Ireland Days 3-4 (Northern Ireland, + Morning in Malahide)

On the morning of Day 3 (Sunday) we woke up and had a big breakfast with everyone again. This time, the boys convinced Kristine to let them make bacon and sausage along with everything we’d had from the day before. She HATES basically any meat from a pig and the smell of it, but they promised to do the cooking and air out the house. It was a delicious big breakfast! Then, Kristine dropped Alexander and I off at Enterprise so we could pick up a rental car and head on our road trip. The other two couples were going to do a little exploring of their own and had invited us along, but we really wanted to give them some alone time together because we’d already crashed their party enough. Also, they were staying in the area and we were very anxious to see Northern Ireland.

For those who don’t know, Northern Ireland and Ireland are distinct countries. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland is not. Additionally, Ireland is on Kilometers and Euros, while Northern Ireland is on Miles and Pounds. The interesting thing is that you never see a sign when crossing the border between the two countries, so you have to just guess when the speed limits change and currency changes. Luckily, I had plenty of euros and pounds so we were safe wherever we were!

It was a gorgeous day in Ireland—perfect for a Sunday drive! We took the M1 from the airport up to Belfast and then cut over to the Coastal Causeway which is a (tiny) two-lane road that runs along the coast of Northern Ireland. It was so beautiful! Alexander is not a big fan of being stuck in cars, and the poor guy had to drive the whole time since I’m still not old enough to rent a car, but the Ireland scenery was just so beautiful we both couldn’t stop saying how beautiful it was and trying to take pictures out the windows of the car as we drove along. We both agree that Ireland has been the most beautiful place we’ve seen so far in our lives, and that’s saying a lot for Alexander because he has traveled a lot more than I have! Our first real stop was at a bridge which is basically a shaking rope bridge between two cliffs 25 or 30 meters up in the air! It costs 3 or 4 pounds each to get in, and then you walk down about a mile including about 200 steep steps to get to the bridge. It got a little windy and cold while we were there, but it was so pretty. And when we crossed the bridge it was sunny and there was a rainbow out over the ocean.

Beautiful Ireland (pre-Coastal Causeway)

Beautiful Ireland (pre-Coastal Causeway)

A Little Coastal Causeway

A Little Coastal Causeway

Me on the Rope Bridge!

Me on the Rope Bridge!

I’ve already posted the link in a prior post, but for more pictures of this part of the trip, click here!

Next, we picked up a snack at the Tea Room and then headed to our next destination—the Giants Causeway which has been termed “the eight wonder of the world.” It’s apparently the result of an ancient volcanic eruption and it’s over 40,000 locking towers of stones that are mostly in a hexagonal type shape. You don’t have to pay anything to go see it, but you do have to pay 5 pounds to park. From there it was about a 15 minute walk down to the rocks, and it was a beautiful walk. We got there just before sunset. After we looked around and took some pictures, we went to get in line to catch the last shuttle back instead of walking back since it was getting so chilly.

The Walk Down to the Giants Causeway

The Walk Down to the Giants Causeway

Giants Causeway- This is what the rocks look like

Giants Causeway- This is what the rocks look like

The Shuttle Bus

The Shuttle Bus

I’ve already posted the links in a prior post, but for pictures of the Giants Causeway click here!

As we were leaving the Giants Causeway, I had seen a picture of castle ruins out on a cliff (Dunluce Castle) and I really wanted to try to see it but I thought it was the opposite direction we needed to go, and it might be closed by the time we got there. So we didn’t even try and just headed the way to get us back toward Belfast, and we came around a bend in a road… and there it was. Off over the side of the road were the ruins of Dunluce Castle out on cliff with the sun setting behind it. It’s one of those things that totally takes your breath away. Alexander pulled the car over and we got out to take pictures…. And the cold wind was something that LITERALLY takes your breath away 😉 But I’m so glad we stopped! Amazing! Apparently Adam and Krissi found some castle ruins they were able to walk through (like the Blarney Castle for example… it’s ruins that you can walk through). I’m pretty sure we could have walked through this castle too but it was way too cold and we needed to get on the road back to Malahide. Then it started getting dark pretty fast and we were very glad we took the coastal way up instead of taking the faster way up and planning to take the coast home because (1) that would have been really scary at night, and (2) we would have missed so much of the view!

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

But this is the part where 2 lessons learned come into play: First, when you decide to rent a car and drive around a foreign country, it’s best to get a functional map. The only map we had was a cartoonish map of the coastal causeway to show us where the main attractions were, and didn’t help us at all when we got back to Belfast to find our way out of Northern Ireland and back to Malahide! So we got lost a couple of times on dark Irish country roads… but we managed to make it back! Also, traveling in Ireland is not like the U.S. where every so often there is an exit with food places, gas, etc. We passed up a few possible small town food options hoping to find something else, and all of sudden there was nowhere to stop! Even when we got to Belfast, we didn’t have a map so we didn’t know how to find anything or find our way back and it was dark so we just kept on going. Ultimately, dinner was Subway at a gas station, and we had to sit in our car to eat it because there weren’t any places to sit and eat inside or outside. Good times!

So basically the lessons are (1) bring a map, and (2) when you are in a desolate part of a foreign country, don’t wait for another option… eat at the first town you see with food places!

It was such a fun trip! When we finally made it back to the flat in Malahide we unloaded our stuff and then walked down the street to get some more food and then came home and went to sleep.

