IRELAND: Part Three, Derry (Special Episode)
This pic came out a little blurry, but I still like it. It's strange, like Derry.
Coming back from the Causeway Coast, we made our way in to Derry. It was Val's birthday, and time for a birthday dinner. We parked the car in a ramp that was open until 9:15pm, after passing two ramps that said open until 7pm but had closed early. We walked around mostly closed businesses and open pubs, and saw some young guy trying to get his girlfriend to wake up and not sleep on the sidewalk (We assumed she was drunk...). Eventually we were overlooking the Bogside neighborhood, home to the events of Bloody Sunday, back in 1972. We decided to take in the murals from afar, rather than hike down the hill and back up again...
What we really wanted was to figure out how to get onto the walls of Derry to walk around "The Walled City". We realized you had to pass through one of the entrance gates and then access the wall stairs from the INSIDE of the Walled City.
We walked around two corners worth of wall, and clearly Derry has a had a long history of trouble, and a long history of defending itself, sometimes in more recent history, from itself.
We came down from the wall, and tried to go find another piece of Val history, "Sandino's" a bar that Val and Jenna and the rest of their group had been to a decade earlier. We found it, realized our £s were in the car, found a cash machine, then returned for a pint of Smithwicks. The bartender was playing "SMILE" at a healthy volume, and a strange cast of characters kept emerging from a doorway that led upstairs. Val seemed to remember it was a "performance" space or something of the sort, so we guessed at what their common bond might be.
After our pints, we were in search of food, and after checking a few pubs without food, we asked for a suggestion. "Back down the hill and there you'll find some good restaurants." so back from whence we came. Upon returning to the corner with the youth and his drunk girlfriend, we realized there were a few more people hovering around her and one of them was on a cell phone trying to get an ambulance to come. She was apparently ODing on heroin, and nobody could get her to sit or stand up. The phone woman was trying to tell the operator that they could figure out the address if they'd just put the intersection into their computer, and never mind that just send the ambulance. We had no help to offer so we watched for a moment and continued walking. A few minutes further around the block we heard and saw the ambulance, so we hoped for the best.
Not to make light of someone's unfortunate situation, but I wish someone had hoped the best for us. We sat down at not one, but two different restaurants and decided we were creeped out by their vibes and got up and left. We chose a "sushi" place across the street from strike two, and were awkwardly surprised. It wasn't bad, but not unlike pizza, every country has a slightly different take on sushi. It was filling, reasonably priced (for Ireland, at least), and Val had a sake and I had a Sapporo, so all was not lost.
After "dinner" we headed back into our shopping complex/parking ramp and picked up a Belgian chocolate tart dessert and a few bottles of wine.
Outta the ramp and Derry, and back to the Republic for "cheaper" gas. We filled our nearly empty 10 gallon tank for €50, and we were on our way back to the farmhouse for dessert and a little Shiraz.
I don't hold it against Derry, but I think I still owe Val her birthday dinner...
NEXT: Back on the road...to Galway!
IRELAND: Part Two, Dublin to Lifford
Sunday, June 14
Awoke to the smell of fried breakfast, and overcast skies. Showered (refreshed!), dressed, and proceeded downstairs for
1) bowl of muesli w/yogurt
2) Irish brown bread with Irish butter
3) plate of "fried", comprised of
a) sausage links (4)
b) ham bacon(2)
c) fried egg (1)
d) another type of sausage (1)
e) "egg bake" (1)
f) fried toast (just what it sounds like) (1)
g) tomato wedges (4)
4) toasted, non-fried toast
5) french press coffee
not partaken of were the cheeses, scones, and other cereals. This prepared me for the day of driving ahead. We were off from Dun Laoghaire, north to Lifford, about 140 miles, but first a detour to Dublin International to retrieve my misplaced camera. We parked in the short-term ramp, called Aer Lingus at the Baggage Phone, and went to meet the baggage claim rep. Ten minutes later I had my camera back and we were back on the road north, to Lifford.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Mongahan, then back on the road until we found our farmhouse B&B in Lifford, a bit outside of Derry. Checked in, took a nap, and then took a walk with Rocky, the farm dog.
We decided to "stay in" for the evening, and bought cheese and crackers and some other snacks, along with a bottle of wine. Back at the farm, we settled down in front of the laptop to watch a DVD episode of Cracker that we had brought across the pond. (More on our Cracker obsession in another post.)
Monday, June 15
Another fantastic breakfast, then a quick stop in Derry for an ATM with pounds sterling. Ireland uses the Euro, but Northern Ireland uses pounds. We needed ponds to pay our admission to our first destination, the Old Bushmills Distillery.
We learned many things, saw the triple distillation process, and got a choice of sample whiskey at the end of our tour. It was a fine beginning to our day.
From the distillery we headed up the coast to the Giant's Causeway, a natural (or created by giants, perhaps) rock formation that looks very unnatural.
After a take-away sandwich lunch from the Causeway Café, Val introduced me to something called the 99, a soft serve ice cream cone with a stick of chocolate flake. Perfect treat!
Onward to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. A short drive and a little hike along the coast gets you to the bridge.
Just as we got to the little line to wait to cross the bridge (only 8 people on the bridge at a time, please) a classic Irish mist rolled in along the coast. It was like we had called ahead and requested the scene.
Our turn to cross the bridge, and a little walk around a little island.
Next, to the ruins of Dunluce Castle, originally located on the coast in the 1200s for defensive purposes, which eventually backfired in the 1600s when half the kitchen fell into the sea one evening. We didn't stay for dinner.
You may also recognize the Causeway and the Castle from Led Zeppelin's Houses of the Holy, if you've ever owned that LP.
After the Causeway coast, we headed back toward Derry for the evening and some dinner. It seemed like a simple enough idea, but I will save our Derry experience for my next post.