Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Last of Our Irish Adventure

The last full day of our Irish adventure had us visiting the crystal workshops at Waterford and the Dunbrody "famine ship" at New Ross before finishing the day back in Dublin.

But before I go on, I want to share one of the curious things we found visiting an "old country:" the number of times we saw something like this:
A completely derelict stone structure in the middle of a patchwork of buildings downtown
It was a sort of reminder that, if you let it go, nature will take over.

There were also a few sights like this, not quite derelict, but having a weathered beauty all the same.

Now. On to Waterford.

I did not realize that the fine crystal from the famous factory is all handmade. I just assumed that there were machines blowing, turning, cutting, blasting. But I was so wrong.
Every single cut in this exquisite bowl was made by hand.
It starts, of course, with molten glass.
The water being sprayed on it turns almost instantly to steam.
And with a person at the other end of the tube,
blowing and spinning that glass in its mould.
Here is an example of a much larger mould made of wood - this would only be used a handful of times. You can see how the glass burned the wood.

It's a bear's head.
Coming out of the mould, the crystal is smooth.

If needed (i.e., for a vase), a separate stem is added to the blown bowl.

None of these men looked nearly as sweaty as one would expect.
After any sharp edges are smoothed and beveled, the artisans mark the cutting patterns onto the surface with a marker, following a blueprint.

This would not give me much to go on, but it means something to the worker.
The magic begins!
Each cut so precise.

Quality inspection is important; Waterford does not sell "seconds."

Not all of the pieces are traditional vases and bowls. Many of their custom, commissioned pieces, are whimsical. And they do keep an in-house copy of every specialty piece they make.

Looks to me like a gigantic hummingbird feeder. Not sure I'd want to meet those hummingbirds.
Artisans also sometimes propose - and create - works of their own inspiration. Like this memorial to 9/11.

I believe this is the in-house duplicate; I can't recall where the other one is now.

I did see, oh, one or two things in the gift shop which I would love to have brought home as a souvenir, but the prices! (Not surprisingly, really, but still.)

675 Euros, or about $975 Canadian
From there, we proceeded to New Ross and toured the Dunbrody Famine Ship, an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel. It was not a large ship, but it would have packed more than 100 poor souls into bunks belowdecks. Sometimes called "coffin ships" as many as 50% of the people on board would have died before completing the month-long journey from Ireland to the New World.

Our ticket for the guided tour gave each of us a replica of the ticket of an actual passenger.
I was a 36-year-old mother traveling with her children, escaping the potato famine of the mid-1840's.
And here was our home-to-be
I so wanted to ring that bell!
We were a group of 45 or so. Can you imagine it with more than 100?
It was so dark that most of my pictures really didn't turn out that well. But you can see, on the post of the bunks behind the heads in the picture above, that there is a piece of paper. That piece of paper indicated who slept in that bunk. My entire family was in one bunk. I believe that our personal belongings would have been in that bunk as well.

Our tour was animated by characters who would have been aboard the ship. One woman told of the deaths of her husband and newborn.

Following our tour, I was finally feeling well enough to enjoy a good plate of fish & chips!

The fish was perfectly cooked!

From Waterford, we returned to Dublin. The Book of Kells at Trinity Library had not been a part of our formal tour, but we had time to visit it that afternoon before dinner. The library was walking distance from our hotel.

I didn't take very many pictures of the intricately ornamented books, but they really were works of art. After going through a museum that explains the source of many of the books in the library, we were allowed to stroll through a very limited area upstairs.

Old ironwork is so beautiful.
I must admit, my Kindle does not bring nearly the same feeling as this!
Pigments used in illumination (ornamentation)
On the way back to our hotel from Trinity College, we passed this railway arch that had been converted to a building on campus.

I do love, old industrial architecture.

And with that, our tour was done. Not sure where our next trip will be, but I'm looking forward to it!

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