Sunday, June 30, 2013

Ireland (Part 2)

June 30, 2013 8:20 PM—Dublin

I took a little trip down to Cork today, but not without some problems. I went down to the train station this morning at around 8 AM and all I found was trouble. It seems that someone jumped onto the tracks or something. The train company said that the trains were not coming into the station at all because between two stations further down “a person was struck and fatally injured”. I don't think this guy knew what problems he would cause. For everyone getting on my train, they were going to put us all on buses to get us to a station past the incident, but I guess the buses weren't coming fast enough, so they started putting people in taxis. Imagine a whole train full of people getting into taxis. That's a lot of taxis. By the time I got towards the front of the line, a bus showed up, so I took a bus about a half hour to a further station. In the end, this delayed me about an hour and 45 minutes.

Once I got to Cork, I walked to the bus station to get to Blarney. Blarney is a small village just outside the city center. Unfortunately, these buses only run once an hour, so I had about 40 minutes to wait. No worries. I got lunch. I went to Subway and got a sandwich and by the time I got back it was almost time to get the bus. The bus ride took about 20 minutes and then I was in Blarney.

Upon arriving I walked to Blarney Castle (the main reason for coming). Blarney Castle is not just a castle. In fact, it included the entire grounds of the estate, which included acres of gardens and a handful of other buildings. So to start I went into the old castle. This is where the Blarney Stone itself is. The castle was really awesome. You had to climb narrow windy stairs to get to the top, but there were quite a few rooms to stop and see along the way. I felt like this castle was made for me, because all the doorways were really low. I got to see all these big tall guys ducking down to walk through this castle, while the same doorways were about an inch or two taller than me, so it was perfect (there are usually very few advantages of being short).


My size doorway



When you reach the top of the castle, you end up in a line. This line is to kiss the Blarney Stone. This whole part of seeing the castle was incredibly cheesy. The Blarney Stone itself isn't much more than part of the wall. It doesn't even look like a separate stone. Right in front of the stone they have removed the floor and they have made this into a thrill seeking activity by telling everyone they need to kiss it upside-down. So everyone that wants to kiss it has to lie down on the ground and practically lower themselves into this hole in the floor to kiss the wall upside-down. Now, don't worry, there is an employee there to support you and there is also a guy there with a camera and a huge flash to take your picture if you want to remember this ridiculous experience. Personally, I didn't see the need to risk my life to kiss this disease-ridden wall, but I didn't mind watching other people do it. In fact, this is the only thing in the whole castle that wasn't accommodating to short people, because it was so far away from the actual floor short people had a harder time reaching it.

After seeing the Blarney Stone, I continued to walk around the gardens of Blarney Castle. I actually really enjoyed this part of my trip, but unfortunately due to my morning delay, I only had about an hour to wander. I could have wandered for at least 3 hours. The place was huge.



Blarney House



In order to not get back to Dublin too late, I left Blarney Castle a little after 3 PM. And, again, I had more transport problems. My bus to get back to town was about 10 minutes late and the driver was not at all interested in catching up his time. So as it turned out, I had to run to the train station so that I wouldn't have to wait an entire hour to get the next train (and get back an hour later). I did make it and I got a workout at the same time. So by taking the train at 5:20 I managed to get back to my hostel just past 8 PM. I think I just went on the wrong day. It also didn't help that today was Sunday. I think there were generally fewer trains and buses just because it was Sunday. Nonetheless, the day was a success. I made it there and back and I saw what I wanted to see. Tomorrow I have an organized tour that will take me out to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher. And tomorrow is going to be even longer than today, but hopefully a bit more productive. I have to be at the train station at 6:40 AM tomorrow morning and I'll be returning to Dublin just before 10 PM tomorrow night. I'm really going out with a bang! 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ireland

June 29, 2013 8:30 PM—Dublin

As much as I loved Northern Ireland and Portrush, I had to leave there this morning. I took three trains to get all the way to Dublin and then I hit the city. This afternoon was really the only time I had to see Dublin, so I saw what I could.

