September 14th, 2010

train

a truly BIG day - Titanic's Dock, Giant's Causeway, Scottish Coast and Derry

We finally were packed & on the road just before 11am, and made excellent time on the M2 & M3 over to the Titanic's Dock center. The brick pump-house is still there next to the giant drydock where they assembled the Titanic...what a giant hole! It was almost like looking into Hoover Dam! There were guided tours of the pump-house, but after the tiny visitor center displays & video we felt we'd seen enough. We bought snacks & tea to get to 5 GBP to validate our parking since we didn't pay for a tour. Then we were on our way out of town farther north along the Causeway Coast Road.



Two different sets of strangers over the past two days had recommended we take the scenic coast road to Derry and that it wouldn't take more than a few hours, so we decided to try. It was still a gray morning, raining off & on, but we still had some nice views of the Irish Sea along the coast, and Cyd had a lot of fun driving on the windy roads. We took the cars-only road out to Cushendun, a cute little town actually protected by the National Trust, stopped to take photos, and even enjoyed a spot of tea. We could actually see the smudge of the Scotland coast through the hazy clouds over the sea!



More rural coastal driving, including stuck behind a tractor, and even a herd of sheep crossing the road! Too bad the sheepdog was behind them so you can't see him in my photo. We stopped several times for photos, but the best view of Scotland was at Tor Corr, nicely signed for us across the road.



We kept going along the Torr Head road, finally seeing Torr Head in the distance but the sky had become mistier so not much Scotland to be seen when we found a signpost telling us what we could see. We stopped at a church right on the coast with a graveyard, but it was locked so only photos from outside the walls.



The weather kept getting worse, blustery with sideways rain, as we kept along the road to Giant's Causeway, finally arriving about 4:15pm. Cheap fun since it was only 6 GBP to park, then since we walked down & up instead of paying for the shuttle bus, the rest was free! Boy was it windy! On the walk down I couldn't get a photo without drops on my camera lens, and it was difficult to walk in the wind. With our hoods tied tightly around our faces, we looked like Kenny from South Park!



After a busload of people left, the rain stopped a bit, which made climbing and photos a little easier. Taking self-portraits is hard when the wind is trying to blow the camera out of your hands! We stayed around for awhile, seeing everything we could from all angles, and I traded cameras with a guy to get each other in the view. The wind was so strong getting back up the hill we had to really lean into it...talk about a workout! We even saw some "dulaman" seaweed...haha!



Since it had started raining again by the time we got back to the car, we took the faster inland roads to Derry, arriving by 7ish, resting for a bit, then heading down the hill past St Eugene's Cathedral into the city centre to find food. I spotted another Halloween Shop but it was closed as were all the shops. O'Brien's American Steakhouse looked hilarious with so many flags inside, and the hotel menus looked expensive or uninspiring, so we ended up at Flaming Jacks for standard international fare instead of traditional Irish, but plenty tasty. No cider on tap so I had another bottled Swedish cider while Cyd had her Guinness.



We were too full for dessert let alone another pint, so we strolled on top of the old city walls of Derry in the drizzle for awhile all the way around to St Columb's Cathedral, draining my 2nd camera battery of the day with all my night shot shutter stabilization timer use, then headed back up the steep hill to Serendipity House...where thankfully the whole house wifi actually works in our room this time! We haven't been having much luck with that, so we've been sitting in common areas a lot with the laptop.



I let Cyd use the laptop first since she hadn't uploaded photos in so many days, but she kept falling asleep at the computer, and I was too tired myself, so we both got a good night's sleep & were awake before the big bells sounded at 8am. Now for breakfast, old town Derry in the daylight, then the long drive back to Dublin to use up our Euros before heading to Leeds Wednesday morning!
train

Derry in daylight & drizzle...and Name Day!

Ireland is so small that we can drive the length of the country in a day, so getting across half was verified by many to only take 4 hours. Using that estimate we figured we had time to see more of Derry in daylight & drizzle before heading on the road south again. We caught some blue skies between showers, and towards the end we got soaked so my jeans were wet most of the long drive, but we enjoyed the views from the walls, and could get all around including over Bishop's Gate since none of the wall gates were locked.



Since the night before the area inside the walls looked dodgy with many rowdy drunk guys and borderline barfights, in daylight we finally strolled through the center by the war memorial and shops. We got back up on the wall on the bog side, then walked the stairs down the large grassy hillside and back up the other hill to our car.



We left Derry about noon, made really good time until a roadworks diversion, then caught up again so we were on the Dublin ring road about 2:30-3pm. Cyd was enjoying driving again so I didn't argue. :) Since we had such good time plus some blue skies to the south, we headed for Brittas Bay south of Wicklow, through more tiny, curvy, single-lane country roads. The sunshine only stayed a little while, but I was glad for new photos at "my" bay since my 2006 visit. :)



Heading back up north again all around the Dublin M50 ring road, we finally found the Bewley's Airport Hotel not quite as near the airport as described, dropped off all our luggage, paid for overnight parking with our room in advance, then headed back out to the Dublin city center, since we were on a mission to eat dinner at Foley's Bar! With me driving this time, we found parking (8 Euro hotel parking + 10 Euro city parking = still less than 30 Euro cab ride EACH WAY since we already had the extra day charge for the car), we made it about 8pm in the door, with them still serving food...hooray! Cyd was very happy to not only have her Guinness but also her favorite ribeye sirloin! We were sitting in front of the old hand-pump taps that didn't work anymore, but Cyd unsurprisingly kept playing with them. ;)



After were nicely full of dinner, drinks & fun live music, we made our way back to the car by way of the Trinity College front statues, carved by J H Foley of London...nicely topping off our Foley evening after our Brittas Bay afternoon! :)



Sure hope we can get up early enough for our morning flight! Since we've already gone over into an extra day of rental car, we're not returning it until the morning, and we're staying about a 10 minute drive to the airport. Only an hour flight's worth of nap for catch up before we spend the day in Leeds!