had to offer. Grafton Street is similar to walking on Fishermanís Warf in San Francisco or Mallory Square in Key West or the Rumbas in Barcelona Spain. Aside from the local merchants there are also the street performers or beggars ( Depending on your perspective ) who, all seem to have a gimmick in order to make some money. Some play musical instruments, some Mime, and one brought back memories of my preteen years who was selling animals made from balloons. I donít know what the guy selling balloon animals was getting in Euroís but in my pre teenage years, had a hard time selling them for just 10 cents each. All this touring appears to be catching up with Reesa as by four in the afternoon, she wanted to head back to the hotel. It wasnít hard and we werenít too far away. About all we needed to due was get our bearings so to walk in the correct direction. We did get slightly lost in town but within a few minutes and asking one or two locals for directions we were on our way once again. Tonight we will be having Indonesian food.
Later same day.
At around 7:00 we got back on the bus once again heading into town but this time in search of the Indonesian Restaurant written up in Zagots called the "The Chameleon". The restaurant wasnít hard to find and fortunately, the night was still young. Actually, it doesnít get dark here until around 9:30 PM. The front door of the restaurant was decorated with all the awards which it had been written up for. Oddly enough the door was closed ( as in locked at dinner time ) . Was this a bad neighborhood? A sign on the outside of the door read. " Knock Hard" so we followed instructions. The door opened and a man came out and asked if we had reservations. Heck! we had gone thru this one, once before in Prague. But Reesa was tricked by the guy at the door. He guy hit her off guard and before I could say a thing Reesa said. " I didnít think it would be necessary to make reservations on a Thursday night and there is a table right there which I can see from the door". We both learned in Prague that we were not to lie but to answer the question with a question. It would have been a better response with something like "Who doesnít have a reservation on a Thursday night?" Besides a response like that is not a lie. As a result for not playing the question game properly, the man told us that the table we see is reserved for an 8:30 dinner ( It was 7:00 PM at the time ) and to come back in about 45 minutes or as they say in Ireland. " After about 3 pints." There is a standard of time which is 15 minutes to a pint. So 7 and 2 pints is 7:30. Well, we walked around for a bit, sat down at a pub, and even sat in a hotel lobby as well. 45 minutes passed quickly enough. We then returned to the restaurant, knocked on the door once again, and once again the guy made an excuse about not having a table ready and that the couple sitting at the other table which he thought would be clear by now is just not leaving. ( The table which we saw empty at 7:00 was still empty ) the man went further to say. that we should come back in about an hour. Hold on Enough is enough, this is no cheap restaurant. I donít care how good the food is but waiting yet another hour and paying top dollar is insulting. It would now be 8:45 before we would be served. So we had the gall to ask him directions on how to get to another near by restaurant which was our second choice. The man actually told us how to get there and we walked about half way down the street when suddenly there he was right behind us. He actually left his restaurant and had to do a little bit of a sprint to catch up with us. This time he had an update on the other table and told us that the table will be ready in about 10 minutes. I guess he had a sudden change of mind seeing paying customers walk and an empty table not being used. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush anyplace in the world. Anyway to make a long story short, the food was excellent, and the end of yet another very nice day.
We took one of those double DeckerCity Buses back to the hotel this evening. Like the kind you see in England.
OíKalishman Ireland Vacation Day 8 Thursday June 1st 2003
Today we are off to our final destination here in Ireland, which is the Ashford Castle passing thru the town of Galway. Our group was given one hour and three pints time to explore this town. Galway is a busy place and also a college town. We were told that 50% of the residents are under the age of 25. There is lots of traffic and lots of stores and will be the last chance of shopping in order to find items we need to bring back home with us for the family.
After leaving the bus we headed towards "Shop Street" Yes, that is the name of the street just like the name of "No Road" on Kona in Hawaii and I found this street be a lot like Grafton street in Dublin. With its street entertainers, all types of stores and no cars that travel down this street. Itís also very hectic and congested with pedestrian foot traffic. The town of Galway has a legend connected to it about the "Lynch" family. The story goes that Mayor Lynch of this town had a son who got himself in trouble and in the process a girl died. It seems that all of the Hangman suddenly disappeared from the town, as they didnít want any repercussions from having to be the one who kills the mayorís son. It turns out that the Mayor was in a bind and had to have the job to hang his own son. He chose to make the public execution from one of the windows of a near by church and tied the rope to one of the Merrils. ( A type of mansard decoration )
Some from our tour bus group went in search of this church looking for the window. One came back and said they found it another said they found the church but didnít know from which window. The story continues that because of the Mayors name, the slang expression of hanging came to be a "Lynching" I thought however it would be funnier to say, " This is where Merril Lynch got its name." ( After 7 days now, the driver is beginning to hate my comments )
Reesa and I just wandered from shop to shop and had lunch at a street side café near the water or river. The service was slow and poor but the real surprise is that the café had Bagels on the menu. This was the first time in 8 days that I saw the offering of a bagel. Breakfast bread is toast, scorns, or blood pudding. Anyway, the time passed quickly and we found ourselves rushing a sandwich and heading back to the bus. Well, the vacation is just about over. The next stop will be Ashford Castle where we will be spending the night and leaving the next morning. The castle was constructed in 1228 and has been modernized. The grounds of the castle are said to take up most of the town of Cong where it is located.
