Glasgow proved to be a welcome respite from the ugly Scottish weather and brought amazing food, a spot called Ox and Finch proffered a tasty lunch the likes of Girl & the Goat, and gave us a nice sense of Scottish city life. The shopping on the main strip rivaled our own Mag Mile and I narrowly avoided the purchase of a fabulous new Ted Baker wool coat; RyanAir’s baggage fee threatening my happiness again…
On Wednesday we had the chance to learn about Scotland’s finest export at the Glengoyne distillery, one that has been in operation since 1833. We sipped on their 12 year while a kilted ginger lass regailed us on the honored tradition and very scientific production of a pure single malt in her pleasant Scottish lilt. The tour was fascinating and definitely the perfect finale to toast our travels with Andrew! (Stay tuned for his guest blog post soon…)
After we bid him adieu, we boarded a 30 minute flight to Belfast City airport. We walked to our surprisingly nice hostel downtown (appreciating our private room), and blessed with a fellow traveler’s suggestion, we dined on the Irish version of Chipotle called Boojum. It was almost as good…but I must tip my hat to their fantastic verde salsa!
Thursday morning began one of our favorite days thus far. My friend, Lisa, who has enjoyed frequent visits to see family in Ireland, expertly encouraged us to see Giant’s Causeway while in Northern Ireland. So on her recommendation, we began a 9-hour coach bus excursion with a hilarious guide named Derick, a big fan of Coldplay and Liverpool football.
While driving along the Irish coastline, frequently ranked among the world’s top ten, and on one of the best weather days our guide has seen in 3 weeks to boot (!!!), we caught amazing views of the Glens, small fishing villages, breathtaking landscapes, and many-a-sought-after golf courses. Lucky for us, Derick shares our passion for what he dubs “the greatest television show in the world right now”, Game of Thrones, and pointed out Castle Black and the location of the battle of Blackwater Bay; the coastline the backdrop to 80% of the show’s footage! Who knew?! Although technically off limits for him to point out to his tourists due to his company’s responsibility for toting hundreds of extras, or wildlings, to and fro during filming, he risked getting in trouble to our delight. His tip secured!
Highlights other than the Causeway itself, a harrowing rope bridge, and a lunch stop at Ireland’s oldest distillery, Bushmills (my ‘cheeky’ commentary earning us a couple free drams), were our two new comrades: Alex and Michaela, both friendly solo travelers that added to the enjoyment of the day. Alex, a quadrilingual, dreadlock-sporting Brazilian environmental engineering masters student from Germany (say that three times fast), who doubled up his course load in the first semester in order to travel half the year (crazy), just completed a three week hitchhiking adventure through Scandinavia and encouraged us to leverage my blonde hair to get free rides ourselves. Don’t worry, Mom, we will be using the train like everyone else! He had an affection for the black sheep we saw along the way, tapping me on the head upon each sighting, and we bonded over our writing aspirations as he currently is working on a fantasy book reviewing his travels.
Michaela is an Indiana-bred recent college grad who opted for early graduation in order to spend the next four months touring Europe before starting grad school for psychology. She was the only other girl laughing at our guide’s dirty jokes so we quickly bonded. I am impressed by her bravery to travel alone and we picked up a few tips that she has picked up from her research and travels so far. I am looking forward to following her blog as our routes diverge after Ireland.
We hope to squeeze in a black cab tour to learn the political history of Belfast tomorrow morning before we bus down to Dublin. I’m just updating the blog before we try to get a good night’s sleep; a feat that will prove challenging given the party four Frenchmen chugging Smirnoff Ice have started around the dining room table in our hostel. They’re convinced the French invented the card game, “Asshole”, and even encouraged us to try their homemade cherry liquor concoction that they drummed up. DeRose family consensus is that we may be a bit too old for the hostel life, but we’ll see how we fare in the group bunk room in Dublin over the weekend.
Here are a few of the 200+ photos that Dan snapped along the way! Check out that rainbow; one of many we saw today!