The morning dawned a bit grey, but we'd determined to take an excursion to the Waterford Crystal Factory to please the mother-in-law. We fueled up with eggs, Clonakilty sausage and muesli, loaded up the car and headed east. Our ultimate goal was the Waterford Crystal Factory, but we expected to get there in a leisurely fashion. We were not wrong, and quickly made a detour at Midleton to visit the Old Midleton Distillery. It was a bit more pristine inside and out than the Jameson Distillery in Dublin, and we went directly to the restrooms. These were by far the most clean, modern and well appointed restrooms of our entire trip. Well done Midleton Distillery!
We hopped back on the road and headed towards Waterford. The trip took longer than expected, due to traffic, but was easy driving on a major road. We made a lunch stop in the parking lot behind a pub. Sandwiches were produced under my wife's expert hand and we munched on bread, sandwich spread, meat, and Irish cheese, washed down with Orange Club Soda. Then we were back on the road, and continued on towards Waterford. The only difficulty was a huge traffic slowdown coming into Waterford near the factory. We made is safely into the large parking lot and got out of the car. Much stretching ensued as we walked towards the entrance. We passed a lot of tour buses and sure enough, there were the usual elderly track suit clad American crowds milling around.
We dodged the slow moving herd, and after another restroom stop (not as nice as Midleton Distillery) bought (expensive) tickets for the tour. We killed some time until the tour started looking at the books and Irish tourist stuff, and looked at some very nice examples of unique trophies and other crystal work. Eventually we queued up for a bus ride through the facility to the actual tour area. Our tour guide was somewhere between bored and apathetic, probably understandable as we were the last tour of the day but a bit off putting. A brief audio visual welcome and presentation was next (not exactly stimulating), and then we were off to walk through the process of crystal making. Surprisingly, it was quite interesting as you could watch actual work being done.
The process is painstaking and lengthy and fraught with accidents. There was a fair bit of walking, but the track suit herd held up well. Cameras were allowed in most areas, but the flash was discouraged or prohibited in some areas. I suppose a flash going off as you were doing some precise crystal cutting could be distracting. Of particular interest was the crystal blowing and cutting. You could walk up within a few feet of the craftsmen cutting the designs into impressive pieces. There were general and specific presentations of each step, but no free samples. There was a large pile of broken rejects, but we were not allowed to inspect them.
The tour ended in a smaller room with samples and a cutter at work who demonstrated the technique, answered questions and overall was quite informative.
The tour ends predictably in the gift shop. This causes some interesting effects on the herd. Females become instantly energized, their eyes lit up and they proceeded to examine each type and kind of crystal as if they were actually going to purchase it all. Males on the other hand seem to go limp and lifeless, the eyes glaze over and one hand clutched their wallet in a protective gesture. Personally, I blew through all the crystal displays in minutes and headed down to look at the other gift areas before my wife and mother-in-law covered a quarter of the floor area. I had to come back to encourage them to move along as the shop was nearing closing time and they hadn't yet made it through the crystal. I and they actually found more of interest and purchased more in the downstairs area. We purchased a number of Belleek pieces as gifts and had them shipped home. The prices and shipping were very reasonable. You could combine items and get free shipping at the time we were there.
We escaped without devastating financial ruin, but did our part to support Waterford crystal and Belleek china.
It was a long drive back to Shannonvale, and we made another restroom stop prior to our departure. We arrived well after dark.