My non-geologist friends all think me a touch mad, but come on! You try learning about rocks for five years and NOT getting excited by awesome rocky things!
(This list includes, but is not limited to: Volcanoes, earthquake, fault lines, lava tubes and pillows, caves/crevices/caverns, sparkly mineral specimens, and giant crystal).
So … *cough* … yes… back to Ireland!
I spent the weekend travelling from Limerick to Belfast and back again. I had a mild scare when I heard that Belfast was in North Ireland instead of in the Republic of Ireland (the Republic uses Euros while the North uses Pounds. Fun fact! Each bank in North Ireland has their own mark on the Pound notes…I have no idea how big of a headache that must be to sort!).
I wasn’t sure if I would need to use my passport between the two zones. –> You don’t.
I made it fine through Ireland aboard The Enterprise (right up there with my favourite things about Ireland) on Friday, spent all Saturday on a tour though North Ireland up to the Giant’s Causeway, and I got to visit three different Christmas Markets on Sunday before catching the trains back to Limerick.
The whole weekend worked out a million times better than we could have ever planned it. Myself and my Mysterious Gentleman Friend, S., had relatively pleasant and partially sunny weather all the way up to … but not including the Giant’s Causeway on Saturday. Which, all in all, was still more sun then I’ve gotten my entire first week in Ireland. Besides the outbreak of spontaneous blue sky, we arrived the very weekend that they were turning on all the Christmas lights on in Belfast. This means they transforms the City Center Square into a maze of booths from around Europe with food and wares. S. had two glasses of hot mulled wine and I stuffed myself with a cup of creamy pumpkin soup and an awesome Belgium coconut macaroon that had been tickling my scents even before the market opened up for their first official day. We also spurged £7.50 on three artisan cheeses (hot chili, ginger, and herb and spice) to take back to Limerick.
All Saturday was spent on and off of the bus, but was completely worth it. We went with McComb’s couch travel and had a great experience with them. The regular price of the tickets is £25.00, but because we booked our tickets at our hostel (Belfast International Youth Hostle) we only had to pay £20.00 per ticket. For an extra £10.00 you can get tickets for crossing the Carrick-a-rede Ropebridge and entrance into the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center. We stopped by some castles, walked a path to a precarious rope bridge, ate lunch at the Old Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, and the last stop of the day … the Giant’s Causeway.
Now, this place is super cool, geo or not! But for you non-geos, I’ll give you the Cole’s Notes version. **NOTE** anyone who is NOT interested in a short geology lesson, please skip the next paragraph 🙂 For anyone who IS, then prepared to get your education on!
The Giant’s Causeway formed around 50 to 60 million year ago (during the Paleogene). The structure is composed of approximately 40,000 interlocking roughly hexagonal basalt columns that formed when highly non-viscous basaltic magma flowed through chalk beds. These basaltic beds were part of a larger, extensive volcanic plateau known as the Thulean Plateau. As the magma cooled, contraction occurred and formed cracks (similar to those that occur in mud). These cracks formed downwards, leaving us with a distinct pillar-like structure.
Alright! Now that I got the geo-monkey off of my back, I can go back into simple tourist mode. The Causeway was wonderful and awe-inspiring … despite the fact that we were pelted with ice pellets and bitter rain the minute we started to walk down the long path. I had to resort to wrapping my scarf around my head and ears like a babushka and both S. and I were soaked along the backs of our legs. I was pretty thankful that I remembered to bring my umbrella (one of maybe four other people who remembered on our coach of 49 other people). Freezing and wet, there was no way we were going to miss getting to see it. I highly recommend it as the one place you need to see in Ireland.
Now, because it was Sunday, this meant that the St. George’s Market was open. And because our train wasn’t until three, this meant we could GO to the market! It was really an awesome place! It was filled with so many tasty things and lots of awesome and relatively cheap vintage and handmade wonderfulness. We got complimented on being stylish at the booth run by Vintage Pintage where I bought a awesome vintage pill case (no more ugly Advil tubes for me!)
and I had a great talk about vintage hats and lipstick accessories with another stall owner. I can’t go on enough about how neat St. George’s Market was! I wanted to buy something at nearly every booth (especially the booth that consisted solely of vintage tea cups *whimper*) and wanted to eat something at every booth. I had to compromise and bought only a delicious white chocolate-raspberry-pistachio tart (a-nom-nom-nom) and a paella combo from another stall.
I also bought this awesome card by Pretty Please Crafts.
Sadly, these cards aren’t available on her etsy website, but maybe if you inquire she might set up an order for you. These cards were found under the Belfast Bunny series and I laughed so hard at every one! They also came in earrings and pins. They give a ‘polite’ translation with the dialect printed on the back. The back of this one comments: Belfast Bunny sez … “eil dae yer nees” of which I can only assume they’re still making references to smashing in your knees. Another humerous one went along the lines of “Allow me to point out that your visage resembles the topic of our current debate” (–> ‘So’s yer face) .
Once we were in Dublin between trains, two interesting things happened as we were searching for a quick bit to eat. The first was running in to the Butlers Chocolate Cafe. Because it has the words ‘chocolate’ and ‘cafe’ in the title this leads me to believe that it is now perfectly acceptable to eat a lunch consisting entirely of strong coffee and chocolate … both of which I am A-Ok with. The second fell to the little restaurant where we stopped for supper, Taste of Emilia. The restaurant which would be better descried as a wine cafe on Lower Liffey Street that some how managed to get every.single.Italian tourist in all of Dublin. I kid you not, S. and I were the only ones there that spoke English. I had a bit of a flashback to our travels in Italy back in 2010.
So, all in all, Belfast is now definitely on my list of the best places I’ve visited in Ireland (of which includes Cork, Blarney, Limerick, and briefly Dublin). The weather was quite a bit colder than what we were having in Limerick, but it made Limerick seem so much nicer when we got back. Belfast always has something going on! Don’t believe me? Check out any of their travel booklets. They literally had events planned for every single weekend from October until the end of December (which was the date the book ended on). If you’re in Ireland, definitely check out Belfast!
It’s now only five days until I’m in Korea! Starting to get a bit nervous ^^
Till next time!
P.S. Extra bonus of my trip to the Causeway? Making friends with the Distillery’s kitty cat!