I started off at the Guinness Storehouse, which is the most visited tourist attraction in all of Ireland. Personally, I thought it was a bit overrated. It was way too touristy and I didn't actually feel like you got a good feel for how they make the beer. They also offered free audio guides but only if you were a non-English speaker. So if you speak English, you don't get an audio tour, which I thought was kind of cheap. They also portrayed the place as being so big, trying to make you feel like you were getting so much for your money, by stretching everything out over 7 floors. But in fact, one of those floors doesn't have anything on it and some of the other floors have very minimal displays. I know I'm not much of a Guinness fan, but the way people rave about this place, I would have expected so much more. I've been on much better brewery tours.




After being let down by Guinness and feeling like I wasted some of my minimal time in Dublin, I made my way over to St. Patrick's Cathedral. I apparently arrived at just the right time, because there was a guided tour starting as I walked in. The tour took about an hour and it was really interesting. This church is not only well known for the legacy of St. Patrick, it is also known for Johnathan Swift, the writer of Gulliver's Travels. He was the Dean of the cathedral for a long time. This cathedral was really interesting with many little architectural corks.







After the tour finished, I walked down the street to the other large cathedral in Dublin, Christ Church. This one wasn't quite as interesting, but as far as churches go, it was pretty good. Unfortunately, at this point I was pretty exhausted, so I returned to my hostel and took a nap.



Tomorrow I'll be heading down to Cork for the day. I'm planning on seeing Blarney Castle and the Blarney Stone. I can't say whether or not I may kiss the Blarney Stone (honestly, that just sounds a little gross), but I want to go see it nonetheless. Considering that Cork is almost 3 hours from here, this is probably going to be an all day affair. Then tomorrow night I'm back in Dublin.

Friday, June 28, 2013

UK (Part 7)


June 28, 2013 5:00 PM—Portrush, Northern Ireland

Today was a bit of a lazy day. I started off by sleeping in and then I had some breakfast at about 9:30. The breakfast I got came free with my room and it was an awesome buffet with many hot and cold options.

After breakfast I walked down to the tourist office here in town. It's only about a 10 minute walk but by the time I got there my jeans were all wet, my hair was wind blown and my umbrella had blown out once. Unfortunately, the woman at the tourist office wasn't able to work much magic. It seems that most of what there is to do around here is outdoors and obviously the weather was not cooperating. However, when I left the tourist office it wasn't raining, so I started to walk back towards my hotel and when I got here I continued walking all the way down to the end of the peninsula. There is a nice little path that takes you to the top of the cliffs that form the end of the peninsula. Because of all the strong winds, the waves were quite big as they crashed up against the rocks.






After making a short loop, I returned to my hotel. I could have found something to do today, but there was nothing I was overly enthusiastic about. This is why I decided to simply spend the rest of my day enjoying my nice hotel room. I don't often get a nice hotel and when I do I don't often spend much time in the room. Today was an unusual opportunity for me to just relax. When I get to Dublin, I intend to hit things pretty hard and I simply felt like resting up would be my best use of the day. So right now I'm watching the news and laying around. I'll probably venture out soon to get something to eat. Otherwise, I'm done for the night.

Tomorrow I'll be traveling down to Dublin. And tomorrow afternoon I plan on seeing many of the sites in Dublin that I wanted to see while I'm there. I only have a few days left, but there is still so much to see.

Fun Fact: The most northern point of the island of Ireland is in The Republic of Ireland (or Southern Ireland).

