Travel Wrap-Up and Summary

I was a geography minor back in the day, and I love a good map!  Plus, I really wanted to log all of the Km/Miles we logged on this trip.  We were definitely tired, and we are avid fans of walking, so this may not be for everyone.  Walking was a perfect solution for us to get exercise, see as much as possible, and get a feel for the cities we were in.  My impeccable sense of direction helped, too.  Next time I’m taking my FitBit to really log the miles!

Dublin Day 1 – December 26, 2013

Airlink Bus 747 from Dublin Airport to O’Connell Street.  An Adult single ticket is only €6, and it is a quick trip to City Center.  Worth it!

dublin airlink

Trying to stay awake, find coffee, and food:

dublin day 1 part one

After a rest, we headed out into Dublin again to do a little exploring:

dublin day 1 part 2

Dublin Day 1 Totals: 7.2 Miles

Dublin Day 2 – December 27, 2013

dublin day 2

*Note – we went to The Beer Club, JW Sweetman’s, not Messrs Maguire, but Google Maps wouldn’t let me choose that as a destination.

Dublin Day 2 Totals: 8 miles

Northern Ireland and Belfast – December 28, 2013

driving to belfast

Walked to Old Church to meet bus, and back after a stop for fish and chips!  Also spent a lot of time walking trails at the bridge and causeway Total Miles: Approximately 5 miles

Dublin -> Wales -> London – December 29, 2013

We walked to the ferry port, then took the ferry to Holyhead in Wales, then the train into Euston Station London, then to Waterloo:

house to ferry

ferry journey

We got slightly lost coming out of Waterloo, so I estimate our miles for this day at: 3 Miles

I got our tickets and information about this type of travel from The Man in Seat 61 – his website is FANTASTIC for travel in Europe.  He posts videos, pictures, maps, time tables, and everything else a true OCD traveler such as myself can enjoy.

London Full Day 1 – December 30, 2013

london day 1

We saw basically everything. Approximately 7.5 miles

London Day 2 – December 31, 2013

london day 2

 

Again, we saw pretty much everything.  Including fantastic fireworks and historic stuff and art. I added 1.5 miles to this day for our time spent walking around the tower and Tate and time spent wading through people after the fireworks. Approximately 7 miles

Last Day in London – January 1, 2014


last day in London

Last Day in London: Approximately 5 miles

January 2, 2014 –  another day of ferries, trains, and this time a cab from the ferry to the flat.  We only had one small mishap with the cab; our cabbie misheard us and we almost ended up in the opposite end of Dublin from where we were supposed to be.  The only time accents were an issue!  We walked maybe 1 mile this day, with train switches and a jaunt up the street to get a frozen pizza for dinner #exhausted

Last Day in Dublin – January 3, 2013

last day in dublin

This was the day all those miles were felt in my poor short little legs.  We worked through another 5.5 miles, and ended with a quiet evening at the flat so we could catch an early flight back to the states in the morning.

Back to the States – January 4, 2014

We woke up with ideas of walking to the Airlink, but this day was the only morning that there was a downpour of rain.  We opted for a cab instead, for which our legs thanked us.  To the airport, through customs, over the ocean and Canada, to Atlanta, and back to Knoxville – all in a day’s travel.  And I got my froyo fix in the ATL airport, which is always my #1 priority at an airport.

TOTAL TRAVEL SUMMARY

Total Estimated Miles Walked:  At Least 44.2 Miles

Sites Seen: All of the major ones.  Guinness, Christchurch, Kilmainham, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, The Tower of London, British Museum, Tate Modern, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and so much MORE.

Costs:
Flights: Knoxville to Dublin, roundtrip $1895.00 total- $947.50/person
Lodging Dublin: $336.00 – 5 nights – $67.20/night – $168/person
Lodging London: $549.00 – 4 nights – $137.25/night – $274.50/person
Rail/Sail Tickets from Dublin->London->Dublin: $254.59 for 2 tickets – $127.30/person
All other costs – Meals, Souvenirs, Admissions, Et al: $1,379.46 – $689.73/person

Total: $4,144.05 – $2,207.02 / person = $220.00 per day per person for everything – not too bad!

