Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Today was our last day in Ireland ... so what did we do? Bought our weight in souvenirs to bring home to all of you!! haha 

We slept in this morning, avoiding most of the morning rain, and started off the day with a walk to the bus stop. A short ride later we were in Dublin city centre where we grabbed lunch and did some shopping. We were operating on a super leisurely pace today; we had no agenda and were in no hurry. After picking out a few items we ambled to the post office -- not to send post cards, but to look through the GPO 1916 Easter Rising Museum. 

There isn't a lot of advertising or hype for this museum, but it was definitely a good one. For those who don't know: in 1916, the Republican Party in Ireland decided that the time had come to no longer simply ask and petition the United Kingdom for their independence but to take it. The Irish Volunteers, Irish Citizen Army, and the Cumann na nBan (the last being an all women group of rebels) joined forces to take over Dublin (as well as a few other key places throughout Ireland) and (in theory) lead the revolution that would result in the independent Republic of Ireland. I'm not going to say it didn't work -- I mean, I am sitting in the Republic of Ireland right now; but it didn't turn out the way the leaders had hoped (partly because the rising only lasted six days before the British put the kibosh on it and mostly because the seven rising leaders were improvised and executed within a month of their defeat). However, the executions backfired, and instead of viewing the rising as a failure, the Irish people began to sympathize with the rebels. Eventually this lead to the Irish War for Independence. 

After the museum and more wandering we ate dinner on Gardner Street and then took the bus back to our hotel. 

I am a photo failure today -- but here are a few that best summarize our trip:

A poster from the GO GPO museum. 

Fish and chips!!! 

From our love lock Day ...

From our day at the dark Hedges ...

From our day at Blarney Castle ...

From our day at Dunluce Castle ...

From our day at Carrick-a-Rede bridge and island ... 

And from our day at the Giant's Causeway. 

Tomorrow we fly back home -- this was a wonderful adventure, but it will be good to get back home to Bernie!! 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Clontarf Castle

Busses and trains and snow -- oh my! We woke up this morning well rested despite the dramatic weather last night (storms and snow and gusting winds and crashing waves) and made our way down to the dining room for breakfast. Debbie (the B&B owner) made us BY FAR the best breakfast we've had this entire trip: French toast with baked plums and cream. Mmmmm. We then packed up and prepared for a long day of travel back down to Dublin. 

We took a bus to Coleraine, and train to Belfast, a second train to Dublin, and a third train out to where we are staying tonight. We did get off the train in Belfast and have lunch at a pub -- the snow was falling in big, wet flakes coating Belfast in a squishy layer of snow. Once we got off our third train, it was a little under a mile trek (still in the snow) to reach our final destination for the night: Clontarf Castle. 

Clontarf Castle gets its name from the battle of Clontarf fought in 1014 between the Irish and the Vikings. The Irish won, but their king was killed. Many view this victory as the battle that granted Ireland freedom from foreign rule. The first castle built in this site was built in 1172, but it was later demolished and rebuilt in 1837 (note: that's just 60 years before my current home was built!!). In 1997, they converted the castle into a hotel -- which is lovely for us, because that means we get to stay tonight in a castle!! 

I don't have too many pictures from today (who wants to see photos of trains and bust stops?) but here is what I have: 

The best French toast EVER. 

Lunch stop in Belfast!! Fish and chips for me and Guinness stew for CJ. 

Well ... I suppose this will do ... (Thanks, Lisa, for the recommendation !) 

Our royal suite. 

Dinner at The Knight's Bar!! 

And now we are settled in for sleep. Tomorrow is our last full day in Ireland -- more adventures to come!! 

Good night. 

Monday, January 15, 2018


Today's adventures are brought to you by the letter R ... for rain. It was raining when we woke and it is raining now as we settle into our B&B. But we didn't let a little drizzle (torrential downpour with gusting winds) keep us from exploring and enjoying our day!! We slept in and enjoyed breakfast at the inn before starting our day. We packed up our things and loaded up our packs and set off on foot for the first destination of the day: Bushmill Distillery. 

If you aren't familiar with Bushmill Distillery, I'm sure you can guess from the name that it is where they make Bushmill Whiskey, the "other" (original) Irish whiskey -- or so the tour guide said. We enjoyed a guided tour through the actual whiskey plant, every stage from the making of the wort to the distilling to the bottling and labeling; I would definitely recommend the tour if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods. The aroma throughout the Distillery was heavenly (if you enjoy whiskey, that is) and your ticket (which was only five sterling -- oh, right; we aren't using euros here ... apparently Northern Ireland doesn't use euros. Whoops.) got you not one but TWO free drinks at the end of the tour. It was really interesting to see how the whiskey is made (after all my years of chemistry and organic chemistry, I am an expert distiller) but more so interesting to learn how the whiskey gets its flavors and colors -- for those that have no idea, it is all about the barrels in which the whiskey is stored. After enjoying samples we set out for the next destination on our checklist for the day: Dunluce Castle. 