Thursday, June 27, 2013

UK (Part 6)


June 27, 2013 7:20 PM—Portrush, Northern Ireland

Last night I took my final ferry ride of my trip and apparently I must have done something right. When I arrived at the ferry all I had was a ticket to get on. I didn't have a cabin. I hadn't booked one in order to save a bit of money, but when I thought about all my other night ferries, I realized it wasn't worth the money I was saving. So when I got on the ship I inquired about getting a cabin. I was offered an inside or an outside cabin (outside has a window). After going back and forth with the woman (who seemed a bit mixed up with the prices), I had a key but I wasn't real sure whether the room was inside or outside. When I got in my room, I found out it was outside. So I had a window. This is the first ferry where I've had a cabin with a window. The room also had four beds in the room and wi-fi! I really felt like I was living.



The ferry arrived in Belfast at around 9:30 AM and when I got off I had to get a cab to the train station, because it was the only way to get there. As much as I didn't like doing this, it would have been a 4 mile walk in the rain. When I arrived at the train station I got a ticket to Portrush and got on my way. The train only took about an hour and a half and it left me about a 10 minute walk from my hotel. Unfortunately, it was still raining. But, nonetheless, I hike down to my hotel. Portrush is a sleepy little town and it is based around a small peninsula. My hotel is on this peninsula. This is one of the few places where I sprung for a nice hotel. My room has 2 beds (sleeping space for 3 people), it's own bathroom (with a bath tub), and a sea view!


The view from my window

Once I got to my hotel, I was able to get into my room right away, despite the fact that it was only about 12 PM. So I dropped my stuff and got on my way. I took the bus to Giant's Causeway first. Giant's Causeway is a natural phenomenon. It is a rock formation on the coast that seems anything but natural. The rocks fit together like a puzzle, where they fit together like a ball and socket creating pillars of sorts. Along with the rock formation, the locals have come up with a myth about a giant who lived there. They even identify some of the rocks as the giant's everyday items.







The giant's boot




After Giant's Causeway, I got back on the bus and went to Carrick-a-Rede. This is where there is a rope bridge that you can cross to get to a small island. This bridge would have been used by fisherman back in the day to better catch salmon. Now it is a simple thrill seeking activities for tourists. Today being quite windy makes it that much more exciting. It's not something you would ever really fall off of, but it can be intimidating for the faint of heart. I was fine crossing except when the wind really kicked up. But I just kept thinking of that guy who walked across the grand canyon on a tight rope. If he could do that despite the wind, I knew I could walk across this rope bridge. Besides just the bridge there were also some fantastic views from this part of the coast. Although, unfortunately, because it was a somewhat nasty day, visibility was a bit limited.







Once I was crossed the rope bridge (Twice!), I got the bus back to Portrush. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do tomorrow, because what I had planned to do I already did today. Nonetheless, I'm here in Northern Ireland until Saturday, when I'm traveling down to Dublin, which is my last stop on this trip. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

UK (Part 5)


June 26, 2013 4:45 PM—Liverpool

If yesterday was all about Manchester United, then today was mostly about the Beatles. I started off my morning well by sleeping in. I didn't have to check out until 11 and I knew I had all day before I had to catch the ferry, so I figured I'd take advantage of my bed while I had it. So once I had some breakfast, I got on my way. I started off with a free walking tour of the city. I felt like I didn't really know how to approach Liverpool and the walking tour was the way to go. On this tour we saw a lot of Beatles site, including The Cavern Club, which is where they used to play when they were just getting started. We also saw some of the unique architectural styles of Liverpool, which is such an industrial city and has been a key player in trade for a long time.








After the tour was over, I figured that I should go to see the Beatles museum called the Beatles Story. In this museum not only did they have all kinds of memorabilia, they really took you through a story. They even recreated many of the clubs and studios that were such a large part of the Beatles history. I also got to go inside a yellow submarine!





Now I'm back at my hostel killing a little time before I have to go to the ferry. I got an email from the ferry this morning telling me that the ferry is leaving a little early and arriving a little late because they will only be able to use one engine. So instead of it taking 8 hours its going to take about 11 and a half. But I don't mind because once I get in it will only take me about an hour and a half to get to my destination.