Because you never know when you'll need to entertain the Chinese consulate

Tomorrow, we're taking advantage of a break in the Critter's schedule at The Queen's School For Girls, and heading out for what the Brits call a "weekend break." Meaning we're getting up well before dawn in order to hop a plane off this freaking island.

OK, so we're only going as far as the island next door. It's been about six years since we've been to Ireland, not counting the quasi-militarized North counties. Our trip there was at least a year or two B.C. (Before Critter), and was one of the least organized, most enjoyable trips we've ever taken. We booked no hotel accomodations up front (except for a couple of nights right at the end in Belleek Castle, just to say we've stayed in a castle). Each day we'd wake up, pick a spot on the map, and head out. We managed to do a near complete circle of the island in two weeks that way, and hit some of the most remote places in the west of Ireland on the way, places where sheep outnumber people by about 30 to 1. It was a my idea of heaven.

This time, we're just going for three days, and we're on a mission: we're going for silverware and beer.

On our last trip, we ended up in Waterford, which, besides being a pretty cool town, also is home to the fine crystal manufacturer of the same name. So we figured we'd hit the factory tour while we were there. In the factory store, they had all kinds of nice things in addition to crystal, including an amazing and huge set of formal silverware with mother of pearl or bone handles and a giant case made from wood I think, or maybe metal that was lined in blue, black or something like a dark green velvet. OK, so we don't remember exactly the details. Just that we really, really liked it, and the store employees were very polite when they asked us to please stop drooling on the merchandise. At the time, we talked ourselves out of buying the set, because a) it wasn't cheap, and b) when exactly were we going to need 20 place settings worth of silver?

Our sense of self-congratulation on avoiding a foolish impulse-buy lasted approximately 3 days. I have since looked online at different retailers and wholesalers, and even gone so far as to call the factory store to see if I couldn't buy that set, to no avail. (See above for my faculty for describing the actual set of silverware: "Um, yeah.. it was a big set, and it had forks and spoons. And knives! There were definitely knives... And it came in a box? A big box! ... With velvet! ... And there may still be drool stains?") We figure if we go back to the original scene, we may see something that sparks our memory. Never mind that it's been six years since we've been there, and they rotate stock every week. We're optimists, damn you.

And the beer? That's just because they make seriously good beer there. And I want me some.