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.....)

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