The Giant’s Causeway

We’ve always wanted to see the Giant’s Causeway, so we absolutely had to include in on our itinerary for this trip. We had considered renting a car, but in the end (fortunately) we opted for a bus tour to spare us (and by “us” I mean “me”) from driving and navigating. The bus took us along the Antrim Coastal Road, through pretty little villages and gorgeous views of the countryside and the sea. We would have loved to stop and enjoy the view every few minutes, but of course that wasn’t possible. It wouldn’t have been possible even if we had rented a car because the road was very narrow and winding, with absolutely no shoulder.

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Before reaching the Giant’s Causeway we stopped at Carrick A Rede, with its narrow rope bridge suspended 100 feet above the ocean. We decided to pass on actually crossing the bridge (you had to pay) which left lots of time to enjoy the wild flowers and views of the ocean.

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Then, after a short stop for lunch, it was off to see the Giant’s Causeway.  Before pictures, I want to provide a few impressions.

It is deceptive. As we approached the site I was initially underwhelmed, but as we walked around it became more and more impressive.  Well worth a visit.

It is very popular.  We were visiting outside of peak season, and it was a cold rainy day, yet the site was packed. Well, not exactly packed, but far busier than we would have liked. In an ideal world we would have had the place to ourselves. I know – fantasy – but let me dream.  Now pictures.

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And before you ask, there really were a lot of people there.  I had to try very hard to get pictures without anyone. One of the surprise highlights at the Giant’s Causeway was the seal we saw in the ocean.

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The last stop was at the Dark Hedges, made famous in Game of Thrones.

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The trees were planted in 1775 – almost 250 years ago.  Unfortunately they are nearly at the end of their lifespan.  Almost half the trees have already fallen over, and they believe that within a decade they will all be gone.  One blew over a few weeks ago, and fell into a farmer’s field – so he has put it up for sale. True story.

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Belfast

We took the train to Belfast late yesterday, and checked into our hotel before having a light meal and retiring early.  We’ve been traveling for over a week now, so today we decided it was time for a quiet day.  We had a late start and then wandered around the center of the city without any particular objectives. The architecture is very different than Dublin.

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Although buildings are generally in great shape, there are a few that are showing signs of wear.

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And there are one or two that are seriously the worse for wear.  This building was in the middle of the shopping district, and at ground level it didn’t look that bad, but when you looked up, it almost reminded me of Panama.

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In our wanderings, we came across the Botanic Gardens, with an interesting sculpture near the entrance.

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The flowers in the gardens were great.

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And then we mad our way along the river back to our hotel. Looking across the river we could see abandoned industrial buildings with rolling hills in the background.

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Tomorrow we’re off to the Giant’s Causeway.

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Miscellaneous

When we were planning this trip, people kept asking us what we planned to do for a full week in Dublin – as if you could possibly see everything that Dublin (or any other city) has to offer in a week. We haven’t had any trouble finding things to keep us occupied.

On our last full day we visited the Book of Kells. It is an illustrated manuscript gospel book dating to 800 AD. It is interesting, but to be honest, the most interesting part of the visit was the Trinity College library.

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And then, as we were getting ready to check out of our apartment, we discovered it was built on the site where Handel’s Messiah was performed for the very first time on the 13th of April in 1742 – with Handel conducting and playing the organ. We had a perfect view from our apartment of the statue in the courtyard commemorating the event.

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We also discovered the perfect bar, with interesting events every night of the week.

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We will be back.

 

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Poolbeg Lighthouse

It was another walking day today as we decided to visit Poolbeg lighthouse, which is described as an “iconic red lighthouse reachable by a lengthy seawall that attracts sightseers, anglers & cyclists”. It looked reasonably close.  It wasn’t.

But it was an enjoyable walk with many interesting sights along the way, starting with a sculpture commemorating the Irish famine, with a link to Canada, where many immigrated during the famine.  This is especially moving given the current refugee situation in the world.

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It turns out we were only getting started.  Next we walked past row houses that probably housed dock workers at one time, though now they appeared rather more upmarket.

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But from there it went downhill, with several kilometers of docks, container storage, waste water treatment plants and scrap yards.  About here some of us were seriously questioning the plan, and the planner.

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And then we emerged onto the beach at the edge of a park.

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And finally, the lighthouse.

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It turns out that we hadn’t picked the best route to the lighthouse. The other route went through a park along the water, instead of through an industrial wasteland. So for the return trip, we opted for the more scenic route.

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The hills along the path were covered in wildflowers in bloom.

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… and trees (I think Yucca?) also in bloom.

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Another very long walk, but well worth it.

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Deep Dive

If you are ever in Dublin, I would highly recommend visiting the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. Compared to some, it’s fairly small, but it has excellent displays that delve into Irish history, from the Neolithic through the Vikings and the Middle Ages. Admission is free, so you can visit as often as you like. For us, that can be dangerous because we are “museum people”, and we can take a deep dive into the most arcane topics.  Take for example this late Bronze Age wooden wheel.

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This single exhibit led to at least an hour of discussion and research over the course of two visits to the museum as we tried to decide if it was made from a single piece of wood, or multiple pieces.  In the end, we finally realized the information was there all along, if we only looked more closely.

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Tuesday in Dublin – Part 2

Amazingly, some of us weren’t interested in a 20 km walk yesterday, so we split up for the day. While we were walking in the park, J & D explored the Viking/Medieval area of Dublin. I mentioned earlier that we were staying in Temple Bar, but I discovered this isn’t quite right.  We are actually just outside of Temple Bar, in the Viking/Medieval area. This area has buildings like this Norman church with it’s distinctive steeple.  It’s something we instantly recognize from the time we lived in England, though the boys were too young to remember it.

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There was even a small section of the original Dublin city wall – a very small section, as it turns out.

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As you walk around Dublin you often see brass plaques in the sidewalk related to some aspect of Dublin history. It appears these are designed to help you with self guided walks.  Not surprisingly, in this area they mainly relate to the Vikings. This one shows the wattle and daub construction technique of that era.

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Here is one that commemorates the Viking age, and shows a typical dwelling of the time.

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And to go along with the plaque, the floor plan was laid out in the paving stones. This was something we had learned about when we toured the archeology museum.

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This is the sort of thing that we enjoy doing when we travel – just wandering around getting a feel for the character of the city.

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A Walk in the Park

We decided on a change of pace for today. After spending yesterday in the museum, we decided today would be spent outside, so we headed to Phoenix park.

IMG_3067The park is about a 30 minute walk from our hotel, and it is rather large – about 4 km long and 2 km wide – so we had lots of opportunity to walk along the open paths.  And we had lots of exercise for the day.

IMG_3041  The chestnut trees were in bloom…

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We came across a bird nest in a dead tree.

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There is also a herd of Fallow deer in the park.  Apparently it is a “wild” herd, but they are really rather tame, so you can get very close.

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However it actually is a wild herd, so there are numerous signs warning people not to feed the deer.

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So of course the next thing we saw was this…

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We later realized he was feeding the deer so that he could take a selfie with the deer looking over his shoulder.  There are no words…

From the park you have occasional views of Dublin and the surrounding hills. If you are wondering about the state of the Irish economy, this picture should give you the answer.

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After a full day of walking we toured the Guinness Storehouse and enjoyed a freshly pulled pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar with stunning views over Dublin.

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And finally, pizza at Forno 500, where we enjoyed the best ever Napolitana pizza. We were assured that it was even better than in Napoli.

 

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