I kinda had an idea-ish of what I wanted to do for my last day in Ireland. I mean, I had a early Thursday morning flight, so there was still plenty of time for a full day’s worth of events. But I kinda dun-goofed on my planning, and assumed I could do more things on my own than otherwise. Oops.
I went out to Malahide Castle and grounds, because that had been an oft mentioned tourist attraction to visit. (Quick tangent, Ireland has a bunch of castles in various sizes, from the puny little defense towers made of stone to the magnificent ones such as the one at Malahide). The Castle and grounds are open to the people of the nearby town of Malahide, and omg, the gigantic forest and grounds and lawn make for beautiful walks and strolls. I saw plenty of parents w/ kids and strollers just enjoying themselves among the forest of greens. Just gorgeous.
My problem was that I didn’t know I needed a ticket for a guided tour at 9.30am, and that tour intervals were every hour. So even though I’d gotten there at 9.15am, I wandered around aimlessly, and found out after 9.30am about the tours. Wasted an hour there. Oops. But the tour was nice. The Talbots held the castle in their family for something like 700 years? And just recently gave it up in the early 20th century for historical preservation purposes or the like. The Talbots were originally a family from Normandy, France and had curried favor with the then King of England who had given them lands and responsibilities here. And thus, the early Talbots built the castle. Inside the castle, the preservation group had managed to retain several artifacts of furniture dating back a couple hundred years, with the oldest being close to 700 years old (*whistle*). There’s also a pair of sofa seats that s’posedly once sat Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Crazy.
So after Malahide, I’d planned to head up to Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK. Yeah, I’d be leaving the country before leaving the country. And I’d mapped my way from Malahide to the airport to Belfast, taking advantage of the frequent buses from the airport. Smart right? Except, buses from Malahide were on a 30 minute schedule, and for some reason my next bus was a 40 minute wait. God. And then I missed the next bus out of Dublin Airport to Belfast, so there was more waiting around. Tour done at 11.30pm. Malahide bus to airport came at 12.30pm. Dublin airport bus to Belfast left just after 2pm. Got into Belfast just before 4pm. There I go about wasting the day away. Oops.
As I mentioned, Belfast is part of Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK. The remainder of the island belongs to the free state of the Republic of Ireland. But, they do have some travel arrangement allowing people to kinda travel freely between the two countries. So there was no passport check as I went in and out of Belfast (Although, I was hoping to get another stamp in my passport lol). This was also my first foray into the UK, as I’d never been into London or anywhere else on the island of Great Britain. It’s also interesting how many people I met in traveling (hostels, not the Irish locals) that didn’t quite know the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland, let alone the whole UK dealio. I love this CGP Grey video explaining the whole thing.
Belfast was kinda a weird experience. I jumped on a bus tour that took me around the city, because I like to hear the historical tidbits behind things, and a bus tour means I don’t have to walk and see the sights. Win win. Of course, I had to purchase my ticket in Pound Sterling, but only had Euro notes on me. Hooray for credit card’s w/ no forex fees! (Been using my BarclayCard Arrival Plus card for this entire trip). Got to see the Titanic building, which is where the ill-fated ship was built before taking off. I got to see location of Titanic Studios, which is actually the main lot that does all the filming/location work for Game of Thrones in Northern Ireland. (Another tangent: I’d thought of going on a GoT Northern Ireland tour, but that was like €65 only to see various scenes that had minutes of screentime or were CGI-ed so you could barely recognize it.)
Now, coming into Belfast (well, Ireland in general really), I’d no idea of the history at the land at all. Belfast had been a city scarred by a continuous tumultuous history between different factions. There were groups between the Catholic and Protestant factions. There were groups split between wanting independence and wanting to remain with Great Britain. There’s been fighting as recently as the early 1990’s! So when our tour guide mentioned that it’s been nice that the city’s been pretty peaceful the last 20 years, my mind was kinda blown seeing as how recent that is relative to the long expansive history Europe has.
As we drove up and around, there were two major streets kinda housing the two major factions: Falls Rd. and Shankill Rd. Driving through and between them, we saw another famous piece of history: the peace wall. Belfast in and of itself is already a very artsy city, in the urban sense, as there’s a lot of graffiti and murals that can be seen on many walls around town. The peace wall, is a long stretch of walls housing many murals calling for peace or attention to conflicts both local and international. Even the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton have visited the wall and left their touches and cries for peace in the world. Yet, in between the streets connecting Falls Rd and Shankill Rd, there are peace gates that used to close every day at 6pm. The gates on the smaller streets still do, I guess, sorta as a habit, but gates on larger streets don’t close now.
But then I guess, a lot of stores and restaurants also closed at 6pm, as when I got off the city tour, I walked around saw a whole bunch of shops w/ doors down and gates down too. Belfast’s troubled past is serious business, as you could even see some remaining ruins/abandoned places. So, I guess that’s just a heads up if anyone every heads into Belfast one day.
They do have a beautiful city hall though.
Then I bused it back to Dublin Airport and bummed it overnight until my 6:35am flight out of Dublin.
P.S. Also had issues w/ T-mobile’s free int’l data. It just wouldn’t connect up in Belfast. So was completely internet-less (didn’t get get that 2G speed!). That sucked.