Day 6 - Waterford to Dublin   

Day 6 was the eve of St. Patrick's Day... and it would turn out to be a long day. We had to start in Waterford, in the south of Ireland, and then trek northward to Dublin, about midway up the eastern coast. It was necessary for us to get an early start in order to arrive on time at our first destination for the day: the famed Waterford Crystal Factory. I hadn't even known about Waterford crystal until I booked this tour, but I sure got my fill of information about it at the factory. It was pretty interesting to walk around and watch the various workers form the crystal pieces, from shaping the gooey molten crystal to etching the final designs.
Read on for the story behind this picture...
When we were in one of the finishing rooms at the factory, I saw this cool crystal globe sitting on one of the display tables. It was hollow, but it was still fairly heavy. The etching of all the continents on it was amazing. One of the tour guides saw how much I liked the globe, and he asked me to pick it up. At first I said no, but he (and others from my group) insisted, so I did. Then I was dumb enough to let them talk me into posing like Atlas, who in mythology held the world on his shoulders. I was pretty much freaking out at this point because the tour guide had told us that the globe was one of only two that existed, and that it cost roughly 1500 pounds... that being about $1900!! Not exactly something you want to be playing around with!

After I succumbed to the crystal frenzy and bought a 50-pound (that's price) crystal shamrock (eh, I got my initials and the year engraved in it, so what the heck), we were shepherded back into the bus and drove to Kilkenny. When we arrived in the town, I noticed the smell of beer brewing. I should have expected it: I had been drinking beer named Kilkenny while I was in Ireland, and no doubt I had found its birthplace.
The main highlight of the Kilkenny stop was supposed to be a tour of Kilkenny Castle. But, like previous preplanned tour stops, this one was also foiled by foot-and-mouth disease precautions. However, it almost worked in our favor, as we were allowed to walk around the town for little over an hour, and that was great. I had been wanting to walk amongst the people on the city streets, and just browse the shops for souvenirs.
First, though, I did get my picture taken in front of the unenterable castle. Also, here's another sign showing the foot-and-mouth bull.
One more picture from outside Kilkenny Castle. Sorry, I didn't get any pictures from around the city. I was too busy walking around and checking out people and things.

As we were heading out from Kilkenny, I peered out the bus window and saw what looked to be an abandoned trailer. I was fairly suprised to read what someone had written on it!

Another reason why we were allowed to stay a little longer in Kilkenny was because the planned afternoon stop at a country farmhouse had been cancelled. Like I need to tell you why. As foreigners, we were not allowed anywhere near any farms because of foot-and-mouth fears. So we drove on straight to our final destination on the tour: the capital city, Dublin.
We had been fairly lucky all day, as it really didn't rain much even though it stayed cloudy and cold. So when we got to Dublin, and after we got settled into our hotel rooms, me and four other people from my group decided to try to get to the City Center before dark. I think it was a good 2 or 3 miles from our hotel, and we didn't want to take the bus because we really didn't know where it would take us. So we walked, and walked. Above is a picture of us walking, in fact. But we finally got to the City Center surrounding the popular Grafton Street. The place was BUSY. There was all kinds of frenetic activity, being the night before St. Patrick's Day. Me and the guys stopped off at a couple of bars near Trinity College to check out the Irish college girls, while the ladies in our group browsed the shops.
The Grafton Street area is quite unique and pretty cool: It runs about 2 blocks, and is entirely closed off to automobile traffic. So you can wander all over the street without fear of getting run over. There are all sorts of interesting things to look at, besides the impressive architecture of the buildings and the strange people (hard to tell Irish from foreigners) meandering around beside you. Street vendors selling flowers, teenagers hanging out at a McDonald's, and on this particular day, random people wearing gaudy St. Patrick's Day memorabilia. It was a fascinating introduction to Dublin. But we couldn't stay long, as we had to get back to the hotel to go out with the group for dinner, which would prove to be very fun...

Day 5     Day 6: Food, Fun, & Beer