Ah, finally a few minutes with an actual computer instead of just scratching off a few notes on my iPhone! That and a power point (outlet) by my bed so that I can charge tonight is pure heaven!
Wow, my standards for a fun time are declining!
This is my third day in Ireland (more or less – the past two have been in Northern Ireland). I flew out of Columbus, Georgia, for the first time in years. It was slightly more expensive than Atlanta but more than balanced by not having to leave my car there for a month. I left with tons of time and actually made an earlier flight out of Columbus to Atlanta. Didn’t get me to Ireland any faster, but I like having longer layovers so I don’ t have to ponder whether or not I or my bag will miss the flight.
I kept falling asleep in the airport while trying to read a Steinbeck book my uncle recommended some months ago. No offense to the book, I was just up late. It’s actually been an engaging read, just need some alone time to return to it. I figured I would be knocked out for the flight. Oh no, all the way until the plane lifted off, I was dozing off, but the moment we were in the air, wide awake!
I managed maybe three hours sleep on the way over, about average for me. Ah well. I arrived into Dublin a half hour ahead of time and immigration was a breeze. Having reclaimed my bag, I began hunting for the pick up spot for the hostel I was staying in (run by the same company who is doing the tour). I thought I had found it, but I either missed the bus or I was at the wrong spot. I finally gave up and found a regular city bus. Farewell $12 but as tired as I was, priceless.
Found the hostel well enough. On the fence whether or not I’ll return to it when getting back to Dublin. My room was fine, but it’s divided into a couple of buildings and some of them in the next building reported cold showers – my mortal enemy. Anyway, all was well with my room. I am getting ahead of myself though, when I got in, it was too early to check in, but I could store my bags and made a run for what I could see. It was a clear but beautiful day. I wandered down O’Connell street a ways and checked out some of the shopping malls along the way. Oh, and of course, I had breakfast at the most predictable place on earth. It has golden arches and it was right in front of me. I apologize!
I then wandered down and found the River Liffey and then Trinity College. I literally happened upon a walking tour that was about to start. I’m not sure of the exact connection with Trinity, but I know the tour guide was a Trinity grad. It was a historical tour and covered a good chunk of the south side of Dublin and the gamut of Irish History.
By the end of the tour, I had some small grasp of the geography of the city center. I wandered back to the hostel and checked in and put my bags away properly. I went back out and saw a little more of the city. There’s a Forbidden Planet (comic shop chain – I’ve been to one in London and Edinburgh). Tons of awesome toys and such and I got nothing! I was looking for a couple of CDs I’d planned on buying here. I found them finally at an HMV on Grafton Street and they cost so much in Euros that it’s cheaper for me to buy them import through Amazon, go figure!
By this point, I was drawing my last bit of energy. I was just exhausted from the lack of sleep on the plane and the time change. And did you notice what was missing from this picture, lunch and dinner. That golden arches meal was the only one of the day. I think I was running on adrenaline. But Dublin was a very cool city and I look forward to seeing more of it when I’m back.
The next morning began the tour. This is by far and away the largest tour I’ve ever been on. I think the largest Haggis tour I was on may have had 18 people. This sucker has 58! Wow, I would have probably taken it anyway, but had I known the size, I would have had a second thought or two, no doubt. There’s no way for a group this size to really get to know each other. There are a few more Americans, but I’ve yet to figure out which ones they were! I just know I wasn’t the only one to raise my hand when we were going through ye olde where is everyone from drill at the beginning. Probably 80 or 90 percent of the group are Aussie, followed by Kiwi and an assortment of others.
We made a couple of stops on the way out, including a large park where Pope John Paul II preached soon after he became Pope. There’s a massive cross there. It was quite picturesque on the frosty hill in subdued light. I hope for good results from those photos.
We moved on from there to the Guinness museum deal. I think the most fascinating part of it to me was the advertising floor. Watching the ads across the decades and checking out the different memorabilia was incredible. I felt brainwashed when I left the room. “Guinness is good for you!”
After that, we left Dublin in the rear view mirror and headed for Drogheda. It was a cool little village. Our main stop there was a cathedral that holds the head of Saint Oliver Plunkett. For someone who was martyred in 1681 by being hung, drawn and quartered, and then decapitated, he was in reasonable condition… brrr… Afterwards lunch… in a little cafe I found. I wanted a wrap… it was chicken, mayo, and corn?!?! Interesting! It wasn’t half bad. I think I was just happy to finish with my little strawberry desert.
We finished up the evening in Belfast. We took the famous black Taxi tours… It was really depressing. They have “peace” walls that separate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. From everything we heard from different people, it’s not just religion, it’s also politics – loyalists to the UK versus people who want to be part of free Ireland. It’s so complicated. I’m sure books have been written on the subject many times over, but it was so depressing. There are more peace walls since the troubles more or less ended several years ago. They are just becoming more and more divided by the sounds of it. I didn’t get a happy vibe from Belfast even walking down the streets there. It was a dour place.
This morning we drove up to Derry, another town in Northern Ireland. The countryside until we hit the coast was covered in snow and ice! It was very beautiful… more on my later feelings shortly… We took a stop to see the view of Scotland! The next stop was supposed to be this little rope bridge deal that goes to an island. Used to be for fisherman but has become a tourist stop. I was already iffy on walking out on the thing, the snow and ice sold me on not. Little did I know, the road down to it and the bridge are closed! Perfect!
So, next stop the Giant’s Causeway! Beautiful spot. A geological formation that has a pretty wild story about an Irish giant building a bridge to Scotland because he wanted to fight a battle with a giant there. The Scots giant turned out to be massive, but the Irish giant’s wife dressed her hubby as a baby and told the Scots Giant this was their kid. He was freaked and tore the bridge up escaping! At any rate, a beautiful sight! Windy as all get out and was happy to get a sandwich after before reboarding the bus.
Next stop, Derry! Derry is somewhat like Belfast, very divided, lots of fighting. Here the river mostly divides the Protestant loyalists from the Catholic Republicans. There’s a little hold out of Protestants on this side of the river where we’re staying. We walked by their part of town on the walking tour this afternoon, it’s quite a fortified little compound. So sad…
The walking tour… the ice.. oh my… There’s ice everywhere, the tops of the medieval walls, whole sidewalks… I have never slipped and slid so much in my life. At first it was fun, by the end, I think I may have had enough ice for the moment. I’d love to see some actual snow falling before this trip is over, but I’d rather not
deal with the rest of it. My wishes are not looking good!
Tomorrow we head for Galway. I know we see some of the coast on the way. Galway is a place I’m interested in seeing more of, so we’ll see tomorrow whether I want to use my extra time here to go back. I like Derry (despite the troubles, it feels.. I don’t know, human), but I don’t see myself back in Northern Ireland soon.