Thursday, April 17, 2014

Travels with Dad: Lost in Waterford (Sort Of)

Today was a leisurely day with no activities planned, other than to travel from Blarney northeast along Ireland's southern coast up to Waterford, where tomorrow we will take the Waterford Crystal Factory Tour, which should be the highlight of the trip for Dad. He's been looking forward to it ever since we booked this gig. Ran into a little hiccup as we got into Waterford, however. Let me preface it by saying that while traveling with Dad a little over a year ago, I wrote this piece - and many more - about that trip. In it, there's a paragraph that specifically applies to our day in Ireland today:
Traveling with Dad sometimes means "Adventures in GPS Programming." Occasionally Dad will program Shortest Route into the Global Positioning System (GPS), instead of Fastest Route. Usually this is by accident, but sometimes we do it intentionally. Setting your GPS for Shortest Route is about the same thing as saying, "I want to get there, but I want to see every backwood, neighborhood, county road, train crossing, and two-lane track in between where I am and there." We have literally gone through neighborhoods where I did not feel safe and where the road has gone from blacktop to gravel to dirt road and back again. It's the scenic route, for sure.
After following our Irish GPS through neighborhoods, suburbs, narrow country one-track lanes, and all manner of "R, N, and M" roads (Regional, National, Motorway - the U.S. equivalent of 4-lane divided expressway), I am now convinced with this trip to Waterford that it is programmed for "shortest route." Plain and simple, we got lost. 

As the GPS - which had so far been a stalwart companion and gigantic boon to our journey - directed us through another small neighborhood in Waterford, it told us to turn right down Alley. That's what it called it. No name, just "Alley." The problem was there were two strong gate doors blocking our way. The "Alley" was clearly closed. So we drove on, waiting for the unit to "recalculate." It did.

And then directed us to take three lefts and return to a right turn onto "Alley."

So we switched it off and drove on, hoping by blind chance and dumb luck to run into something sign-posted that might give us a clue about how to reach our hotel, which we knew was right up against the river.

We drove for about five or ten minutes, then realized that relying on a vehicular game of "Pin the Tourist on the Hotel" wasn't working. And the streets were getting considerably narrower and the neighborhoods considerably more run down. So finally, we spotted a city bus. Deciding that it must have to stay on major streets through the city, we decided to follow it. Eventually it led us to a petrol station. Take note, if you ever decide to drive in Ireland, gas stations are few and far between.

Now, let me inject a word here about the people of Ireland. They are, quite simply, the nicest, kindest, politest, finest people group I have met in my travels. Without any need to be kind to strangers in their land, they have done so and gone out of their way to see Pop and I put right. Granted, most of the Irish I've met have been in the service industry and reliant upon the good will of the tourists and their customers, but you get a sense that they would be this way even off the clock. At any rate, the petrol station attendant gave us quite solid directions back to the City Centre and 20 minutes later (we had wandered that far off our path), we found our hotel and checked in.

After getting settled and letting me have a good lie down to get rid of my headache, Pop and I took a short walk around the hotel. This place, which claims to be the largest hotel in Ireland (in terms of number of rooms), looks like it was knitted and patched together with add-on wings and renovations over the years. Don't get me wrong, it's very nice, but I think the reason they have more rooms than any other hotel is because they have the *smallest* rooms of any hotel. At least that we've been in, so far.

But they have three things going for them: 1) They are less than two blocks from the Waterford Crystal Factory. Dad can walk there fairly easily, if we go slow enough, and the Factory has a wheelchair we can borrow; we checked this afternoon while we were out.  2) There is actually room between our twin beds to walk between them. The other three hotels we've been in ... well ... let's just say the beds are so close together that if we got cold Pop and I could have a pretty good cuddle and warm up.  3) The food in the hotel restaurant is not totally unreasonable Euro-wise and, in fact, it is delicious.

However ... no washcloths. Weird.

Waterford is Ireland's oldest city, having been founded and settled by the Vikings in the 800s. It lies on the banks of the River Suir (pronounced "Shure"), and it was here that the Irish flag was born. You can find a few more photos and some shots of some nifty - and expensive - Waterford Crystal products on my Facebook Page.


Mark's Musings is published on a semi-periodical basis that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at Facebook link is over there to the right. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. Tomorrow: We get to see how that expensive Waterford Crystal is made!

No comments: