Thursday, August 07, 2008

Ireland: Day 8

We're in County Cork today & off to Blarney Castle. Lord Blarney built the castle on his estate in 1446. The Queen urged him, in every coy manner she could muster, to bequeath his estate to the crown upon his death. Naturally, he never gave the Queen a direct answer. In fact, did you know that there is no word for "yes" or "no" in Gaelic? So you'll notice that the Irish never really give you a direct answer to a yes or no question. They'll answer the question "twenty ways to Sunday" without ever really answering a question. That's why the Irish say "well, that's a lot of blarney."

Anyway. Back to Lord Blarney. So upon his death, he basically says "screw the Queen" and keeps the estate in the family rather than giving it to the crown. Blarney Castle is one of the best & largest examples of a tower house castle in Ireland.

On our way out of Blarney, we drove through Mallow, which was formerly the center of Irish sugar production. When Ireland joined the EU, they were forced to stop producing sugar. Instead, this industry was "given" to poorer countries in the EU. However, the Irish are still known for butter production & this region is now known for its quality butter.

We next went through Cork - also Michael's hometown. Cork Harbor is one of the deepest in the world. The Port of Cove is best known as the center of Irish immigration during the famine. Between 1848 & 1950, more than 2 million people passed through the port on their way to America. In fact, the Titanic made a stop there on April 11th before it met its tragic fate with the iceberg.

Wexford is the crop-growing region of Ireland. It's also known as the "sunny southeast" because it sees the most hours of sun per year.

Our ultimate destination (and fifth hotel) was Waterford, which is the Viking word for "windy fijord." It was founded in 853 but did not become an "official" city until 914 when they began trading with other countries. In the 19th century, Waterford became known for its ship building. Of course, you & I know it for its beautiful crystal, which came into production in 1783. We made a quick stop at the factory but chose not to take the tour due to the harried schedule we would have had later prior to the evening concert.

We gave a terrific concert at the City Hall. By far, it was our most enthusiastic audience. One of the attendees knew John Rutter quite well and thoroughly enjoyed the pieces we'd chosen. He returned to our hotel with us after the concert & he and Harry planned the upcoming season's Christmas concert - A Celtic Christmas.

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