But really: PRICELESS

Belfast: More Difficult Histories and Recent History

Respect | Remember | Resolution

Respect | Remember | Resolution

*** Well, I was really hoping to have more than a recap on our trip to Belfast, but at this time that’s all I’m able to offer.  We only spent about 2 hours there, but the recent history there surrounding “The Troubles” really impacted me; even in the few months since I’ve been back, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it all, and I’m hoping to come up with a bigger blog series on difficult histories, reconciliation, and more.  As my good friend Abigail Gautreau found in her dissertation research, Public History has a HUGE role to play in reconciliation with recent historical events.  ***

So as we wrapped up our great day traveling to rope bridges and giants’ homes with Wayne from Extreme Ireland tours, we headed back south towards Dublin with a stop in Belfast.  Wayne set us up with his friends from a Belfast black Taxi Tour Company to learn more about the politics of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Britain, and the Republic of Ireland.  If you want a good, quick synopsis of the Troubles, please check out this Wikipedia link (don’t hate – Dr. Robert Connolly writes of the scholarly values of Wiki here).

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

At the very smallest, most basic level – Irish Catholics and British Protestants fought for years with various terrorist groups on both sides wreaking havoc in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and even in England and other places;  this time is called “The Troubles” and officially lasted from the late 1960s until 1998.  Violence has still occurred since then, and during the weeks leading up to our visit to Belfast a car bomb exploded.

The tour started in the City Center by the City Hall.  We had 2 guides, who both grew up during the Troubles in Belfast; they didn’t tell us which side they grew up on, so as we went through the tour we tried to guess from their biases which side they were on.   We hopped into the cabs and were off to see the city.

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

We started in the “English” section, which is dotted with memorial murals commemorating the English heroes of the Troubles and religious conflicts.  We talked about the Hunger Strikes, the various violent conflicts, and others calling for peace and reconciliation.  There are memorials on both sides, and for just about everything.  There are many sources online that document each mural.

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Next we went to the Peace Wall, which was an incredible sight to see.  The wall is up to 40 feet or more in some places – high enough to prevent people from throwing grenades or shells over to the other side.  The violence that occurred here (and still does) is astounding to me.  This blog, “WTF Wednesdays: Belfast Peace Walls” by the Everywhereist really does a good job of explaining how I felt seeing the walls and on the tour in general.  We wrote our own messages on the walls, reflected on their purpose and the fact that they still exist, and moved into the Irish neighborhoods.

There is a lot of talk about whether or not the Peace Walls or the murals should remain, and I hope to tackle that question from the preservation/reconciliation side in the future.  In the meantime, read more about it here, here, here, and here.  There is also a lot of talk among residents, found here, and here. Another good article about architecture and conflict is available here.

One we passed through a gate in the walls to the Irish side, we visited a memorial on Bombay Street.   Here, the neighborhood had constructed a memorial to those killed, just in that one neighborhood, as a direct result of the Troubles.  The Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden lists each name and stands directly in the shadow of the walls.  The Conflict Archive on the Internet posted a video tour of the memorial on youtube here.

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

While we were at the memorial, the guides showed us the “non-lethal” rubber bullets that killed so many people in the Irish neighborhoods.  Dominic Marron is considered the most recent death as a result of plastic bullets.  He passed away in 2004 from complications related to being shot at the age of 15 in 1981.  The memorial and all the names of those killed or injured or otherwise impacted by the Troubles made a huge impression on us. 

At the end of the tour, we guessed which sides our tour guides grew up on; based on the tours, we guessed that one was English and the other was Irish – turns out both were raised on the Irish side!  They did a fantastic job telling the whole story without letting their own personal biases show, which shows an incredible amount of forgiveness and/or professionalism.

The presentation of such recent and fresh difficult histories brings any problems and questions;  I hope to address these more soon. Another public history aspect of the murals is Belfast has to do with preservation of the murals: can they be preserved, and should they be?  What feelings do they still stir among residents or visitors?

