Random Cathy and Not-So-Random-John Travel to Ireland

John and I have close friends that live in Northern Ireland. We just spent a week with them.  These are the points of our trip, that if you are planning a stay, I highly recommend...

The Town of Bangor is a great place to walk around.  A beautiful town on the shore, we came across Project24 which I was delighted by! 

The Titanic Museum in Belfast was really well done.  It tells the story of shipbuilding in Belfast which I found fascinating.

The bus tour of Belfast was made even better by a fantastic tour guide.  One of the things you can't help but notice are the murals in Belfast which tell the story of many things--especially the conflict.  This is Bobby Sands who died on hunger strike. 

This sculpture, Beacon of Hope (but dubbed by locals as Nuala with the Hula) is located in Thanksgiving Square in Belfast which was inspired by Thanksgiving Square in Dallas. 

We also shopped in St. Georges Market which is a daily craft fair with vendors from all over Ireland.  I was surprised at how similar the items offered are to craft fairs in the US.  Chromatic glass jewelry, etc.

The tour of Bushmills (a working distillery since 1608) was incredibly interesting. Whiskey was first invented by monks who put a perfume distillery they were given in the Middle East to making spirits and there was a monestary on the property until a fire in the 1800s. The process of getting from three ingredients (malted barley, water and yeast) into Whiskey is worth seeing. And our tour guide pointed out the differences in making beer, burbon, scotch and whiskey. But if you aren't planning a trip to Ireland, the next best thing is on Bushmills' website: http://www.bushmills.com/#BMHowBushmillsMade

Giants Causeway looks like the Ireland of the movies.  There were rolling hills, sea and sheep with lovely old farmhouses dotted about.  The visitors center has a green roof.  I was struck over and over how Ireland has embraced green building strategies. From dual flushing toilets, to energy efficient appliances, to having to use our hotel key to keep the lights on (so that they go off each time you leave.)  It took me forever to do laundry in our friend's townhouse, but it also took very little power and water too.

One of the best things about Carrickfergus Castle was our tour guide.  A trained architect with a focus on historic buildings, she was very knowledgeable about life in the castle and went into detail about knights and the armory.  (Which she explained was mostly physics.  A knight on a horse in full gear weighs about a ton and all the force of the mass is focused at the end of a spear.  I could barely hold up the chain mail.  The shield, plate, padding and 3 layers of head gear was not even possible.)  She was also part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms in Ireland which is working to bring back Western martial arts such as broadsword, longbow and fencing. 

We spent our last day in the city of Dublin where we did a bus tour city center, toured the Guinness Storehouse and walked along Grafton Street which (once the rain cleared) was full of street musicians.  The feel of Dublin was much more that of an old European city than Belfast.  Maybe it was the old bridges across the River Liffey that runs through the town, or the old cathedrals or just the age of the buildings in general, but it was interesting to me that Belfast had much more energy of industry and Dublin had much more the energy of night life. 

I found of all the Irish spirits, my favorite is cider.  John told me there is a BIG difference between Guinness in the US and Guinness from a tap in Ireland.  If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend it as a vacation.  Of course, if you happen to have good friends who live in the country, that makes it EVEN better! 

Thank you Clifton and Katya for amazing hospitality! One of the best parts of the trip were our evenings spent in your home over port and conversation. And Katya I especially thank you for being such an awesome chauffeur and tour guide.  We put a lot of adventure miles on your little car! 

Side note: If you've ever dreamed of leaving your 9-5 job and traveling the world, Mitch Glass has an amazing and comprehensive post about how to make money as you travel the globe. Check it out at projectunthethered.com.

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© Random Cathy
Maira Gall