Saturday, October 18, 2008

by Hook or by Crook ... Ireland, day five

Today was long. Bus-riding long, but fun and fascinating. We left Bray at 6:45 a.m. for the 3-hour journey south to Waterford for a tour of the crystal factory. These guys know their stuff: the top craftsmen spend 10 years in training. Following the factory tour and lunch, it was on to the Hook lighthouse. I'm a sucker for lighthouses, so for me this was the highlight of the day, Monday, Sept. 29.

By now we've figured out that our bus driver, Brian, could offer up endless tales and explanations of all things Irish. Today he told us that the expression, "by hook or by crook" originated in the area of the Hook lighthouse and the nearby village of Crook ... something to do with invaders. Plausible. But memorable to me is that we visited one of the oldest still-in-use lighthouses in the world. We're talking 13th century here.
But our first stop was the Waterford Crystal factory...

This guy is blowing and molding the liquid glass into a vase.

And now they're putting a handle on a pitcher. They make it look so easy.

Now for the etching, done with wheels. Each piece must be perfect. If a craftsman turns out an imperfect one or breaks a piece, he isn't paid for his work on it.

Riding the bus together from early morning until evening, this day cemented the bond between the Taylor parents and staff who accompanied us. From laughing at the funny snack names ("Digestives" is a cookie and "salt sticks" are pretzels) to sudden photo-op stops ... it was a long and hilarious day. Here are some of us by our bus after the Hook lighthouse visit. (and Barbie, NO, the Digestives did NOT contain fiber to equal 10 prunes!)

I love doors. The story goes that England ordered the Irish to paint their doors black in mourning the death of Queen Victoria. Rebelliously, many Irish painted their doors in bright colors and the tradition stuck. Another Brian story...

Solid and silent and strong: the Hook Lighthouse!

A most unique design. Imagine three domed rooms stacked upon each other, accessed by stairs along the outside walls of the lighthouse. Originally, monks occupied it ... later, a lighthouse keeper and his family. Damp and chilly, the lighthouse was heated only by small fireplaces in each room.

Looking east from Hook.

At the top of Hook, at the bottom of Ireland ...

People have been seeing this view for almost 800 years. Well, not the cars. After our tour, we enjoyed scones and tea inside the visitor centre.

We returned to Greystones to have dessert with our students, who then entertained us with skits on Irish history. A long and good day.

No comments: