Friday, July 2, 2010
After another traditional Irish breakfast at the Burlington Hotel, we left Dublin and made our way to Killkenny. We weren't able to stay nearly long enough. It is such a pretty little town. Again, flowers in window boxes and hanging from light posts were the norm, and utterly charming. With only a few hours we had to make the best of our time. We decided that Kilkenny Castle was our top choice, so we went there first. As I looked at the stone walls that were surely 10 feet thick, I kept reminding myself this is over eight centuries old! All the additions that have been made to the castle since it was built in the 12th century, simply added to its interest. This castle was built for William Marshal, the Earl of Pembrook. That it was the main residence of the Butler family for over 600 years is almost inconceivable to me. Our whole country isn't even 300 years old; I can't fathom a building being lived in by that many generations of the same family. The walls inside were lined with the paintings of former inhabitants. I kept trying to imagine that I actually knew who my family was past great great grandparents, let alone having paintings of them and knowing they walked the same floors. Wow! In the 1960's a member of the family who'd owned it for all those centuries, a Marquess of something or other, gave it to the people of Kilkenny in return for 50 pounds! It's been taken care of by the Office of Public Works since then, and what a fine job of care they've given it too. It had been remodeled in the 1800's so the style of furnishings we were looking at were that old. One room had a ceiling made of wattle and daub... I kept thinking, wow, they even have mud and animal manure that is over 900 years old!! Since you couldn't take pictures inside, I bought a book about the castle with great pictures. We left the castle and headed across the street to the Kilkenny Design Center where I found a couple beautiful things to take home. We had a very tasty lunch at Langton's pub, then we had to leave - far too early.
We then made our way to the House of Waterford Crystal. My son especially enjoyed watching them blow, grind, and cut the glass. One of the artists handed me this huge bowl he just finished and I thought, oh my gosh! This probably costs a month's salary yikes! After appreciating it, I quickly and CAREFULLY handed it back whew! As we walked in the showroom oohing and ahhing over all the crystal glittering in the lights, we came to a table set for a fine dinner with a group of glorious chandeliers suspended above. My son wanted to buy a piece, but college students not being very wealthy, he managed to contain himself. I really like the few colored pieces I saw in the showroom, but I didn't buy anything either. I could just hear my husband sighing with relief all the way across the ocean! We had tea in the cafe across the hall from the showroom. As we were peering through the glass case of homemade pastries and desserts, I spotted some squares topped with chocolate and filled with caramel with a shortbread crust... I knew what that was - thanks to Beanalainn! It was Millionaire's Shortbread:) I promptly ordered a piece and sat down to enjoy it. Several people on the tour had heard me talking to the waitress about it and asked me what it was. No less than 6 people then ordered some too, and then back on the bus, they all told the others. Soon, several people kept asking for the name of it and asking where I got the recipe. THANKS BEAN!
We stayed at the Granville Hotel in Waterford and it was absolutely beautiful! It was built in the 1700's and was once a lovely mansion in the city. It is right in the midst of downtown and overlooks the marina. As we entered under the awning, and went into the lobby, the first thing that my eyes focused on was a gorgeous old grandfather clock that was a bit over 100 years old and quite a beauty. The lobby was full of lovely Queen Anne chairs and paintings... real ones, not just a bunch of hotel art. Not only were they original paintings, but they were antiques as well. As the elevator went up without me (I was looking at the tapestries on the walls and the Waterford Crystal chandeliers) I continued exploring the lobby that felt more like a wonderful old museum. When I made my way up to the room, it had original paintings too! What a lavish place:)
We took of Waterford city and our guide was FANTASTIC! His name is Jack Burtchaell. He was equal parts seanchai (Gaelic for story teller), actor, historian and comedian. We learned that Waterford was built by the Vikings in 914. He illustrated this story by using people in the group to play the parts of the main characters in the invasion of Ireland. (My son was Dermot MacMurrough) The story, he told us, is much like a soap opera, and I can't tell it nearly as colorfully as he did. In Jack's version there was Dermot MacMurrough, the younger, more handsome King of Leinster, and Tiernan O'Rourke, the much older and crotchety King of some place else. Tiernan O'Rourke was quite a lover of battle and was constantly waging war over some king or another. Dermot met and fell in love with Tiernan's wife, Devorgilla, so he ran off with her. After a year or so, he gave her back, (Jack said she must have been a nag) but O'Rourke held a grudge and went to war with Dermot, which ended in Dermot's exile to France. MacMurrough, asked King Henry for help in getting his land back. Henry sent Richard de Clare, better known as Strongbow, to Dermot. Dermot offered the hand of his daughter, Aoife to Strongbow in exchange for his help. This of course changed the course of history for Ireland. The English came and stayed for several hundred years. Tiernan O'Rourke later killed Dermot's son, which broke his father's spirit and he then, was easily killed too. Later Tiernan was killed by a Norman invader who sent his head to Dublin to be impaled on a gate! Devorgilla, Tiernan's wife, lived until 1193, at age 85. She gave generously to some nuns and built a Church.
Our tour guide, Jack, led us through the streets of Waterford regaling us with stories (history) and showing us everything that old and wonderful about the city. In his well crafted historical tales, he used many old Irish expressions such as, "as Irish as Paddy's pig" which just added a touch more to the experience.
We had dinner in the dinning room of the hotel and it was splendid! We couldn't have had a more beautiful setting, original art, crystal... and the food ... oh! It was to die for!