Wednesday, March 23, 2016

There Must Have Been a Giant Cause as to Howth We Had Two Great Days

After finally getting back from the Liverpool trip, I was exhausted. I fell asleep at about 9pm on Wednesday night, the day I had gotten back, and slept until around 12pm the next day. It was a sleep I had been yearning to achieve for the past week. Given all the traveling that had occurred in the past week, we had planned to take it easy for the weekend. Three of my friends, Kelly, Laurel, and Erin, and I signed up to go on a free day trip to the Giant's Causeway sponsored by the International Student Society on campus. We left campus at around 8am on Saturday morning and after a 3 hour coach bus ride, arrived at our first destination on the trip, the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. It's a famous rope bridge about 3 feet wide and 60 feet long suspended 100 feet in the air which connects the mainland to a tiny island named Carrickarede. Back in the good old days, it was used by fisherman but now stands simply as a tourist attraction. To get from the parking lot to the actual bridge itself was about a 20 minute walk along a path with cliffs and mountains surrounding it, stunning views in fact. The weather was perfect that day which made for great pictures.
 Crossing the bridge and exploring the island a bit was fun but honestly walking to the bridge with all of the surrounding scenery was my favorite part. As you can see from the picture, it was a bit windy outside but my GoPro seflie stick never fails to provide for a great angle for a great picture.
After the rope bridge, we took the coach bus for another 20 minutes to the main destination on the trip, the Giant's Causeway! Just as for the rope bridge, the incredibly good weather made for a picture perfect experience. Waves crashing against the rocks, sun shining in our eyes, breeze hitting our backs, and laughs all around. Not only were the hexagonal rocks cool but I loved how they were surrounded by mountains.

 The above panorama is from the top of a small mountain we climbed which faces the mountains behind the Giant's Causeway. The rock structures of the Causeway are in the left side of this picture. Although it looks far away because of the stretched picture, the Causeway was only about a 10 minute walk from this mountain. The grass was especially fluffy and felt like one was sitting in a recliner so we all relaxed in the grass for a while. Because of the beauty of the mountains, the perfect weather, and the cool hexagonal naturally-created rock structures, this was my favorite place I had been to in Ireland.
The last stop on the trip was one of the castles that was used in filming Game of Thrones. Given that I am not an avid watcher of the show, I failed to appreciate it as much as some other people on the bus but it was still a castle nonetheless and a very interesting sight. We didn't get to actually go near it though, just take pictures of it from a far. After this, we started the journey back to UCD in Dublin, a trip which took 3.5 hours and we were exhausted by the time we arrived.

Continuing our stay in Ireland for the weekend, we visited a nearby town on Sunday called Howth. Its a small town on a peninsula adjacent to Dublin Bay. It took about 45 minutes to get there all said and done through the use of a bus and a train.  I like to think of it as a fishing town given its size, location and the presence of all the small shops and fishing boats. It was fun to walk around for the day, explore the shops, and take in the views on the water. We had fish and chips for lunch at a place called Beshoff's, recommended to us as being the best place for fish and chips in Dublin. I might not be a food connoisseur but I know a good french fry when I taste it and they sure had it. A potent potato flavor with just the right amount of crispiness on the outside. A great day all in all for the 4 hours spent there.

The following weekend, March 4-6th, I deemed as another time to travel to another part of Ireland. Given that my cousin Michael Bulmer is studying at the University of Limerick for the semester, it was a great opportunity to visit him. On Friday afternoon, my roommate Laurel and I took the Irish Rail train to Limerick. Given that we were staying at his place and he only had limited couch space, I could only take 1 friend and Laurel had really wanted to see Limerick so naturally the spot went to her. We arrived at about 8pm on Friday night. Because we had wanted to get back to Dublin the next day to potentially see a hurling match at 5pm, we knew our stay in Limerick was going to be short but we wanted to make the most of it. After meeting Michael's roommates and chatting it up, we got ready and went downtown to a few bars and had a craic (Irish terminology for a good time).

The next morning, we got up and went into the city where they had a large market going on called the Limerick Milk Market. Yes, believe it or not they sold more than just milk. We had lunch there and walked around the city center a bit more until our train came at 2pm. It was a short stay but a great one, enough to get a feel for the city of Limerick.
Although I love traveling to other parts of Europe, I've come to realize how *lucky* it is that I have the opportunity to study in a place where my home base has enough places to visit even if I chose to take a break for a weekend. Ireland has so many beautiful places, many within an hour or a few away. I'm still traveling Ireland in search of a pot of gold and although I haven't found it yet, the memories that have been made are pure gold to me.


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