Day 5 |
May 23, 2012

Waterford, Ireland 

By Juan Carlos Restrepo, Geologist

Co-ordinates: N 52º15’47”, W 007º06’17”
Weather: Overcast Air Temperature: 16ºC

This morning the Silver Explorer sailed up the river Suir on its way to Waterford, coming alongside near the city centre, just on the opposite side of the river.

Waterford, meaning “windy fjord”, is a city in the south-east region of Ireland. Its name probably refers to Waterford as being a safe haven for Viking ships sheltering from a windy Irish Sea. It is the oldest city in the country and fifth largest by population (51,519 in 2011). Viking raiders first established a settlement near Waterford in 853.

This morning I went on the “Walking City Tour”. After a short drive we were dropped off near the Bishop’s Palace for an inside visit. The Bishop’s Palace charts the history of Waterford from 1700 to 1970 and gives a wonderful insight into the history of what, up until the 1750s, was Ireland’s second city.

The museum contains many items of national and international significance, including the only surviving Bonaparte “mourning cross”, which was one of 12 produced upon Napoleon Bonaparte’s death in 1821. It also contains the Penrose decanter, the oldest surviving piece of Waterford Crystal, which dates back to 1789.

The port of Waterford has been one of Ireland’s major ports for over a millennium. In the 19th century ship building was a major industry and today Waterford is known for its crystal, a legacy of the city’s former glass making industry.

A stroll across the road took us to the House of Waterford Crystal. Since the closure of the original factory in 2009, only a limited production of crystal can be found in Waterford. The new showrooms and exhibition took us through a reconstruction of the production process. I took in every detail and learnt the history as the masters amazed me with the centuries-old art of glass-blowing, cutting, polishing and engraving. Following the tour of the factory, we visited the showrooms. The finished product was here on display for us to browse through or perhaps purchase a memento.

We finished the tour with a walk through the historic centre of Waterford where our guide told us a bit more about the fascinating history of this place.

Meanwhile, half of our guests were out on the “Mount Congreve Gardens Tour”. The gardens were created by Mr Ambrose Congreve with the well-recognised assistance of Mr Herman Drool who came from Holland to work at Mount Congreve.

Situated at a sheltered bend along the river Suir, this magnificent estate covers over seven hundred acres, approximately 100 of which comprise the most fantastic gardens imaginable. Expertly designed and tended by these two gentlemen for over 60 years, this garden not only has a remarkable collection of rare and unusual plants and trees, but the landscape is one of the very few that has been designed for an estate of this scale.

Mr Drool has never put in less than 25 plants of a variety because, he believes, the mass planting makes the proper statement when the garden matures. And so it has!

Our guests enjoyed a stroll through these magnificent gardens and absorbed this magical piece of garden heaven.

All tours were back on board around noon and the afternoon was at leisure. Many of our guests headed into town for some individual exploration of Waterford, shopping and a taste of the local cuisine, perhaps along with a proper Guinness beer.

Before dinner the Expedition Team hosted a Recap & Briefing, which was followed by the first timers cocktail party and as always, a delicious dinner.