The next morning, it was cloudy, windy, and a bit rainy for the first time on our trip. We went to a little Café around the corner for breakfast because Kristine and Jon were at work and the other couple had flown back home to London already. Then we went around to a few of the shops to find a Thank You gift for Kristine and spent the rest of the time until we had to head to the airport relaxing at the flat (ok, I’ll admit it, watching TV… I don’t have a TV in London!). Once we made it to the airport we ran into Adam and Krissi for the first time (they’d been in Ireland the whole time too), and were very happy to learn they had an absolutely amazing time in Ireland just like we did!

When we made it back to London we all went our separate ways to drop off our luggage at our flats and then met up at our favorite local cheap dinner place and shared our pictures with each other from our trips. They basically drove around the opposite corner of the Island from us, and it was great to see another part of Ireland, and that it was equally beautiful. I can’t wait to go back!

Ireland Day 2 (Saturday).

Saturday I woke up (on an air mattress on the living room floor) to Kristine and Jon leaving to go get some food for breakfast.  Shortly thereafter they returned and Kristine prepared an amazing breakfast of gourmet scrambled eggs, toast, scones, etc.  Technically the scones were what we would call a biscuit, but whatever I like biscuits and they were delicious!

After we all ate breakfast and got ready, we walked over to the DART station and seeing that the next train wasn’t coming for 30 minutes, we walked down to the marina for a bit.  It was virtually cloudless and sunny… the marina looked even more pretty than the day before and oddly for a moment I felt like I was in a beach town in California.  Pshh… Ireland is way more beautiful than California!

When we made it down to Dublin, we got off at the Tara Street stop and walked all the way up to the Guinness Storehouse.  Alexander and I realized that the day before we hadn’t realized the Tara Stop was right there, and we had walked all the way back to the Connolly station.  Oh well, the walk was good for us (actually, our feet were killing us by the time we made it back to the train… we walked soo much on Friday!).  Anyway, the walk to the factory was nice.  We saw Christ Church Cathedral which is BEAUTIFUL, Temple Bar (which is a popular touristy area of bars and pubs in Dublin), the gate to the “Dublin Castle” (which apparently is not really a castle) and many other cool buildings.  When we got to the Storehouse, there was this old man standing outside with a very old looking horse pulling an old looking trailer.  It looked like a perfect photo op, which apparently the old man was fully aware of because before he would let us take a picture he wanted 2 euros and to know our opinion of President Bush.  I saved my 2 euros and walked on by.

The Storehouse is very cool inside.  I do not find beer remotely appealing, but Guinness is a pretty big deal in Ireland and the UK and it was interesting to learn more about how beer was made.  Also, the guy who started the Guinness factory back in the 1700s signed a 9,000 year lease on the spot for 45 pounds per month.  Now, in the 1700s that was probably pretty spendy… but I wonder if they still only have to pay 45 pounds per month for that land today? That would be amazing!  At the very top of the Storehouse there is a place called “The Gravity Bar” which is a big glass room that has a 360 view of Dublin from several stories up.  They also give you a free pint of Guinness, and I was pretty much the only person in sight who was holding a coke instead!  I haven’t mentioned this yet, but everyone in the group but Kristine was very tall.  Jamie was 5’11, Oliver was at least 6’2, I’m around 6’4, Alexander is around 6’5 or 6’6, and Jon is about 6’7.  So we got quite a few stares anyway wherever we went, but at one point I stood on a bar that made me a little taller than Jon, and a woman walked by and she looked up at Jon and then looked up at me and got this startled look on her face.  It was so funny!  I liked standing on the bar because it took pressure off certain parts of my feet, but a worker quickly came by and told me I wasn’t allowed to do that and needed to step down. Boo.

After that, we headed back toward the train station but stopped at a place in Temple Bar for what turned out to be a very late lunch/early dinner (it was around 4:30 or 5 by then).  We also stopped for Ice Cream at a Hagen Daz which was a lot cheaper than it was in Paris… phew!  We went back to the flat to relax for awhile and when people woke up from naps, Kristine brought out a chocolate cake lit with 20+ candles (for Ollie’s 28th Birthday) and we all sang happy birthday and ate cake and ice cream for dinner 🙂  Then we watched X Factor because it happened to be on (a british singing reality show a lot like American Idol), and then we all headed back out to Dublin for a night on the town… but my favorite part was at the end when we went to a bagel shop while we were waiting for taxis back to Malahide.  I haven’t had a bagel since I left the states, and it was DELICIOUS!!!

For pictures from Ireland Days 1 & 2 click here and here.

The Land of Ire–Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Sorry I haven’t updated in several days—I’ve been in Ireland and Northern Ireland since Thursday night.  It has been AMAZING!  Full updates (and amazing pictures!) will come later, but by way of a short summary… Alexander and I have been staying with his friends Kristine and John in Malahide, a village right on the ocean and a little north-east of Dublin.  Kristine and John had another couple visiting at the same time (Oliver and Jamie- London natives!), and we’ve all had a great time together hanging out and discovering Malahide and Dublin.  Then, yesterday Alexander and I rented a car, and drove up through Belfast (in Northern Ireland) and around the Coastal Causeway (a road that goes all along the ocean on the North-east coast line of Northern Ireland—AMAZING!) up to the Giants of Causeway (“the eighth wonder of the world”) and then cut back down all the way to Malahide.  It was unbelievable beautiful.  Poor Alexander had to drive the entire time because I’m still not old enough to rent a car, but even he couldn’t stop commenting on how beautiful it was as he did his best to keep his eyes on the road.  We both think it’s probably the coolest thing we’ve ever done (although next time, we’ll actually bring a map, and leave earlier so we’re not driving through the middle of a random country without a map in the dark on the way home ;)).   

 

Anyway, much more to come later—including how we crossed a shaky rope bridge between two cliffs! Amazing!