11 Sept 2006 Monday - Cashel to Thomastown

Today we woke up at 8:30 and I tried to take a shower, but was unsuccessful. Although we were in a very nice hotel (and not cheap: 110 Euros per night) this was absolutely the most frustrating shower I’ve ever tried to take in my 45 years. There was a heat adjustment knob that could be turned about a dozen times before stopping in both directions, but the water completely ignored the adjustment. The water that came out was either freezing cold or scalding hot, and it would turn randomly. For example, I turned it to full hot and let it run. After two or three minutes, it was still freezing cold so I began turning it toward the cold setting. It was still freezing cold when I got to the maximum cold setting, so I began my trek back to warm. When almost to the maximum warm, it suddenly turned from freezing cold to scalding hot. I moved the knob back to cold, but it remained scalding hot throughout the spectrum.

I screwed around with the water temperature adjustment knob for well over a half hour, sometimes making tiny quarter-turn adjustments across the spectrum and still all I could get was either scalding hot or freezing cold. After a half-hour I finally gave up and washed myself in the tub with a mixture of water, and that’s how I washed my hair too.

By the time I got out of the bathtub, Kathy was getting impatient, so she also took a very frustrating bath after a much shorter try at the adjustments.

After breakfast, we complained at the front desk, but they were not authorized to compensate us in any way. In the meanwhile, I suggest everyone avoid a hotel called Bailey’s in old town Cashel unless they don’t intend to shower.

The reason we stayed in Cashel last night was so that we could see a site called the Rock of Cashel,

which is really both a castle and a religious monastery.

It was a good castle, but once again, it was raining and the rain was very persistent, and so we couldn’t enjoy the castle as we might have. We kept trying to take photos, but the raindrops would appear on our camera lenses and obscure the shot before we could take it. We did our best by shielding the camera with one hand and by shooting from slightly sheltered entryways. For some of the outdoor shots, we just stood in the pouring rain and took the photo anyway.

One good thing was that we were allowed to take indoor photos, and I took several without a flash by using a long exposure time.

By the time we got back to our car, we were drenched.

Next, we drove to the Ormonde Castle,

which is Ireland’s finest example of a 15th century Tudor House.

It was still raining, but we got a very good guided tour of the house that unfortunately didn’t allow photos. At this time, we were getting a little tired of castles, manors and photos anyway.

We drove next to the city of Waterford where we took a tour of the famous Waterford crystal factory. It was very interesting because we could see how the men blew the molten crystal made of silica sand and lead–pretty much the same as glass–and blew it with great skill into perfect crystal goblets, cups and vases.

There were three levels of quality control, followed by the machines where the vases were inked for cutting.

Next were the cutters,

polishers, engravers, and so forth. I didn’t realize that all the Waterford crystal was hand-made and hand-cut, not machine-made. There were also rooms full of molds

rooms full of unpolished crystal,

and crystal-cutting machinery of all kinds.

We were also shown what a goblet looks like before and after polishing.

We stayed at the factory for a long time, buying Christmas gifts for our family and friends. Of course we also had to buy a bowl for ourselves too, and we got free shipping so we’re having them ship it all so we don’t have to screw around with trying to transport it safely back home.

The town of Waterford was a nightmare for driving. We had to drive through it to get to and from the Crystal factory. There was a stoplight at an intersection that led to a bridge across the river, and everyone was held up there. When the light would turn green, about four cars got across onto the bridge, then it turned red and stayed red for what seemed like eternity. Yes, they were even worse than Minneapolis stop-lights, which is very hard to accomplish.

Next we drove to the town of Thomastown where we will see another Abbey tomorrow. Actually, we are staying at a Bed and Breakfast called the Abbey View Inn because the Abbey is right across the street.

We drove into town and ate dinner at a pub and chatted with the bartender. We asked him silly questions like whether Irishmen really drink Irish Cream or if that was a tourist thing. He said they actually do.

Tomorrow we have to return our rental car, so we brought all of our luggage inside and re-packed our suitcases. We planned this pretty well: we brought a large hard-sided suitcase where we kept our backup clothes, and a smaller soft-sided suitcase with minimum clean clothes, pajamas and toiletries for overnight. The rest of our luggage and junk we left in the car and in the bigger suitcase.