In 1997, we brought a group of friends for their first – and likely only – visit to Europe. Per usual, our guide had impeccable qualifications, expertise in European history, languages, music and other cultural traditions. We were in superb hands, trusted his advice and still today, that trip – the France portion, that is – remains one of my Top 3 travel adventures.
After an exciting few days in Paris exploring museums, cathedrals and culinary treasures, we set off for our beloved emerald isle in search of the ‘Real Ireland’.
Things not to miss in Ireland
Carmel and her husband shared Irish heritage and were anxious to ‘breath the air of their ancestors’. Carmel’s singular priority was to visit the world famous Waterford Crystal Factory. Indeed this crowned her “Things NOT to miss in Ireland”
Waterford city is located southeast of Dublin. Founded by Vikings in 914 A.D. along the River Suir, it is Ireland’s oldest city.
All Waterford Crystal artists must complete an intensive apprentice program, before becoming master craftsmen and designers for the global marketplace.
Over the years, I’ve know many master engravers and artisans at the legendary factory.
As a sculptor herself, Carmel was anxious to see the manufacturing process up close, and perhaps even get a few tips. Irish American homes are notoriously filled with crystal. Heirlooms passed down from grandparents and even great-grandparents.
In fact, you can usually identify an Irish home within moments of walking through the front door. A Lismore vase, a holy water font, a crucifix, an Irish lace candy bowl, or even an ashtray usually catch your attention sparkling in the sunlight.
Check your Bucket List for Holes
I re-assured Carmel we would travel clock-wise around the republic. Leaving the capital city of Dublin, we’d stop in Kilkenny, and then arrive in Waterford with ample time to explore the region. From there, we would continue south to Cork and Kerry, looping northward along the west coast through Limerick, Clare, Galway, Connemara and eventually across the midlands, back to Dublin.
Unfortunately, our guide was working under a different set of priorities. We bypassed Waterford altogether and instead headed straight west to the Atlantic counties of Kerry, Limerick, and Clare!
There were festivals and exciting theatric events scheduled for the week, dancing, art performances, hurling matches and behind the scene tours of magnificent heritage sites. Our itinerary was rich and diverse, filled with late night sessions and wonderful new friends.
However, Carmel grew increasingly nervous as time passed. It was becoming clear the others were not considering her desire to see the iconic Waterford. We pleaded with our tour guide, who perhaps not being familiar with the factory tours himself, did not understand the urgency. “There’s plenty of time yet and plenty of options.”
Locals spoke proudly of Galway Crystal. “Surely that’s as good and its only up the road!”
It’s important to remember the competition and rivalry among Irish counties is not limited to sport!
What’s your “Waterford Moment” ?
Days passed and the window closed for Carmel. There was no time to travel to the southeast to visit the factory, meet the craftsmen, watch the glass being blown and shaped in front of our eyes. Deeply disappointed, she accepted the Galway Crystal option. Her heart shattered like glass on the ceramic floor upon entering the showroom. Her feeling of betrayal was hard to conceal and lives with me to this day. Galway only offered a showroom, a media and product display of their beautiful creations. It was definitely not a working factory tour as we had been lead to believe.
Carmel was incredibly gracious over time, but an important piece of trust died that day. Over time, it has became known as the “Waterford Moment” and directs all our future travel plans.
Waterford was at the top of Carmel’s Bucket List and it fell out the bottom when we weren’t paying attention. She deferred her greatest desire until last, and as a result, never experienced it at all. This miscalculation has haunted us for decades – Carmel never returned to Ireland.
Bucket List + Plan + SIP = Travel Experience with No Regrets
What is your Waterford? How can you be sure it doesn’t fall out of your bucket?
How can you not sacrifice your Waterford, and still compromise with everyone else?
This is the SIP– the Single Important Part– of your Bucket List. I’ve traveled to Ireland, France, Africa, and Cuba extensively. Each itinerary starts with a clearly identified SIP.
Next August, we will be returning again to Ireland with friends, old and new. We’ve included many SIPs– the Single Important Parts– into our exciting itinerary but you might have others. Plan ahead to add any missing SIPs to your personal plans, just in case we can’t add them to our own list. Our friends at Celtic Tours will be happy to help!