Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Northern Ireland

Been a few days since I updated this again. James and I are currently on our way back form Northern Ireland. We were there for a night. We drove up yesterday morning. Left his house around 7 am and then arrived in Belfast around 2:30ish. On the way to Belfast we made a pit stop in Killough, but I will get to all of that later.

James had his endoscopy on Friday so we basically just took it easy by taking walks around the farm and watching movies. Saturday was basically another laid back day again. Which was nice. I love my trip here. I have experienced way more than any other tourist that comes to Ireland. I even have learned the littlest things like hitting someone when you see a yellow reg. Which is basically like what we do in America when you see a Slug bug. A Yellow Reg is a british car that has a yellow liscence plate.

Anyways....on Sunday James and I drove over to the River Shannon and Clonmacnoise. It was so neat. We saw an ancient monastry. The crosses for the graves were huge and very pretty. Then there was a tower that the monks of the monastry would all climb in and hide from the vikings. The entrance was pretty high. They would have a wooden ladder to get up into it then when they were all in there they would burn the ladder so the vikings couldnt get to them. There were also little chapels throughout and I thought that was neat. None of them have roofs now but it was neat to step inside and see a few grave markers in the ground and whatnot. For being part of a cemetary it sure was pretty.

Then bright and early Monday morning James and I were off to Northern Ireland. I was a little disappointed when we got to the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic. There are no signs whatsoever welcoming you to the North. All you get is a sign that says “Speed limits in miles per hour”. Kind of took away from the excitement. I still get excited when I see the welcome sign going into a new state. Oh well, life goes on.
After that we got out the good ol Sat Nav (GPS) and was irritated to death by it! Went in circles for about 20 minutes then we were finally set on the right path. Which would be going to Killough. Incase anyone was wondering from me mentioning it in the beginning of the post, I traced back family roots to Killough. My great great Grandad and Granny Hale were from Killough and they are the ones who came over from Ireland and set roots in the United States. Well Granny Margaret was born in Killough, Granddad Patrick was born in Belfast. That was back in the early 1900's, they moved to America in 1909. Killough is a very small town. You practically almost blink and its gone. We stopped at the sign welcoming you into Killough and I got my picture taken and then I called my papa Hale from the exact place where his grandparents lived. It was amazing.
None of this would be possible without James and his family. They have been very generous and welcoming by letting me stay with them for 3 weeks and letting me experience Ireland. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and it has made all my dreams come true. I will always be forever grateful to them for this opportunity. Ireland has always been a place I wanted to visit because of my heritage. I had a laugh because on the radio on the way up to Northern Ireland they were saying that you can actually get a certificate saying your Irish. It’s not claiming citizenship but its for Americans like me and others who have ancestors from Ireland where you can claim your Irish heritage. I think it would be fun to get one.

After visiting Killough we headed for Belfast. By the time we got there it was around 3 pm and that was check in time. So we checked in at the Balmoral Hotel in Belfast. It was a very nice hotel. Cheaper than London and a lot nicer and more spacious by far.
Then we went and had dinner a China King buffet. I think I got James addicted to Chinese food. Which is ok with me! =) haha I would eat it all the time if I could. The Chinese restaraunt was in a neat place. It was on a little mall. Three stories high and it had a place where you can climb a few flights of stairs and look out this dome and see the Belfast skyline. Really neat! Then we saw a Starbucks and we of course had to stop and get a Strawberries and Cream Frappucino. I got James hooked on those too. It was nice to just see the sights and walk around. We took a drive around Belfast as well.

The next morning, after having a really nice breakfast at the hotel we set off back in Belfast city center and took a Titanic walking tour. By far the best £12 spent!! The things we got to see and the history of the Titanic was unbelievable! I was actually in the original room where the Titanic was named and the room where the drawings of the Titanic were drawn. You can definitely tell the building has been there for over one hundred years. I also got a piece of the flooring used in the Titanic. The leftovers from the ship were placed down in the building where the Titanic was thought of so I took a piece of it that was chipped away. Dont worry the tour guide said it was ok as long as it didnt end up on Ebay. =)

Right outside that we were shown where the Titanic sat before it went into the water for the first. Which was Queens Island. In the 1960’s they filled in where the original spot the Titanic sat because they were still embarassed about the sinking of the Titanic, not knowing how big the history and interest of it would be. Now there is a car park sitting there. Basically it was where the hull of the ship was built before it was moved to the Thompson dry dock which was the biggest one in the world at the time but even the Titanic couldnt fit in it. They had to move the gates so it would fit so it could be reaffirmed that it was the biggest man made ship ever made. The Thomspon Dry dock is HUGE! To walk the length of it takes a good few minutes. I ended up taking a video of walking the whole thing. Looking at it from one end to another it looks big, but walking the length of it gives you more of an idea how long it was. There was a White Star Line building and if you stacked it on top of each other 3 times that would be how high the Titanic was then if you add it a fourth time that would equal the height of the 4 big pillars on top. Which I found out something interesting about those that I never knew about. Only 3 of them worked. The fourth one was put on to make the ship look fast and big. The last one wasnt connected to any of the boiler rooms.

Right next to the Thompson Dry Dock was the Pump House. We also were able to go in there and see how that all worked. There was even orginal cots that they carried people who were injured while building the Titanic. 17 men died while building the Titanic over a two year period. The deaths were mainly caused by falls or things being dropped on someones head. Ouch!

As of now Belfast is under heavy construction. There is a Titanic museum being put in as well as a university and hotel right in the area where the Titanic was built. The museum is in the shape of a star and its white as a way to represent the White Star Line. Then there will be a memorial garden next to it in the exact spot that the Titanic and Olympic were built and it will be an outline of both ships to get the feel of how big they were. It opens in 2012 and they are expecting over 500,000 people to visit it in the first year alone. There selling tickets to see it already. I think it would be neat to go back and see that when its all finished.

After seeing all that we took a drive about an hour and a half north and arrived at the Carrick-a-rede-rope bridge. It was the most amazing and fun thing I ever did. The bridge is about 100 feet above the water between two mountains. It wasnt so bad to cross it....for the most part. I was shaking the whole time walking across it. Crossing that bridge was a definite thrill and the pictures are amazing. I even got a certificate saying I crossed it!
Haha It was by far a grand experience that I will remember forever. Climbing through the mountain side to get to the bridge was just unreal. You get a great feeling though once you cross it. It’s only 30 feet across as well. It wasnt so bad if there were one or two people on it but once there were more it was shaky. The sign said only 8 people on the bridge at one time but I’m pretty sure when I was on it there was more than 8. At one time the bridge only had one railing because the fishermen would have their nets in the other hand walking along the bridge. I am super glad that it had two now and that there was two peicces of wood to make it easier to walk across. And I know the saying of “dont look down”, but its so hard not too!

I am definitely having a good time. Thursday were going to Dingle which I am very excited about. Then on Saturday were going to the Wicklow mountains and Dun Laoghaire (Leery) as well as going around Dublin one more time. Then Sunday is my last night in Ireland before I leave back to the states. =( Not really looking forward to it. I miss everyone at home but I definitely dont want to leave here.

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