Tuesday, 10 February 2015

This past Saturday (7 February), the International Student's Society again provided us with another amazing day trip. We signed up and paid for these trips in advance, as there is a limit on how many people they can take. This week we took a group of about 120 students up to Northern Ireland.

For those of you who don't know, this island is actually composed of two different countries: "Northern Ireland," belonging to the United Kingdom, and "The Republic of Ireland," which is part of the European Union. Northern Ireland is inclusive of six of the island's 32 counties, and has a population of about two million, compared to the Republic's four million. In Northern Ireland, they use sterling currency, whereas in the Republic, the euro is the accepted form of currency.

It took us about three and a half hours to get to our destination in County Antrim, our first stop being the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge site, and it was a one kilometer hike to the bridge itself (0.62 miles). On the way, I got my first real view of the north coast of Ireland, which is altogether different from the east coast that I have grown used to seeing. The water is a beautiful teal and the landscape is different as well.


If you look closely enough, you can see people hiking along the cliff trails, and that should give you an idea of just how big this place really is.

The bridge, which is 30 meters above the water (98.5 feet), had a capacity of eight people allowed at once and people could only cross from one direction at a time because of how narrow the walkway was.

The view over the side of the bridge as I crossed
We made it across! It was well worth it; the view of the land from the other side was even more beautiful.

There was a lookout point from the other side of the bridge, but nowhere else to go but back across to the other side.

Seagulls nesting along the cliff side

Glad to have made it across safely, and as we waited for our turn to cross back over, we took a few pictures together.

Myself and Hannah

Myself, Audrey, Nicole, Erin, and Will

Nicole and myself on our way back across

Our next stop was only about a fifteen minute drive from the bridge: The Giant's Causeway

Many people know of this one-of-a-kind landmark, but the story behind it?  How such a formation came to be along Ireland's north coast and across the ocean along the coast of Scotland, where there is a smaller version of the Causeway, remained a mystery for years.  Now, scientists may spin some story about an underwater volcanic eruption so many millions of years ago...but the Irish, they have a story of their own, and I know better than to question Irish tradition.

Here's the real story of how the Causeway was formed...

Again, we walked about a half of a mile down to our destination

Getting closer...
...and closer...
I couldn't believe my eyes, and had never seen anything like it. It was unreal and unbelievable that something like this could happen by nature (which is why we ought to believe the tale).

Audrey, Erin, Nicole, Hannah, and myself

Nicole, Audrey, Hannah, Erin, and myself
Front to back: Hannah, myself, Nicole, and Audrey

Erin, myself, Hannah, and Nicole


Audrey, Hannah, and myself

The "wall" along the back side of the causeway

Nicole and myself
People who visit the Causeway leave coins behind in the cracks of the stones along the wall

I didn't want to be the exception, so I left something behind as well.
 After leaving the Giant's Causeway, we stopped for a quick photo of Dunluce Castle.

And for our last stop of the day, we ventured to the city of Belfast. We didn't have too much time here, so I will definitely be making a trip back to see more of this beautiful city.

Belfast City Hall
Belfast City Hall
Church towers

Beautiful red brick building
Victoria Square Mall, from the top of which you have a great view of the city
The mall is open to the street on every side

These cranes, belonging to the company Harland and Wolff, built the Titanic

We were about twenty minutes too early for sunset, but still had a spectacular view

Political artwork stretches for miles along many of the streets throughout Belfast

More political artwork
And as we were leaving, the sun set beautifully in the distance.

On our way back to Dublin, our tour guide, Val (short for Valentine, and can you guess his birthday?), sang us a song which he credited to be heard more commonly than Ireland's own national anthem, a song that is held very dear to every Irish heart. I have posted the lyrics below. It is about one of Ireland's greatest tragedies, the Great Potato Famine.

Read about the famine here. 

The Fields of Athenry

Pete St. John

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young girl calling
Micheal they are taking you away
For you stole Trevelyn's corn
So the young might see the morn.
Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall
I heard a young man calling
Nothing matters Mary when you're free,
Against the Famine and the Crown
I rebelled they ran me down
Now you must raise our child with dignity.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

By a lonely harbor wall
She watched the last star falling
As that prison ship sailed out against the sky
Sure she'll wait and hope and pray
For her love in Botany Bay
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

Low lie the Fields of Athenry
Where once we watched the small free birds fly.
Our love was on the wing we had dreams and songs to sing
It's so lonely 'round the Fields of Athenry.

I have a few questions to answer from a "fan," and in case anyone else is curious...
 1. All event schedules and digital clocks here do go by military time, yes, but the people don't speak in military time. However, there are some quirks. For instance, if someone says "half-nine," what they mean is 9:30.
 2. They have peanut butter here, but it is different in color as well as in taste (so I've been told). A few people have mentioned finding good-quality peanut butter at specific locations, but it is the general consensus that most Americans do not like the taste of it here. Regardless of the taste, it is expensive anywhere you buy it.
 3. I have been packing my lunch for each of the day trips - it is much easier, cheaper, and definitely more convenient not to have to take time away from sight-seeing to find somewhere good to eat.
 4. I don't think I'll be taking a liking to beer any time soon, no matter how many times I try it. I'd rather have a pint of cider any day.
 5. It get's dark currently between 5:00 and 5:30, which I found surprising when I first arrived. For some reason, it seemed strange to me that they can still have the short days of winter even without the snowfall. By May, it should be getting dark closer to 8:00, so I have been told.

This weekend I hope to take an independent trip to Kilkenny (both the county and city named for it), so hopefully there will be more posts coming soon! Thank you for reading!

Cheers, everyone!

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