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County Waterford

(It Just Gushes 'Tourist Trap')

Excerpts from Beth:
Waterford Crystal Factory TourWaterford, a name that is synonymous with all that is rich, exclusive and extravagant. When the Roadchix discovered that the famous Waterford Crystal Factory gave tours of their facility, we were hot on the trail. The lobby gushed lavishness with chandeliers, wood paneling, and a lovely cafeteria with such favorites as hot pressed sandwiches, grilled salmon, mineral water and individual fruit tarts.

It also gushed "tourist trap" with about 3 classes of school children sprawled out with their lunch bags waiting for their tours. The tour began with a shuttle bus ride to the factory.

Rule #1: when they have to shuttle you to the start of the tour, you know you're in for a whopper of a factory.

Rule #2: when your tour guides are perfectly coifed, wearing headset microphones and look like flight attendants, you know they mean business. The tour was fascinating from beginning to end. It was immediately apparent why the goods are so pricey. Each piece is made entirely by hand by a team of skilled trades people who require 5-8 years of apprenticeship before one of their pieces would ever make it to the store shelf.

First we watched the glass blowing operation, then the glass cutting and finally the etching and finishing processes. We even got some time up close and personal with a master craftsman and his whirling diamond wheel to watch the creation of the famous "Lismore" pattern.

Another fun fact about glass is that Waterford never has the necessity to sell factory "seconds." Any mistakes are simply thrown back in the furnace to re-melt for the next project, a sorrowful occasion for the craftsman who got shorted on his paycheck. The tour ended, of course, in the gift shop, that was actually a three-story showroom that literally glistened. We drooled over the pieces, tried to decide if we had enough Euros for a souvenir, and bought postcards instead.

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