Ireland, my home away from home. II

Before I get into writing this post, I suggest reading part 1 as it’s kind of a package deal. Part 1 can be found HERE, I hope you enjoy it!

The second part of our Irish getaway started at the Dublin train station, where words can’t describe how hectic and busy it was. Now like any other train station it’s going to be full of people trying to get to their next destination however, because every single ticket machine was not working so that meant everyone who needed to buy a ticket had to queue up at the 2 ticket booths and I felt so sorry for the poor sod that had to deal with a bunch of stressed-out people who probably took it out on them. With no ticket machines around and a queue that seemed to be a mile long, we went to the information desk with all the other people who had booked their tickets online. Now again, I felt so sorry for the staff at Dublin train station because I know for a fact I wouldn’t be able to handle all that stress and keep calm at the same time. Thankfully, the porter at the information desk was a lovely gentleman who kindly offered to walk us and our luggage to our platform. He didn’t have to but I’m immensely grateful he did as I know we would have had difficulty doing it on our own.

After getting to the train in record time thanks to the porter, we were greeted by a guard who helped put our luggage on the train. My mother asked if he wasn’t busy when we were drawing near to the border could he let us know and he agreed, we didn’t really think he’d remember or even come and tell us but he did! Just before the border he found us again and let us know, now there wasn’t a big sign saying ‘You’re entering Northern Ireland’ I’m pretty sure it was just a field with some cows in it but it was nice to actually know when we had crossed the border. As I said in part 1 my family from both sides are from Ireland and on the journey to Belfast, we actually went past the town where my mother’s family are from! The moment the sign ‘Balbriggan’ whizzed past the train window I could tell my mother was emotional, we hadn’t really planned to visit or even see the town so it was really special for her to just see where her relatives where are from (and still live today!). Even though it was a 2-hour long journey we decided to order some food, I can easily say that meal was the best thing we ate on the holiday. We were both pleasantly surprised as no offence to the trains here in the UK but the food they have to offer leaves little to be desired. All in all the train journey to Belfast was amazing and I know I’ll definitely do it again the next time I’m in Ireland.

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When we arrived at the hotel which was the ‘Jurys Inn Belfast’, we just wanted to unwind and relax as we knew the last few days we had would be filled to the brim with things we had planned to do. The following day was an interesting one, the night before my mother was actually chatting with a guy who knew a tour guide who could take us all around Nothern Ireland and show us all the places he thought we’d like. My mother and I hadn’t really been able to plan much for Belfast so we jumped at the chance to see more than we would have been able to alone. The man who would be taking us all around Northern Ireland was called Gerry and I have never met a nicer man who was so passionate about teaching us the history of this part of Ireland. He picked us up in his own black cab and started driving us towards our first destination, the murals. According to Wikipedia, there may be over 2,000 murals all ranging in quality and age and that’s huge. Each mural had a different meaning that shows a part of history, something that happened or a political message , I even saw a few that were about people that had died and I think it’s amazing that the people of the area found a wall or a side of a building and made something beautiful, be it a memorial for a lost one or something that shows the world the history of Northern Ireland/the town.  It’s been a while since I saw all the murals so I’m not going to try and explain what they’re about because I don’t want to disrespect anyone and butcher the meaning behind them. I wish I had more time to see them all and spend as long as I wanted to admire them all, if you do get to visit the murals then I suggest having a tour guide or someone that knows the history of them with you so they can explain or help you with understanding what each one is about.

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The only thing we actually planned to do ourselves in Belfast was to visit the Titanic Belfast, now if you don’t know what that is, it’s an attraction/exhibition to do with the ship Titanic that sank in 1912. The whole building is actually in the exact same place where the Titanic was built, the entire time I was there I was so in awe of it all and for a girl who has always been interested in the Titanic and what happened, it was amazing to be in the same place that the ship was built, where it all started. Across the road is actually a hotel, which is located in the old offices for the builders of the Titanic, inside the hotel is a bar and on the walls are paintings of the Titanic being built and finally setting sail towards its first destination. The staff inside the hotel are really lovely and more than welcoming to visitors who just want to have a nosey.

Side note, if you’re into Game of Thrones and want to know where they film some scenes then all you need to do is look next to the Titanic Belfast and find a building called the Titanic studios and there you are! Later on, I’ll tell you a bit more about Game of Thrones and the adventure I went on to see some of the places they filmed iconic scenes.

