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The Family Bandwagon

Our family is spread out across the country and across the world, and what better way to keep in touch than a collaborative digital journal?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Our Pre-Xmas Trip

One of the benefits of living in the UK is how easy it is to travel. We decided to make the most of Bruce's leave with a quick trip to Northern Ireland before Christmas. On Thursday 19th we flew out of Bristol. We caught the coach from Cardiff and it dropped us right at the airport. It's only a short flight across to Belfast and on arrival we collected the tiny hire car that would take us around for the four days.

After a lovely dinner with one of my work mates, we headed to the hotel. We arrived at 11.10pm and found a sign on the door that said "Check in by 11pm or your room will be re-sold"!! We phoned the manager and our room had indeed been re-sold!! However, after some discussion and a half-hour wait, we had somewhere to sleep that wasn't the car! 

Our day in Belfast started with Paddy's Black Cab Tours - our driver, Sam, was great. He told us about the troubles and took us to some of the main areas - Protestant murals near Shankill Road, the Peaceline (a wall longer and higher than the Berlin wall with gates that are still shut at night and weekends), and a Catholic remembrance garden. He dropped us off near the town hall and even gave us an umbrella (because the weather was damp). There was a Christmas Market at the town hall, so we had a look around before wandering around the city centre. It's much the same as any other city - shops, cafes, a sight-seeing dome on the top of the shopping centre(!).. There was lots for us to see.. and that was without going anywhere near the Titanic!

The next day we headed west (go west, young man) to the highest sea cliffs in the country, Slieve League. Our teeny tiny hire car didn't have guts but it managed to get us from one side of the country to the other. Eventually we found the parking for the lookout - or so we thought. We walked up the hill to discover that the lookout was another couple of miles along! A short drive later we had the chance to admire the view. Bruce went for a wander even further up the hill.

From here it was more narrow and winding roads to the thatched cottage which was our bed for the night. Beautiful building with slate floors and an open fire. We ate at Leo's Tavern - a pub owned by the father or Enya and Clannad - and chanced upon Rudolph enjoying a pint. :-)

Day Three had us driving back into Northern Ireland and over to the Giant's Causeway - columns of basalt, formed by a volcanic eruption or a giant who threw them into the sea to make a path to Scotland.... We parked, paid our exorbitant entry fee (thanks National Trust) and collected our audio guide. The stones were quite a walk from the visitor's centre and by the time we arrived we were frozen! I'm sure the audio guide tells you some interesting things but my hands were too cold to work the buttons. We might have to visit again in summer (and walk from the Inn - it's free if you don't park or get the audio guide).

We had planned to visit Bushmill's Distillery on Day Four but it was closed for Christmas (d'oh!). So we headed along the coast to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. Fortunately, the bridge was open (weather was a bit dodgy, so we weren't sure it would be), so we paid our fee and went for another walk. The bridge crosses to a little island that used to be used for salmon fishing. To be honest, I think the steps down to the bridge were scarier than the bridge itself - even though the attendant told us to hold on with both hands on the way over. Having cleared out our cobwebs, we got back into our teeny little car and headed down the costal road - arriving just in time for our return flight.

More photos here: Pre-Xmas Trip 2013

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