It’s been over a month, and I haven’t actually written anything about my travels, other than to make some observations about traveling styles and experience. Time to put pen to paper, as it were, and salvage any freshness in my mind.
I had intended to write about the actual experience of a 6 am flight on Emirates, the fact that “Now Boarding” and “Last Call” are synonymous in Dubai airport, and general observations on interpretations of espresso-derived coffee around the world, but they are just distractions at this point.
We arrived in Dublin after nine in the evening — possibly the last flight to land. The arrivals hall was certainly empty. Immigration and quarantine were a breeze (apart from being stuck behind a couple of amateurs that hadn’t sorted their visas out ahead of time), and we were soon in a cab.
Cabbies in Dublin are very friendly and informative. This one had actually spent a fair bit of time in Manly, and knew where Parramatta is. He explained that we were passing through town just after the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Traffic was a little slow passing near Croke Park, but we made it to the hotel in the city center within half an hour.
The Pearse Hotel was a disappointment. I wasn’t expecting luxury, but for $130 AUD equivalent, I was expecting actual air conditioning (not windows that open onto the street), sheets changed daily (or at least the option), and a room safe. Oh, and a notification that we had been given a smoking room. I’m pretty sure I could get all that in Sydney for the same price. Nonetheless, we got two double beds, and a pretty central location.
I can recommend the Lido — a chip shop across the road from the hotel. It was open late, and provided us with what seemed an appropriate refuel after 20+ hours in a slightly spacious sardine can. If anybody can explain the whirlyburger, that would be much appreciated in certain quarters.
Northern Ireland Bus Tour
Early to rise, and straight on a bus to see the Giant’s Causeway. I had originally intended to rent a car and drive through Northern Ireland myself. Given that I would be operating on 6 hours’ sleep, straight off one of the longest flights of my life, I decided not to risk it, and booked a tour. I cannot recommend Extreme Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway Bus Tour enough. It leaves Dublin early in the morning and makes for the coast of Northern Ireland almost directly.
Phil, our driver, was very friendly and spoke knowledgeably. As we passed through Belfast, he gave a great 10 minute history of the Troubles, describing the politics, violence and tensions that continue to this day. Nonetheless, he insisted that Belfast is a “great craic, and the people are very friendly.”
Our first main stop was in Carnlough, for a quick break. It’s a picturesque little town, with a nice harbour.
Most of the day was spent driving on the coast, or through the countryside. It’s all gorgeous. I don’t know what else to say. Rolling hills, rough cliffs, ruined castles, farms and tiny villages make Northern Ireland a lovely place to visit.
Before the main event, we stopped in to see the famous rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. For hundreds of years, salmon fishers crossed a rope bridge to a tiny rock. These days, it’s a tourist attraction. You have to walk over a kilometer from the car park to the bridge itself. It’s a very nice walk, but not particularly easy. The path follows the cliff line, and there are some fairly steep climbs. Definitely worth the effort, though.