The following is my day by day account of traveling through Ireland during the summer of 2009.
Day 1: Miami-Atlanta-Dublin
Left Miami early Saturday evening on Delta to their hub in Atlanta. Fully expecting my trip to be quick and quiet, I was seated next to a latin lady and her daughter who clearly assumed I didn’t speak Spanish as they spent the next hour uttering the most disturbingly idiotic comments to each other. I can only presume they were saying things that they didn’t think anyone would pay attention to. Luckily for me, I own noise canceling headphones; me = 1, airplane seat neighbors = 0.
After making it to Atlanta I had one goal in mind: acquire some delicious Chick-fil-a, and if that didn’t work out, get some popeye’s chicken. Lo and behold, nary a chick-fil-a nor a popeye’s in sight. Had to settle for the slowest Arby’s in the continental United States. After scarfing down all the gloriousness of a roast beef sandwich, my dad and I rush to our gate, only to find out our flight has been changed to the furthest gate away in the history of mankind. Whatever, no big deal, thankfully the Arby’s was satisfying. After finally getting to our gate, and boarding Delta Airlines’ flight to Dublin, I start wishing I had brought some food from the airport with me. Three hours into the flight when they bring out the worst food I have ever seen on an airplane ever. EVER. I REALLY wish I had brought something, heck even a saltine cracker or two. I mean now I wish I had taken a picture of this food. It was some supposed pasta in a cream sauce, but smelled more like an industrial paint remover, and tasted like rubber which had been dipped in said paint thinner. Note to self: ham+cheese+baguette from airport shop = greatest thing ever after having tried to eat 2 Delta airlines meals.
So after arriving in Dublin via Atlanta, we “quickly” set off to get our car and make our way to the hotel. I say quickly because we tried to do this quickly, only to realize that Expedia had booked our car with the least technologically advanced car company in Ireland. We finally get to the counter after waiting behind what seemed like an entire French village worth of tourists, and are told “oh sorry, all our vehicles like the one you needed have been crashed.” Wonder – ful. So we are sent off to another car rental agency (which btw, now just cost us an extra $200) to do continue our quest for a vehicle designed for someone larger than a leprechaun.
Luckily the nice eastern europeans we encountered everywhere else were very hospitable (note at this point I had only interacted with maybe 2 actual Irish out of 10+ people).
Day 2: The Hike (Newgrange to Northern Ireland)
Setting off from just outside Dublin at the Marriott in Ashbourne, we headed in our rented Opel Astra up the N2 to Newgrange. Newgrange is basically a big ass tomb that is over 5000 years old. This crazy ass tomb is the ancient irish equivalent of an Egyptian pyramid mixed with Stonehenge (even though it is MUCH older than Stonehenge). So whatever aliens or spirits told these ancient Irish folk to build this tomb must’ve known the right words because the rocks and stones used to fabricate this thing are from hundreds of miles away. Remember this was before the freaking wheel was invented. THE WHEEL. So this tomb has all these crazy carvings inside and then on December 21 each year the light from the winter solstice lines up perfectly to illuminate the inside for 17 minutes. That’s right, the tomb is only illuminated for SEVENTEEN minutes each year. Hundreds if not thousands of people spent years and years building this massive thing that was only used for 17 minutes a year!
After getting over my shock that some people dragged ten ton stones hundreds of miles without the use of wheels, just for a 17 minute light show, we jumped back in the car and headed north. It was off to Giant’s Causeway. This was going to be our second world heritage site in 1 day.
If you’ve never driven in Ireland before, well its nothing like driving in the states. The roads look like this.
Just like that for hours. And the road is super narrow, and winding through the hills. Highways are not really their favorite thing to build as they would eliminate the necessity to pull to the shoulder when cars try to go past you in either direction. Seriously most of these roads are the width of 2 compact car parking spaces.
So we made it into Northern Ireland, I had completely expected there to be a border guard and some militia guys manning it. Maybe some barbed wire too. Nope, nothing. You don’t even realize you’re in Northern Ireland until you see a sign that says the prices are in Sterling/Pounds.
Once in Northern Ireland, we obviously had to make the mistake of taking the least direct route to get there, as apparently Northern Ireland is a GPS dead zone. Yep that’s right, the whole time in Northern Ireland, the GPS thought we were in a lake. GPS=0 – Brian’s map reading skills = 1. After a few more hours of driving, we finally made it to Bushmill’s distillery. Lo and behold it was 6:00PM. What time does Bushmill’s close? How about 5:30PM. Yeah, that’s right, we missed out on the delights of Irish whiskeys. Something I am a huge fan of. Whatever, I can still get to Jameson’s later in the week. So we head to Giant’s Causeway (world heritage site #2 of the day) These people have decided that it should cost $35 per person to ride in their bus, or you can just walk the 3km or so each way down the cliffs.
These cliffs are filled with these weird hexagonal rocks that stick up like they were placed their by humans. Who knows, maybe they were. Anyway, off to Donegal next.