Dunluce Castle was originally built in 1513 by the McQuillan family, though by the 1600s it was the MacDonnell family that owned the castle. The castle is built into the steep walls of a cliff above the angry ocean below and is accessible via bridge. (When we used Ways to figure out where the castle was located, we were not quite as deterred as we should have been when it showed the castle in the middle of the ocean ...) The castle is in ruins today, but it is obvious how beautiful and majestic it was in its day. Walking through the remains of the castle, I could imagine what it was like to live there, the winds howling outside, the waves crashing into the cliff sides, and a roaring fire in the fireplace to keep the chill out. (I would have paid for a fire in the fireplace today!!) After exploring, we set off for our next destination: Portstewart, which is where our Bed and Breakfast is located. 

We intended to take the bus since we had already done quite a bit of walking and it was raining and windy ... but the bus "skipped an hour" meaning we had two options: wait two hours for a bus in the windy cold or walk an hour and a half in the windy cold to a town where we could catch a bus and get a coffee while we waited. We chose option two and started our four mile trek. Despite the pelting rain and the fierce wind, the views were amazing. The waves were powerful as they crashed upon the cliffs and beaches sending white foam flying up into the air. We were ready for rain -- we had rain coats and waterproof boots and rain covers for our packs, so though we were a little soggy and definitely wind blown, we were totally fine. 

We arrived in Portrush (four miles later) and wandered to the bus stop to catch a bus to Portstewart (only three miles away -- but it was four o'clock and getting dark and STILL raining). This is where we met Carroll. When Carroll saw us standing at the bus stop, I imagine what she really saw were two sad, wet, whimpering puppies in a box that said "free to a good home" because she swooped us up and insisted we walk with her to her home where she would then drive us to Portstewart. We insisted we could take the bus, but Carroll wasn't to be argued with -- apparently she finds stray travelers often (just last week it was a young couple from Australia and a month ago it was another American couple). We followed her to her beautiful seaside home where she again insisted we come inside for a cup of tea and shortbread cookie. We met her husband, Robert, who was completely un phased by our presence in his home further enforcing the theory that Carroll scoops up strays often. We learned that Robert had heart problems and Carroll got new hearing aides today and that Carroll visited Amish Pennsylvania a few years ago on a patchwork quilt tour and wanted to know how Amish America differs from "regular America" (um, vastly). We also learned that they have three grand daughters, one of which is in Southern Ireland on a six month internship feeding baby seals whilst wearing a wet suit and another of which is in Australia teaching the aborigine children with a boyfriend who they think is probably a long term thing meaning the grand daughter will not be moving back to Ireland any time soon. They recommended we move to New Zealand, as they love it there and would have moved there is they were younger. They also spent many years of their lives as weekly respite for special needs children -- it sounds like they have big hearts and enjoy caring for those who need it most (which does not say a lot for us as we sat warming in front of their fire drinking hot tea ...). After a little more chatting, Carroll drove us right to the front door of our bed and breakfast. We really are very grateful for her -- what a wonderful and giving couple. Not many people would welcome wet strangers into their homes and take them to their next destination. 

And finally, we arrived at our home for the night. The house is beautiful and the room is warm and stylish and comfortable -- and has a great view of the angry, crashing ocean waves. We changed out of our wet clothes and rested for less than an hour before putting on dry layers to head out to dinner. Dinner was a ten minute walk down to the promenade -- it took a lot for us to go back out and not just eat the trail mix and cookies we had and call it dinner. But we were brave and were rewarded with a delicious dinner! After one more courageous walk through the gusting rain, we arrived back at our B&B to turn in for the night. Pictures: 

Bushmill Distillery!! 

They didn't allow any photos in the Distillery / on the tour -- not because they are opposed to pictures, but because the alcohol content in the air is so high that no electronics are allowed inside the factory! 

Mmmmmm -- this is their twelve year aged whiskey. Their most popular whiskey is Black Bush, aged eight years. 

At least they didn't tell us to hop in a boat and paddle out to the castle!! 

Perk of lots of rain: lots of rainbows!! We saw tons of them today. 

Ô There's the castle!! 

It's a castle with a view! 

: ) 

Some of the beautiful views on our walk along the coast. 

Drinks with dinner ... 

... and curry muscles. Yum yum yum!! 

Do we look cold and wet? I think we hide it well. 

