Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post: The Adventures of Sam and Frodo

My parents have so far enjoyed/survived their first full week in Ireland. We've taken them to Glendalough, to Dublin, and to Waterford. We've roamed the piers and combed the beaches. My mother has probably acquired an illegal amount of shells and sea glass--enough to make the customs agent call the heritage office, I'll bet. 

They were sitting around our place checking email the other day when it struck me: my parents are like Hobbits! Anyone who saw them reading my sister's updates about their garden and their cat back home would have recognized the halfling's wistful yearning for home and hearth. Yes, they are in a foreign country for the first time in their lives (if you don't count Mexico), and yes, they are having a lovely time (especially if you count singing Johnny Cash tunes on the Dart with a group of raucous rugby-boys), but just like Sam and Frodo in Rivendell, they can't wait to be home. 

Today, they made their own fun in Dalkey village as Zach and I caught up on school work. And my mom has graciously accepted to do a guest-post on our blog! So without further ado, here's her chronicle of Hobbits in Dalkey.

We left the Prancing Pony in Sandycove today on our own. We went with Gandolph's directions and some from the inn keeper. We did a 10-mile walk to the shire of Dalkey and its castle. We were invited by the Lady and Lord of the castle to come in. The archer, Rupert, also gave us a tour of the Castle showing us the defenses on the keep and how to handle a long bow and cross bow. we were also schooled in other defenses of the murder hole where you pour boiling urine on the invading horde and drop rocks on their heads. 

"Guard the Loo" is what you say when you pour water down the loo so the people on the street know to move out of the way.

Anthony was treated to having his tooth pulled by the Lady of the Castle and also a blood-letting (not really!). It was all pretend but they showed us what life was like in the 1600's. 

We then ventured to the coast in Dalkey Bay next to Dalkey Island where you went if you were prisoner of the court. Currently there are only ferral goats, hares, and rats living on the island.

Now, I think we'll have a bit of a "lie-in" as we are two very tired Hobbits!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gotta' Have a Sparkly?

Those who grew up loving Robert O'Brien's Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH, will surely remember the clutzy, love-eager crow, Jeremy, who's all about adorning his love-nest, should he one day meet that very special bird. All Jeremy wants is the "sparkly" Mrs. Frisby wears.

Well in honor of sparkly-lovers everywhere (which my mom and I are), we took a very educational day-trip out to Waterford to tour the House of Waterford Crystal Factory. We also went, in part, because I am researching glass for a creative nonfiction book I'd like to write for young readers.

Waterford was a lovely little city, with colorful Georgian houses (cereal boxes, as I like to call them). There would have been a wealth of Viking sites and history to enjoy (Waterford was reportedly Ireland's oldest Viking settlement), but we were on a tight time budget. Taking the earliest train out of Dublin, we arrived after 11 a.m. and would have to be back at the train station by 4:30 p.m. So, we scurried down the riverfront through freezing cold winds, stopping only momentarily at a 10th century Viking tower.

The factory tour was spectacular, though it had its flaws. There was a very silly "intro" in a dark room with lots of screens and mirrors where a montage of crystal imagery and fireworks disoriented us, then the two guides broke the really big group into two small groups. The small groups were still not quite small enough, so there was often much jockeying for good viewing positions, but it was on the cutting room floor that we were set free to wander between the different cutting stations and actually talk with the workers. One artisan actually let me stand behind him so I could see what it looked like as the cutting wheel chewed through the crystal.

The four of us (mom, dad, me, and Zach) were so engrossed that we fell far behind our tour group and missed out on a lot of the goings'on of the polishing and carving floor (oops).

Being on the floor and actually seeing the glass blowers pull out the molten glob and blow lava-bubbles with it...standing beside a cutter as he sliced intricate designs into the the delicate surface of the those are memorable experiences! And it made for one of the best tours of a facility I have ever been too! (So much better than Guinness Storehouse, where you don't actually see any brewing, just the endless deification of the company.)

After the tour, we braved the cold streets to find some grub before our train left. Unfortunately, what none of the tourist guide books tell you about Waterford is that nearly every eatery, carvery, and cafe shuts down from about 1-5 on Saturdays. Insert whatever reason you can think of for this anomaly here:..... Okay, so we sent mom and dad on to the train station and Zach and I raced through the streets until we found a pizzeria still open.

Why the urgent and dire-seeming hunt for food? Had all that glass slicing awakened our most primal instincts? No, just mine and Zach's finely developed instincts about traveling to Dublin late in the day. We knew we'd get back to Dublin Heuston Station in the evening and be nowhere near eateries. We'd have to take the Luas tram to any part of town where food exists, or else get all the way back to Sandycove and start making dinner. That could be as late as 9 p.m.! So to avoid a grumpy train ride where we fought like wolves over the last granola bar, Zach and I sprinted back to the station with warm paninis!

We got there just in time for the train, and as you'll see from the pictures, we ate, discussed the day's plunder, and rested in what I think may have been the good ol' Viking way! (Zzzzzzzzz.....)