Ireland 2019 Day 12

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September 7th 2019
Published: December 26th 2019
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Dunbrody Famine ShipDunbrody Famine ShipDunbrody Famine Ship

New Ross, Ireland
We get to sleep in a bit this morning. As we pass through the lobby on the way to breakfast, the backwards musical sculpture bothers me again. I decide to explain the problem to the clerk at the desk. She smiles politely but clearly doesn't really get it.

The hotel's buffer breakfast is particularly good. There is fresh honey comb and (gasp) fresh peanut butter. What a treat.

And we're off again on a day trip to explore the area south of Kilkenny. The landscape is much less interesting than the wild coastal regions we toured recently, consisting mostly of rolling hills and farms. We drive through Bennettsbridge, the location of several flour mills, and Thomastown, known for the 13th-century Jerpoint Abbey and the Church of St. Nicholas. Yes, that St. Nick. He's buried here.

Tony talks about hedge rows, the living walls that typically border both sides of roadways. They are looked after primarily by local residents, and their maintenance is governed by a series of rules. For instance, they can only be cut at certain times of the year as a protection to wildlife.

Our first stop is the city of New Ross. The main tourist attraction here is the Dunbrody Famine Ship, a full-size, meticulously constructed replica of the ship of the same name. The Dunbrody was one of the vessels that in the mid-1800s brought many poor Irish immigrants to the new world, often in appalling conditions.

We start inside an adjacent building, where we watch an orientation film and meet our guide. The tour aims to educate us about the journey of Irish families by treating our group as prospective passengers. We are issued tickets for the voyage and undergo the formalities of boarding. We exit onto the wharf and one by one trudge up the gangplank to board the ship, moored on the banks of the Ross River. Our guide provides an introduction to the ship's construction and layout, then leads us below decks. Here we are surprised to find actors playing roles; first, a poor Irish woman with her baby who is emigrating because she has no other choice, and then a more well-to-do woman who is paying for passage to the new world. There are also replicas of people sleeping in the bunks and one very realistic rat staring at us with beady eyes. We wander around the area and are impressed by the efforts taken to recreate the conditions of the time. As we exit the ship, we encounter an eternal flame flickering within a steel globe as a tribute to to Irish emigrants.

New Ross was frequently visited by the Kennedy clan, who have roots here. Just up the river bank from the Dunbrody is a memorial to JFK, consisting of a statue of the famous man striding confidently into the future surrounded by scenes from his life.

Back on the bus. Continuing south, we reach the city of Waterford. The oldest city in Ireland, founded by Vikings in 914, Waterford was also the first city to hoist the Republic’s tricolour flag in 1922. (By the way, the tricolours are green for Ireland, white for peace, and gold/orange for the Protestant faith.) The city is also home to the eponymous crystal manufacturer.

The city takes great pride in its Viking past. The historic waterfront district, restored and developed for tourists, is nicknamed the Viking Triangle. The more mobile among us are treated to a walking tour animated by Jack Burchaell, who is mentioned in our Lonely Planet book. Jack squeezes over a thousand
JFK MemorialJFK MemorialJFK Memorial

New Ross, Ireland
years of history into an hour as we walk along, recounting tangled tales of love, lust, power and scheming that would make a Kardashian blush. Notable sights include Reginald's Tower, a stone fortress named for the Viking who founded the city; an extraordinarily long log intricately carved by hand with scenes from Waterford’s history; and Waterford Christ Church Cathedral. The latter houses one of the most macabre tombs I have ever seen: that of James Rice, mayor of Waterford during the 15th century. On tomb of the tomb lies a badly decayed body, with worms crawling over it and a frog or toad feeding on the stomach of the corpse.

Our walking tour complete, we rejoin the rest of the crew, who have been revitalizing the Irish economy at local stores. Realizing we are famished, Vi and I grab a quick burger and fries from a street vendor.

Time to return north to Kilkenny. On the way, I study roundabouts. They are ubiquitous in Ireland. They sometimes daisy-chain up to three in a row. I notice that the signalling protocol here is subtly different from what we do. Imagine you are entering a simple 4-exit roundabout and are
Waterford downtownWaterford downtownWaterford downtown

Waterford, Ireland
going essentially straight; i.e., you are taking the second exit from where you are entering. (Remember that you are driving on the left.) You turn your right signal on as you enter the circle, indicating that you are not taking the first exit. You then quickly flip your turn indicator to left to indicate that you will be taking the second exit. With roundabouts becoming increasingly common in North America, I wonder whether these practices will emigrate, too.

