Tuesday, May 24, 2011

One Giant Step for a Causeway

Despite insomnia and jet lag, I managed to drag myself awake at 8am to prepare for my full-day trip out into the Irish countryside. My destination was to be the UNESCO World Heritage site, The Giant's Causeway. Years ago in China I met two young archeologists from Belfast, and they both told me that if I ever went to Northern Ireland I should make sure I head up the wild and windy coast of Country Antrim to see this interesting natural basalt rock formation. But first, breakfast, or lack thereof. I'm not usually one to complain about this sort of thing, but I was stunned when I found out that the continental breakfast at my hotel was priced at the equivalent of $22 US. For that kind of money I want a French baker to personally make me the croissant while I watch. I skipped the breakfast and grabbed something at a corner store.

The countryside was beautiful, windy and green with crashing waves on the shore. Sheep, cows, horses, and goats grazed placidly. Little villages dotted the coastline. We stopped at a couple of ruined castles, and a pretty fishing village in one of the Nine Glens of Antrim. OK, I'll admit it: it was pretty but I was so tired that I kept falling asleep. There were a few highlights, though. We stopped at the Old Bushmills distillery, long enough for a free tasting but not long enough for a tour. I drank their 10-year-old whiskey with a tiny splash of water and tried not to giggle while another tourist went on about how he had no idea that whiskey could taste so good, and how different it was from "downing" rum & coke. As the bartender said "it's about quality, it's not a volume drink."

After Bushmills we wended our way to the Giant's Causeway itself. I took a ninety minute walk along the shoreline, marveling at the basalt rock formations that were created by an ancient volcano. I also thought about my life a lot, and frankly hit a low point and the thought of throwing myself into the sea crossed my mind. I kept walking, though. I am, after all, on a trip around the world. It would be stupid to give up now.

On the way back from the Causeway we stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was originally built so that salmon fishermen could cross to a rocky islet from which they spread their nets. Nowadays it's there as an attraction along a particularly lovely stretch of coastline. I took a 45-minute round-trip walk to the bridge but did not actually cross it. Along the way I saw the fattest and furriest caterpillar ever, with two-tone brown stripes. I tried to take his picture but I messed up the macro settings on my camera.

The outbound trip had been along the coast road, so we took the Motorway back to save time. I napped, and when I arrived back at the hotel I decided another Magner's was in order.

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