Whoever said Ireland was cold and rainy was clearly lying to keep people away… This morning, we embarked on the bus to visit the Giant’s Causeway, a natural rock formation with an interesting mythology. And it was gorgeous. Sunny and near 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 21 Celsius.. I’m learning slowly since literally no one but the US uses Fahrenheit).
The unique basalt rock formations are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption and erosion. If I knew anything about geology, I might be all to explain it, but I don’t and also it’s boring, so I’ll just tell you the myth instead, because after all, this is Ireland…
So, the story begins in ancient Ireland, when giants still walked the land. One of these was the Irish hero Finn MacCool (obviously a heroic name, right?). He lived with his wife near the coast in Northern Ireland and starred in many other Irish stories.
In this story, Finn hears about a Scottish giant across the Irish Sea, Benandonner, and Benandonner insults him and challenges him to fight, so Finn builds the Giant’s Causeway across the sea to Scotland, but when he sees the other giant, who is much larger, he turns around and runs home, but not before Benandonner sees him and gives chase.
Not wanting to fight a losing battle, Finn tells his wife what happened and she springs into action, dressing him as a baby and putting him to bed. Soon, Benandonner is on their doorstep and she invites him in, saying that her husband is out. She tells him to set his spear down next to her husband’s and points to a giant oak tree and then tells him she was just about to feed the baby, but Finn should be back soon. Benandonner sees Finn, dressed as the baby, and becomes terrified of how large the father of such a huge baby must be. He jumps up and runs home across the causeway, destroying it as he goes, and leaving what remains today.
Other rock formations near the causeway are reportedly the giant’s boot, his chimneys and his giant sleeping camel, among others.
It’s really an incredible sight, especially on such a beautiful day, and I probably could have spent days there instead of just the two hours allotted for that stop.
After that, we headed for Belfast and the Titanic Experience, which was cool because it’s near where the Titanic was actually built, but the exhibit was a little disappointing, and definitely didn’t fill the entire three hours we had there.
Following that, a local guide joined us aboard the bus and gave us a tour of the city, which was interesting given the historical context and today’s current events. We saw (and signed) the Peace Wall that still separates the Loyalist and Nationalist neighborhoods with gates that close at 8:30 p.m. and we also saw many of the other murals that decorate the city, some with political messages and some more lighthearted.
After we checked into the hotel, I set off on a mission of my own, to find the sister school of my alma mater, Queen’s University of Charlotte, The Queen’s University of Belfast. It was only a 15 minute walk from the hotel and the campus was really beautiful.
The streets of Belfast are clean and I felt perfectly safe walking through them by myself – it’s hard to imagine that there has only been peace here for less than 20 years. The economic development is incredible with construction and restoration everywhere.
Tomorrow is the last day of my tour before I continue on my own for a week. I’m both excited and a little nervous. I’m not sure the tour model is for me, because I really like to book my own accommodations and set my own schedule – ask my former drivers, who I’m fairly sure called me the “schedule nazi” when they thought I wasn’t listening…