Tuesday, October 21, 2008

After a relatively long day of traveling, I landed in Dublin this morning and am now in Belfast. Meeting up with everyone at the airport today was relatively easy. Customs was a breeze, my luggage arrived with me and Lynn, Brad & Darlene greeted me after I left the luggage area. After Katie & McKenz decided to show up, about an hour after they were supposed to, and when Jigga & Anthony arrived from London, we got into our rental cars and took the two hour or so drive up to Belfast.

I’ve never been to Belfast on my other two trips to Ireland and all of us thought it’d be a good idea to check it out for the night. Plus, it was in semi-close proximity to Carrick-on-Shannon (tomorrow night’s destination). We had trouble confirming accommodations for the night and felt confident enough to just go up and get a place once we had time to check it out. Great idea in theory, bad idea in execution. Travel tip #1- don’t “wing it” the first night of any major vacation that involves hours and hours of traveling across many different time zones. When you’re tired, hungry, dirty and cranky, the last thing you want to be doing is driving around a new city trying to find some place to finally get some rest and get your bearings. We ended up at a not so wonderful Jury’s Hotel, grabbed some food and then decided to take our first adventure for the day.

When we got to the car we had our first parking ticket. Super fun!

Today’s major adventure landed us about an hour and a half north of Belfast to see Giant’s Causeway. This is where ancient lava flows have been eroded to reveal columns of unnatural regularity. According to local mythology, the rocks were placed by a giant called Finn MacCool to enable him to walk across the sea to his lady love in Scotland. This is also where I learned that I absolutely did not pack properly for Ireland. It’s cold here and I don’t have enough warm clothing.

The first sight that greeted us after getteing out of the car was this:

Then it was off to Giant's Causeway via a short walk.

We were lucky to have almost the entire place to ourselves. The good thing about getting a much much later start than anticipated is that you don’t have to share the scenes with so many tourists. It also means you have to hoof it down to Giant’s Causeway instead of taking the shuttle. After flying for 12 or so hours, followed by almost four hours of driving, I welcomed the brisk and crisp walk regardless of how inappropriately I was dressed. The sight was amazing. First of all, I loved seeing the ocean- since it’s been pretty rainy around Ireland lately, the water was very stormy. It was this great mixture of green green grass, rocky mountains and the ocean. Then you turn around the corner and there’s Giant’s Causeway- this inexplicable but amazing sight.

The sun was setting and it was time to head back to Belfast. Katie was done with driving, so it was my turn. I’ve driven here twice before, so it’s not something that scares me. But I was tired and finding it hard to keep my eyes open as the sun went down. About an hour or so into the drive, McKenz took over which was a relief until we all yelled “CURB!” The curb jumped out at her, of course, but we were all fine and the car appeared to be fine, so it wasn’t a big deal. But then we saw the hubcap rolling off into the road. Dammit! We turned around, opened the door and crabbed the hub cap all without stopping the car. Unfortunately it was cracked almost all the way through and upon further inspection, it appeared that the tire rim might have been just a little bent.

With both adventures behind us, we arrived back at the hotel with just enough time to get ourselves pulled together to head out on a night in the town. Thanks to a recent article in the New York Times about Belfast, we went to check out a pub called John Hewitt’s which was known for having traditional Irish music. The pub was pretty nice although it was disappointing to discover that it only served lunch. After meeting an interesting man, Neil, and getting into some pretty weird conversations, we got into a groove. We stayed for only a couple of beers before calling it a night to find some food.

It’s too embarrassing to admit to what we ended up eating, so you’ll just have to guess.

We capped off the night with another drink in the hotel pub and called it a night.

Tomorrow we head off to Carrick-on-Shannon where we’ll meet up with Meghan, Rob, Keith, Kirstie, Tif, Lori, Lynn, Brad & Darlene and have our grand birthday celebration!


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