Once you’ve bought your ticket, you and whoever you’re with are guided to a backdrop with the Titanic on, there is where you’ll get a photo taken and of course, you can do the famous pose if you want or just smile it’s up to you. After that, you get to experience a one of a kind exhibition, it was impressive to say the least. In every room, you enter there’s more information about the people involved in building the Titanic, the materials used to build it and how it was built. They have so many historic documents and information that even people who know a lot about the Titanic learn something new and that’s amazing. They even have a small ride that you can sit through where they tell you information about the building process and all around you are mannequins dressed up as workers busy building parts of the ship we know today as RMS Titanic. Throughout the whole experience are interactive screens where you can learn about the process or find out about all the different books, movies and tv shows that were about the Titanic, also if you look out any window in the building you’ll probably see a huge building dock now that is where the ship was actually built, they actually have a golden outline to show you how big the ship would have been so you can technically stand on the Titanic and like me you can stand at the very end and do Jack and Rose’s famous pose. Nearing the end of it all, there is a big auditorium where you can watch a shortish film about how Dr Robert Ballard and his team found the Titanic 73 years after it sunk to the sea floor, I do recommend you sitting through it as it is super interesting. You can also find out what Dr Robert Ballard’s team is doing today and watch a live feed of his Trust exploring the open ocean. The Titanic Belfast is a building filled with information, history and a legend, it not only teaches you about the Titanic but it reminds you that many people lost their lives on April 15th, 1912 and there were many things in the building of the ship that shouldn’t have happened. I will always remember my visit and if you ever go, you will too. Also, there’s a really nice gift shop so that’s a plus!

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The next day was actually the last day we would be spending in Ireland and as sad as we were about it, we did miss home. We didn’t have anything planned so Gerry knowing I had some interest in Game of Thrones wanted to take us on a road trip and visit a few places where the tv show was filmed with some detours along the way. The first place we saw was the Dark Hedges, which is a long road with beech trees hanging over and causing a tunnel sort of thing. The scene that was filmed there was in season 2 when Arya is disguised as a boy and travelling in a cart with the new Night’s Watch recruits. When we were there I noticed a lot of other people and it felt amazing knowing all of these people were a fan of the show and going on the same journey as me and my mother.

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After that we took a detour, my Grandmother loves Bushmills Irish Whiskey so when we knew we’d be driving near it we asked Gerry to take us there. It was very early morning when we did so there weren’t many people around which was great but unfortunately because we had such a busy day we couldn’t stay long. We had just enough time to visit the shop and have a look at all the buildings that make the distillery.

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Not 30 minutes later we arrived at The Giant’s Causeway which is an area of basalt columns caused by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago, some columns can reach up to 39ft tall and like any Irish treasure, there is a legend behind it. The legend is that an Irish giant called Finn MacCool was challenged to fight a Scottish Giant called Benandonner and as they were so far away Finn built the causeway to get to him. Now there are 2 endings to the legend and it’s up to you to pick what you think happened. In one, Finn beats Benandonner and in another Finn sees how big Benandonner is and runs away back home, his wife Oonagh dresses him up like a baby and hides him in the crib. Benandonner gets to Finn’s home and sees the baby and how big it is. Benandonner realises that if the baby is that big then its father must be massive and much bigger than him and runs back to Scotland destroying the majority of the causeway so Finn wouldn’t come after him. What I actually just found out while writing and researching were that there are identical columns made from basalt on the Scottish coast so that may have influenced the tale which is fascinating. The moment we reached the Causeway it started pouring with rain, thankfully we were saved by the information centre. The centre holds a cafe, a shop and information boards that teach you about the Causeway, how it happened and how it’s still here today. It also houses a small cinema type of get up where you can watch an animated movie about the legend I told you about before, I thoroughly enjoyed my time just walking around, reading all the information they had to offer and buying a few trinkets for my family back home. To get down to the actual Causeway, you can either catch a bus or walk down, the walk is downhill and quite a long journey so if you have problems walking or just want to relax then I suggest getting the bus, it’s also a good opportunity to marvel at the view. I can’t put into words how magnificent the Giant’s Causeway is, I know it just a bunch of rocks clumped together but it’s much more than that. It’s millions of years in the making, so many things had to happen to get it to where it is today and I find that amazing. We’re alive in a time where we can visit a place that was around when dinosaurs were walking the earth, it reminds you that no matter how crappy the world is, there are places like this that we get to experience. I loved my time visiting the Causeway and seeing how magical it all was, just wish the weather was a bit nicer!

 

The very last place we visited was a small little harbour called the Ballintoy Harbour in Ballycastle which is located at the very top of Northern Ireland. It was absolutely freezing and I was exhausted from the day’s adventure but I was excited to see yet another beautiful place. The harbour was actually used for a Game of Thrones scene in season 2 when Theon returns home to Lordsport Harbour. There’s a little cottage right next to the harbour that you can rent out and if I’m ever in Ballycastle again I’m definitely going to be looking into it because I can imagine how lovely staying there would be. Just down the road, there is the Cushendum Caves. It’s yet another place in Northern Ireland where the Game of Thrones crew used for filming the tv show. This time it was to film the scene in season 2 where Melisandre gives birth to the shadow creature. As it was getting dark by the time we arrived at the caves we couldn’t go in but my mother and I stood outside, watched the waves come in and listening to the owls around us.

This whole trip was an experience and a half and I’m going to remember it for the rest of my life. It was always a dream of mine to visit the country that’s been intertwined into my life since before I was born, I felt at home while I was there and I’m going to hold that dear to my heart. Ireland is a magical country with so much to offer and give to everyone who stays in the country, it’s a beautiful place from picturesque beaches to cities bursting with life. It’s somewhere that I’ll visit time and time again and still be in love with, I’ll take my family with me in years to come and show them all the places that mean a lot to me and my family. Hopefully, with reading this you’ll make that journey to Ireland and fall in love with the country just like I did.

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