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Detours off Britta Blvd

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the Irish Sea, the Mountains of Mourne and the rise & fall of Belfast
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We had a wonderfully leisurely morning at Mourneview...aah! We woke up to the smell of bacon, had our full Irish breakfast with a beautiful sunny view, said hi to Whiskey the dog and watched several kittens frolic in the backyard. About 11am we got on the road for the Mountains of Mourne, since in our quick walking research that sounded like a good plan smack in the middle of the mountains but not taking an all-day hike's worth of time out of our schedule. Before we left town, we stopped at St John's Castle ruins from at least 1210, and got some lovely views of the town harbor and Carlingford Lough.



By the time we got to Newry, we were just over the border into Northern Ireland, technically the UK, but surprised that we had seen no border sign or anything. I did notice the street signs were no longer in Gaelic, just English. We stopped at a mall in town for an ATM since now we needed pounds sterling, not Euros. At least we know we'll be spending the pounds when we get to Janet's, so took plenty out for the rest of the trip. I still have lots of Euros left so I'll need to spend cash back in Dublin before we leave on Wednesday morning. It was an easy & pleasant drive along the north side of Carlingford Lough to Kilkeel, but the one sign was confusing to Silent Valley, so we ended up driving along the Irish Sea longer than we should have. I turned on my data roaming for some GPS help and found Mountain Rd poorly signed back in Kilkeel, then we found Silent Valley easily. It is a big reservoir that has picnic areas & walking paths with a little cafe. I was confused by the description calling Ben Crom as just the other reservoir instead of the mountain above it, so I thought the shuttle bus would get us to the top of the mountain, but it was only the reservoir, so I gave up on walking the boring paved road all the way there. I wanted to get some height to see the Irish Sea from the Mourne Mountains, so we found a footpath on the far side of the Silent Valley reservoir, and went up past an old quarry pond until we could see the sea. Yay! :)



We made it to Belfast by 5:30pm, noticing the different UK-style road markings and license plates along the way, and with the help of some GPS again found the Somerton Guest House in the north suburbs of Belfast. We drove downtown with a glowing recommendation for the Cloth's Ear at the Merchant hotel, but at 6:45 they had already run out of food from such a busy day! Then we tried the other recommendation for John Hewitt but they were closed until 8pm for a special event, so we ended up at a hotel restaurant on the corner...where we didn't get menus, weren't told about the specials that we probably would have ordered, then what I did order was out! Our food that we did get was fine, then we thought we'd try for dessert at a wine bar around the corner with wifi...but they just stopped serving and wouldn't even serve us a port! We both thought that Belfast had better shape up soon to make a better impression on us!



At least it had stopped raining by then, and we had parked near Belfast Cathedral, so we strolled around by the clock tower and some nicer old buildings down to Victoria Square shopping center where even Starbucks was already closed at 8:30pm, but the Kitchen Bar was still open. Cyd tasted a Belfast Black dry stout and I had a Magners cider, what Bulmers is called anywhere outside of the Republic of Ireland, and the bartenders there were nice & chatty, even giving us free tastes of Piranha apple schnapps and premium Midleton whiskey. Such began the redemption of Belfast in our eyes! They were closing up at 9pm already, but they told us the Garrick was open late down the street, and Johnny the bartender said he'd walk us down there himself. We walked through the fancy new shopping center, which included the first Apple store I've seen in Ireland. I stopped to take a photo and the guy on his phone on the upper floor saw me & gave me a thumbs up. Haha! I joked I should have been taking the photo with my iPhone to really impress him. ;) Johnny bought a round for us at Garricks, stayed for awhile to chat, but then had to head home, but the bartenders there were also fun to chat with. I found bottled Swedish cider I recognized from my 2007 trip, and the elderflower/lime flavor was quite nice. Cyd tried a Guinness black lager, only being test marketed in Ireland and Malaysia, but it was so horrible she didn't finish it...so you are warned if you ever see it for sale! A bunch of drunker young people came in, and I had my second session of concentration on my chestal area, this time was "nice tits" from a guy who had practically fallen in the doorway who claimed to be a hired escort and fantastic in bed but he fancied me so much he wouldn't even charge me. Lovely! :P After that was long past tiring telling him no he could not have a feel, two other blokes came up to chat with Cyd, so I was finally able to escape the other guy & chat with them until they left, a much more interesting conversation thankfully! We were still finishing up after the bar was officially closed, then found our way back to the car & back to the B&B by about 12:30, not bad for a slow Sunday evening in Belfast.



We've had another leisurely breakfast, longer than expected because of a nice chat with an older British couple, with many recommendations what else we could do both here & in Yorkshire. This has been two days now of complete strangers telling us to drive to Derry along the northern coast road, so that is the plan for today, including Giant's Causeway, after a tour of the Titanic Centre in Belfast...but first we still have to get ready since we had breakfast before getting ready for the day!

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Drunker?

(Anonymous)
Hmmmm--glad you are having fun--we are, too.

love, mom

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?

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