The Reason We Added Days to Our Trip...





Giant's Causeway





The trip we originally wanted to take included a day in Northern Ireland, but they no longer offered it. Those of you who know me know that I can be a little stubborn at times, and I really wanted to see the Giant's Causeway. The Giant's Causeway is a natural phenomena created by an ancient volcanic eruption. Rising from the sea to a height of over 30 feet, interlocking hexagonal basalt columns form what looks like a staircase, fabled to be used by the legendary giant Fionn mac Cuhaill (Finn MacCool, one cool giant!). I mean, come on, who doesn't want to see a giant's staircase? So we arranged to be in Dublin a few days before our tour started and take a day tour to Northern Ireland, which ended up being one of the highlights of our trip! 


So Thursday began with the two of us hiking
Plus, I love the Wild Rover song!
up to the Starbuck's and climbing aboard this sleek bus. (I love the devilish dog on the side!) So climb aboard! We're headed to the Giant's Causeway!



Right before we crossed into Northern Ireland
Wacky Woolies rule!
the bus stopped at a huge convenient mart type place and I purchased the ultimate--my Wacky Woolies pillow. It's one of those u-shaped pillows you wear around your neck when travelling which makes you look like either the biggest dork, or the smartest person on the airplane...or both. The Wacky Woolies became sort of a thing for me. I was like, "Be careful of my Wacky Woolies!" and would point out Wacky Woolies products wherever we found them, which was EVERYWHERE. They had purses, notepads, umbrellas, wallets...you name it, they would slap their cute cartoon sheep on it! Since you probably can't tell in the picture, the sheep all have names. Like, the Lucky Wooly has horse shoes around him, and the Sleeping Wooly has ZZZZ around him. So cute! And I didn't sleep worth squat on the plane ride over, but with my Wooly I slept great on the bus and on the 8+ hour plane ride home. Well, that's probably enough about my Wacky Wooly. ;) (But if you don't have one, they're highly recommended!) 



The Titanic Museum
So, one minute we were in the Republic of Ireland, the next we were in Northern Ireland, just like crossing into another state. We arrived in Belfast and pulled into the Titanic Museum parking lot . Here we had a choice of doing the Museum (I've done a Titanic Museum in Cobh, Ireland, which was awesome, but...) or taking a Black Taxi Tour of Belfast, which was rated highly on Trip Adviser. We decided on that, and piled into the van. Two passengers and the driver sat in front, with a plastic partition separating them from the back, where there were two long seats facing each other. Our driver, Martin, drove us a short way and we exited the taxi to stand outside a tall building where he began his story about The Troubles in Belfast. 

He explained that Belfast is still a divided city,
In many places barbed wire topped the wall.
with a wall between the English side and the Irish side. When the treaty to end the war was signed it was decided that the English would get the area now known as Northern Ireland, because this is where the majority of English lived, as it was closest to their homeland. However, there were still Irish citizens there as well, who wished to be free, and hostilities continued, and continue still today. 

The Irish in Northern Ireland were discriminated against. Public housing provided 5,000 apartments for 87, 000 people with outdoor toilets. The school system was a joke. Martin said when he was little and his mom walked him to school he saw a British officer killed before his very eyes. His mom continued to walk him to school as if nothing had happened. He ended up leaving school at the age of 13 because, "It was a waste of time." 

The Irish had difficulty finding jobs as applications stated at the top, "You must answer this question before answering any other questions: Are you a British citizen or a British subject?" I suppose if you were a subject (Irish) the application was deposited in the circular file. Bill Clinton came over to help with peace negotiations and told the British that question had to go, so they replaced it with, "You must answer this question before any other questions: What primary school did you attend?" Well, if it was St. Mary's, they knew you were Irish also, so nothing had changed. 

Everyday Irish would come to the wall to
protest, but would disperse at the end of the day. One day, however, they weren't dispersing. Things were getting out of hand, so the British decided to fire tanks over their heads, hoping the crowd would then break up and go home. Might have worked, too, if a twist of fate didn't have a nine-year-old boy asleep in his bed hit by a bullet, which nearly ripped him in two. His mother came out of the building carrying his body and all h-e-double hockey sticks broke out. The building we were standing outside of was the building where the young boy had been sleeping, and above is the plaque commemorating his death. 

Martin next took us to view some of the many murals depicting struggles for independence elsewhere in the world, or areas where discrimination to a minority occurred. The Irish identified with these people. 
Nelson Mandella




Palestine

Frederick Douglas




Near the wall is The Cross of Crosses. It is a metal cross with small cross cut-outs that represent the years of conflict in Northern Ireland.

The wall still contains writing that says, "Kill all the Brits," on one side and "Kill all the Taigs," which is a derogatory term used to describe the Irish, a derivative of CaTHOLIC. Martin told us that as recently as a week ago there had been some hostilities that resulted in deaths.