And now we are settled into our room listening to the rain and the waves and drifting off to sleep. More adventures tomorrow!! 

Good night. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Causeway Coast

Today was an amazing day!! We started out bright and early (though whoever came up with the expression "bright and early" mustn't have been from Ireland because 1. the sun doesn't rise until after 8:30 and 2. the sun probably isn't shining even if it has risen) and hopped on our favorite big green bus: the paddywagon. And though we enjoyed half of the tour, the REAL purpose of our jaunt on the paddywagon was to get ourselves to Northern Ireland. Getting to Northern Ireland was a trickier feat than we had first thought. Accessing bus and train schedules once you cross the boarder is hard, and we couldn't find anyone that was able to tell us a reliable way to get to the causeway costal hiking path. Ugh. (I had an easier time navigating through countries with languages I didn't understand than trying to find us a way to Northern Ireland.) And that's where Paddywagon Tours came in -- they had a tour that went right up to the giants causeway, which was in the middle of our intended hike route. Excellent. 

We got on the bus with our wonderful driver and guide, Val, and thirty one other passengers. Our first stop was at The Dark Hedges -- which means nothing to me, but if you are a Game of Thrones fan, this is one of the many sites in Ireland where the show has been filmed. Though the place held no significance for me, it was a really pretty walkway with amazing old trees. The stop here was only twenty minutes, so back on the bus we got and we were off to the next stop: Carrick-a-Rede bridge. 

This. This is the beauty of Ireland. Don't get me wrong: the music and dancing and food and people and Guinness are wonderful and fun and entertaining -- but the countryside and the ocean paths: these are the peaceful places, the beautiful places. We got off at Carrick-a-Rede and started our mini hike along the cliff side. The views were stunning. And as an added bonus, it was not yet raining and the fog had cleared, so we could see all the way to Scotland! We approached the bridge and in single file line walked across the old rope bridge spanning between the cliffs of the two islands over the turbulent turquoise water below. I could tell you it was scary and that I was nervous to walk across, but the experience was too lovely to be anything but exciting. We explored the island and after a while walked back across the bridge and took the path back to the bus. 

Next we went to the Fullerton Arms for lunch. We sat with a couple from Rhode Island as we enjoyed Guinness stew, bangers and mash, and burgers. There was quite the cast of characters on our bus: many people from the US, some Australians, an Italian family, a girl from South Africa, and a young Spanish couple with a child of about three. The Fullerton Arms also boasted of some Game of Throne connections having one of the doors on display as you enter the pub. 

Finally we made our way to the Giant's Causeway. What an amazing experience!! What is the Giant's Causeway? Well, if you ask a scientist, they will tell you about volcanic eruptions and tectonic plates and thousands of hexagon shaped basalt columns stacked like honeycomb. But if you ask anyone else, they will tell you about Finn McCool, the giant who built the Causeway: Finn McCool lived in Ireland while his rival Benandonner lived across the causeway in Scotland. He built the causeway using stones from the coast to bridge the gap between them only to discover that Benandonner was a much larger giant than he! He rushed back to Ireland with Benandonner in pursuit; Finn's resourceful wife hatched a plan wrapping her husband in a blanket and having him lay by the fire. When Benandonner arrived at the home and asked for Finn, she told him Finn was out but he was welcome to wait. Spotting the giant wrapped on a blanket on the floor, he asked who this was, to which the wife replied: Finn's infant son. Fearful that if this was the size of his baby that Finn would be larger than he, Benandonner fled back to Scotland, destroying the bridge as he went. 

The view from the Causeway was majestic: the ocean crashing on the volcanic rock, spraying salt water up into the sky; the cliffs jutting up into the air creating a bowl through which the pathway wove; and the honeycomb of stepping stones crawling out into the ocean at varying heights, tourists climbing and clinging as strong winds threaten their footing. I loved it there -- I could have sat there all day ... except it began to rain and the wind picked up and the temperature dropped making the return up the path more welcome than had the day remained peaceful. 

This was the point at which we left the group and marched to our new home for the night: they Bayview Inn -- less than an hour of easy walking. As the name would suggest, the inn is right on the ocean and our room faces the waves. The room is spacious and clean and comfortable. After checking in and hanging up our soaking clothes and gear, we took a well deserved nap before going to the restaurant for dinner. 

And now we are back in our room settling in for bed. Pictures: 

The dark Hedges 

Carrick-a-Rede bridge -- so amazing!! 

I looked down ... but the view was awesome! 

It was just a tad windy ... 

I love these views!! 

At the Giant's Causeway

Those little basalt hexagons are slippery!! Add the wind gusts and it was tricky to get up there!! 

