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Blurred memories Memoirs of a lost and bewildered Australian chick through Europe.

Irish Mist

IRELAND | Monday, 20 April 2009 | Views [877] | Comments [1]

Ah Ireland, land of the little people. The previous day I had been to a wedding in Cheltenham- a brilliant all day affair with way too much food and quite a few beverages. I had caught a bus at 2am in the morning following the wedding to get to Gatwick for the early flight to Dublin. So after a full day of excitement, I got no sleep and had to catch an early flight. Yes, I was a touch tired.


We arrived in Dublin early, excited and a little drowsy. We went straight to our hostel in the centre of the city, dumped our bags (we were so early we couldn’t get into our rooms) and then went off to explore Dublin. Emma had been there before so she had a rough idea of her way around. We wandered about, tried to go and see some historic old book in the University (it was closed), did a little shopping, and had a big lunch of Wagamama. By then I was pretty much out of it tired, so I decided that my time would be better spent fast asleep. So for about half of my first day in Ireland was spent asleep- but I honestly think that my time was very well spent.


I woke up about 4 and a half hours later with a good looking young man smiling at me from across the room. There are worse ways to wake up- his one I must admit was quite pleasant. He was a Belgian uni student who was going to be working at the hostel. Nice bloke, great English, good perve. Emma had gone out to meet a friend so I had a traditional Irish dinner at Joe’s American Diner (Or something like that), and an early night (but not after another chat to the lovely Belgian).


The next morning we left early to get to the airport to collect our hire car. At this point in time I would just like to say that little Fiat’s are absolute crap. Dreadful vision, no guts whatsoever and most importantly as we headed north to Belfast and crossed into Northern Ireland- only miles per hour on the speedometer. I had no idea how fast I was going, I was convinced that I was either holding up traffic, or would have a speeding fine! It was nice to finally do some driving though, even though the car was shit.


We got to Belfast quite easily, it took a little longer than expected as there seemed to be some plan to upgrade every road in the damn country and they hadn’t quite finished any of them and every time a new speed sign came up I did some rough maths and hoped I was going the right pace.


Belfast for me was as surprising as Dublin was disappointing. It really is quite a nice place, and I think the best way to describe it is optimistic. After the ‘troubles’ as they call it, it seems that Belfast really does want a better future, not to forget the past by any means, but perhaps not to repeat it. We did a black cab tour, which we had heard was the way to see the city. Our driver, who had grown up during the troubles was a wealth of information, and I think it was so much more informative hearing the history from someone who had actually been there and experienced the violence. It really was worth it and I think that I will definitely do another one when I am back in Belfast with mum and dad.


After our tour we were dropped off back in the main town square. There was a big Christmas fair and market going on and we took a ride on the “Belfast Eye”, the smaller, younger cousin of the London one. Cities really do look the prettiest at night, from above. After some retail therapy we drove out to our hostel, a cheap place not far from the city centre. It wasn’t too bad, and had free internet which was nice (will have to try and remember the name for when I’m there next). We had dinner (cat in a box- as Damien and I call it), which was cheap, and filling and perfect.


The next day we got out early to make our way further north to the Giant’s Causeway. We heard from our guide the day before to try to get there early to beat the crowds because the last thing you want is to get caught behind a tour bus. As it was we must have left at the perfect time because traffic wasn’t too bad at all. The weather, as always, was rainy; perhaps this kept the traffic down on the tourist roads. Our first stop on the way to the causeway was this rope bridge thing only a few miles from the causeway. You can climb along this bridge over the ocean out onto this little island. It was closed…bloody typical! I think we missed it by a few weeks. Apparently it is dangerous to walk out over the ocean on a flimsy bridge in high winds in December! Bah humbug! I would have done it! So I will have to wait until next time I’m in Ireland to have a go at this one!


So we went on to the causeway. After a short walk downhill (made a little longer by how bloody windy it was!) we got to the causeway. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I have wanted to go there for about 10 years- ever since I saw photos of it in Steve Waugh’s Ashes Diary. I loved it! It was such an amazing piece of landscape- it’s hard to believe that the rocks are natural formations and not man made somehow. I certainly was a place unlike any I have ever seen before. We made our way back up to the visitors centre via a longer cliff path and shit loads of steps (Emma didn’t enjoy this part so much!). It got ridiculously windy and I had never experienced wind like it. It was so strong I felt that if I had an umbrella I could become Mary Poppins and fly away! By the time we got to the top we were frozen, windswept and absolutely starving. Lunch was at the café at the visitors’ centre where we had Irish stew, hot tea and scones. Absolute bliss- I credit it as one of the best and most needed meals I have had in my entire life- ever!


