Northern Ireland

July 10

In the morning we were up early and checking out of the hotel to go and check into our flight to Belfast, Ireland. Once behind security there was time for a quick breakfast. Then hurry up and wait, as airports are so good at. The flight to Ireland and was quick little hop.

We quickly went and picked up our rental car. Mom was driving. Poor her. We had to get a vehicle large enough to fit 5 adults. The driver is now on the opposite side of the car and the opposite side of the road, from North American cars. There are so many round-a-bouts, which confuse many North Americans. Also the roads of Ireland are tiny. I mean barely room for two cars and you share those tiny roads with coaches and lorries (tour buses and semi trucks). Those drivers are crazy whipping around corners. You hug the outside line very tightly and sometimes choose to chance a ditch or rock wall on the side of the road rather than the other cars on the road. I think mom had the start of an ulcer by the end of the trip, just from the stress of driving.

Those of us that were passengers were much more happy. Ireland is what people or songs might tell you. It’s rolling hill and forests of green. So many shades of the same colour. Lots of farms and open space. Many wonderful things to see and do. Lots of ways to explore off the beaten track. 

We took the car along the highway directly to the Giant’s Causeway. Science says Giant’s Causeway is a spectacular rock formation on the coast of Northern Ireland. The site consists of some 40,000 basalt columns rising out of the sea. It was created about 60 million years ago by volcanic activity.

Legend says the creation of the Causeway to an Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. To prove his superior strength and status, Fionn decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. As there was no boat large enough to carry huge Finn across the sea to confront Bennandonner, he built his own pathway of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. He then was able to walk across the sea without getting his feet wet.

When he crossed the sea, however, he saw just how large Benandonner was. He ran back to Ireland before Bennandonner saw him, but the causeway was built and Bennandonner came to fight. Fionn crawled into a crib and when Bennandonner came to the door to fight him, his wife told him not to wake the baby. Seeing just how large Fionn’s “baby” was, Bennandonner grew afraid and ran back to Scotland, tearing up the causeway as he went to prevent Fionn following him. – from wikipedia

Whether science or legend, the Giant’s Causeway is a must see in Northern Ireland.

There are also other rock formations along the paths at the Giant’s Causeway. If you stop in at the visitors centre you can get an audio guide that gives you lots of information and tells about the local legends. One rock formation that I liked was “The Camel”.

When we had scene our fill we headed along the road to make our way to Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge is a famous rope bridge near the Giant’s Causeway. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede It spans 20 metres (66ft) and is 30 metres (98ft) above the rocks below, so don’t fall off. Previous versions of the bridge would sometimes collapse and people had to be rescued by boat. The island was previously used by Salmon fishermen. Currently, there are no salmon and the island is used by nesting birds. If the birds don’t draw you to the tiny island head there anyways for the beautiful scenery.

We stopped for lunch at The Red Door Cottage Tea Room & Bistro after. It was good food, great service, and a story. The table we were sitting at had previously been occupied by some actors themselves. They story we were told by the owner of the cafe was:

One morning before opening there is knocking on the door. The weather was poor and the owner opened up the door. There in full costume was Alfie Allen who plays Theon Greyjoy and Gemma Whelanwho plays his sister Yara (or Asha) Greyjoy on Games of Thrones. They are between scenes and want to know if they could get some coffee. The owner lets them in and gets them set. When it’s time to open they remain in their corner table and other customers either don’t notice them or say nothing.”

Our plan was to head down the coastal road and stop in at sights along the way but after another close call with a tourist bus on the narrow roads all mom wants in a highway, the hotel and a drink to calm her nerves. Not in that order but she was driving, she had no choice. So we skipped many things and headed back to Belfast.

Let me tell you something about Belfast. It has many one way roads and pedestrian streets. It is a variable maze of streets. Save yourself the trouble and don’t get a car in Belfast. I say this because we drove around one section of Belfast for hours to find our Hotel. I had directions from Google but they sent me the wrong way down one-way streets. I was even sent down a pedestrian street once. We stopped to ask for directions 3 times. The second time was at another hotel and they printed out more directions for us, still failed to find the hotel. We were stopping a 4th time to ask directions when I saw the sign of the bar. The Malmaison Bar. We were staying at the Malmaison Hotel. This had to be it, we went in to check and it was right. It was 9pm and we were now starving.

We headed out to see if there were any restaurants because there weren’t many options of the hotel menu for picky eaters. Everywhere was closed. We headed back to the hotel, it was nearly 10pm and the dining room was closing but the kitchen was willing to feed us, we’d just be seated in the bar. I was cranky and tired so I skipped dinner and went to bed.

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I loved this take on the traditional “Do Not Disturb” sign.

July 11

Mom and I were up early to take the car back to the airport. From there we bused back to the hotel. It was very easy to get there, cementing for me the idea that you don’t need to rent a car in Belfast. We joined everyone else for a breakfast at the hotel and then we made our way down to the train station.

We took the train to Dublin and took a bus to pick up the car at Dublin Airport. This time we were in for a bit of a shock. We had booked the cars using a credit card because the one we used came with extended car insurance, that way you don’t have to pay extra for the insurance at the rental lot. Due to the frequency of accidents and the hassle of dealing with credit card companies and insurance companies you have to put down a deposit on the car, that’s normal. What wasn’t normal was the cost.

Originally the car was to be 462 Euros but there was a 5000 Euro deposit on the car (past most credit card limits). The middle ground was paying 642 Euros for the car with some of their insurance and a 3000 Euro deposit (still very expensive). Or you could pay 807 Euros with full insurance and a 0 Euro deposit. The last option meant that as long as you didn’t lose the key or put in the wrong type of fuel in (it was a diesel car) you would walk away from whatever damage you did to the car. I the end we decided roads were narrow and dangerous so we payed almost double for the car but had no deposit and could potentially total the car.

After that we took the car to the Glashaus Hotel one the outskirts of Dublin and parked it. Then we took the tram, which stopped right beside the hotel and went into the city for dinner. We did a bit of wandering around but knew we had a full day the next day to explore Dublin. After dinner we took the tram back to the hotel. While there we planned out our next day and went to bed.