Being Crystal Clear in Waterford, Ireland

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Europe » Ireland » County Waterford » Waterford
August 27th 2011
Published: August 28th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

After another day full of train travel, this time adding another train connection at the train station across town from Dublin station. Riding right along the water gives you a striking first impression. Waterford is one beautiful city. Beautiful historic warehouses, that have since been turned into shops, line the water and are only blocks away from the pedestrian shopping center. One of those beautiful buildings was our hotel. Granville Hotel used to be the mansion of a wealthy Irish merchant family whose son later designed the modern Irish flag.

We arrived, late in the evening, only to find out that where had been a mistake in our reservation. They thought that there was only 2 of us when we actually numbered 3. To correct their mistake we were given one of the penthouse suite that actually had 2 beds and an amazing view of the quay. We could see any ship coming up of down the water. We made ourselves comfortable in the hotel pub and then settled in for the night.

Bright and early the next morning my Mom and I headed out to the Waterford Airport to pick up our rental car. Everybody my Mom talked to told her that the way to really see Ireland was to rent your own car and drive yourself around. You can stop when you want to and then you can actually get to the smaller villages and B&B's when your there out of season, like we were. I drove the maiden journey back to the hotel and I will admit it was challenging to drive on the wrong side of the road (for me anyway) but the hardest part was driving in Waterford itself. All of those narrow streets and the cars parked on them were just asking for me to hit them as I drove past.

Of course the main reason why we ended up in Waterford was because my Mom loves Waterford crystal and the original factory was in Waterford. The Waterford center is right around the corner from the quays and is ridiculously easy to walk to. Just turn right at Reginald's Tower and it'll be on the left side of the street. The tour of the factory was really fun, but I'm one of those people that enjoy learning how things are made. The tour walks you through the entire process; moulding, blowing, washing, cutting, and then it leads you right to the showroom where you can buy that beautiful crystal that you saw being made. We walked away with a few things and some great pictures.

Something that non-football fans wouldn't know is that Waterford Crystal makes the National Championship trophy for college football. My Mom is a HUGE college football fan and there just happened to be a championship trophy on the wall. I casually go over to take a picture of it and the worker that's working in front of it asks if I want to hold it. I said of course and now I have the picture to prove it.

After Waterford, I left Mom at the hotel and I headed over to the tourist information center to meet up with the free walking tour of Waterford. I am a firm believer that the only real way to learn about a city is to walk it and, preferably with somebody telling you about what your seeing. It is always a positive when that somebody is doing it for free. I actually found the tour in the Lonely Planet, but the tourist information office had the name and times that the tour leaves everyday. I was looking through the gift shop when I was informed that the guide was there and that I was the only person on the tour.

My private tour of Waterford was wonderful. I was shown architecture, hotels, Viking towers, cathedrals, churches, and murals. Some of the churches were modern and some were ruins. I saw the building where the modern flag of Ireland was flown for the first time, and of course Waterford crystal. The whole tour was about an hour and I could ask as many questions I wanted, linger as long as I wanted, and take as many pictures as I wanted without feeling guilty of taking others time. It was fantastic.

Having said goodbye to my guide I headed back out to Reginald's Tower. It's the oldest structure in Waterford. Made by the original Viking settlers to the area, it used to be a look out point from their fort. It was turned into a mint, prison, and private residence in the following years. One thing that hasn't changed about it was the stairs. They are narrow and steep to make invading it that much more difficult. The cells of old prisoners were as big as closets and I just could not imagine what it would be like to suffer the old and sheer deplorable conditions.

I came back to the hotel room to find my 2 fellow travelers taking a vacation from the vacation. They were both reading in bed and had been that way for hours I would later find out. The view outside our suite turned interesting when I saw a man fall into the frigid waters of the quay and was being swept away. A man hurried along after him phone to ear and was calling the emergency crews. In minutes the quay was a flurry of action with an ambulance, police, spectators, and rescue helicopter. Thankfully, the man was able to pull himself up on one of the boats in the harbor and seemed to be fine before they put him into the ambulance and the helicopter flew back to base.

That evening we camped ourselves at the pub with what seemed like everybody else and watched a rather dramatic game of soccer as we enjoyed our seafood stews, fish and chips, and kidney pies. As I drained my pint of the night, I was sure that I was the one that got the best experience in Waterford out of the 3 of us.

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