While I've been writing, we have passed an awful lot of sheep by the side of the road. It must be boring to be a sheep; just kind of standing around all day watching the traffic go by. It rained pretty steadily all night, and the weather is quite foggy and overcast. We did get incredibly lucky yesterday; there was quite a bit of clear weather. Very, very different from today, and I'm glad that we had the chance to actually see the countryside.
Blarney Castle was an awful lot of fun.
This was the first time since Sunday at lunch that we actually had a sizable tour bus stop. We were there for about three hours. The Blarney Castle is a huge complex, with a high tower to climb (to kiss the Blarney Stone, of course), grounds to explore, a poison plants garden (not recommended for people like me, with allergies), and an outlet mall down the block. We went up to the top of the tower first, to kiss the fabled Blarney Stone. It was kind of fun, although weird, and the best bit was Katie whacking her head on the stone on her way back up.
Kissing the Blarney Stone is supposed to bring you luck and the gift of gab. Bleeding on the Blarney Stone is likely to give more luck. Or something.
Many of us did the kiss the stone thing. It's not the most pleasant experience: you lie on your back, crane your head all the way backwards, and kiss. A guy holds onto you, because the ground is open underneath and it's a loooooooooong way down. Michele said that doesn't even know if she kissed the stone, because she was trying not to fall instead of thinking about snogging the stone. We tried to hold Donna back, because she does not need the gift of gab that the stone presents; she went anyway. Looks like board meetings are going to get a little longer.
The stables of the castle had a neat little gift shop and a bathroom with a flickering florescent light. It reminded me of those moments in the movies... I half expected, when the lights went out and came back on, to have somebody standing behind me in the mirror.
We had a quick bite to eat after exchanging some dollars for Euros. I had one of those sandwiches that Douglas Adams so accurately described in the Hitchhiker's Guide series. I bought a present for my wife at the store. I'm still thinking about what to get the children; I have some ideas, but I'm going to let the ideas work their way through.
The Waterford Crystal factory was our next stop. We poked around in the gift shop, then we went on a tour of the factory itself. We saw the different stages of construction: blowing the crystal into the correct shape, sanding the rough edges, etching the patterns, and carving the final designs. It was really neat.
That wasn't the first time that I had seen that general process; there used to be a glass factory in south Jersey that I toured once or twice. Still, it's pretty amazing to see the exact care and precision that these handmade objects required. The prices were pretty outrageous, too: I saw a Waterford Crystal grizzly bear for €30,000, which is roughly the annual salary of the average American.
I did purchase presents for my wife in the town of Waterford. I'm not saying what I bought, because she might read this before I get home. I hope she likes them.
Back on the bus again, and then to our hotel in Kilkenny. It's a neat hotel - the Hotel Kilkenny. It's one of those modern design hotels, with interestingly shaped sinks and a flatscreen tv. In my room, you have to insert your room key into a device by the door in order to get electricity. That's kind of annoying, but at least it makes sure that the room key is right by the door when you leave.
Dinner was okay, but not as tasty as our previous hotel. I had some veggie spring rolls with a zesty sweet and sour sauce, which was the highlight of dinner for me. The salmon was a nice piece but not more than just a piece of salmon. The desert was advertised as chocolate cream puffs, but the cream was vanilla and not particularely flavorful. It was fine, but not outstanding, as a meal. I enjoyed sitting with a different crowd of people at dinner than my previous meals.
After dinner, Katie, Amy, and I went into Kilkenny to poke around a little bit. We fund an awesome bar called the Kytelers Inn, which had a duo called the Raglan Rogues. They were pretty good, singing Irish songs in that distinctive, nasal Irish sound. Highlight of the night was a parody of Johnny Cash's Ring of Fire dealing with... well... eating some hot and spicy food and the restroom follies that follow. One guy played guitar, and the other alternated between guitar and banjo. The bar was really cool - it looks like it was built inside of a small castle, which stone arches and steps. There's also a witch sitting inside the door. This was the place, incidentally, that one of the clerks at the Waterford Crystal factory recommended.
Tomorrow has a lunchtime performance followed by some free time. I'm looking forward to it!
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