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

I was only 12 when the Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed,  so I can barely remember seeing some of the violence on the news.  This tour, the information I learned from Wayne, the tour at Kilmainham, and during my travels around Ireland really struck a chord with me.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I really hope to explore this history more.  There is DEFINITELY another trip to Belfast in our future to learn more. The question of safety in Belfast always comes up among tourists and concerned friends and family.  Our tour guides assured us that it is one of the top destinations for tourist, and the Visit Belfast website (albeit a obviously biased site!) lists all of the awards and lists they have made over the past several years.

I will admit that hearing about the car bombing the same month I visited, the topics of the tour, and the general gloom of the evening when we were there made me somewhat uneasy. That won’t stop me from coming back, however!

If you have any personal stories related to the Troubles, please comment below or contact me – I’d love to learn more about it.

Things to see next time:

  • More time in Belfast in general
  • More time in Northern Ireland in general
  • City Hall
  • Titanic Museum!
  • Europa Hotel

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Northern Ireland: Giant’s Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

After the bridge, lunch, and cute ponies,  we continued on to another National Trust site, the Giant’s Causeway. Wayne from Extreme Ireland Irish Day Tours told us some of the history and mythology associated with the geological phenomenon along the short drive to the site.

I'm not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

I’m not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

Legend has it that the rock columns that make up the formation are the remains of a road built by giants.  Wayne told us that the Irish giant and hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, sometime called Finn MacCool, was the rival of a Scottish giant called Benandonner.

Ben challenged Fionn to a duel, and built the causeway across the Channel so that they could meet. When Fionn saw Ben coming across the causeway, he realized how large his opponent was and decided to hide from him to avoid the battle.  Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguised Fionn as a baby and put him to bed in a cradle. When Benandonner came to the house to find Fionn, Oonagh told him he had gone out, but would soon return.  Ben saw the ‘baby’, and got curious about the size of Fionn.  He reckoned that the baby’s father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants, and he was frightened back to Scotland. As he ran back across the causeway to his home, he destroyed it behind him so that Fionn could not follow to give him the business.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

While this is a fantastic story, the geological reasoning for the formations is almost as thrilling. Sometime 50 million years ago,Northern Ireland experienced a lot of volcanic activity.  Molten basalt leaked through the chalk creating a lava plateau.  The lava cooled, and when the rocks contracted they created hexagonal pillars that we see today.

Regardless of how it was formed, this is a BEAUTIFUL site, and truly a national treasure worthy of protection by the National Trust.

The visitors center was nice looking, but we were warned it was way over-priced so we skipped it and decided to walk down to the stones. It was super windy, and a little bit chilly, but again, the beautiful views along the way made it worth it.  The path down to the rocks wasn’t too long, but the weather made me long for a quick stop then a jaunt back up the hills to the pub!!  We got to the bottom of the hill, saw the causeway, and I said, “ok, let’s go!”

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Luckily Charles convinced me to sit a moment, and then he asked me to marry him!!  I’ll spare you the details, but it was great, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful and inspiring place to get engaged.

We looked around a bit more, took pictures, then headed back up the hills to the pub, The Nook.  The pub was perfect, we had a Guinness, and then stopped at a little shop to buy some delicious honeycomb candy along with MORE postcards.  I also took the requisite phone booth photo, since we were in the UK, after all, and I wasn’t so uncool to do something so touristy in London.

Back on the bus, Wayne asked if everyone had a good time, and if anyone happened to get engaged at the Causeway – we did!!  On the way from the coast to Belfast, we stopped by Dunluce castle.  The castle is over 500 years old, and is in serious disrepair.  This is

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

one of those cases where “ruins” rather than conserved sites are the most beautiful.  The castle is right on the edge of a cliff, which is great for defenses but not so safe, as it turns out.  Parts of the castle have fallen into the sea, and part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea during a party One story says that when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.  This castle is also said to be the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’  Cair Paravel in the books Chronicles of Narnia.

We didn’t have NEARLY enough time in the north of Ireland, and we need to make another trip soon.

