Ireland 2014

Flight DataThe flight from Atlanta to Dublin Ireland takes about 8 hours at 500 miles per hour (800 kilometers per hour). Passengers can track the flight’s progress on individual video screens–at least on Delta. Using the same video display it is possible to play a game of chess with a friend or a stranger seated elsewhere on the plane, though it would seem the majority of passengers prefer to view movies!

Speaking of friends and strangers, did you know that in any gathering of at least 6 people, some three are either mutually acquainted (friends) or pairwise unaquainted (strangers)? Nobody knows what the guaranteed number of mutual friends or strangers would be on a 200-passenger flight, however.

The Emerals IsleIf the weather is fair, while descending into Dublin one can enjoy a first glimpse of the Emerald Isle from the airplane window.

Eight o’clock in the morning Dublin time is 3 AM Eastern (US) time
–earlier still for central time, and so forth. Visitors from the US may wish to take a short nap before venturing into town or whatever else one plans to do. There is plenty of daylight in the summer time. Near the solstice, the sun sets after 10 PM and twilight prevails for another hour or more.

River LiffeyPublic transportation is excellent in Dublin.  However, exact change is required for buses–no paper money.  On the day of our arrival, after a short nap we took the bus to O’Connell Street and walked about the city center, parts of which are “pedestrianized.” We did not walk much beyond the River Liffey.1

After a fish’n’chips break we took a hop on–hop off bus for a more informative tour, although it was not clear which parts of the information might be valid history, and which perhaps a more idealized version. If one remains on the bus, the tour lasts an hour and a half.  Tickets are good for two days.  After the tour we walked about again, stopping in a couple of souvenir shops.

SkodaOur arrival day was the worst for jet lag so we postponed picking up the rental car (“hire car”) until the next morning.  The Skoda has a large trunk (“boot”), which may explain its apparent favor among taxi drivers.

Driving on the wrong side of the road is not so hard.  The challenge is to remember which side of the car has the steering wheel.  It is like remembering to carry the umbrella when the sun is out.  Sunshine in Ireland means nothing, except possibly that it will rain soon!

Bray HeadWe left the car at the hotel parking facility and once again took the bus into Dublin.  This time we made our way to the train station and bought three tickets for Bray.

Bray Head (photo) resembles the place at Newcastle in Northern Ireland where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.  We visited Newcastle on the last day of our trip.  The Mourne mountains photo may be found near the bottom of this page.

Blue sky at BrayWithin an hour or so, the sky at Bray was blue nearly from horizon to horizon.  And then it rained again, but that is neither here nor there.

Bray HarbourThe tide in Bray is about three times as great as it is in Charleston South Carolina where we sail.  What do moored sailboats do at low tide? In Bray Harbour they rest on their keels.

After spending most of the day in Bray and part of the late afternoon in Dublin we returned to the hotel, where we found to our astonishment and dismay that we had been evicted. Although I was sure that I had double-checked all reservations, somehow I had reserved the rooms in Dublin for only one night.

Hotel staff were sympathetic and helpful in locating rooms at a nearby hotel.  In this we were fortunate because Saturday night bookings are difficult in Dublin. Had there been any sort of major music or sporting event that day, we would have been out of luck.

SailsEarly Sunday morning we loaded our luggage into the Skoda and began driving to Galway. The M50 around Dublin collects tolls over the Internet.  There is no toll station, as such. The onus is on the vehicle operator to logon and pay by credit card or etc. before 8 PM the next day.
Roundabouts (traffic circles) exist in South Carolina where we live, but are few and far between.  In Ireland and Northern Ireland they are everywhere.  One more or less expects that an intersection, especially one that does not have a traffic signal, will be a roundabout–but not all are. Some are stops or yields. The trip to Galway, our first significant driving test, went smoothly.

As in Dublin, we parked the car at the hotel, from where it was only a few blocks walk to the center of town.  The park sculpture (photo) is an abstract representation of sails, specifically those associated with the Galway Hooker.2 After walking about for a couple of hours and enjoying an excellent lunch in a restaurant named Artisan we got thoroughly drenched. That night we had our first good sleep.

Galway swanThe Galway hop on–hop off bus did not have quite as many famous attractions to show as the Dublin tour had, but was enjoyable nevertheless.  I learned, for example, where Nora Barnacle’s house was.3 Although I had read that her family was from Connemara, I did not know until then that she had lived in Galway, not that it matters where in Ireland she lived.

After the tour we went for another walk, returning first to the waterfront, then to other places that were mentioned on the tour.  When we would see some ordinary thing, Kerry joked that it was not just a thing but an Irish thing. For example, she would remark in passing about a field of Irish sheep.  So it was that we photographed an Irish swan.

SligoLater in the afternoon we drove from Galway to Sligo (about an hour and a half).  It rained heavily at times. Driving was more challenging than it had been on the motorway from Dublin.  In Sligo we took short walks before and after dinner.