We drove on, stopping at a few ruined castles on the way. We reached Derry or Londonderry depending on who you are. For me it’s Derry. Derry has a gorgeous walled old town (which is dreadful to navigate around in a car) and just outside the walls is the place we came to visit. I’m not sure of the exact name for it, but it is sort of an outdoor art gallery. In this one street there is about 20-30 murals painted on the walls of the houses that border it depicting “the troubles” and Derry’s place in them. While I loved the ones in Belfast these were in another league altogether. Most of them had little plaques or information things in front of them too telling you exactly what you were looking at. At one end there was also a monument to the Bloody Sunday riots. Really nice, really understated, and needless to say much to poor Emma’s mirth I spent the whole time humming a certain U2 song…


In the car again, I was in search of a Gaelic football shirt for my dreadfully fussy older brother for Christmas and according to what I had read we were in Gaelic Footy country and headed to this small town which according to a pamphlet I had acquired, was its capital. I thought that if I was going to get a shirt anywhere, it was going to be here. I must admit when we got into town at just before 5pm I was mildly sceptical. Turns out that my suspicions were right- we went straight into what looked to be the only department store in town and went to the sports department. A young guy came to serve us and we told him what we were looking for. He replied (or so it sounded to me) - “ar herdy blerdy gargle”- turns out that he was speaking English he just had the strongest Irish accent that I have ever heard (and have ever heard since). To me, it honestly sounded like he was speaking another language. After much stopping and starting and blank looks and asking him to repeat himself we managed to ascertain that Letterkenny, about 20 minutes back down the road had a few stores that sold what I was looking for. In the heavy peak hour traffic it took us about half an hour to get back to Letterkenny, but “ar herdy blerdy gargle” man was right and we found quite a large store that had quite a few shirts to choose from. I ended up buying two, one for Damien and one for Dad.


By then it was quite dark and we pushed on as far as a town called Sligo. We managed to find a really nice (but expensive) hotel which was chosen on the basis of: “I don’t care how much it costs I’m tired and hungry and I refuse to drive any further”. It was a good choice despite the price and had a good curry place nearby, and very comfy beds which was all we were looking for.


The next morning we had a huge (and expensive) breakfast at the hotel and a well earned sleep in. I posted off the shirts home (bloody expensive too!) and then we left town to travel south to Galway. From what I can remember it was mainly a driving type day. Shit weather- just for something different, and a trip to an old abbey boarding school which was absolutely lovely, despite the weather. We arrived in Galway in the afternoon and spent our time exploring the town and having a lovely dinner of our new favourite Irish stew. Mmmmmm!


The next day it was further south again along every single scenic route we could manage to Killarney. The highlight of the day was a trip to the cliffs of Moher. The most amazing and breath-takingly huge and amazing cliffs I have ever seen. It was windy and drizzly, but this kind of added to the atmosphere of the amazing place. As we headed closer to our final destination we saw a sign which pointed to “the most beautiful cliffs in Ireland”. I’m a sucker for such blatant advertising and immediately turned down the road to see said cliffs. Emma decided I was on my own going to explore these cliffs. The weather was absolutely dreadful and it was a 500m walk down a muddy track to get to the cliffs. I was not deterred and wandered on, getting absolutely drenched and covered in mud. The cliffs were amazing. But at the edge it was so windy that comparatively, the wind at the Giant’s Causeway was a light breeze. I have never experienced anything like it before. It was so windy it was painful and I felt like I was going to be either swept off the cliff, or if I did manage to avoid this I was going to have some severely burst ear drums. I lasted about 20 minutes before the rain and wind took me back to the car- brown, soggy and lamenting the fact that I may have ruined my favourite red boots. On the up side though- it was a lovely view.


 We had lunch in Limerick a lovely town, crap weather, and ironically and irritatingly more stalls selling Gaelic Footy gear than I had ever seen before- I took this as a sign to buy myself one too! We arrived in Killarney at about 530pm. It was still pretty dreadful weather and we ended up having a gorgeous pub dinner (not Irish stew for once but I thought about it!) and an early night in bed reading. Not the most energetic I know, but I still felt like my ear drums may have exploded.


