The One With the Accidental Tour

So, wifi has been inconsistent at best over the last few days, so I haven’t said much. Belfast was excellent- I got to take an incredible Black Taxi tour of the West Belfast neighborhoods that saw/see the worst violence in the Troubles 1962-1994ish (though our guide said there was shooting in the street six months ago). It was unreal-make that too real. It’s incredible to me-there is a concrete, iron, and razor wire “Peace Wall” erected between the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. The locals anticipate the wall may be ready to come down in 2017. There are still gates that are only open 6am-6:30pm weekdays. There are murals promoting solidarity with other oppressed people. There are murals venerating men who are murderers or heroes depending on your side of the line. Houses whose backyards face the Peace Wall are contained with steel mesh fences and roofs, like a prison cell, to deflect rocks or incendiary devices coming over the wall. It was very peaceful while we were there, and is most days, but it still makes you think. Sectarian violence happens all over the world, and here we are touring and taking pictures. Can you do the same thing in Gaza? In Rwanda? On our own borders? Would you want to? It was strange. Our guide was amazing, though, having lived through most of it himself and lost a brother to the bombs in the mid 80s.

On an entirely different note, I hiked about 2 miles out to the slips where the Titanic and sister ships Olympic and Brittanic were built and first put into the sea. Somber in an entirely different way, but a really well done exhibit including a ride that takes you through all the stories of the shipbuilding structure. That was really cool.

Belfast was over too quickly-I would love to come back and spend more time visiting the smaller museums (many were closed on the Monday) and getting to know it better. I would probably choose a different hostel too-this one was definitely a “dude hostel” there were some other women there, but all the visible staff were men, the food was free but terrible, the cleanliness marginal, and I had earwigs in the sleeping room. Bleh. But only one night.

Took the Bus to Dublin Monday night-no worries there, slept some in the darkness. Walked to my hostel, found I was the only resident in the 4 bed room (score one for this introvert!). And passed. Out.

Being in Dublin re activated my “touristiness” complicated by the fact that all of the things I want to see were in opposite corners of the city, and I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the bus routes, I bought one of those hop on hop off tour bus things and rode it all around for the day.

Dublin Highlights:

  • Kilmainham Gaol-long history of political prisoners during Ireland’s struggle for freedom, overcrowded during the Famine, evocative and a little scary. Sadly, under new renovation and not all areas were available. Solid tour guide though.
  • O’Connell St-shopping area, dominated by many memorials, many bearing bullet wounds from the 1916 Easter Rising. Excellent pho. (I’m not feeling great. Need soup for life).
  • Temple Bar-shops, restaurants, half real/half manufactured charm and character. Where I’ll stay Thursday and Friday nights.
  • River Liffey and Hapenny Bridge, one of many bridges over the river that divides Dublin north and south.
  • Trinity College and Book of Kells-truly astonishing artwork, incredibly preserved. Seems impossible. They turn a page every day, and that day’s page was the scene where Jesus walked on water. I discerned the word “ambullae”, so of course, now I feel smart like a monk. Also, the long room which inspired the Great Hall in Harry Potter
  • Lovely breakfast at Gerry’s, chatting with locals and enjoying my first good cup of coffee in five cities.

And so, the saga of the tour…

In researching cost effective ways to get from Dublin to Galway and back, I landed on a tour bus company offering that exact thing, at a really great price. So I booked it a long time ago. I printed my ticket before I left, but none of the fine print, and as I said, haven’t had the greatest wifi in the world lately. Yesterday, I stopped into the tour office to see if it was ok to bring all my luggage since I was staying overnight. The lady there looked at my ticket and said, “yeah, no problem”, and then she gave me a flier and said “you’ve also booked this tour, so here’s info about your tour”. Ok, cool, didn’t know I booked a tour, but I made this booking over a month ago, so cool.

Got on the bus this morning no problem, settled in, coffee in hand, and rode to Galway, excited about the day. The bus only stopped in Galway proper for about 5 minutes to switch drivers, and I would swear that no one said a word about “shuttle passengers”. And hen the bus took off for a tour of the rural “Burren” area, bound ultimately for the Cliffs of Moher. It was a lovely day. We stopped at several incredible views, Neolithic burial sites, abbeys from the 12th century, and defensive round towers from Napoleanic times. We stopped for lunch at a tiny pub (steak and Guinness stew. Amazing). And then headed up to the Cliffs themselves. Truly, truly amazing. The cell phone pics won’t do it justice, so I’ll post more when I’m back in the states. (In…3 days…sigh). A beautiful, mind blowing, perfect day. Until we got back to the bus station and I found out I was a stowaway-ha! I was supposed to intuit getting off the bus this morning, apparently. Lucky for me, the lady thought it was funny and only charged me five euro for the day. So I still win. An adventure, and a complete accident, but an awesome outcome. New hostel for the night. Crowded, but clean enough. One night here, most of the day tomorrow, and then it’s back to Dublin.

Edited to add: picture loading not working at all! Instagram 🙂 RaineanneMKE


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