Kylemore Abbey and Gardens, Connemara Marble Factory, Celtic CrystalFactory

Our wonderful weather left us today. It was okay because we were only outside for a short time, and during that time, the rain stopped. Even though it was a dark gray day, we still managed to avoid most of the rain.

Before I go on, I want to address one reader (you know who you are), who suggested BlogPress might allow me to post pictures within the narrative. I just gave it a try, and it seems I need a Picasa Web Album to draw on, and I don't have one set up. Rather than go to that trouble, I'm going to continue as I have been. Theoretically, I could take the time to figure all this out, but you know how it is. Actually, I'm an old cat, and cats do not like tricks, no matter how old they are. If you know something I don't know, please chime in.

With that comment, ahem, I'll continue on with my Irish narrative. It was another long day today, although quite enjoyable. I am SO glad not to be going to the gala tonight. I really need some down time. My roommate is just fine, and we are getting along with no problems. Still, I need some alone time, and tonight it will be mine.

So what did we do today anyway? We started the day driving out to the Connemara area. This was all quite interesting. I didn't take as many pictures simply because we spend a good deal of our sight-seeing time on the bus. When it's raining, all I get are pictures of wet windows. When it's not raining, my pictures have a lot of reflections in them, but at least I have a fighting chance. Today, I didn't even try unless the rain stopped.

Sadly, I don't have any good pictures of the bogs. We drove past many acres of bogs. Bogs, not blogs. Ha! (Yes, I'm tired.) There were several areas where someone had dug up the peat and left it to dry. It's used in various ways. We use it in the US in peat moss, but it's been mixed in with spangum (spelling?) moss and is used to hold moisture in dry soil. I know in our area of the world, we use it to aerate our otherwise clay soil. I bring this up because apparently, it is quite dangerous to walk out into the bogs. One can be sucked under into the muck and never seen again. I offer this up informatively, and also as a warning to those of you who might visit Ireland in the future. Do not be tempted to wander out into the bogs without expert guidance. Frankly, I wouldn't even do it with expert guidance.

Another thing I've been wanting to tell you is that the rhododendrons here are considered an invasive species and we saw virtual forests of them today. While those that we grow in Oregon are prized and cultivated, these will take over entire areas choking out all the native plants. I noted that the flowers were a little smaller than the ones I'm accustomed to. You'll see an image below with some purple blossoms in the middle. They look a little more like an azalea blossom than a rhododendron blossoms, but the leaves are clearly rhodies. When you see the image, you'll see that approximately the bottom 2/3 of the image is rhodies swallowing up some poor suffering trees. Invasive or not, they are very pretty. We are informed, however, that volunteers dig up the plants roots and all, the roots are dried, and then burned. As an Oregonian, it's hard to imagine.

All of this driving was to make our way out to Kylemore Abbey. You'll see the image of the Abbey looking very castle-like across a pond. The house was built by a man of enormous wealth, who eventually lost the property in some sort of gambling incident. (I could be getting this all wrong.) At some point, the grounds were turned over to some Benedictine monks and it became a school for girls. (A party school, no doubt.)

There is a fabulous garden there, which is more than just flowers. It also includes fantastic herb gardens, fruit trees, including a banana tree that is growing in a greenhouse; also vegetables, medicinal herbs . . . in short, anything that grows for human consumption of any kind is growing in this garden.

The gardens at one time sported several greenhouses, but they fell into disrepair and the greenhouses collapsed. Some 20 years ago, through a variety of funding sources, the gardens began to be revitalized. At least one of the greenhouses has been repaired, and the others are in the process of being repaired.

These are working gardens and the harvest is used in the restaurant on the grounds, and presumably by those nuns and monks who still live there. It was a very enjoyable stroll around the grounds. We also visited the abbey. I didn't take any pictures of the inside of the abbey since (in my view) it contained a lot of old moldy stuff. Not really my thing. When I'm visiting a place, I really enjoy what's outdoors more than what's indoors . . . unless it happens to be quilts. If quilts are involved, I don't care where they happen to be. Same goes for cats.

