Jayme and I spent Monday walking around Ciddy Center in Waterford. It’s pretty quaint with many areas that are pedestrian only. We probably should have asked people what to do around town as we had no clue where to go or what we were doing. Waterford is the oldest city in Ireland and Reginald’s Tower is the oldest standing urban civic structure in Ireland so there should be some history. Then again, I don’t really care if I see things and stand in front of them to have my picture taken. Everybody does that. We meandered our way through the streets in and out of shops. We stepped into a small gift shop but I was not going to buy a bunch of Guinness knick-knacks. They did however have those family name placards. The had spelled it “McLoughlin” and noted “McLaughlin” as an alternative. The lineage sounded like the version I vaguely remember but the crest looked completely different. They also had an O’Meara card for my grandmother on my dad’s side but the printing was smudged a bit in a few spots so I decided to leave it and see if maybe I ran across one elsewhere.
We left the shop and kept walking the streets. Eventually we went into one of the malls. Clothes shopping was a bit of an experience for me. Found a nice shirt in one of the shops and looked for my size. I’m about a large or extra-large in the US. I’m a big guy but fairly skinny. I decided to grab an extra-large and tried it on figuring “Well, stuff runs smaller here.” I put the thing on and honestly felt like one of those guys back home wearing a smedium t-shirt. I felt like if I moved my arms back a bit I’d have some Bruce Banner incident. A double extra-large would have been more appropriate if they had one. Again, how are people so small here when they put butter on their bacon?
After leaving the mall Jayme stopped into a store and I hung around on the street. There were two kids a few doors down playing some music. They were playing Jim Croce?!?!? “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown”. After that they broke into “The Boxer” from Simon and Garfunkel. I tossed them two Euros since I like both songs and was quite surprised to hear them. I kind of wanted to ask them why they were playing American music. Music that you really don’t hear in the US. In fact, I’ve heard a lot of good older US music since I’ve been here that I never hear at home. On the car radio later that night I heard “Roadrunner” from The Modern Lovers (and all its Boston references) and “The Ocean” from the Velvet Underground (which never even made it onto a real VU album) after it. Later as we walked there was an old man with a small dented amp playing Woodie Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”. I wanted to stay and see if he knew the “private property” verse. That verse and the “relief office” verse give the song a much different meaning than the version I was taught as a kid. I could barely understand his singing so I figured we might as well meander on. I know there are different versions in other nations. Was he singing an Irish version and that’s why I was confused?
By this point we were a little hungry so we stopped into McDonald’s. Yes, we went to McDonald’s while on vacation across the Atlantic Ocean. We were those tourists. However it’s worth mentioning that the Big Tasty with bacon (hey, bacon again) was actually pretty good. Way better than the Big Mac at home. It was actually, well, tasty and I’ll even say I liked it better than the burger yesterday in Tramore.
After lunch we made our way down a small street and found BPM Records which we stepped into. MUCH smaller than the music stores I know back home but actually managed to find some music to buy. Even with the large stores at home I typically find myself scouring Amazon for anything I really want. Found a recent Undertones (they hailed from Ulster) CD which I picked up. No Stiff Little Fingers CDs however. Also picked up a few other albums. Punk music, not Irish folk music.
Headed along the quays stepping in and out of places. Eventually came to the corner with Reginald’s Tower though it was closed. Across from there in the middle of the street there is a statue of Thomas Francis Meagher who was an American Civil War general. May seem weird that a statue of an American general is standing in Waterford but he was from Waterford and is most well known for designing the Irish tri-color flag. The green for the Catholics, the orange for the Protestants, and the white for peace in between.
Headed past there when Jayme and I decided to head into a pub for a drink. We came across the Green Fiddler which had previously been Paul Flynn’s. Walked in and everyone turned to look at us. Four people sitting at the bar, a man and woman at a table and the place still managed to be crowded as the room was slightly bigger than a shoebox. VH1 Classic was playing the Spice Girls on the corner TV though the bartender switched it to traditional Irish music once he realized Jayme and I were Americans. He also told the drunken Scotsman to behave himself. Once everyone found out we were Americans they wanted to talk to us. They wanted to tell us about Waterford or if they had been to America where they had been. Sinead tried to keep Ivor from chewing our ear off but I enjoyed it. After we finished our pints we then headed to Jordan’s a few blocks over which Sinead had recommended. She felt we’d get an even better view of real Waterford in a place like that than we had in a place like T&H a few nights ago.
Stepped into Jordans and it was about twice the size as the Green Fiddler with about the same amount of people. There were three guys named Brian at the bar drinking and they introduced as to Johnathan at the other end but he was “more interested in his four legged friends” on the TV. Eventually we met Jason when he emerged from somewhere else in the bar. He had spent some years living around the US. He spent some time in Queens and for a time further out on Long Island before moving to San Diego. I pressed him further about Long Island and found out he lived in the late 80′s / early 90′s in my hometown of Freeport. He was on the opposite south side of town from me when I was growing up. This makes the second person with ties to Freeport that I’ve run across here. (Well, Keith’s roommate’s girlfriend I haven’t actually met but that’s still more people in Waterford from my hometown than I know of in Boston.) Finally Keith came from work and grabbed us. Would have kept talking but we had to leave. Keith later explained that maybe talking with people who were drunk on a Monday afternoon wasn’t the best idea. I kind of see the point. I’d usually avoid those people back home but I found everyone very friendly and interesting. By the way, I had a cider there and liked it but can’t recall the name. Started with a “C” I believe. It was pumped instead of poured from a tap.
Later that evening we made our way to Rocket’s in Tramore which had been so busy the day before and I had another traditional Irish meal. Keith had told me about the ribs. They’re boiled. I had also heard about the crubeens. They’re pigs feat… Boiled. The ribs ended up being pretty good with a little bit of mustard. The meat reminded me of corned beef actually. If you took the ribs of the bone, shredded it, and threw it onto some bread with a little bit of mustard it would make a killer sandwich. The crubeens I found a little tougher to eat. I was pulling apart the bones searching for the meat but mostly had just skin along with fat and gristle that had an almost jelly like consistency. Keith finally told me that was what you ate. Later heard, “Yeah, even we don’t eat that, You’re pretty brave,” when it comes to crubeens from various people.
After dinner we went to a pub near Keith’s house. The sign on the door said “members only” which scared us a little bit. We walked in and a handful of people sat at the bar while there was a large poker game setup across the room. We later found out the sign was up from the weekend and is there to keep the knackers out and prevent trouble. Knackers are what we call Irish Travelers in the US. Had some pints and ended our evening there.