Back in Kilkenny, we have free time. Violet and I rest up a bit in our room, then decide to walk to Kilkenny Castle. I misread the tourist map and at first lead us in the wrong direction, which does not earn me any brownie points. Back on track, we circumnavigate the castle on foot. While its origins lie in the 12th century, the castle has been extensively expanded over the years. Long the home of the powerful Butler family, its Victorian style reminds my untutored eye of Downton Abbey. The castle is, of course, on a high point overlooking the river to the north. On the west (town) side of the castle are beautiful flower and shrub gardens. The castle
Reginald's TowerReginald's TowerReginald's Tower

Waterford, Ireland
is a museum now with scheduled guided tours, but we don't have the time or energy for that at this point. However, there is a free short film on the history of the castle available, which we watch. On the east side of the castle an immense grassy park stretches almost as far as the eye can see. Families and young people are picnicking on blankets and playing sports. Most of the young men are engaged in what I finally decide is hurling. This sport involves a stick with a blade much like a hockey stick that is used to manipulate and shoot a ball that looks like a ball hockey ball. It's much like lacrosse, I think. Some of the players are amazingly skilled, keeping the ball effortlessly in play with their sticks. We enjoy some soft ice cream from a vendor as we linger to watch.

We walk back towards the hotel on the opposite side of the street. Here are what used to be the stables for the occupants of Kilkenny Castle, now converted into touristy arts and crafts shops.

When we reach the hotel, Violet is done for the day, but I still have
Hard-carved logHard-carved logHard-carved log

Waterford, Ireland
some energy to burn. I decide to undertake the walk through the so-called Medieval Mile, an area of narrow lanes and historic buildings stretching from Kilkenny Castle at the southeast end to St. Canice's Cathedral at the northwest end.

While we have seen dozens of picturesque villages already on the trip, my impression of Kilkenny is very positive. Not only are the streets and buildings ridiculously attractive but there is an undertone of excitement and happiness in the air. People are smiling and chatting as they stroll along. Perhaps they’re excited by the relatively good weather.

I head down High St. The first interesting building I pass on the right is the old Town Hall, a large brick building with a steeple on top. According to my tourist map, I am approaching something called the Butter Slip, whatever that is. Oh, I see, it is a tiny covered alleyway, so narrow that people in both directions must walk single-file. It leads downward to St. Kieran St, a pedestrian mall running parallel to High St.

A bit further on, I notice Kyteler’s Inn. Oh, this is the one that Tony told us about! Dating from the 13th century,
Tomb of Mayor James RiceTomb of Mayor James RiceTomb of Mayor James Rice

Christ Church Cathedral, Waterford, Ireland
it is one of the oldest inns in Ireland. But the real story lies with the innkeeper, Alice Kyteler. In 1324, she was accused of using sorcery against her four husbands, all of whom died under suspicious circumstances, leaving their worldly goods to Alice. Before she could be tried, Alice fled to England, but her maid Petronella was not so fortunate as she was flogged and burned at the stake.

Continuing on, I reach the junction of St. Kieran St. and High St., which merge to form Parliament St. Here I find the Smithwick’s Experience, a tour of the renowned Smithwick’s Brewery. There is no time for that, unfortunately, but I buy a pack of Smithwick’s playing cards. By the way, you must pronounce the name as “Smidicks” or reveal your ignorance.

Crossing the street and jogging left, I pass through the Black Freren Gate, a remanent of the old city wall. The wall leads me to the Black Abbey, founded in 1225. It has some beautiful stained-glass windows that the sinking sun is just starting to illuminate. Nearby, a short walk up a hill brings me to St. Mary’s Cathedral, a towering limestone church completed in 1857.
Kilkenny CastleKilkenny CastleKilkenny Castle

Kilkenny, Ireland

The day is getting late, but I want to see the city’s most famous church. I retrace my steps past the Black Abbey and on the other side I locate the flight of steep steps leading up to St. Canice’s Cathedral. This is a huge 13th-century church, the second-largest in Ireland. It is closed now for the day. In the courtyard stands an extremely tall, narrow tower known as the Round Tower, which can be climbed during visiting hours.

Time to head back. About a 15 minutes’ brisk walk returns me to the corner near our hotel. The road is blocked off to traffic. Why? There’s a women’s bike race underway. Brightly-costumed riders come barrelling down the street and zoom around the bend towards Kilkenny Castle. I wonder if they have to make adjustments for riding on cobblestones.

When I get back to the hotel, I hear that a spontaneous pub crawl is in the works, but Vi and I are too bushed. On my way through the lobby, I observe that the music sculpture is still backwards. I enlist the help of one of our fellow travellers to slowly and carefully turn the sculpture 180º so that all its components are now oriented correctly. There, I will be able to sleep tonight.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Sign for Kyteler's InnSign for Kyteler's Inn
Sign for Kyteler's Inn

Kilkenny, Ireland
Black Freren GateBlack Freren Gate
Black Freren Gate

Kilkenny, Ireland
Black AbbeyBlack Abbey
Black Abbey

Kilkenny, Ireland
St. Mary's CathedralSt. Mary's Cathedral
St. Mary's Cathedral

Kilkenny, Ireland
St. Canice's CathedralSt. Canice's Cathedral
St. Canice's Cathedral

Kilkenny, Ireland

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