We have been gone for 2 weeks now and I am finally finding time to do some writing for the blog. The occasional Facebook post doesn’t tell everything.
We were so glad we flew business class to Amsterdam.. it is a long flight but we had little areas each that were almost like sleep pods. After a 4 1/2 hour layover in Amsterdam we finally arrived in Dublin. It was quickly off to our hotel and bed!! The next morning we picked up our rental car and it was a re-learning experience driving on the left side and on very narrow roads. I don’t know if we ever got the knack of it the whole week we were there. Garry said it was easier 11 years ago. I white knuckled it most of the time as I navigated with iPad! But 11 years ago I didn’t have the iPad, so that was a great change.
We were in Ireland 11 years ago almost to the day but had not done Northern Ireland so spent most of the time there. To us, it seemed newer and more industrialized than the Republic of Ireland, but still beautiful and friendly. We always just wing it and hope that when we are ready to stop we will find a place that we like. Saturday we stayed in Drogheda which is on the river Boyne – famous for the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 between deposed King James II and his son-in-law Dutch Prince William of Orange. William won and that aided in ensuring Protestant rule Ireland. That also explains why Northern Ireland’s main color is orange.
Crossing the river Boyne we got into Northern Ireland. We stayed Sunday night in Strangford. I picked that place because you take a little ferry ride over to Portaferry as you drove along the coast. That sounded like fun, but little did I know Strangford is known by Game of Thrones fans. I have never seen an episode but I guess I need to now. Parts of season one were filmed nearby at Castle Ward. There are 2 tour buses a day that bring people in to the town and to the castle. If you google it you will see pictures of the new castle but we walked the short distance to the old Castle Ward where filming was done. We were smart and got there in the morning before the tour buses.
Sunday night was the Seahawks game and there was one pub in town with the satellite sport channels and they turned one tv on our game. It was a very small pub… just us and about 6 other locals in a different side of the pub. The game started at 9:25 pm in Ireland. The pub closes at 11:00 but let us stay until midnight. We watched the Seahawks eeek out a win watching the last 5 minutes on our iPad in our room.
The 5 minute ferry ride was easy but it was super windy and rough so got some salt spray on our car. We parked at Portaferry to walk around and a couple parked behind us. They were from Arizona and thought we were locals. They wanted to catch the ferry but didn’t have enough pounds and didn’t want to use the ATM and get a bunch because they were heading to Dublin where you use euros. We had pounds, they had US dollars, so we did a banking exchange on the street. They had just come from a town called Bangor which was our destination. They really liked the Salty Dog Hotel so we took their advice and stayed there a couple nights. It was a great place. We decided to take the train from there to Belfast rather than driving in the city and that was the smartest decision ever!!! We took a city tour of Belfast plus walked a bunch. People were amazingly helpful as we constantly took wrong turns walking. We were trying to find a pub that had been recommended and could not find it. One really nice lady just walked us to it saying it wasn’t far out of her way.
Northern Ireland was interesting in that there is still a lot of talk and things you see that are about what they call The Troubles. The history of fighting between the Protestants and Catholics goes back years and years but it is also pretty darn recent… it seems hard to believe how recent until you hear them talk about it and you see the signs of it. It was uncomfortable at times to see and hear some of the stories. We were told some golfers from the Republic of Ireland won’t golf in Northern Ireland because they consider it an occupied country (by England). In Northern Ireland there was no news on tv about the Republic of Ireland. They didn’t even show the weather.
After Bangor we continued on the northern coast to a couple of big tourist attractions. The first one was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This is a bridge used by salmon fisherman for over 350 years to reach an area that is best for catching salmon. It used to have only one rope hand rail but now there are two. Of course, once across you have to go back. It was another really windy day but I got it done!!
Just a ways down the road from the bridge was the Giant’s Causeway. It is a amazing area of 40,000 basalt columns and formations that according lore extend all the way to Scotland under the sea. There are many myths and legends about the causeway. It was rainy and windy when we were there but the weather cleared enough to enjoy it and get some good pictures. Lots and lots of tour buses were there. In fact there are a gazillion tour buses all over Ireland. It got interesting at times on the narrow roads!!!
We decided to turn our car in early and not drive it into Dublin our last 2 nights. A taxi was much easier!!! Dublin is so much fun. We did the Off and On tour bus that takes you to 33 stops and you can get off and on as many times as you want. Of course we had to go back to the Guinness place and the Jameson Whiskey place. We did window shopping on Grafton street and pub hopping in the Temple Bar area.
The week went by way too fast. I guess we will have to do it again some time. Stay tuned for week 2 and our adventures in Germany.