I spent this past Christmas in Ireland with my friend Niamh (Neeve) and her family. I had an amazing time with them. They were extremely welcoming and I felt right at home from the moment I walked in. Niamh has an older brother, who was hard to understand at times and hysterical, a younger sister who’s similar and a talented artist and an older sister who is currently lives in Australia. Strangely, everyone in their family is a good singer; it was like having a personal concert everyday.
Monday was my first full day in Ireland. We did a full day tour to the Giants Causeway and some other things.
1. One of the first things we saw was the Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and consists of 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. It is located in Northern Ireland on the northern coast, about 3.5 hours away from Dublin. What makes it so unique is not the honeycomb shape that they are found, but their height. The honeycomb shape is the most efficient shape, so it’s quite common to find in nature. It’s was extremely impressive and amazing to experience in person. The area of the basalt columns was tucked in between cliffs on one side and the ocean on the other. Because of the stormy weather, the ocean was pumping massive waves, that were incredible to watch as they came in and crashed against the rocks.
2. The next stop on the tour was Carrick a rede rope bridge. The Giant’s Causeway to the Bridge was about a 25 min drive. It was an amazing drive along the northern coast. Sitting in the bus and looking out the window and seeing the expanse of cliffs was awe-inspiring. Many places on the coast were filmed for Game of Thrones, including the Carrick a rede rope bridge. The bridge was cool to look at, but a lot shorter than they made it seem. You also had to pay 7 euro to walk across it. Both of us thought that it wasn’t worth it. There was nothing on the other side, not even a congratulatory Guinness..Instead we hiked up a mountain near it, which gave us an amazing view of the surrounding area.
3. We also stopped at the ruins of a 1200 year old castle called Dunluce Castle. The stop was only for five minutes and was to take pictures from afar. It is located on a cliff and hundreds of years ago a huge storm wrecked the back half of the cliff it’s on, taking the kitchen with it and killing the servants inside.
4. The last stop on the tour was Belfast. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and is a very nice city. It has the feel of a smaller London, which would make sense since it’s part of the UK. They use the pound there and most places don’t take euro. It was actually quie annoying because we had an hour there and we needed to get food. In the center is the Belfast City Hall, which is massive and beautifully constructed.
On my second full day in Ireland we did three things, we toured the Dublin castle, visited the Guinness Storehouse and walked around Dublin.
1. Dublin Castle: We toured the Dublin castle, where I learned about the history of Dublin and how it all started with the castle. The buildings that have survived from that time are the castle, Chirst’s Church and St. Patricks Cathedral. It’s amazing to think that these buildings after all these hundreds of years have stood in the same place, while the world and everything changed around them. I don’t really remember much from the tour, but it was interesting to hear about the history. We toured the old part, descending a story below to see the original part of the castle wall. To me that was the most fascinating and interesting part.
2. Guinness Storehouse: Of course while in Dublin you have to do a tour of the Guinness Storehouse and we did. It was a self guided tour were you watched videos, read and walked around learning about the history of Guinness and how great it is. it’s basically like a Disneyland ride. You don’t actually see any parts of the actual brewery At one point, you go into a room where a employee teaches you the “proper” way to drink Guinness. For those of you who don’t know, elbow out, about the same height as your shoulder, breath out and on the breath in take a sip and hold it in your mouth for a second, then swallow. This tutorial changed my life and I am no longer the same beer drinker albeit I get funny looks when I’m out at the bar now. At the end you get a complementary beer and you can take it at the bar they have on the seventh story. It is a circular room with all glass windows and an amazing view of the city.
Christmas Eve! We woke up late, went into town to this place called St. Stephen’s on the green, a shopping mall with a throwback architectural style. Niamh and her mom had to get some gifts but I also wanted to buy a hand knit wool sweater “jumper”. They didn’t find what they were looking for and neither did I. They ended up taking me to a shop somewhat close by where I found the one I wanted. It’s has the traditional Irish pattern on the front. It’s like a navy blue but with specks of colors throughout the whole sweater. I also treated myself to a wool scarf and wool socks. I needed to be prepared for my journey ahead. Afterwards we went to a bar and had a drink. Niamh’s mom left us at some point and Niamh and I continued to drink. We visited another bar afterward. Then we met with one of her friends at another bar, then we went to another two bars. I think all in all we visited 6 bars that night. We weren’t the only ones, there were quite a few people out.
Christmas Day! and my last day in Ireland. It was strange waking up on Christmas day and not being home, but it was nice to experience Christmas in a different way, hungover, just kidding. We started the morning by opening presents. I wasn’t expecting anything, but Niamh gave me Guinness slippers (that I’m wearing as I type this) and a shirt. Niamhs mom also paid for my tour on the first day as a gift, she would’t take the money when I gave it to her. After opening presents the rest of the day was spent on the couch while Niamh and her mom prepare dinner. There wasn’t much the three of us could do. Christmas dinner was amazing and is similar to what we eat for Thanksgiving. We had, turkey, ham, red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, roasted vegetables, roasted sweet and normal potatoes, butternut squash, garlic potatoes, onion and sage and sausage stuffing. And to top it all off, for dessert we had pavlova. Everything was amazing. After dinner we did more couch sitting and some movie watching. A great way to end a great week.