Comment below letting me know what your favourite photograph was! 🙂
~ Day 3 ~
Oh what an Irish night that was… For those that were there that night in Derry… Well, it’s our little secret! Lets just say too many Irish named shots (I.e. Irish car bomb, Irish flag, etc.)! But boy! What a night!
We woke up… Not feeling that greatest but still up and out by 9am! I was sad to leave the Paddy’s palace hostel in Derry, because it was the first hostel that felt warm and at home. The staff was cheerful and nice, with Christmas decorations all around, a constant fireplace going and a cute cat. It was fantastic.
Check it out here.
We embarked on a long bus ride to a city that I have been most looking forward to: Galway.
With Shawnie, our Irish bus driver, singing some good ole Irish tunes to get over our morning hangover, we drove through the enchanting Sligo! On the way through, we visited the sacred grave of Ireland’s national poet: Nobel Laureate WB Yates.
Afterwards, we continued on driving through the vast archeological and cultural richness of Ireland’s North West Coast.
As we had a 4 hour bus ride, not including the two stops on the way, we all slept. Well… Tried too. We had a family with two kids on the bus, among many young, wild, party, adolescents, who were probably well rested and bored. So the bus driver put on an Irish kids film about horses… Basically, I’ve never heard so many loud and unnecessary sound effects in my life… Even the music eliciting from my headphones couldn’t drown the noises coming from this headache-inducing movie. I did manage to get 20 mins of sleep; so that’s cool.
We finally arrived at our hostel in Galway (Sleepzone) and I slept in a 12 person room. Besides the unfortunate amount of people I had to sleep in a room with, the hostel was amazing! The staff again were very nice, and the place is beautiful! It doesn’t even look like a hostel! Even better!
Eventually, Freya and I hit the city center in Galway, where we went to the Christmas market, then Eyre Center (where I got my Christmas jumper at Penny’s, aka Primark of Ireland) and ventured to Shop street. You can imagine what was on this street. Loads and loads of little shops! Galway is known for there Claddagh rings, which basically is a heart, in front of two hands, in front of a crown. The heart is for love, hands are for friendship, and the crown is for loyalty. Many locals buy these rings and give them to the ones they love or a great friend. They are very symbolic and Freya ended up getting one of them!
After shopping, we walked around Galway at night and headed back to the hostel to get ready for dinner with the rest of the Paddy Wagoneers! We went to this cool Irish pub called Skeffs and had dinner and strawberry daiquiri’s. We ventured to another local Irish pub (The Quays) with live Irish music, which was really awesome! Reminds me of my favourite Irish pub back home!
That night in Galway was the last night we will be with our other Paddy Wagoneers, as they are all on a 6 day tour of Ireland and Freya and I are on the 10 day tour and continuing to stay in Galway for 3 nights. It was extremely sad to see our new friends go.
We’ve made some amazing friendships on this tour and I wish we could spend more days traveling with them in Ireland.
~ Day 2 ~
After a restless and interesting night in Belfast, I woke up a but earlier then the others because I wanted to check out another place to visit in Belfast: Queens University. I go to Queens University back home in Canada, and it was extremely necessary that I went to visit my home away from home. I only had 20 minutes to visit the campus (due to early time we had to leave Belfast), but what I saw of it on the outside was very beautiful and somewhat similar to my university back home.
I specifically wore my Queens University hoodie that day to take some pictures of me in front of the school.
I’m cool like that.
After my quick visit to Queens University of Belfast (better quick visit then no visit), I hopped on the bus and began a day of touring along the glorious North Coast of Northern Ireland. Our first stop was at the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge which is about 20 meters long and sits about 40 meters above the water. If you’re afraid of heights, you could be scary, but for others, it was a walk in the park. It was about £5 to cross the bridge, but if you don’t want to do the rope bridge, the path along the coast to get to the bridge was free and incredibly beautiful.
We then went to the Giant’s Causeway, which was absolutely breathtaking. The Giant’s Causeway is a geological phenomenon that contains an area of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The columns are a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The Giant’s Causeway is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland.
By coincidence, I ran into Ian, a friend of mine from back home who is on exchange in Scotland. It was just so random and awesome to run into him at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I haven’t seen Ian since my beautiful trip to Perth, Scotland.