The poet W.B. Yeats is buried in Drumcliff, County Sligo.4  We did not go there.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Northern Ireland

Arrival in PortrushI was born in Northern Ireland and lived there until the age of twelve. On Tuesday morning we took the N15 past Donegal, then I think it was the N13 to the A2 skirting Londonderry, continuing on the A2 to Limavady, and finally the  A37 and A29 through Coleraine to Portrush. In truth, I had forgotten the roads, but happened to have recorded a GPS track for this part of the trip on my cell phone.
View from hotel window
Google Earth (left) shows the spot where we arrived at the Royal Court Hotel in Portrush. Apparently we parked on the cliff just over the edge of the parking lot. —Joking aside, the panaromic view from our room was spectacular.

The north coast of Ireland borders the Atlantic Ocean, while the Antrim Coast lies on the Irish Sea.  Both coasts are beautiful, even on a rainy day.
Cousins Richard and Margaret met us at the hotel. After lunch they took us on a short drive, stopping at several scenic spots.

We tourists wanted to spend a couple of hours at Giant’s Causeway. Therefore it was arranged to meet with Richard and Margaret again afterward, for another brief excursion and dinner.

Giant's Causeway - 1Here we are at the Giant’s Causeway. I am wearing Richard’s raincoat, not having had the foresight to bring one to Ireland.
Giant's Causeway - 2
Tens of millions of years ago, molten basalt from volcanic eruptions cooled in such a way as to create these hexagonal columns. While details of the formation process remain subject to debate, the concensus among scientists is that the the causeway was not constructed by a giant named Finn MacCool. Some doubt that MacCool himself even existed.

Although it rained at Giant’s Causeway, by the time we rejoined our cousins, the rain had stopped.  Richard drove us first to Portstewart, and after dinner back to Portrush for a walk about the seaside. From the beach near the hotel one can look down the Antrim Coast to the causeway and beyond, or to the west along the north coast.  The sun appears to set somewhere toward Donegal.

Sunset at PortrushSurrey in waterDriving is permitted on beaches, and horseback riding as well. Nevertheless we were surprised to see a horse drawn sulky on the beach in the early morning. From the hotel window we watched the driver turn the horse into the water and out again.

Wednesday would be the first full day of sightseeing in Northern Ireland and a beautiful day it was, sunny and cool
–perfect weather.  First it was west along the seacoast to Castlerock and beyond, then in the afternoon the Antrim coast, and back through the glens. There were many stops and countless photos. We bade farewell to cousins Richard and Margaret around 6 PM.

Cushendon Harbour “Dark” Smallest Church
Harbour at Cushendun “Dark Hedges” (Game of Thrones) Smallest Church

River Lagan
I asked my cousin Paul, is it “Lay-gan” or “Law-gan”  His answer was neither of those pronounciations.  It is “Lah-gan,” referring of course to the River Lagan of Belfast.

Cousins Paul and Suzanne live in Belfast. The next morning Paul kindly offered to drive us to Portadown, in order to visit places that were significant in my childhood.

Armagh Road Armagh Road 1950

The house on the left in the photo above (red gate) is where I grew up.  The right hand photo was taken inside the walled garden around 1950 or 51. In Portadown, we also saw the houses where my grandparents had lived, and the schools I attended as a boy, as well as other places of interest.

Thornton'sBonfireBack to Belfast...

After lunch at the colorful Cafe Vaudeville, we walked about the shops for awhile.

One of them was Thornton’s, famous for toffee.  Over the years, I have spent thousands of dollars on 
Thornton’s, not directly by purchasing candy, but indirectly at the dentist office, in order to deal with the consequences!

Then another bus tour (the red one)...  The photo on the right shows preparations for a bonfire that will be lit on the evening of July 12, the day that Northern Ireland unionists (protestants) celebrate the victory of King William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.5 By and large, the previously conflicting communities of Northern Ireland get along well with one another. However, artifacts of the
troubles remain conspicuous, especially in divided areas.

City Hall DomeStained Glass WindowAt dinner Thursday evening Suzanne told us about the beautiful interior of City Hall so the next morning we walked back there and took a few photos before leaving for our next and penultimate destination in Northern Ireland.

Cousin Trevor lives in Banbridge and second cousins Katy and Clive and family are in nearby Rathfriland. At Rathfriland we were also able to see other family members who live nearby.  In a sense, all of Northern Ireland is “nearby.”

We were asked by someone if we could detect the differences among regional accents, such as Belfast versus Dublin versus the coast. I am not sure that I could hear such differences, but I did notice that in some places the people speak reflexively, so they do. There are fewer rests in the music of their speech, so there are.

RathfrilandMourne Mountains
The photo on the left looks across Katy and Clive's front garden in Rathfriland. After enjoying a wonderful visit and bountiful feast with cousins and second cousins and relations too complicated to name, we left the next morning for Newcastle County Down, where the mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea. Compare the photo right to the one of Bray Head near the top of this page.

We departed Newcastle at about 2 PM for the drive back to Dublin by the coastal route: Newcastle to Kilkeel to Newry, and then the motorway again.

Oh, Mary, this London's a wonderful sight,
With people all working by day and by night.
Sure they don't sow potatoes, nor barley, nor wheat,
But there's gangs of them digging for gold in the street.
At least when I asked them that's what I was told,
So I just took a hand at this digging for gold,
But for all that I found there I might as well be
Where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

. . .
. . .

[1] We being Becky, Kerry, and himself.