Hello all, it’s been a while since I did one of these, I have actually been tied up here (figuratively, not literally) doing what we planned – travelling Europe.
I have been through Ireland, up the West coast through Sligo up to Belfast, back down through the East coast to Dublin, on to Budapest, train through to Prague, back into Galway for a week and then on to Barcelona, Malaga, Paris and home to Galway. It’s definitely been a great time, we saw plenty and did a bunch of things but that’s only a typical “man summary” of a trip, I’m about delve into the details for a lot of the trip, it was such an amazing experience, it needs to be shared, to be honest, I need to do another trip to all of these places again! I will let you all know how it was exploring Ireland in this post and then will hit a city per post! Not a lot of jiu jitsu to talk about in here but hey, travelling the world is one of the best educations you can give yourselves and your kids! So, strap into your seat and get your read on!
First of all, we had my wife’s aunt and uncle travel over from New Zealand and we thought hey, we need to show them how cool Ireland is, trouble was, we hadn’t really even traveled throughout our new home country that much!
To remedy this, my wife planned a big road trip, we hired a car for them to drive but after all the flying they had done, jet lag had set in and we ended up with me driving our car and my wife driving the rental. This was a huge thing as a lot of you know, my delayed ass didn’t get a license until later in life and to make matters worse, I struggled moving back to a manual car again when we moved here! The weird part was I used to drive a manual delivery van in Christchurch in city traffic but for some reason, just kept over thinking the situation too much here. Baptism by fire turned out to the best thing here for me, I had no choice but to get over myself and now, I am so much more comfortable driving again. So, back to the story.
First of all we drove up through to Sligo for an overnight stop, the scenery in Ireland is very much like New Zealand, the lovely green paddocks, trees, farms and these amazing small towns. The biggest difference is the roads in Ireland are narrow, it takes a while to get used to barely being able to fit 2 cars on a road but factor in that you are driving in different direction, especially at 80-100km per hour! The danger factor aside, the driving is very good here and people are very patient and will always move over to let you passed but you need to make sure you do the same at times! There are random castles or old homesteads along the way which are amazing to see, these can be up to 400 years old and still standing! They are not inhabited but they are still there, looking like a scene from Highlander! There are also stonewalls lining the roads, these are a sight to behold. These have been here for centuries as well and stood the true test of time…..and rain! All in all, the driving is great as there is so much to see and take in. On the way through, my wife decided we should detour to the town of Knock. This is the town where the Pope had just recently visited and has the famous Knock Shrine. What we didn’t take into account was it was Sunday and honestly, I thin every single person in the town had taken a car each, parked these wherever they could congesting the road and to add insult to injury, there were also about 2000 cars driving on the road as well! Yay, just how I like to drive, at 2km per hour, on a hill, constantly stopping and having to handbrake start or rev the sheeit out of the car to avoid the stall! After about 20 hours, we managed to finally get back on the road, a little shaken but not stirred. Onwards to the next leg.
This was something else. I know it is still Ireland except they are still part of the United kingdom, but it is like a sudden change, the road signs are in miles, shit, even my Google maps turned against me and started talking to me in miles and shit! It felt like we had driven through a force field, it was a nice change though, right up to after we had lunch and the bill was in pounds!
Anyways, small problems require small solutions, we shared the bill and we paid our part later lol! We headed on to take a look at the Giants Causeway. For anyone who does not know what this is, I highly suggest looking it up in this Wikipedia link here, it is an amazing sight to behold. There are large hexagonal columns caused by a volcanic eruption which have cooled and dried into the amazing shapes they are, looking like natural cobblestones and pillars. Now, this may not sound too amazing but like most nature made phenomenon, they really do need to be seen to experience the true beauty and amazement, words cannot express how cool this was. To be completely honest, I did not fully understand how they occurred the way they did, even with the fantastic information provided by the tour headsets but there is a great local legend that was about 2 giants who were supposed to do battle, the Causeway was built by the giant Finn McCool so he could battle the second giant, Benandonner. In the legend, Finn was considerably smaller so he ran home and his wife disguised him as a baby. When Benandonner saw the size of the “baby”, he assumed that the father Finn must be the biggest giant out there so he took off, knocking down the bridge so that he could not be followed thus causing the beautiful natural sight we see today.
Belfast bound again. We went back into Belfast city for our stay. This was also an experience. If anyone has been to Ireland, there is next to no parking in the cities and towns, this doesn’t mean they won’t park though! I ended up navigating the one way system (doing 2 laps) before I managed to just pull up behind my wife and turn on the hazard lights! We had our night rest and the next day we headed to the Titanic museum. This, believe it or not, is an amazing tour. There is so much information to take in, there are rides, a “motion master” style moving picture which makes it feel like you are moving through the Titanic levels. You end up learning so much about the time period, the work conditions, the amazing work ethics of the people then. You get taken on a trip right through from the development of the plan through to the tragic demise of the ill fated maiden voyage. I was loaded with Irish history, legends, scenery and great times and this was only the start of the travels, drove on to Dublin ready to catch a flight for the next stage in the trip, Budapest, which I will tell all about my experiences next time!