Sunday, September 27, 2009

Belfast, Ireland and the Giant's Causeway--August 30

While playing trivia on the ship, we realized we suck at the Flags category. Even some of the countries we have been to, we didn't know the flag. So I decided each new country I blog about, I'll post the flag.

Here is Ireland's...

We’re heading to see the Giant’s Causeway about two hours north of Belfast. Of course, along the way…more scenery!

The popular mythology attributes the creation of the Causeway to an Irish giant named Finn MacCool. To prove his superior strength and status, Finn decided to fight against a rival Scottish giant named Benandonner. As there was no boat large enough to carry huge Finn across the sea to confront Benandonner, he built his own pathway of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. He then was able to walk across the sea without getting his feet wet.

You can see the bus on the right side going down the road to the causeway. You could walk up and down, or take the shuttle. We decided to walk down and take the shuttle back up.

Here we are just starting out…

The setting is spectacular and so far the rain is holding off.

Here is the “other” explanation of how the rocks were formed. Of course, the Irish choose to believe their version. The Causeway is an astonishing complex of over 38,000 mainly hexagonal shaped basalt columns packed closely together as if to form “stepping stones” out to sea towards Scotland. The columns were formed over 60 million years ago by the cooling and shrinking of molten lava from a vast volcanic eruption that formed the Antrim plateau.

You can see the people standing on the Giant’s Causeway in the distance.

As you get closer to the Causeway, you begin to see evidence of the rock formations.

Here you can see that the rocks are actually forming stepping stones.

It’s amazing how the stones were formed in the hexagonal shape.

Nature is just stunning!

Some of the rocks are short steps and some are large columns.

The Causeway heading into the sea...Like Peggy’s Cove, this can actually be quite a dangerous spot when the waves are high. It started to rain and the rocks got very slippery.

The other side of the Causeway showing the height of some of the columns...

The cliffs behind Jim also are basalt columns. We spent three hours at the Giant’s Causeway and it still wasn’t enough time to take in all the paths available for exploring. You would need a whole day to really take it all in. It started to rain and we headed up to the cafĂ© for lunch.

On the way back to Belfast, we stopped at Dunluce Castle. This castle dates from the 14th century, but most of the structure dates from 16th and 17th century.

The 30 m high cliff on which the castle is built is not hard columnar basalt like the Giant’s Causeway, but a softer type that is inclined to erode. Some walls of the castle have collapsed and it has been decided not to restore the castle but to enjoy what remains.

After leaving the castle, we noticed these black specks in the water. It turns out that this is a great area for surfing.

Back in Belfast, the bus driver brought us on a quick tour of the city. We had noticed during the day that no mention was made of the “troubles” in Belfast as they call it. This was the first time that the city’s past was brought up.

There is evidence of rebuilding throughout the city centre. The tour guide said you would hardly recognize the downtown area as being the same city. There are new stores, cafes, pubs, and condominiums. Everywhere you look is construction. He said it’s not perfect, but a city with new hope. For the first time since the 1980s, there are restaurants and pubs with outdoor patios. You would never have seen people sitting outside in the past.

City Hall with the Belfast Wheel in the background...

City Hall with a statue of Queen Victoria in front... She granted the city its charter in 1901 just before she died.

This seems to sum up their hope for the future. You could tell the tour guide was proud of what was happening. He said he hoped we would feel differently about Belfast having seen it and that we would feel safe to return.

Tomorrow we have a sea day…and we can’t wait!!

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