Thursday, June 30, 2016

Waterford Historical District

Just down the street from the crystal company was the river and port and the old town. We'd seen the 11th-12th century tower on the way in, but were astonished and gratified to see much more...
I should observe here that Thomas Francis Meagher (pronounced
Marr) was the first governor of territorial Montana (our home
state); he was a leader of the Irish rebellion in 1848...

But caught and sentenced to death; the sentence was commuted
to life at a penal colony in Tasmania ("G'day, mate!")

But wait, there's more...he escaped the penal colony and made
his way to the US, studied law, enlisted in the Union Army,
helped organize the Irish Brigade, led it as a Brigadier General
into a number of famous Civil War battles and campaigns...

Was not known for his military skill or leadership (it was a time
when no one in the eastern portion of the Union Army was known
for military skill or leadership; only Grant, in the west); left the
army to become first secretary, then governor, of the new Territory
of Montana--a statue much like this stands in front of the Montana
Capitol--and then, shortly after antagonizing practically every
constituency in the new territory, either fell or was pushed,
apparently drunk, off a river boat into the Missouri River, near Ft.
Benton; his body was never recovered;  sic transit, Gloria...right
here in Waterford...

As I said, we noticed the Viking tower en route to the crystal

Thus, 11th-12th century

Replica Viking ship

Me, in fierce replica Viking mode

Waterford must have had a great lecture series back then...

Waterford: The Factory

We visited Waterford in 2009 to see the glass stuff. The company was in one of its periodic production going on, rumored to be moving to Slovenia or Vietnam, no tours; but the showroom was open. (It is a very old and troubled company and has gone under many times; now owned, seriously, by Fiskars, who also own Wedgewood). This year, showroom, production, and tours are all in a small centralized location in downtown Waterford, and we wanted at last to see the tour, which takes you through the major stages of production: blowing, quality, marking, cutting, gee-whiz, and, you guessed it, the showroom. I'm still looking for the outlet.
And there it is

Our pattern, Lismore; it's in boxes back in our storage unit
in Missoula...we don't carry it with us camping; same for the
Royal Doulton; but we do carry Fiskars scissors

Among the show-off molds in the blowing department; something
for President O'Bama; we'll see the finished product down the line

Deep in the blowing department; you can actually converse
with the workers as they work

More of the blowing department

Quality department; seriously

Now into the marking department


Marking in the marking department; Sharpy-like pens mark the
bowls, etc., so the cutters will know where to cut

Our guide; unbelievably knowledgeable about every aspect of

Doing the cutting for a basketball for the NBA trophy; they always
make several copies for things like this: the original, a copy to put
the names of the champions on, more copies for show in the
showroom, and a couple back-ups just in case (the guide noted
that the BCS championship trophy was shattered within ten
minutes of handing it to the University of Alabama a few years
back (considerable laughter among the Americans in the group)

So you walk through all this wondering, quietly, have they
heard of cad-cam? And then, at the end of the production line,
you see the one cad-cam machine...used not for production but
for "testing" new designs, etc. 

Now in the gee-whiz department, exhibiting particularly the
many unique items they make

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Mr. O'Bama

Saturday, June 25, 2016


We'd visited Glendalough--a very old abbey ruin in the Wicklows--in 2009. We stopped by after Powerscourt and discovered we could over-night in the parking lot. Glendalough has half a dozen trails, some high, some low, and we spent the next morning hiking around the upper lake and visiting the abbey. The abbey itself goes back to nearly the earliest Christian times in Ireland, 6th-7th centuries, and the still-intact round tower is thought to have been constructed somewhere in the 9th-12th centuries. The setting is nearly Edenic.

Friday, June 24, 2016

We Interrupt This Blog... register our shock and dismay about the Brexit we awoke to this morning. We have spoken to many Brits these last two months and encountered none in favor of leaving. Most wanted to talk rather about Trump, whom they find appalling. The entire debate, as we traveled the south and west, seemed sufficiently low-key as to discourage alarm. But the polls were wrong, and the world is different now. We expect no sudden changes for travelers such as ourselves...except an immediate boost in our dollars' purchasing power. We've been visiting the Isles since 1979, and the GBP right now is at nearly the lowest we've ever seen. As some twit twitted: "All Britain on sale...10-15% off...steak and kidney pies for all." There will be a few days of chaos and more dire predictions, and then things will begin to find a new, uncertain, and volatile "normal." The one conclusion I draw is not to underestimate the attraction of nativism, bigotry, and jingoism. Perhaps the Brexit will serve as a lesson to us across the Pond.


The estate of Powerscourt lies some miles south of Dublin where the Wicklow mountains begin. Powerscourt has remained private, or corporate, adding a 5 star hotel, a golf course (can Lion Country Safari be in the future?), turning the great house itself into an Irish shopping mall (how many Avoca Mills stores are there?) and restaurant with a view. All a vast difference for us from the National Trust homes and gardens of April and May. The Powerscourt garden is still there, thankfully, and open for a modest entry fee. It comes with high recommendations; signage everywhere reminds you Powerscourt is #3 on the National Geographic's list of top ten gardens in the world.
The entire complex is rather smaller than one might imagine

The main view from the House; gigantic, largely unplanted
terraces, looking down to the pond and fountain; very formal,
Italian; no attempt to bring the mountains into the landscape
(the Japanese concept of "borrowing")


The pond, quite large

Looking back to the House

On the Rhododendron path

Very nice specimen trees all around; one of the
things we liked about Powerscourt was the great
variety of plants

The pet cemetery

Interesting specimen

Rhodos and azaleas past prime

Nice color, but rather less of it than most of the British gardens
we've seen

Flowers in the walled garden; only 1/3 of which is planted

Rose garden, up by the greenhouses

Back side of the House; the ha ha has been converted into a
golf cart path

Still effective, however, keeping golfers out the House and

Other side of house, more color

Other side the garden

Specimen trees everywhere

Artsy shot by Vicki

Atop the seeming folly

More great trees

A few more rhodos

Looking over the Japanese garden; a staggering number of Asian
plants (plus innumerable trips to Pier One)

Unlike any Japanese garden I've seen...