After such a scenic and inspiring sight-seeing day, we made our way to historic Derry (also called LondonDerry if you were a Protestant living here). Again, there is still religious conflict and dangerous events happening in this part of Northern Ireland as well. We went on an evening tour of the city and were shown the political murals and told of the historical facts of Derry. We walked to the highest point in the city to overlook the amazing view. We were told of some interesting facts such as the Irish character from Glee, Damian McGinty, is from Derry, and told of some scary facts, like how the police caught a couple of guys in a car with a rocket launcher that was aimed for the police station that was mainly filled with Protestants. The Paddy’s Palace hostel in Derry was one of the best hostel’s I’ve stayed at. The hostel was decorated for the Christmas holidays, with positive staff, and even a furry and friendly cat to make you feel more at home. I would recommend anyone who wants to visit historic Derry to stay at the Paddy’s Palace here. They even have a great review on Hostelworld.
The rest of the night in Derry consisted of a Pub crawl. My first Irish pub crawl, and let’s just say, it was a night to remember, or not…
Check out Day 3 on my Paddy Wagon Tour!
So begins my 10 day tour of Ireland!
~ Day 1 ~
With Paddy Wagon Tours (which I highly recommend taking if you really want see a lot in Ireland in a short amount of time) we started our day by driving to Belfast, which is actually in Northern Ireland and the only part of Ireland that is sectioned off and part of the UK. Ireland is its own country with euros as their currency, while Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and uses pounds. This is a bit of a hassle to carry both euros and pounds, but its interesting at the same time. Not only is currency the only thing that separates Northern Ireland from Ireland, but also the road markings and signs. It’s interesting to note that driving in Ireland, you will have yellow lines on the left side of the road, where all of a sudden, when you enter Northern Ireland, the line turns white; indicating that you are now in a different country. There isn’t really a border or border patrol to enter each country, so that saves you the hassle of talking to the typically scary and intimidating officers at a country’s border.
At the start of our tour, we stopped in Drogheda to see the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett (death: 1681) in St. Peter’s Cathedral. It felt extremely eerie to see an actual head right near theater of the cathedral and I felt weird talking a picture of it, but I did. You know it’s going to be a good day when you start your morning with a viewing of a preserved dead man’s head. Afterwards, we stopped at a really beautiful cemetery called Monasterboice.
On our drive to Belfast, we had one of the most cheerful, spontaneous and enthusiastic tour guide who sang Irish songs that some people knew, but most people didn’t. He would tell us all about the stories and interesting myths of Ireland and we would all laugh when he said a word that ended in “-th” because the Irish don’t pronounce “-th” and just pronounce the “-t”. For example, the say three as “tree” or say thirty as “terty”. It’s quite humorous fun.
Once we arrived, we all took a Black Taxi Tour around Belfast. This tour option is the cheapest and best way to get around the city. The Black Taxi Tour is the most recommended thing to do in Belfast, and it only costed £8 for each person to get driven around all the unique places of Belfast and told of all the history and events that have taken place around the city.
Even though it’s the 21st century, there is still religious conflict and riots in Belfast. There have been bombings, gun fires, murders, and distress between the Catholics and Protestants, who a mainly separated from each other in the own encased communities. Literally, there are walls that have been there for decades separating the Catholics and Protestants within the city. You would never have a Protestant living within the Catholic walls, and vice versa.
They have gates within each enclosed community and come Saturday night at 11:59, the gates close for 24 hours. For the entire Sunday, nobody is to leave or enter the gates because it is God’s day. Only one gate is left open for security and evacuation reasons, but still, I could not believe that this is going on in Northern Ireland. There is a peace wall in between the two religious communities with colourful political murals and graffiti where visitors can leave messages of peace and hope for the people of Belfast.
After the Black Taxi tour, we all went to the Christmas market. After we all got hot drinks and Christmas goodies, we began our walk around the city. Some people went to the Titanic museum, but it was beyond my money budget (plus I’ve already been to a lot of titanic museums). On the walk around the city, we saw the city centre, city hall, Albert clock, and Europia (the most bombed hotel in Europe).
Across from the hotel was a convenient store that sold something surprising and amazing: Tim Hortons. This was the only place in Ireland and in the UK where I saw Tim Hortons being sold. Tim Hortons is a very Canadian novelty and seeing Timmy’s in another country made me feel like I was back home again in Canada. I miss my Tim Hortons.
In the evening, all the paddy wagoners went out for dinner at an Irish pub and had a great time getting to know everyone. The hostel we stayed at was the sketchiest hostel I’ve ever stayed at. Barely any of keys would work and one room had to get the door broken into, because the none of the keys would work. I also had these guys knocking on the window in the middle of the night asking me to let them in, because they forgot their key. We were told not to let anyone from the outside in, because the last time some foolish tourist did that…
The outcome was horrific.
