Crystal Clear: the Hope Chest

Today we dropped anchor in Dunmore East, Ireland. The bright sunrise woke me before 7 am and I was able to watch the ship cruise into the picturesque harbour. Passing the worlds oldest functioning lighthouse, the ship settles calmly overlooking bright green pastures and majestic rocky cliffs. It’s the perfect cover photo for a romance novel. The harbour is quiet with the exception of the tender craft being dropped from the ship.

I venture to the pick up spot for our tender tickets. It’s always a bit dodgy trying to get thousands of people off the ship onto small bobbing life boats and into shore. So the cruise lines invent methods to ease the crowd control. Nice try. It’s always a bit of a gong show and today was no exception. There was a bulging line up when our number was called but once the lube started to move it was very quick. I was impressed. As we waited in the tender, I wondered what the hold up was. Why were we not pulling away from the ship. Then, in a flurry of activity, several people appeared on an exterior elevator at the side of the ship. There was medical personnel and several orderlies. And a bundled up woman with an oxygen tank in a wheelchair. The elevator stopped and the entourage rolled off and into our tender. The woman looked exhausted and her husband was disheveled and confused looking. Once they were aboard our tender left. They were the first to exit after the 3 minute ride and an ambulance with staff was waiting. Very sad to watch.

We all disembark and we walk off the pier and into the little town (sleepy seaside village). We are to meet our taxi at 11 am at The Ocean Hotel. There are NO Ubers anywhere in Ireland. We take the opportunity to stroll the village and check out the views. No disappointments here. Quaint thatch roofed cottages, ivy, painted doors and narrow cobbled streets. It takes us a few passes to realize one of the small colourful buildings is the hotel. Definitely not our vision of hotel! Teaching us, yet again, not to assume. We meet a familiar couple from the ship and as we chat our driver (Paul) appears.

Paul confirms our destination in Waterford about 30 minutes away. He chats brightly with us about the lush green countryside and let’s us know there’s about 3 million people in Ireland. I think there’s more people in the GTA!! No wonder there’s such beautiful scenic vistas as we drive: rolling hills dotted with livestock, charming country homes and lots of greenery!

When we arrive in Waterford, Paul drops us in front of the Waterford Crystal Factory and lets us know he will collect us at half three (3:30 pm). I pre-booked an Epic Viking Tour and Waterford Crystal tour. The Viking walking tour was scheduled for noon; we had about an hour to spare so we did a brief stroll around marvelling at the obvious historical old town and we stopped for a quick pre-tour coffee. One latte and one cappuccino done in seconds … why does Starbucks take so long I wondered out loud.

Our tour meets at the Bishops Palace and the guide (a lovely young maiden named Ann Marie in Viking garb who was a picture perfect maiden out of Robin Hood) takes us outside to the street stopping frequently to tell animated tales of centuries ago. As she spoke I was taken, in my minds eye, to the time of Ken Follette’s novel Pillars of the Earth. Such great history. Waterford was settled originally by Vikings and is the oldest city in Ireland. Steeped in historical wars and conquests the original city was surrounded by stone walls and protected by towers. Viking superstition and culture abounds. To be followed closely by the influence of the church. Even the Irish flag 🇮🇪 is based on religion: one colour represents The Catholics the other colour The Protestants joined by peace (the white) in the middle. We know how that worked out. Everywhere you glance there’s another piece of history and with it a colourful story. Delightful.

We stopped in at the cathedral and lit a candle for Rudy’s mom. It was a giant hallowed place of worship that was undergoing considerable construction. The aura was unfazed by the activity and a feeling of solemnity overcame us.

Time for a libation! We settle on a traditional Irish pub called “The Reg” named after the Reginald Tower (the famous landmark from the Viking settlement nearby). We order local craft beers (we don’t care for Guiness which, if announced, could cause a riot!) and follow that with an Irish Whiskey tasting board and then a local beer tasting board. A delicious liquid lunch a la Waterford!! Slainte!! (Cheers in Gaelic)

The Waterford Crystal tour was next. I had pre-booked tickets for that, too. But after our “lunch” Rudy decided to pass. The tour was very interesting. There are several steps to creating a crystal piece; each step is completed by a skilled craftsman with at least a 10 year apprenticeship (some of the craftsmen were over 4 decades of service!!). The results of their work is brilliantly stunning pieces. I will ever look at Crystal the same way.

There is also a huge (and amazing) retail shop (big surprise) at the end of the tour. Here was my wonderful happy ending. Background: my mom wanted me to have a hope chest and every special occasion such as birthdays after the age of 13 or so, I got another piece to add to the collection. At 13 what does anyone know about chinaware!?!? But I dutifully chose a pattern (platinum by Royal Doulton) and hoped I would not regret it. Since downsizing last year we are using the platinum as our everyday dishes … no microwave!! … and enjoying their delicate strength. Today I was delighted to find my chinaware on glorious display in the store. I know my mom would have been so proud!

When I exited the store (empty handed) Rudy and Paul were standing at the car. I called to them to come and help me with the crates of things I bought. You should have seen their faces. Just Kidding, guys!! Their sigh of relief was audible. Ha ha.

Rudy has made arrangements with Paul to stop by a liquor store. Irish Whiskey is on his mind. Paul takes us to Tedesco; it’s like Target. They have everything from onions to diapers to booze. Excellent stop. Mission accomplished. We start our drive back to the ship as the sun shines brightly. I’m so glad we didn’t need the rain coats we schlepped.

The tender back to the ship is uneventful and we sit on our sun kissed balcony for a snack and reminiscing of the day. It was perfect.

Tomorrow: Cork.

Anchors away!!

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