The bus driver asked our group, do you know the name of the film, which was shot here? HimmmÖ..Town of Cong. I just couldnít stop myself and blurted out "King Kong". It got a few laughs on the bus but the driver was really getting tired of my humor and said a few words about me that got Reesa upset. It wasnít politically correct on his part especially when his tip was to come the next morning. It didnít bother me a bit as I had been ragging on him the whole tour and his comment about me rolled off my back like water off a duck.
Ashford Castle is very impressive. The approach is like driving into Disney World and our driver for the first time played a different music selection over the PA system which was something other then the Irish Folkloric Classical music that we had been listening to the whole trip for the occasion. The Castle itself although huge in size, has only about 290 guestrooms or something close to that number. We were in room 208 and Iíve been waiting to say this. We have a KING size bed. Our room had a view of the lake and modernized to the point of putting a telephone in the bathroom. However the sink plumbing needed an upgrade as there was still two faucet spouts which meant either ice cold water on one side or scalding hot water on the other. Iíll never get used to filling the basin of the sink for a mixed temperature.
Although we had been riding on the bus since about eight AM this morning and had not done anything very tiring, Reesa was still tired and wanted to lay down in the room. It was currently 4:30, Our only formal black tie Dinner was to be at 7:15 and we would be leaving this place at seven AM so I took a walkabout on my own and told Reesa that Iíd be back in an hour. In that short period of time of my wondering about the grounds following foot paths from prior visitors, I found the Horse stables, a Falconry School, and the Castles Walled in gardens. When I returned to the room to pick Reesa up she got the benefit of being able to walk directly to the highlights and avoiding having to walk thru paths that would lead to no where but forest tails.
Dinner tonight was elegant, much like that of a cruise ship. We had about 4 servers for the seven of us at the table and each place setting in front of us all by itself had enough silverware to be a service for 12. Two beautiful lit candelabraís were on our table and we were eating on Irish linen. As I enjoyed dinner those two candelabraís where just egging me on to come back to the dinning room this evening wearing a white sheet from the bed and stroll thru these beautiful castle halls which are in a medieval tone, holding the candelabra in my right hand and chain in my left. I did however resist that temptation. After dinner, deep down in what was called the "Dungeon" the castle provided entertainment for us. No whips and chains, or torture equipment of any kind in the Dungeon as it had been converted into a Pub and theater. There we were to part take in music and a poetry reading. It sounded boring, but then nothing is what it sounds like. For dinner someone decided to be daring and order bubble toast and squeak. No one not even the four waiters knew what the item was on the menu. When the food came bubble toast and squeak thru process of elimination turned out to be a potato. So what the heck, we attended the music and poetry reading, as there is not much else to do in a castle when it gets dark and we could always leave early and retire to the room. Much to my surprise it was very enjoyable. Song books were passed out when we entered the room and it became an Irish folkloric sing along. Although every St Patrickís Day back in the States you only hear 3 Irish songs that come to mind. "When Irish Eyes are Smiling", Oh Danny Boy" and Thereís Whiskey in the Jar. " There are actually many more that just donít hit the charts of the United States. The sing along was nice and the poetry reading was something completely different then what I had expected. It turned out that our poet was a local actor and what the Irish would call a "Shannon" or to use our words a Storyteller. This poetry reading was like going to a musical where one moment your watching a play and then out of the blue the actors break into song. This was much the case. He went from storytelling about the piece he was about to read into song, just out of the blue but instead of singing a song he spoke the song as a poem. It was very enjoyable but the night was advancing fast. We left at 11:30, as we had to get up very early tomorrow morning. This was the first time on the trip that our bags had to be in the hall by 6:15am.
At 5:00 AM the phone by the bed went off. No one was on the phone. Moments later the phone in the bathroom went off, it rang once and stopped just like the one in the bedroom. I guess they have an automated wake up system here. About 5 minutes later the phone by the bed rang again but I was quick enough to answer it. It was nothing more then the front desk checking to make sure we were up. I knew what was coming next, so I walked to the bathroom sat on throne feeling like a real king in a castle while I waited for the phone to ring once again. Talk about class! This time I answered the phone on the throne when it rang. "City Morgue you kill we cool em." I know that if the hotel reported back to our driver what had just happened then without question he would have said, "I know exactly who that was." Itís OíKalishman.
This vacation like all others came to an end this morning. Iíll say that I enjoyed this vacation and that it lasted just the right amount of time. We said our final good byes to the friends that we made on this trip and we each went our separate ways when we reached the airport.