To See Next Time:

  • Bushmills – Distillery and town
  • Rathlin Island
  • Dunluce Castle
  • More ponies

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UK’s National Trust: Northern Ireland’s Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The next morning, after a GREAT day traipsing all over Dublin and Kilmainham Gaol, we woke up by 5 to walk to the Old Church by Trinity College to catch our bus to Northern Ireland.  We didn’t even have time to get coffee… womp womp.

Extreme Ireland Tours

Extreme Ireland Tours

We booked this trip through Extreme Ireland after extensive investigation of itineraries to make sure we got to see all we wanted to.  Charles wanted to see the rope bridge at Carrick-a-rede and the Giant’s Causeway, I wanted to see a castle, and I wanted to learn a little more about Belfast.  Extreme Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway Tour was the perfect one! Our tour guide, Wayne was entertaining, informative, and such a nice and funny guy (Hi, Wayne!).

1529873_10101537802418805_388902846_o (1)Our tour was an interesting mix of a lot of Americans (Can you really see the Statue of Liberty from Galway? NO.), and some Brits  on holiday from London (which made for interesting commentary in Northern Ireland by our Irish guide).  Since we left so early, Wayne gave us a little time to be quiet and sleep since it was still dark out on the highway.  We first stopped at a gas station for breakfast and coffees, which was a welcome stop.  Then Wayne gave us the business about Irish History, Northern Ireland, and ALL KINDS of interesting information.  He told us all about the Trouble, Ulster Plantation, Michael Collins, the IRA and UDA, and so much more.

859267_10101537799499655_1515741951_o

Northern Ireland Coast

We went up the Antrim Coast through the glens and valleys.  The coast was gorgeous, and we saw several rainbows  even Scotland from across the sea. All of the views along the way were beautiful, there were green hills and small villages along the way. Wayne explained a lot about the English/Irish conflicts as we drove along, which helped a lot once we got to Belfast as our last stop.

nope nope nope.

nope nope nope.

Our next stop was the National Trust site, Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.  The bridge has been around, in some form or another for at least 300 years.  Salmon fishermen built the bridge to get across the gorge onto the smaller islands. It hangs 98 feet over the rocks and spans 66 feet.  Until the 1970s, the bridge had only one handrail and huge gaps between slats as seen in the picture to the left.  That picture (c. 1890s) comes from The National Library of Ireland on The Commons Flickr account, which has a multitude of amazing historic photographs from Irish history.  Beware – if you’re into that kind of thing, it can be addictive!

Sheep Island

Sheep Island

The hike along the coast to the bridge affords the opportunity to see some amazing sights – Sheep Island, Rathlin Island, the sea, cows, rainbows – it has everything!  Once we got to the bridge, we found that the steps leading down to the bridge were more harrowing than the bridge itself!  We made it across to the other side, had a look around, and started our journey back.

Rathlin Island in the background

Rathlin Island in the background

Across the sea from the bridge, you can see Rathlin Island in the distance.  The island has a really interesting history of murder and pillaging dating back over 1,000 years.  The first Viking raid in Ireland took place on Rathlin Island in 795; in typical fasion, they burned the church and other buildings before continuing south along the coast to pillage more.  In 1575, refugees from the Clan MacDonnel, mostly women and children, were massacred by mercenaries sent by the Earl of Essex.  Less than 100 years later, women were thrown off cliffs to the rocks below by the English.  Today there are only around 100 residents on the island, and the island has an inn for around 30 overnight guests.  A ferry takes visitors to the island, where they can view many types of sea birds and scuba dive to the many shipwrecks around the island.

Extreme side eye pony

Extreme side eye pony

We walked back towards the shop after crossing the bridge, where we warmed up from the chilly winds.  Soon it was time to board the buss again to head towards the Giant’s Causeway.

We stopped at Whitepark Bay along the way, then we continued on to a small restaurant where I had Irish stew and Charles enjoyed some seafood chowder.

Outside of the cafe, there were these darling ponies – Wayne called them leprechaun ponies.  They were so sweet, and gave a great side-eye as witnessed in this photo.

After lunch we continued on to the Giant’s Causeway…

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