Important travel tip:
Bring Earplugs. They were literally a godsend with people knocking on the nearby window and the restless noises of 11 other people in your 12 person room. Perks of staying at a hostel for cheap.
Overall, Belfast was full of surprises, turmoil, history, and even beauty. If you are one for religious and political conflicts or the history surrounding it, check out Belfast, because although it’s the 21st century, it seems like they still live in the 19th or 20th century. It’s quite an interesting and unique city.
Planning a trip to Ireland for a few days or even a week or two? I highly recommend taking an intensive and well-worth tour of Ireland with Paddywagon Tours. I personally recommend that it is the best (and often quickest) way to see as much as Ireland as possible in your travels.
My best friend from Canada visited her family in Ireland in the summer of 2012, and told me about the Aran Islands, and said it was a MUST SEE. She was absolutely right. It’s not part of a lot of tours in Ireland, so if you are traveling Ireland independently, make sure this is on your list to see. (Directions on how to get there will be explained below)
The Aran Islands constitute of three islands situated at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. The islands from west to east are named: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.
Inishmore is the largest island and the one I was told to visit. You will have to take a coach from Galway to the docks outside of Galway where you get a boat ride to the Aran Islands. There are travel companies in Galway that offer this coach+boat ride deal to the Aran Islands, so it should be no problem getting there. When I arrived to Inishmore, there only seemed to be one bus tour awaiting for tourists to arrive. Because I went during the winter time (extremely low season), there was only 3 tourists on the whole entire island. It was absolutely deserted and we had the whole island by ourselves to explore. It was so surreal and amazing.
In terms of getting around the Island, there are bikes for hire (great option during nice weather/summer time, but beware that it is extremely hilly and exhausting), as well as cheap bus tours. I took a bus tour of the Island with a local who spoke very interesting english, and fluent Irish. He even had a leprechaun dangling from his front mirror. He was full of knowledge and taught us about the island and its history.
The island is constructed of limestone, and by this, I mean there are hundreds and thousands of limestone walls around the fields. The island was entirely made of limestone and almost inhabitable, but with hard work and dedication from the Irish locals, they gathered great amounts of limestone and constructed unaccountable amount of walls around the entire island. It was miraculous to see in person. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.
On the tour, we were dropped off at Dun Aengus for about two hours to explore an ancient stone fort, with an amazing view of the coast, as well as shop and eat in the little village. The nature walk to the ancient stone fort was beautiful and relaxing. This ancient stone fort was my favourite site on the island, because of the spectacular view. Be careful along the edge of the cliff because there are extremely strong winds and no guard or rail to protect you from falling over the edge. This does offer some amazing photography opportunities however. If you don’t believe me, then take a look at the view from the edge of the cliff.
The island is completed isolated and you get that feel when you drive around the island. It almost feels like the inhabitants are still living in the 1930’s. Many of the houses on the Aran Islands are thatched homes, which are so interesting to see and learn about. Here is an image of one of the thatched homes.
Driving along the coast of the island was also amazing to do. The island is just as green as you would expect Ireland to be (besides the innumerable amount of stone
and walls). I spent the remainder of the day checking out all the little shops that offer homemade clothing by the local inhabitants, as well as the famous Aran sweaters.
I ended the day if a chill visit to one of the local pubs and, of course, a fresh pint of Guinness. The server even put a four-leaf clover on the top of my Guinness (as they often do this for tourists) and this made my day.
Overall, I had an amazing day on the Aran Islands, and it was something different to see. A place I had not expected, and still one of my favourite, and most relaxing places I’ve travelled too. If you do get a chance, it would be interesting to go during a high-peak seasons for tourists, like the Spring or Summer.
Also, make sure you finish the day off with a pint of Guinness!
Directions on how to get there: Find a tourist agency in Galway and look for a package deal on getting to the Aran Island Ferries. This service operates a year round service, but offer limited ferry rides, so do get there early. All the ferries are passenger only, thus, no car ferries are available. Make sure you set a full day to visit the Aran Islands, and please let me know what you thought of the islands if you do plan to visit 🙂
Check out my journey in Galway, Ireland
Check out my journey at The Giant Causeway, Ireland
Check out my journey in Derry, Northern Ireland
Check out my journey in Belfast, Northern Ireland
Check out my journey in Dublin, Ireland