After Jerpoint Park, we traveled on to Waterford, where we would get a tour of the famous crystal factory, called Waterford Crystal. However, our tour didn’t start until three in the afternoon and we had arrived just before two. This gave us an hour of free time to do with as we pleased. I was in need of a restroom and technical assistance with my cellphone, as it had shut itself down and refused to start up.

Across the street from the factory was a what I assumed was a professional building, but ultimately turned out to be the Georgian museum, one of three museums within five minutes walking distance of the crystal factory. Right next to the Georgian museum was one dedicated to the Medieval era, but I opted for Reginald’s Tower. At four euros, how could I pass up any type of museum?

Reginald's Tower and replica viking ship.
Reginald’s Tower and replica viking ship.

Reginald’s Tower is the oldest civic building in Ireland, as well as the only urban monument to retain a Norse or Viking name (1). Had I more than one spare hour before the tour of the crystal factory, I would have made a point to visit the Georgian and the Medieval museums as well as the Tower. Something to look forward to when I plan my next visit to the Emerald Isle.

Once inside the museum, you are greeted by the relations desk and shop. The stone stairwell leading to the top of the tower is worn down by centuries of people climbing them – it’s a little unnerving to realize that you’re stepping on the same paths others had taken years earlier or decades or millennia, even (2).

In addition to being worn, the stairwell is narrow to the point of being claustrophobic. There is no railing, only a rope and that is tied off onto the wall, not the empty space opposite. I often found myself holding onto the steps themselves in order to keep my balance (narrow, worn and, fortunately, practically steep enough to be a ladder).

I was able to climb high enough to reach the third floor, but mild claustrophobia and vertigo convinced me to turn back. It’s not bad enough to keep me from attempting climbs, but it does make it uncomfortable to the point where I need to make decisions about continuing on or going back.

After my tour of the Tower, I made my way to First Street and was able to find a cellphone shop that took care of my phone. I realize this sounds incredibly mundane (I’m in Ireland!), but this was on a Sunday and most businesses are closed on Sundays. So it was a stroke of luck to find one that was open.

I also found a bookshop (I have an unnerving ability to do that), browsed through their displays of books about the Easter Rising of 1916 and got a cup of coffee (one of three cups the entire time I was there – I drank more tea than coffee).

I was back at the crystal factory with a few minutes to spare. This tour of the factory showed us how the crystal is made, from sports trophies to the panels that go on the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square, New York. It is an amazing experience and one I highly recommend.

By all means, visit the more well-known cities, like Dublin or Galway or Belfast, but if you don’t make the journey to Waterford, you’re missing a lot.

*****
(1) Quote from the Wikipedia article.
(2) This is true regardless of what part of the world you’re in – I live in a valley that had been inhabited by Native Americans long before the Europeans arrived.

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