It’s that time of the month when I hop on a JJ Kavanagh & Sons bus and head out to another part of the country on what I’m calling my great Irish journey. So far some of you have been with me as I’ve seen the beautiful Kilkenny city and I’ve lived the effervescent Limerick. This time I’m rolling down to Waterford and I’m beyond excited!
Once again the bus takes me through a sleepy Naas town where I lived for a little period a good thirteen years ago. It’s not just the lush green hills that roll by, I can feel nostalgia rolling over as we pass through the town. It’s a Friday and the bus is full of students with headphones on, chatting silently, getting ready for exams (I know that pain!) or nodding off to sleep.
A few hours later and the coach comes over the river Suir and pulls into Waterford city quays. First impressions? Waterford is quietly beautiful. It’s a grey day and not particularly warm but there’s still a lovely view over the harbour. First port of call is WLRFM and BEAT 102 just outside the city for a quick chat about #TrailsOfIreland with Billy (who used to be a priest!) and Trishauna. It was at this point I would begin my education on Waterford with my very first blaa and crisp sandwich… Haven’t had blaa? Look it up and get blaa; it is delicious! Mine came from M&D bakery and they are renowned for their blaa!
A quick trip back to the main city with my chauffeur for the day, the fabulously knowledgeable Ray from Rapid Cabs and we swung onto the quays and into a place you guys recommended that I was really looking forward to!
Brunker’s is a brilliant little café that only opened in November. Owned and operated by the brother-sister duo Gavin and Kim Brunker; Brunker’s is full of a bunch of eclectic pieces arranged in a fabulous way. Things that would otherwise look like a jumbled mess come together here and give the café real charm! Gavin sources all the props and decorations and he’s done and is doing a great job.
There’s four sandwiches on the menu and all look just as delicious as each other. It was a tough choice so I let Kim choose for me. She made me a fabulous Ballybricken on Blaa (with her own special sauce) and I sipped on a refreshing homemade lemonade. I love the drive and ambition of the Brunker’s and it would seem everyone else does too! Definitely a place to visit and hang out for a while.
About twenty minutes outside the city (once again, Ray from Rapid cabs was my guide) is Mayfield Birds of Prey. On the grounds of Kilmacthomas Work Houses, Willie is on hand with his flock of beautiful hunting birds; in all sizes from Muffin the tiny little owl to Holly the majestic hawk; you get to feed them, and see how they interact with Willy (they love him).
The best bits of the experience is getting the birds to perch on your glove; it’s an amazing feeling and some of them are much heavier than they look! You even get to go on a walk with Holly the hawk along the railway tracks and you get to know more about her and her abilities from a master bird trainer. If you love birds or if you’re looking for something different, this is highly recommended!
Back in the city, I finally checked into the Tower Hotel; I met the brilliantly accommodating Avril who went out of her way to make sure my stay was just delightful. The hotel is perfectly placed at the far end of the quay; opposite Reginald’s tower and beside the historic Viking Triangle. There’s lots of leisure services to avail of, from massages to facials… I’m getting carried away now… My room had great views of the river Suir and was nice and quiet at night. Breakfast is served until 10:30 and is delightful while the bartenders are absolutely hilarious. The Tower hotel came recommended by many locals and that says it all!
Now on the way to Waterford, many of you told us we had to meet local personality ‘Howdo’ so we went searching on the day for him. The lovely guys at the Waterford Tourist Information Office (Celia was just amazing) were able to find him but I just missed him; however while walking down up to Burzza’s, I bumped into the man himself while talking to Celia from WTIO and he was only happy to tell me that in fact, his name is not Howdo, but actually Michael O’Shea! Actually, he never said “how do” to me! (I don’t know if that’s good or bad!). He mentioned he’s lived in Waterford for longer than he could remember and wished me well. Everywhere I went everyone knew who Michael was and it’s great to see how people in the Waterford community look out for each other.
A walk around the city and a few tweets later (after getting slightly lost at one point) and I got down to the aptly named Burzza; I say aptly named because they serve up the most beautiful burgers and pizzas (see what they did there?) Well Burzza is a beautiful restaurant and in some ways resembles a cool New York eatery. It doesn’t quite scream cool, it whispers it in a powerful voice you have to listen to. The menu itself looks delicious but I’d been told to get the Burzza special, which is a burger… wait for it… INSIDE a pizza. Seriously. Anyway I ordered that and one of the selection of craft beers on the drinks menu. I was not disappointed. I can never quite look at a burger or a pizza ever again without seeing a burzza. It’s not just a gimmick though, it actually tasted divine! I recommend it and also wish they did takeaways to Dublin!
After dinner I got to meet the head chef Jamie; who is also head chef of Bodega next door (talk about multitasking) and resident Italian pizza master, Giovanni who showed off his “pizza naturale” technique and left me very impressed! Have to give a quick shout out to Niall who was positively fantastic!
Next up was a brisk walk through New Street and the city centre for a walking tour with Jack Burtchaell; Jack is known for knowing all there is to know about Waterford and its history and as the oldest city in Ireland, that’s a lot of history Jack knows!
There are certain types of walking tours that try too hard or are very boring and I have to say Jack was none of those things. He starts at the Granville hotel and then goes on an easy walk; with a bit more than a bit of a swagger in his step and calmly and confidently speaks about major events from Waterford’s past almost as if he was there when the events occurred. You get the sense that he owns the city and is more than happy to share it; the way he leans on a bollard or sits on a low wall while telling old stories and making you giggle… I’d say he’s a born performer but I more than get the feeling he’s just being himself. If you want to see the Viking Triangle differently, this is the way to go!
I wrapped up Friday by visiting a late night barber shop; yes, a late night barber shop. I only noticed The Bearded Lady because there was a DJ playing wicked tunes that emanated right onto the street. I had to pop in obviously!
I met Louise who didn’t have much convincing to do to get me to sit down for a haircut! There’s loads of nice touches in here; a vintage piano in the back, other instruments littered around, a PlayStation in case anyone feels like shooting aliens and even a wall of fame that some famous faces like the band Hudson Taylor have signed. Louise only opened up a couple of weeks ago and she’s the only hairdresser in house, but I definitely see the store growing over the next few months! We chatted arts, festivals and a lot of other nothings as she gave me the best cut I’ve had in a long time! Thanks Louise!
With that, I popped into Geoff’s for a quick drink and popped my head into the Foundry to see what all the young kids are doing these days then it was back to the hotel for some very much-needed shuteye! Look out for day two on the blog and leave us a tweet about any of the places we visited!
You can experience all of what Waterford City has to offer from just €10 one way?