Speaking of cats, when I looked inside the greenhouse, who do you suppose I saw sleeping in the warmest area on the grounds? Her mother didn't raise any dummies. She was so lively, my picture ended up a little out of focus. (Ha! Nothing is ever my fault. You know that right?)

Everything growing there was truly spectacular, and I found myself wishing I had two of myself so that one of me could spend all day gardening and one of me could spend all day sewing. And maybe I could make room for another half of me who would clean things up a little once in a while. Actually, what I need is a slave. Any volunteers? In fact, when I finish here, I think I'll post a job opening on Craig's List. Wanted: One slave. Pay Zero. Lots of laughs, though. (Anyone? Really, it will be fun! Heck, I'll even throw in lunch!)

Okay, so what did we do next? We went to the Connemara Marble Factory, which was a quick stop, but very, very interesting. The marble comes from right in the area, and it is the only place in the world where it is found. It came in many colors, including red, green, white, and black. The black was particularly interesting because it was full of fossils. There were fossils of various kinds of shells and oysters. The person who gave the little talk informed us that sometimes when they cut through a slab of the black marble, whole oyster shells fall out of it. Also, they find fossils of fish vertebrae. There is something so completely fascinating to me about fossils. I imagine it is because they are so terrifically old. I'm hoping to be a fossil one day myself. A worthy goal don't you think? (Be nice. If you want that slave job, don't even think about making any fossil cracks.)

The image you'll see of the daisies with the colored pots sitting on a shelf above them was taken at the Marble Factory. They had the prettiest collection of flower pots that had been lovingly tended by someone.

Finally, we visited the Celtic Crystal Factory, which was also very interesting. The owner, a charming Irish woman, took us around and showed us all the crystal in their showroom and explained how it's all done. There is the clear cut crystal, but it also comes in a variety of colors.

To make colored cut crystal requires two dippings. The second dipping creates the colors: red comes from gold (I think), blue from cobalt, green from lead, and purple from amethyst. The blue and purple are apparently so difficult for the cutter to work with that they are limited in how many pieces they can make each year. Only three blue pieces and one purple piece are made per year. The other colors were also limited, but not so tightly.

She explained at some length about the designs on the crystals, mostly representing various parts of Irish history, stories, celtic symbols and the like. It was way more interesting hearing about it than I had anticipated, and I found myself listening with fascination.

We were also treated to a cutting demonstration. The cutters are highly skilled and educated. To be accepted as an apprentice, they first must have a degree in art and design. Then it is a five year apprenticeship to be a master cutter. To cut colored crystal requires two more years of apprenticeship. One would need to be extremely devoted to one's craft. After all, one could become a doctor given that much training! I was inspired by the devotion the cutters must feel to their craft and the passion it would take to work for decades in such a field. It's unlike quilting, but to be passionate about an art form is the same no matter what, it seems.

I've shown you a picture of the cutter giving us the demonstration as well as a replica of a cut crystal chalice that was created for Pope John Paul when he visited Ireland some twenty years ago. I hope the image captures it as beautifully as it was in person.

So that's about all I have for today. I'm going to spend some time answering email. I so appreciate those of you who have taken the time to respond to my posts. It's nice to know that you are reading and enjoying them. The quilt show starts tomorrow. I'm going to try to restrain myself from taking pictures of every single solitary quilt, but I'm not known for my restraint when it comes to photography.

Take care all. I'm missing reading all of your blogs simply because I don't have the time. I'll have some catching up to do when I get home.

15 comments from clever and witty friends:

Vroomans' Quilts said...

Your comentary posts are just so lively and colorful - you can make the photos in your mind - loving all of it. And glad you found another furry friend to add to the photo collection.

Teresa in Music City said...

Way a wonderfully fun day! Seeing the glass cutting would have been fascinating to me too I believe! And it's interesting about the colors being different in difficulty. Of course, blue is right in there with the difficult crowd :*) None of my favorites are ever easy it seems!

