Liverpool, the Antrim Coast and the Giant's Causeway
17.08.2010 17 °C
Well folks, I'm all dressed up for the formal night, and after a lovely dinner and a show, mum and dad are going to bed. That leaves me with in a silk dress with my hair up and nails done...typing at the computer.
Now, I believe I left off in Dublin, after the Blarney Stone and the Guinness Storehouse. We crossed the English Channel (or the Irish Sea?) to go to Liverpool, home of the Fab Four; many of the shore excursions were geared towards Beatles fans, so I decided to go off on my own. Mum and dad decided to tag along, which explains why we ended up in the Maritime Museum looking at an exhibit on the Lusitania, the Titanic and the Empress of Ireland. Normally I wouldn't have minded, but I had little time in Liverpool and wanted to explore and shop. I did enjoy walking along the historic Albert Dock, which has a fabulous resto-bar The Pumphouse; I finally got Dad to drink something other than Guinness - a local cask ale (don't remember the name) that he pronounced to be watery. I discovered Tetley's Extra Cold Bitter Beer - it is quite smooth and refreshing. The rest of the day was spent on the Hop On-Hop Off tour bus with mom; no shopping. : (
I did get to see the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King with its circular stained class tower window depicting the Trinity. The organ inside is massive and the organist was playing it when I went inside; the music matched the dramatic design and decor. It is quite striking on the landscape with its modern architecture, particularly compared to the Liverpool Cathedral, the Anglican behemoth...it was built to be the biggest cathedral in Liverpool, and I must say they accomplished it. I wanted to go in, but the dark clouds were gathering so we headed back to the ship. Liverpool was nice to see - another port where we just got a little teaser. I probably won't be back, since cathedrals and the Cavers club aren't enough to draw me back.
At 5pm the captain swung the ship around and we were on our way to the last Irish port, Belfast. One of the bonuses of this trip is seeing the sea and lovely towns from our balcony when we wake up, but in Belfast I woke up to see container ships and cranes! Dublin was the same, but at least I was able to see a bit of the city. For Belfast, all I saw of the city was the cranes, crates, and a few housing development on our way to the Antrim coast. Alas, I'll have to add it to my next trip's intinerary! Now, enough complaining, because we actually had a beautiful day - our tour guide told us that they had had five weeks of rain, which stopped two days before we arrived. Because the Giant’s Causeway didn’t open to tour busses before 10am, our guide took us on a scenic drive of the Antrim coast and a photo stop at Dunluce castle ruins. Not much to say about those…picturesque ruins overlooking lovely views of the sea. I don't know if I'd pay to go visit the inside of the ruins.
Like the Cliffs of Moher, we couldn't have asked for better weather to visit the Giant's Causeway. For those who don't know anything about the Causeway, there are two explanation for the hexagonal interlocking basalt coloums and stepping stones: a volcano eruption 50 or 60 million years ago, or that it was built by the Irish warrior Finn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool). Legend says that the giant Finn lived on the Antrim coast with his giantess wife Oonagh and he had a falling out with the Scottish giant Bennandonner. He built the Causeway to go confront the Scot, but when he saw him he lost his nerve. His wife, being intelligent, swaddled Finn and pretended he was the baby. When the Scot giant saw the huge baby, he figured the father must be gigantic and would be unbeatable, so he ran back to Scotland and destroyed the linking causeway.
Whatever you believe, it is an amazing sight to see. Yes it's cliffs, rocks and surf, but it is beautiful. I walked down to the sea, and it is incredible to see these coloumns that were created in the exact same shape, just at different heights. The causeway is formed in a W shape, with two "amphitheater" formations. The stepping stones vary at different heights and lead down to the sea. The pathway to the lookout point is not one to take lightly - one stumble sends you tumbling down to the rocks. The staircase up the cliff has a railing, but the rest is at your own risk. It's a good hike, if you choose the go the whole way and then take the staircase up, but the view you get at the top is worth it. I also highly recommend the gift shop...good selection of locally-made crafts and food, and I got my second merino wool sweater (I couldn't resist!).
Anyhow, the tour took most of the day and all of my energy, so we said goodbye to Ireland by waving to the dockhands. I'll be back...as the Irish say, Slán go fóill! (Goodbye for now)!