The Final Ports of Call
Tenders took us to a waterfront town near Waterford, Ireland. We boarded buses that drove through the countryside to the city.
Although there has been a resurgence of thatched roofs in the UK, we viewed them in Waterford. Nowadays, only the wealthy purchase thatched roofs because of the cost – more expensive than shingles and the intensive labor costs of installation. Plus, insurance premiums are high because of fire danger.
Most of the buildings along Waterford’s riverfront date from the 1600s.
After driving in the countryside, we drove through parts of the city. Finally, we left the bus for a walking tour of Waterford, established in the 10th century. We traipsed around Regional’s Tower, a circular defense tower built at the beginning of the 13th century. Its uses varied over the years – a mint, prison, and military store. It is the city’s oldest landmark located at the tip of the Viking Triangle in the city centre. Today it houses an exhibition of historic and archeological artifacts.
Not only are the walls of Christ Church Cathedral light in color, but natural light pours through uncovered windows. The builders only allowed one stained glass window, to honor a request by the prominent family responsible for the building. The cathedral serves the community for worship but also for recitals, concerts, and exhibitions.
The original structure was built around 1050 but was replaced by a Norman Gothic style in 1210. In 1773, the progressive city leaders thought the cathedral old, and wanted to demolish it. They convinced the reluctant bishop of the need for a new building by arranging for rubble to fall in his path. The current structure, completed in 1779, sits on the same spot as the other two. Demolition required gunpowder to raze the previous structure. Many regret trading the beautiful old Norman Gothic Cathedral for the classical Georgian style of today.
The Bishop’s Palace interior remains sparse but true to the original. It houses a museum of Waterford treasures, portraits, as well as copies of the earliest upholstery and wallpaper.
The Waterford showroom literally sparkled. Shelves held crystal treasures – vases, decanters, serving plates and bowls.
Chandeliers covered the ceiling. However, I saw few bags filled with purchases leave the showroom.
Although the Waterford factory closed in 2009, those who took the factory tour said they saw the making of trophies for London’s 2012 Olympic Games. Waterford crystal is now mainly produced in Germany and the Czech Republic.
Inside the showroom, I looked for wine bottle stoppers. A sales lady said they don’t carry them but I could probably find them online. Buying online defeated my purpose of Waterford souvenirs.
From Waterford, we traveled at sea a day before arriving at St. Peters Port on Guernsey Island. I finished reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society while sailing. I learned of the WWII German occupation of this 24 square mile island, only 29 miles from France.
Our ship anchored at a pier not even a quarter of a mile from downtown. Rather than a scheduled tour, I struck out on my own. I boarded a commuter bus for an hour and half ride through the countryside and city. The driver offered no information. I reveled in the greenery, flowers, and shoreline.
Once in the countryside, we passed small plots enclosed by mounds of greenery. Unfortunately I’d left my camera on the ship. Cows grazed in some fields while vegetables grew in others. Farmers left their produce in boxes beside the road and trusted buyers to leave the proper payment. A resident explained there is little crime on the island. Few people lock their houses or cars.
Remnants of WWII German bunkers dotted various shorelines outside of the city. Streets looked to be one-way. I cringed when another large vehicle approached from the opposite direction. We pulled to the side and gave way to the other. Stops allowed residents to jump aboard or exit the bus. Small yards of equally small houses abutted the road and sparse grass covered lawns. However, prolific flower gardens lined the yard edges. Our last stop on the cruise, St. Peter’s Port left me with a feel-good remembrance of a city and island recovered from their suffering of WWII.
After two weeks of travel, I looked forward to returning home.