Soooooooo cool!! 

It really was best to just sit before the wind took you out. haha

Inside the bowl

Packs on and off to the inn!! You can't tell, but it is pouring!! 

Our warm room with an ocean view. 

Time for sleep. More adventures tomorrow!!! (And to figure out how we get back to the Republic of Ireland ...)

Good night!! 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

More Dublin

Another jam packed day of exploring Dublin! Trinity College, the Book of Kells and Old Library, Dublinia, Jamison Distillery (kind of), and lots of amazing food!! Plus some prepping for tomorrow. 

We slept in this morning and woke to rain -- as our tour guide said yesterday "can't do anything about the weather, folks; you came to Ireland in January". haha But no worries: we have lots of layers and the radiator in our room dried out our coats / socks / hats quite nicely overnight. We ate a smilie breakfast at our hotel and then set out into the wet to find Trinity College. 

Trinity College is still a functioning university and as such is bustling with student life and tourists alike. The atmosphere within the gate is dripping with history -- from the architecture of the buildings to the expansive old trees. We made our way to the Old Library where the Book of Kells is kept. The Book of Kells is a 9th century hand written account of the four gospels of the New Testament. They are written on calf vellum and are beautifully decorated both in color and pictures. The name "Book of Kells" comes from the Abbey in Kells where the manuscript was written and housed until safety concerns forced it to be moved to Dublin. Unfortunately photos were not allowed in this part of the exhibit ... so you will have to go experience it for yourself!! Next we moved into the Old Library -- here pictures were allowed! The long room smelled of old books and was filled with busts of scientists, philosophers, physicians, and authors. Examples of the ancient books were in cases for closer examination. After making our way through, we went back out into the rain and walked towards our next destination: Dublinia. 

Dublinia is a museum dedicated to the Vikings -- very interesting history and really neat recreations of what the homes / boats / civilizations would have been like. I particularly enjoyed the sections on the Black Plague (even when not at work medicine captures my interest) and how archeologists put artifacts together to build a story of how ancient peoples lived. 

Next we walked towards the Jamison Distillery. Before entering, we ate at a restaurant outside the entrance. I know yesterday I said that Son of a Bun was one of the best burgers I ever ate ... but today's burger was THE BEST burger I ever ate. No contest. haha It was beef burger topped with caramelized bananas, goat cheese, bacon, and lettuce. Oh. My. Goodness. So delicious. I know what you're thinking -- you were iffy about the goat cheese and bananas on a burger is not even in your taste palate. Well it should be. Yum. Then we went into the Distillery -- but the ticket prices were ridiculously expensive and only included a tasting, not an actual drink. And there was no cool rooftop bar overlooking the city ... so we decided to look around the (free) first level before heading out. There was a really neat display of barrel tops -- artists are commissioned each year to make what will be the barrel tops for all barrels sent out for St. Patrick's Day. 

About this time we decided to head back to the hotel for a little bit of rest and to plan and prepare for tomorrow. It was a long walk back to our hotel -- but we walked over the love lock bridge on our way and made sure our lock was still there (it was). We usually use Ways to get around the city, even if we are pretty sure we know where we are heading, just to make sure we don't get too lost (a little lost is okay -- it's usually how we find the best eateries and shops); well today Ways wanted us to take a shortcut through what seemed like a solid wall. Turns out it was a narrow archway that led down a narrow street filled with little restaurants and pubs -- and was a great shortcut back to our hotel!! Once back at our hotel we took a nap (between the walking, the site seeing, the food, and the rain, I am one sleepy traveler!!) and did some packing. Then it was time to head out in search of dinner. 

We ventured back to the narrow street we had found called Merchant's Way and ate st a restaurant called Merchant's Arch -- the food was delicious and the live music was wonderful. After our bangers and mash and shepherds pie, we found Bubble Waffle Company for desert. And now we are back at our hotel with full bellies. A few pictures from today: 

The bell tower at Trinity College -- don't walk under it, though; tradition says that if you walk under it and it rings, you will fail your exams. 

The old library. Look familiar? It should to Harry Potter fans -- it is the library from the films!! 

An interesting book I found -- let's zoom in a bit ... 

Perhaps a long lost relative?!

The Viking museum!! 

Fancy a climb to the top of St. Michael's Tower? 

Almost a hundred steps later -- not a bad view! 

The best. burger. ever. 

Barrel tops! 

I liked this one. 

More stairs -- this time to the top of the restaurant for dinner. 


CJ entitling his dinner! 

More delicious food!! 

A post it wall inside the waffle factory -- 

-- and our addition to the wall. 

Now it is time for sleep. More adventures await tomorrow!!