Bummer about BlogPress!!! I am thinking that the reason it works for me is because at retreat I just take pictures with the iPad and they load from there so there is no need for Picasa. I did begin to set up a Picasa account once but got sidetracked and never completed the process. I need to do that so I could use my camera pictures when blogging too.

At any rate, I'm loving the pictures you share!!! And as Sharon says, your commentary on your adventures is totally fun!!! I find myself looking for your post first thing every day :*) Looking forward to quilt pics tomorrow!

Sarah said...

Your latest Irish friend looks a lot like my Squeaky! Did your driver (Micheal?) tell you that at some point in the near future the Irish will no longer be able to burn peat bricks? I am sure it will rock some of their worlds to take away this fuel source...
Mom got me some Connemara jewelry (green of course!) and it's so pretty.

WoolenSails said...

It sounds like they are keeping you busy and moving all day, think that might tire me out, lol. Love that red glass, I do have a collection of red, wonderful to see them making it.


Irina said...

Oh! you're here already! the weather has changed hasn't it? but I hope it is not stopping you from sightseeing!

Diane Wild said...

Is that marble sent to America for tombstones? I, too, look forward to your posts every day. Just like being there with you. Pretend I'm your seat buddy. Pretty quiet most of the time, aren't I?

Junebug613 said...

I really enjoy reading your whimsical posts. I enjoy all the pictures as well. I'm living vicariously (sp?) through you. I have to agree about wandering through the bogs - why would anyone want to? I'm always up for a good hike through a forest, but mucking around in a bog does not sound like much fun to me. I am also glad there is someone else who a "shutter finger" addiction. :)

Sally James said...

Sounds like you are having a fabulous time. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. I so do enjoy reading your posts each day :)

Kathy Felsted Usher said...

Love the photos! Yes, those bushes are huge!

Needled Mom said...

Did you hike up to the chapel in Kylemore? The grounds were definitely gorgeous with waterfalls, etc. I could have spent days there wandering the gardens.

I think they also burn the logs from the bogs. Did they mention that? They were very interesting, weren't they? Are you also seeing lots of old potato rows from the great potato famine days?

The crystal cutting looks incredible. I would love to watch them work.

Do you get to go to Ashford Castle next or is it back to Dublin now?

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

What fun it is to tour with your eyes and words; I never have to leave my chair never mind the house or country !~!

Glad you are having fun as I polish my resume and try to restrain my wise-cracking; when will you be interviewing for the slave w/o sense of humor job?~! I would love to work for you and have George for companionship and long walks.

Keep snapping photos; we are loving them.

Dana Gaffney said...

Beautiful, I'm with you when it comes to an old building, but lucky they usually have beautiful gardens that I would happily spend a day in. It makes me a little sad that they kill the rhododendrons like that, but I get it, invasive is bad. Did you hear about the huge dock that washed up in Oregon with all kinds of Japan only species? I'd gladly be your slave, or handmaiden, but you'd have to duct tape my mouth if you leave yourself wide open like that and don't expect any comeback.

Dana Gaffney said...

Looking at the pictures again, I don't know what that white and teal building is, but I want to live there.

kc said...

I'm having such fun reading of your travels - I feel like I've been right there beside you!! (wish I had been, for sure!)

Such a pretty post - thank you for sharing so many interesting sites & details! Looks like you found some columbine, too - that surprised me!

Have fun, don't worry about taking too many pictures, after all, there's no film anymore & if ya don't like what you see, you just erase it!

quiltzyx said...

Rhodies are an invasive plant in Ireland? Wow! I was just telling my sister about one of my online quilty friends in Newfoundland, how she carefully over-winters her geraniums in the basement with grow lights. And how I sent her pictures last year of some of the geraniums growing like a WALL in my neighbors yard!!
Looks like you have a few takers for your slave job already. Maybe you'll get enough to rotate them...

Loving all the pics - and oh boy, the quilt show is coming up! Yay!