Where I’ve Been #9: Wales & Northern Ireland, Spring 2010Posted: August 3, 2016
Welcome to Travel Month on 14 Shades of Grey! While I’m off to Europe, please enjoy these posts about travels I’ve done in the past.
After a day and a half in London, I took a bus (it was cheaper than train) to Aberystwyth, Wales, where I stayed with some friends for a couple of days. I’m glad I went there instead of more popular Welsh towns like Cardiff, because it’s quieter and feels more authentic somehow. And even though I didn’t take the train from London, my love for train travel was more than fulfilled when I took the steam train on the Vale of Rheidol Railway to see Devil’s Bridge and Mynach Falls. You can’t help but feeling a bit like a Victorian day-tripper as you rattle along in a steam train through the Welsh landscape. Everything was unbelievably green, even to eyes used to lush tropical vegetation like mine. It was beautiful.
From Aberystwyth, I took the train to Edinburgh, but Scotland needs its own post, so I’m going to skip ahead to Northern Ireland. I’ve always had a soft spot for Northern Ireland because my favorite band of all time, Snow Patrol, came from there. Belfast is a perfectly lovely city (pro tip: I stayed in Queen’s University area, which is near the beautiful botanic garden and has a lot of nice, cheap places to eat), but it didn’t leave a lot of impressions on me, except for all the sad and violent history I heard on the walking tour of the city.
No, the highlight of my Northern Ireland trip is the Giant’s Causeway day tour. When we left Belfast, it was a hazy, cloudy morning, but as we got closer to the coast, it began to clear up, and I finally understood why Ireland is called “The Emerald Island”. I wish I could’ve stayed longer and seen more of the coast.
As for the Giant’s Causeway, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a stretch of basalt rock columns, which according to legend, is the remnant of a causeway built by a giant to meet his foe. It looks unreal – as you can see (we have something similar in Vietnam, called the Cliff of Stone Plates, but it’s much smaller):
We also stopped by the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge, a rope bridge strung between the mainland and a tiny island. I’m terribly scared of heights, so I didn’t know what possessed me to walk across it, but I did! Twice! (Well, the second time I had no choice. Once you reach the island, you have to cross the bridge again to get back, or else they’ll have to send out a helicopter to get you.)
Now, I’m going to close this post with a cautionary tale. See, I flew into Belfast from Edinburgh, but I flew out of Belfast back to London, so I booked my flights with two different airlines. What I didn’t know was that Belfast has two airports, and these airlines don’t operate out of the same one. You can probably guess what happened: on the day of my flight, I went to the first airport, only to realize I couldn’t find my check-in counter anywhere. Luckily there was a shuttle between the two airports, and I arrived early enough that I managed to make it to the other airport on time. So the moral of the story is: always go to the airport early, and for God’s sake, check your ticket!