Friday, April 10, 2015

Ireland: Carrick-a-rede Bridge and Giant's Causeway

Carrick-a-rede Bridge
Ever since the first time I saw pictures of the Carrick-a-rede bridge several years ago, I've wanted to cross it. When I found out Paddywagon did a tour with a stop there, I had to go. I didn't even care that it wasn't the main attraction, which was the Giant's Causeway, I bought a ticket right there. I didn't even care about going to the causeway, honestly. I boarded my bus around 8 in the morning in Dublin and patiently awaited my destiny. 
On the way there, we stopped at some cool trees that were supposedly used in filming some portion of the Game of Thrones. I'll be honest, they were pretty cool. It was at that stop that I realized two things. First, it was snowing. Second, the wind was blowing. Like a lot. When we got back on the bus, our driver crushed my soul with a single sentence, "the carrick-a-rede bridge is closed due to high winds, so we aren't going to be able to cross it." Thanks, wind! 

We did still go to the bridge though. It's a little over half a mile from the gift shop to the bridge and most people on the tour bus opted to have a nice cup of hot chocolate at the restaurant in the gift shop instead of making the trip. I, however, was not missing this opportunity. I said screw the wind! and started walking. The wind was so high that I was pretty sure I was going to turn into a human kite and fly into the ocean a couple times. I'm really glad nobody had any children there. 
On my way out to the bridge, it actually started sleeting! Then a fellow coming the other way stopped me and said, "be careful, there's a wall of rain coming this way!" And pointed behind me. When I looked and saw the downpour headed for me, I just laughed and said to myself, the only thing that could make this any better is if the wind actually threw me into the ocean!! Then I promptly knocked on the wooden fence along the trail, cause nobody needs that bad ju ju. About that time I found an older British lady who was just as determined as I was and we did our best to act as paperweights for each other for the rest of the hike. 

At the bridge a stout gentleman there saw my complete lack of qualifications in the area of paper weighting 100 pound old ladies in 60 mph winds, and took over for me. Since the half mile trek back was into the wind, I had to grabbed my coat hood from the inside with one hand and pulled it down over my face because the wind was making my eyes tear up. Then I ran. Or tried to. In normal conditions, the pace I was setting would have been a steady 7:30 mile, but I'm pretty sure that's how long it took me to make it the half mile back to the gift shop. 

I may not have gotten to cross the bridge, but I'm pretty happy with having to gotten see it. Plus, it costs money to cross the bridge, and I didn't have to pay! And there were no crowds!! What more can you ask for?

Giant's Causeway
The Giant's Causeway was the next stop after the carrick-a-rede bridge. I'm told that on a clear day you can see Scotland from there. I kinda had to laugh at the thought of a clear day in Ireland, cause I didn't see one the whole week that I was there. 

It was still insanely windy and cold, so I paid the 2£ to ride the shuttle down to the causeway from the visitor center instead of taking the "15 minute hike" to the bottom. There was a lady at the bottom with an infant. Woman was nuts, but must have incredible grip strength cause the wind was measured at 60mph with higher gusts. I won't lie, I was thoroughly unimpressed with the hexagonal rocks. What did impress me though, was when I let myself fall into the wind and it actually held me up! I did that for as long as I could stand the cold and got some foreigner to get a photo of me. Then I paid attention to the rocks.. There was some kind of officer there making sure no one climbed on the rocks, but while someone else was distracting him, I grabbed a guy from Minnesota, gave him my phone, asked him to get a picture for me, and climbed the rocks. 
 

As soon as the next shuttle came around, I jumped back on and rode to the top. There wasn't much to hold my attention in the huge visitors center though, so I did what I do best. I found food. There was a restaurant in the visitors center, but who wants to eat at a visitors center? There's a tiny little restaurant just down the hill that looks more like a cottage. They had a bar and a few open fires. I grabbed a seat next to the fire and had what will probably the best soup and sandwhich combo I'll ever have. And a hard cider. I'm pretty sure I'll never be satisfied by food in the United States again. 
I doubt I'll ever pay that much for soup and a sandwhich ever agin either though. Since  Northern Ireland is technically still a part of the UK, they don't use the Euro, they use the pound. So the 12£ i paid for my meal seemed fairly reasonable. Until I did the math and realized I had just paid about $25.. I still probably should have gotten another cider though. The one wasn't enough to keep me warm for long after I stepped outside.