Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dublin, Ireland

We decided to head down to Dublin for the weekend since it is only a two hour train ride from Belfast. We arrived early evening on Friday and of course, headed straight to the main bar area called Temple Bar. Located on the south bank with narrow cobbled streets you are surrounded by pub after pub and numerous tourists. 
I know I should be drinking a Guinness or something more Irish but I love vodka and soda drinks. Cheers all!

AROUND DUBLIN
A popular song called Molly Malone is set in Dublin and became the unofficial anthem of Dublin City. The fictional song is about a beautiful fishmonger who plied her trade on the streets of Dublin but died too young of a fever. On Grafton Street, a big shopping area, there is a dedicated Molly Malone statue and the Mayor in 1988 declared June 13th Molly Malone Day.
I have seen a lot of living human statues but this, in my opinion, is the best!
At the end of Grafton Street is the lovely St. Stephen's Green Park. The Fusiliers Arch has been there since 1904 and is very welcoming as you enter into the park.The park is 22 acres and the largest park in Dublin's main Georgian Squares.
 WOW was the first thing I thought as we approached St. Patrick's Cathedral. What an absolutely breathtaking building surrounded by a quaint park. The Church designated it  as the National Cathedral of Ireland and is the largest church in Ireland.
The Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1028 is the oldest church in Dublin, and another very beautiful building
Across the street from the Christ Church Cathedral is this bronze sculpture of three children playing. The plaque states the statue celebrates the "children of the new millennium"
In keeping with my church theme I will post a couple more. My brother has teased me about how many pictures I take of churches so I dedicate these last two to him!  
The only "tourist" attraction Scott and I definitely wanted to do was tour the Guinness Storehouse. Since I am not a big beer drinker and Scott is a not a huge fan of Guinness you might ask yourself why this was a must do attraction. Well Guinness was founded in Dublin in 1759 and like the expression goes "When in Rome, do as the Romans do".
I was extremely impressed with the overall self-guided tour. On the different floors, they walk you through the stages of how Guinness to produced, there is a floor dedicated to their advertising, area to sample Guinness, bartenders showing you how to get the perfect pour and lastly the Gravity bar for a complimentary pint of Guinness and breathtaking views of the city. 
Arthur Guinness, the founder.
Enjoying our Guinness sample.
I really love their advertising.
View from the Gravity bar.
I have to say I have enjoyed Guinness on this trip. I am not sure if it just tastes better over here or maybe because I am in Ireland. I will have to order one when we get back to the states to make my final assessment if this is something I might order more often.
Heading back to our hotel, from the Guinness Storehouse, we stopped at the Dublin Castle. We were both pretty tired and not too interested in going on a tour but took some pictures nonetheless.The castle was established in 1204 AD for the defense of the city.
The River Liffey flows through the center of Dublin and has seventeen cross bridges.
The most iconic bridge on the River Liffey is the Ha'Penny Bridge built in 1816. It is now called Liffey Bridge but it is still commonly referred to as Ha'Penny.
One stop shopping...a haircut and tattoo at the same place.
That evening, we headed a little further west, away from Temple bar area, to visit The Brazen Head. The oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1198.
On Sunday, we walked to the train station and came upon O'Connell Street. At the entrance of the street there is a monument dedicated to Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader of the early 19th century.
This grand building is the post office. Might be the biggest and fanciest post office I think I have seen.
Yet another successful weekend trip completed! Good bye Dublin, we will see you again, I promise!

Giant's Causeway and Antrim Coast

One of the highlights of our stay in Northern Ireland was a tour to the Giant's Causeway and drive along the Antrim coast.  We booked our tour through Allen's Tours and had an absolute wonderful day.  We arrived to their office about 9am, departing time was 9:30am, since we were told the bus fills up pretty quickly. We started chatting with the driver and guide, Tom, who told us to put our stuff on the two seats right behind him, they were the best seats. Leaving promptly at 9:30am we were off to see many sites before arriving to Giant's Causeway around 3pm.  The drive up the Antrim Coastal Road was spectacular. What made the trip even better was Tom.  He was a fantastic guide, extremely knowledgeable, funny and made sure we were able to see all the sights and have enough time to enjoy them.   
Some pictures I took when we were moving so they might be a little blurry.  Unfortunately, our weather was not the greatest for most of the day but it didn't stop us from having a great time.
The first stop was to Carrick-A-Rede, meaning rock in the road, rope bridge.  A suspension bridge that connects the mainland to a tiny island called Carrick.  Swinging 100 feet above the sea, the bridge is made up between planks, wire and rope.
Recently I read an article in Travel & Leisure about the World's Scariest Bridges and Carrick-A-Rede was named #5:
 http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/worlds-scariest-bridges/5
 The views from Carrick Island are amazing with views of Rathlin Island and Scotland. It was pretty hazy but we could still see Scotland in the far distance.
 We took a quick 15 minute stop at the Bushmill Distillery, Ireland's oldest working distillery.
Along the Antrim Coast is the medieval Dunluce Castle.
Around 3pm we arrived to our final destination, Giant's Causeway.  It is an area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns from an ancient volcanic eruption.  However, there is another legendary story about how these basalt columns arrived which includes an Irish Giant Finn MacCool and a Scottish Giant Benandonner. To read more about the legendary store click here Myths and Legends.
You have the option to take the shuttle bus from the entrance down to the Giant's Causeway or walk.  We decided to walk so we could take in more of spectacular views.
We were given 3 hours at the Causeway and with the rain coming down pretty hard we decided to have a drink at the award winning pub, The Nook.
Heading back to Belfast Tom, our driver/guide, took us a round about way so we could see more of the coast and countryside.
I would definitely recommend anyone who is Northern Island to either rent a car or take a tour of the Antrim Coast and Giant's Causeway.  Not having been anywhere else in Ireland, I can only imagine how magnificent the rest of the country is and I hope that one day Scott and I will get the opportunity to rent a car and drive the southern and western coast.
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