Belfast, Takes 1 & 2
After returning from Romania, I still had a few days off from school so I decided I was going to spend a couple nights in Belfast. See Giants Causeway, go on a Game of Thrones tour, check out the Titanic museum, etc. The basics of Belfast. I had book my bus and hostel before leaving for Romania but when I got home from my Halloween in adventure, I brought back some sort of bug with me. My stomach was pretty unhappy and I had a fever that just wouldn’t quit. The whole thing sort of came in waves but eventually a follow up wave never hit. Assuming it was just a 24 hour thing, I got on my bus to Belfast. Unfortunately, on the way there the stomach bug reared it’s ugly head yet again. I got to my hostel, hoping for a good night’s sleep to have me feeling well rested and recuperated for my tour the next day, but it was just not meant to be. We had a stage 5 snorer who was pretty much making the glass rattle. At around 3am, our neighbors returned from the bar and were chanting drinking songs at the top of their lungs. My fever had flared up again, worse than before, and I desperately needed sleep so I went to their room and laid down the law, by which I mean I asked them very firmly but politely to please shut the fuck up. But even with that, I didn’t actually get any sleep until around 6. I had to be up at 8 for my tour and there was no way that was happening. When I did finally get up around 9:30, I barely even brushed my teeth before checking out and getting right on a bus back to Dublin. I was then bedridden for the next week before finally going to a doctor and getting antibiotics.
So that was Belfast, take one. I don’t really count it.
A few weeks later I returned to the States to spend Thanksgiving week with my family. I had an amazing week at home and got to see lots of family and friends and was even able to attend the wedding of one of my best friends from college. But eventually the vacation had to come to an end, and I had to head back to school and my life in Dublin. I had one week of classes before my winter break, which I would be mostly spending traveling around Europe (blog posts to come) but before I left on the trip I had a few weeks working as an elf at the Santa Experience, which was literally a dream come true for me (blog post on this to come as well). Before diving headfirst into 12 straight days of elfing, I decided to try out Belfast again.
I went up for one night and stayed in Paddy’s Palace Hostel, which was quite an experience. I was in a 12 bed dorm and I’m pretty sure the other 11 people were middle-aged men, all who were asleep by 10pm and snored like chainsaws.
I woke up early the next morning for a Game of Thrones tour, the same one I had signed up for the first time. It’s called Stones and Thrones and I had the greatest tour guide. At the first stop I asked her if she would take a photo of me sitting topless on the steps for #barebackandbeyond and, without hesitation, she said yes. She then proceeded to take topless photos of me at two other stops on the trip, followed me on instagram, and promoted my project on the Stones and Thrones facebook page.
We made six stops in total, the first being Carnlough. If you watch Game of Thrones, this is where Arya pulled herself from the water after being stabbed. The rest of that scene – the wall she fell off of and the cobblestone path she hobbled down – was filmed in Spain, I believe. It was just the stairs she pulled herself up that was filmed in Northern Ireland. It took them about 8 hours to film what ended up being approximately 10 seconds of screen time.
Our next stop was Cushendun Caves, where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow demon baby. That scene makes the caves look dark and damp and not at all beautiful but holy crap it was such a gorgeous place.
Next up, we visited the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge. It looks much more menacing from a distance than it actually is once you’re on it. Or at least that’s what I thought. One of the women in my tour group nearly froze up in fear on the way across and decided she was going to camp out on the other side for the rest of her life rather than go back across the bridge. I will admit, the bridge did bounce more than I expected. I had figured there would be more of a sway than a bounce, but it was like each step was from tiny trampoline to tiny trampoline. Once we’d each made it across and back safely, no one getting swept away in the wind, we got back on the bus and headed off to our next stop.
I had heard a lot about Giant’s Causeway from my mom and brother, who had visited Ireland for ten days during the summer, and they both kept saying how insanely cool it was. “Pictures just don’t do it justice,” they said. So my expectations were pretty high. Well, it wasn’t at all what I expected so I guess I couldn’t really be disappointed. I had seen pictures my mom had brought back from their trip and I’d googled it a few times, but I guess “pictures just don’t do it justice” is a pretty accurate statement. That being said, I’m still going to include some pictures.
It’s hard to wrap your head around this natural formation, created by the ancient explosion of a volcano. The myth revolving around the Giant’s Causeway is a story that I don’t remember completely but had something to do with a giant’s handprints…I think. Guess you’ll just have to take the trip yourself to get the full story.
From there we went to The Dark Hedges, but made a stop at Dunluce Castle on the way. I took a #barebackandbeyond picture with the castle in the background. It was freakin’ cold and horribly windy and everyone in my tour group definitely saw my boobs, but there is also definitely something incredibly liberating about not giving a fuck.
Dark Hedges was the most typically “epic” spot on the tour. It was already a bit dark by the time we got there and I’d love to go back sometime earlier in the day with better lighting, but it was still spooky and awesome to walk down anyway. The tour provided capes and swords for us so we could act like Jon Snow.
And the best way to act like Jon Snow, obviously, is to know nothing. Which is pretty much where I’m at with traveling around the Republic of Ireland. I’ve lived here for nearly five months and still haven’t left Dublin. If you have explored this gorgeous country, give me some suggestions of your favorite places in the comments!