Oy, what a weekend! A little recap in numbers for your enjoyment:
– Casualties: 3 (my umbrella, my purse, Juliane’s shoes (I already declared mine dead after the hiking trip to Howth)
– Countries visited: 2 (Ireland and Northern Ireland)
– number of times I cursed the weather: about 1 million
– number of times our umbrellas flipped: about 1000
– number of times our guide mentioned some saint or king: about 100
– number of bare Scottish butts we saw: just 1 but that was plenty
– number of houses that looked the same as it’s neighboring = the number of streets we saw –> lots and lots.
So I picked up Juliane from the airport on Friday and after a long struggle with the air mattress at home (it said with built in footpump but it only worked for our hands – think reanimating someone) we headed to the city centre to get some dinner. Dandelion Bar/Restaurant/Club was really nicely decorated and the food was alright as well (after I added loads of salt and parmesan).
Saturday morning at the crack of dawn (at least that’s what it felt like) we headed to Busaras (the central bus station) and boarded our bus tour to the Boyne Valley. John Bolton, our fun bus driver/tour guide had memorized a lot of interesting facts about the places we visited and also some cute jokes. Our first stop was Monasterboice, an ancient monastery ruin with a grave yard that featured Ireland’s most spectacular high crosses (the ones with the circle in the top of the cross). Kind of tasteless to shove groups of tourists through a cemetary that’s still in use but the crosses and ruins were really neat to see. I guess people should opt to get buried at some quieter place but maybe they like having tourists run around their bodies.
Next up, after a drive through the scenic Boyne Valley including Slane, was Newgrange. Had a nice lunch there with sandwhiches and a huge slice of lemon meringue pie :-D. The exhibit was also quite informative and then of course it was super impressive to be in a tomb that’s older than the pyramids. At some point it started pouring but luckily it stopped again before long. We were actually quite lucky weatherwise that day with blue skies in the morning and still some sun between the afternoon showers.
Our final stop was the Hill of Tara, the former assembling place of the kings of Ireland (way back when..). A slide show of ancient Irish history in a damp book shop and then we were off to walk around the hill and admire the sheep and the formations. Started raining again when we were there and we got the most beautiful rainbow all the way accross the land. I love full rainbows!
The bus dropped us off again in the city centre and we decided to stay there instead of heading back north to my suburb as we probably would have stayed there then. So we browsed some shops and then walked to Temple Bar – the main touristy bar district. Had a pint of Guiness (and not the baby glasses!) at The Temple Bar and then had to urgently go to McDonald’s to grab some grub to support the Guiness. Twisty Fries and free ketchup are some of the plus points in Ireland as well as the plasma screen TVs at Mickey D’s. Good times watching silly music videos and then we headed back to the streets. Saw some Scottish guys in quilts and well, the Guiness was talking for me so after shouting if they wore anything underneath, one of them showed us. Haha! Crazy! We hit another pub and drank a pint of Kilkenny’s while trying to avoid sleezy guys hitting on us oh but hey, they all said I sound American so that cheered me up :).
We watched the lunar eclipse over the river and then took the bus home and slept. Woke up way too early again (8am again) and got ready to catch our bus to Belfast. It was raining cats and dogs and we must have been a miserable sight walking and struggling with our umbrellas and the puddles down the 1km road that leads to the bus stops so a bus stopped and dropped us off right across the buss stop we needed to go to even though there was no stop there. Now that’s someone who would fall into the “Irish people are soooooooooooooo nice and helpful” category because he definitely was an angel for picking us up instead of splashing us with puddle water!
We tried to dry off a bit with the help of the airport restroom dryers but we boarded the bus still pretty wet. The drive to Belfast was alright, no funny jokes from the bus (but we got the “There are two emergency exits located on the aircraft – uhm bus” speech) and I felt kind of nauseaus when we got there.
It was still pouring but I got some pounds and we had coffee to warm up before we headed out to the city. Of course shortly afterwards we were drenched and headed to some museum to dry up and escape the rain. The area we walked through was really nice and Queen’s University and the City Hall were pretty impressive. The museum unfortunately was closed (until spring 2009 for crying out loud) but we found shelter in the palm house of the near-by botanic garden where it was also a bit warmer for the plants. It stopped raining then (wii!) but of course that didn’t make our clothes dry so we had to go to Primark and buy some dry clothes. Thank you Britain for better store opening hours than Germany! I got a new umbrella (mine bend and I had to throw it out sadly :() and some 3pound sweat pants (since it’s considered perfectly normal to wear track suits in public even though you don’t work out) seeing that I’m more likely to wear those again than the jeans they had there and Juliane got new shoes and a big pack of socks that we shared. Felt much better with dry clothes on and we headed to the Castle Court Mall to have some lunch. With the little amount of pounds we had left, we only managed to get some soup (talk about counting pennies) but it was good and warmed us. Then I saw that my purse strap had some off (nooooooooooooo!) so we looked for a replacement of the Tinker Bell purse (wahhhaaaaaa :(). Didn’t find one though so that’s on my to do list for the next days here in DUB). Well, we went outside again and walked to Shankill Road, which is the protestant’s main road. Looked at some of the murals but soon we headed back to more happy places, downtown towards St. Anne’s Cathedral and the Ulster college and then on to the river. By that time it was almost sunny!! Unbelievable how fast the weather can change here.
We were starving then and looked for a restaurant but Belfast is a bit like most German cities, quiet after shopping hours (not like Dublin). I guess it’s the lack of tourists and places that are open for you to eat. Well, we found this awesome place called Apartment though with an amazing view on the light-up City Hall were we endulged in rigatone pasta and baked goat cheese & ratatouille filled tart for not too much money on a cozy sofa. We left pretty quickly after we realized we could catch the express bus at 7pm so we rushed to the bus station and got there right in time to secure the front seats of the bus and enjoy a nice ride back to Dublin. There we rushed off the bus equally speedy and just caught our bus back home. Good timing!!!
Juliane and I both were pleasantly surprised by Belfast. The city centre and the area near Queen’s University were beautiful and not all houses looked the same (some did still of course). The city didn’t have good chances with that bloody rain drenching us and denying us a place to warm up at first but even with that rain we really enjoyed it.
Well, I do feel kind of sick today with a queesy tummy (that started yesterday but even before we had food) and a feeling that a bad cold will get to me sooner or later and of course I feel sleep deprived but we had loads of fun so it was worth it. Early bed time for me tonight as I have to be back in shape when Richard flys in on Saturday.
Piccies shall follow. 🙂