In a slight veer off course from the original plan, I have spent the last two weeks making my way around Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. And it has simultaneously been two things: beautiful and rainy.
I arrived in Dublin a couple of weeks ago eager to test out my sea legs (read: ankle). I immediately liked the city though it was a bit gritty. I’m not sure if the song Dirty Old Town was written specifically about Dublin, but it might well have been. I was joined the next day by my friend Agatha, who bravely drove us to Cork and Blarney on the wrong side of the road. Following in my parents’ footsteps some thirty years later, we kissed the blarney stone. We explored castles, enjoyed the rolling fields and the vast, inescapably dense greenness of everything around us. And we ate! Fish & chips, shepherds’ pie, daily tea and scones and hearty soups. It was very refreshing to see someone from home and was so lovely to spend four days together. Cork is a fun university town and Blarney is quaint and charming. We did not have to search hard to find live traditional music and pints of Guinness everywhere we went. It was a great visit.
When Agatha left I was once again on my own. I spent a cool damp day wandering Dublin then lit out the next day. Nice a city as it is, it was so overrun with tourists (which I realize is a very hypocritical complaint) and you had the sense that it was raining constantly, even when it wasn’t. There is just a heavy wetness that clings to the air.
So I made my way to Galway. I have since been blessed with relatively little rain and even a few sunny days.
Galway is fantastic and my time there was the highlight of my Irish visit. Brimming with small pubs with live music bursting out of them, I got to hear many of the Irish favorites that I came here for. Though, ironically, Galway Girl was not one of them. (Not only did I hear, but I passed through the beautiful Fields of Athenry.)
I took a day trip to the cliffs of Moher which are nothing short of majestic. And was blessed with sun, to boot.
After Galway, I headed to the north. I spent a couple of days in Belfast. I didn’t warm up to it immediately but by day two it had won me over. Chalk full of politics, artsy alleyways and secret little beergardens, it certainly held its own. I toured the political murals, the peace wall, the local jail which is now a museum, and, of course, the Titanic Quarter. This was essentially a pilgrimage for me as I am really into the history of titanic (which, in itself, is bit of an understatement). It was fascinating to see the harbour where there ship first launched and read all about the pulse of the city at the time. While munching on a sausage roll.
A day and a half was sufficient for me to see the main points of interest, though if I went back I would also do the Game of Thrones tour of surrounding Belfast, a.k.a. Winterfell.
A hop, skip and a jump (two busses and a ferry) later and I am now writing from Edinburgh. I met a nice man on the ferry across who offered to show me around the port area. However, I didn’t realize that until he’d said so three times as the Scottish accent is practically another language. In any case, my bus was booked, so I politely declined.
Upon arrival, I was so glad that I decided to cram this stop into my trip. Everywhere I looked, I was floored by beautiful, historic buildings in a backdrop of green hills dotted with yellow wildflower bushes. It is a truly magical city.
I made the most of my short time here, though I could have certainly used another day. I did a (rainy) walking tour around the old town and saw the castle perched up on an inactive volcano. I hiked (carefully) to Arthur’s Seat which is a lookout point atop yet another inactive volcano. I highly recommend this to anyone going as the views were spectacular. I stopped in a dainty little tea house for a ‘cuppa’ along with a scone and shortbread (it was a cultural experience!) and visited a couple of the many free museums the city has to offer. For my last night’s dinner, I had scoped out a cozy little pub around the corner offering the Scottish delicacy of Haggis, which, if you don’t know, is essentially the ground innards of a sheep, along with oats in a meatloaf-style dish. But, when in Rome… So I arrived last night ready to give it a go, and what do you know, they’d sold out of haggis. The warm coziness and close proximity to my hostel in the rain coaxed me out of searching elsewhere so I settled instead for a warm steak and gravy pie with mushy peas. I probably enjoyed it more and I have had haggis once before at a Rabby Burns party. In any case, I forgot my phone back in the room to charge, so I don’t have a photo. And I mean, if you aren’t having haggis for the photo opt, what’s the point, really?!
I woke up to more rain and decided to get an early start to the airport, where I am now writing. I am en route to beautiful, warm, romantic Vienna, where I am meeting, for the first time in 2.5 months, my Jasper. Needless to say, I am very excited.