The next day we rose again early because we were about to travel along one of Irelands most well known tourist routes- the Ring of Kerry. This certainly was one of the most amazing roads I have ever been along. In parts the weather did clear enough to give us amazing views of the ocean. We took the entire route as much as we could right along the coast. There was basically no traffic whatsoever, which we were both certainly very glad of as the road was barely wide enough for one car let alone two, and our crappy little fiat really did struggle getting up some of the hills.


We drove on, through amazing landscape and amazingly bad weather. Lunch was in an apparently very famous fish restaurant in a town where the only thing open was said fish restaurant (no I didn’t have the fish). Further south we travelled around another scenic route- another ring of something or other. This road, while most of it was not as “pretty scenic” as Kerry, but it was a totally different landscape. Parts of it had big boulders and huge hills, other bits were green and lush. All the time there was the Irish mist. At one stage we drove around this Island called Valencia- no we were not in Spain. We did a loop round it and it had one of the most amazing coastal roads with a gorgeous view out over the ocean- the road was so winding it was absolutely crazy but totally brilliant to drive along. My inner rally driver was just bursting to come out and show itself- pity about the dreadful weather, crap car and the fact that every 20 metres or so there was another blind bend with potentially a car coming the other way. I can quite confidently say that in my whole driving life I never had a more challenging day behind the wheel. But I certainly have never had one more exhilarating either! On the way back for another night in Killarney the weather was so dreadful you could barely see out the front windscreen, the traffic was absolutely atrocious and I was driving along what was one of the craziest roads I have ever been on and I was having an absolute ball!


Our penultimate day in Ireland- we drove straight to Blarney- in order to kiss the famous Blarney stone. We got there nice and early and only had to wait for the two people in front of us to kiss the stone. I went first and made an absolute arse of myself. I didn’t lie back far enough, got scared, didn’t kiss the right bit and then threw a huffy. Emma had a go, had absolutely no problems, and wanted to know what all my fuss was about. I felt so bad knowing that I had come all this way and stuffed it that I went back to have another go! This time I didn’t stuff it and got the stone with a big sloppy one! Second time lucky and I felt like I had the gift of the gab already. I’m glad I went back for the second go, because I never would have forgiven myself. After this we had a walk around the gardens- quite slowly as it was slippery as anything because of the morning frost and ended up getting away from there quite early as there was nowhere near the crowds we had expected.


Next we were off to Cork for lunch. It wasn’t a bad place. My particular favourite place that I found was a Gloria Jeans. I truly do believe in the healing powers of a quadruple shot skim cappuccino. I did get a strange look when I ordered that one! Lunch was Mexican, not bad- very filling and nice to have something different for a change.


After some shopping we drove on to a place called Cashel. We had booked into a gorgeous little B and B which wasn’t that expensive considering how gorgeous it was. We had a fantastic dinner at a Thai restaurant just down the road which was one of the best Thai places I had been in yonks. After dinner I had a gorgeous long bath- I think I still had mud from earlier!


The next morning after a great breakfast of porridge, yoghurt and fresh fruit we went to the famous Rock of Cashel. I had heard about it but I admit I didn’t know exactly what it was! Turned out it was a fantastic old castle. Because we got there quite early in the morning and the weather was dreadful as usual we basically had the whole place to ourselves. It was so fantastic seeing a place like that without the crowds. I think you appreciate it so much more.


After this we headed north again back towards Dublin we again took the scenic route- at one stage ending up on a dirt track with grass growing in the middle! Apparently this was part of the scenic route! Finally arriving back in Dublin and returning the car was in a way a sad moment. While it was a crap car I had really enjoyed driving for once again- it had been a while! At the airport I managed to employ the services of a shoeshine man who managed to revive my boots back to their original redness for the price of 7 euro. I thought this was totally worth it considering how much I love my boots- even though they only originally cost me 15 euro three years earlier. I suppose if it gives me another 3 or 4 years it is definitely well worth it. So, back to London, one day there and off to Germany for Christmas!

Tags: northern ireland, republic of ireland



I really loved our trip to Ireland. It will be interesting to see how different it is for you this time around as I'm sure there will be heaps of tourists there now.

  Emma Apr 30, 2009 12:53 AM

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