Giants Causeway and Belfast

Trip Start Mar 08, 2013
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Friday, March 15, 2013

Upon leaving Derry we decided that if Belfast was even nearly as bad, we would drive into the night to get to Dublin rather than stay. Luckily our entire day and evening far surpassed the day prior. We should have known things were looking up when a rainbow crossed our path leaving Derry.

Admittedly the four of us are Game of Throne nerds, and as such had done some research into filming locations in N. Ireland. We didn't have enough time to see as many as we had hoped, but fortunately a slight detour from our itinerary led us to Downhill Beach, the setting for a few major scenes in season 2. The beach was beautiful in the morning light, and to our surprise a National Trust sight happened to be right upon the cliff. We spent some time walking through Downhill Demense, the once grandiose manor of the Earl Bishop. Perched at the cliff's edge was Mussenden Temple, built as a library by the Earl. When we had taken in the expansive vista and Kerin had finally spoken with her mother about the engagement, we took off for Giant's Causeway.

At Giant's Causeway, a natural wonder of approximately 40,000 basalt columns, Rufio and I took the free audio guides to listen to the folklore that surrounds the stones. We climbed the strange rock formations and the adjacent cliff for over an hour before a fleeting hailstorm drove us back to the car. We stopped to see the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, but refused to pay the 6 entrance fee to cross the tattered bridge. With that we drove inland to the capital city.

Upon entering Belfast we realized we could not judge the whole of Northern Ireland on our experience in Derry. We likened Derry to New Jersey in the U.S., a desolate wasteland of a state populated with the worst kind of ignorance and malace. Belfast, on the other hand, was a gleaming beacon of modernity staged beautifully amid the relics of a rich history. I breathed a sigh of relief as we drove through town, and was already dismayed we didn't get to spend two nights as we had originally planned. We would have to instead make the most of this one.

Unfortunately we arrived in town just as the beloved Titanic museum closed for the evening. While Kerin and I had the newly opened exhibit on our itinerary and were disappointed to miss it, it wasn't until the weekend in Dublin where we heard everyone from our taxi driver and B&B host to bartenders laud its praises that we learned we had truly missed a great experience. We all agreed we must visit again.

After circling, as we were at this point want to do in new cities, Rufio found a metered spot a few blocks from yet another Travelodge. We checked in to the hotel, but with an hour left on the meter Kerin and I insited we walk down to City Hall before returning to move the car. Half way through our walk another seemingly out-of-nowhere hailstorm descended upon us. At this point we were equidistant from City Hall and the car, so we just decided to trek onward. The closer we got the harder the hail fell. Luckily we were able to huddle with a few others under the veranda until the hail let up enough to start out again. Now wet and cold, we doubled back to the car to park for the evening before taking much needed warm showers.

When we were clean and dry the sun filled the sky again, we set out for our now traditional dinner and nightly pub crawl. We spent the next few hours enjoying the pedestrian alleyways and shopping around Victoria Square. Our pub crawl started with local brews at Alley Cat, then moved to the iconic Bittles Bar where Ryan hit his landmark 300th unique beer tasting. What a week he was having!

From there we enjoyed a Spanish inspired meal at 2Taps tapas bar. We next weaved in and out of Duke of York, John Hewitt and Kitchen Bar before our final stop at Belfast's oldest bar (again, arguably), The Crown. Here not only did we each get to taste unique local beers, but Kerin's flaming red hair, engagement and midnight birthday attracted the attention of an ecclectic crew of Irishmen. Until closing the group sang to Kerin, entertained Rufio with stories of the IRA and took photos with all of us. When the night ended we stopped off for late night pizza before getting a few precious hours of sleep ahead of what promised to be a legendary weekend.

Downhill Demense
Giant's Causeway
Victoria Square

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