Martin next took us to the Clonard Monastery and told us the story of Fr. Alec Reid, a priest who was a major force in conducting the Good Friday peace talks in 1998. Fr. Reid had an uphill battle to fight, though, as even the place where the peace talks were to be held was a dispute. The Irish wanted it on their side, the British, on theirs. Fr. Reid offered his church saying he'd lay down his life to protect anyone inside.





One of the reasons Fr. Reid was so successful was because he knew the people of his parish. He'd point to them in the crowd and say, "Mary, you lost your son, didn't ya? Do you want Susan to lose hers?" By making his message personal to his listeners he was able to move them more. 


Next, Martin took us through the gate to the other side of the wall, the British side. These gates close at 6 o'clock.











We drove along the wall where people had signed it, celebrities, and normal folks like us. This way we're part of it when the wall gets torn down. They hope to have it down by 2025, when another


generation has passed and the atrocities that both sides faced are more distant, creating a better chance for peace.



We met up with the rest of our group back at the Titanic Museum where we saw the shipyard the famous ship was launched from. We also saw Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is filmed and the apartments where the actors live. *SPOILER if you're not caught up. Skip to next paragraph* He said not to worry, Kit Harrington (John Snow, baberino!) has been seen on set, despite the fact that he was stabbed a half dozen times at the end of last season. His theory is that Melisandre resurrects him. I was going with the snow slowed down his heart beat so he didn't bleed out, but this makes more sense.

After this we boarded the bus again and headed to the Giant's Causeway, where we got to see two more Game of Throne spots. This castle was the Castle Greyjoy and we also saw the spot where Renly's  camp was and we first see Brienne of Tarth fighting in a tournament.
Castle Greyjoy (there was some definite CGI going on here because this is, you know, a ruin!)


Beautiful, isn't it?

I can almost see Theon and his sister riding horseback up to its gates!





We were enthralled with the beautiful scenery around us...

Cows, because, you know, they're cows!









Cuz you can never have too many pictures of waves splashing over rocks!

Scotland






But--and I'm embarrassed to say this--I was a little disappointed. Scenic? No doubt. Gorgeous? Undeniably! But where more my giant's steps?



Then I went around the corner...







These were everything they were supposed to be. An oddity, for sure. Perfectly hexagonal shaped columns of rock jutting up out of the sea. Spectacular! Well worth the long ride!

When we were finished viewing, we walked back up the trail and had lunch at the pub. 

Do you really have to ask? It's awesome, that's why!

While waiting for the bus I snapped a few more shots of the scenery.








But we weren't done. Our next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope suspension bridge. 100 feet high, 65 feet long, constructed 350 years ago by salmon fishermen as a way to get out to Rocky Island--this was a no-go for me. Even looking at the pictures online makes me nauseous! Most of the party going over it were across and one woman with a fear of heights wanted to try it. The lady monitoring the bridge said, "Okay. I'll lead you. Just look at me. Don't look down." She proceeded to walk BACKWARDS down the stairway/ladder leading to the bridge without even looking. Most terrifying thing I've ever witnessed in my life! 



Exceptionally handsome hubby who took me to Ireland!







Scary *bleep* bridge!

Crazy *bleeping* tourists!

This is what awaited them below. Death! Death awaited them below!



Note that the sides of floor of the bridge are OPEN!

Note steep stairs to bridge. She walked backwards down THESE!


Cuz grass is purty!





Clearly this is a Holy Cow! Sorry. Just had to.

This guy looks like he's in need of a bath. Or some currying. Definitely some currying!


You know what makes these cows so good? They're out standing in their field!




We drove back to Dublin and arrived around 8:30. We went to a second O'Donahue's near the hotel. Soccer game was on and places erupted when Ireland scored. Then the chants started. Totally awesome! They beat Germany 1-0 in the European Cup Tournament. Went across the street to Pacino's for Italian food, cause, you know, that's what you eat in Ireland. Pizza was FABULOUS! Back to O'Donahue's for music. Place was PACKED! Sat at bar, guy with guitar, sang Mama's and Papa's "California Dreaming." Love that song! Went to Bruxelle's for one last drink before bed...
And our tour hadn't even started yet!







2 comments:

  1. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!! (NOTE: Except for that crazy freaking bridge which was just SCARY!!! Are those people walking on it CRAZY???? It's 350 years OLD!! And HIGH!! And OPEN!! NONONONONO! Thank you so much for sharing. I loved your pre-tour. I hope you share your tour, too.

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    Replies
    1. I know, Michelle! Right? At least the two of us can see the danger inherent there! Thanks for climbing aboard the tour bus. There's some fun stops ahead, too. Would love to have you! Have a great week and stay clear of bridges, my friend!

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