The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin has the mother-load of gift shops for Guinness “stuff”. And yes, yes we did partake.
This morning Dave and I checked out of Fir Tree Hotel. I can honestly say we will not miss it and will not be visiting again. You’ll notice we haven’t posted any photos of it or our room. Onward…
We are now headed to Belfast to drop the car off at the airport, get a cab into the city and check in to our hotel for the next three nights.
Dave indicated I had not taken a photo of him driving the car. I took a short video in Scotland of him, but realized he was right. So here it is!
He did a great job driving, despite my nagging him he was too close to the curbs and hedges and a GPS/SatNav that died and having to use a different one. We really liked the Audi we got upgraded to by the nice man inside the airport at the Hertz desk. He was great even taking us outside to let us know where we’d be returning the car.
Dave got us safely back to Belfast airport today. It was a shame the young men who man the outside Hertz rental car pick up & return were so unhelpful and rude. Both at pick up and return, they were unpleasant to deal with.
Anyway…the taxi driver and hotel receptionist more than made up for the airport dudes. Both were extremely friendly and helpful and answered all our questions.
We were both hungry and walked over to White’s Tavern for lunch and a pint. I had Bangor’s (sausages) and Mash (potatoes) and Dave had fish n’ chips and we both had Guinness. What a cool pub. Supposedly haunted, it originally was established in 1630. Which means it has been a pub since around the times the Pilgrim’s landed. Think about that.
Our first order of business after checking in at The Premier Inn, was to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. We walked to the first stop and were glad to see the tour was just about to leave. We sat on the outside, upper deck of the double-decker bus and were whisked around the city for an hour and a half tour.
Unbeknownst to us, there was a woman’s rights march today in Belfast and the bus had to wait for the march a bit and drive a slightly different route.
The tour showed the good, the bad, and ugly. Unfortunately, there is still some major bad and ugly in Belfast with the religious differences and segregation. There has been peace, but you can tell the unrest could bubble up at any time. After photographing a few of the murals dedicated to those who sacrifices or were innocently killed, I stopped photographing them. I hate war, I especially hate violence, and I wasn’t crazy about it all being a focus of a tour bus. It is, however, part of Belfast’s past and should be remembered to not repeat in the future.
There are some historical buildings in Belfast NOT associated with The Troubles, and they were pointed out and they drove through what could be considered the “slums” of the city as well as the more affluent neighborhoods. It was uncomfortable to me to not only take the tour bus down the streets of these poorer neighborhoods, but for the tour guide to be talking on the speaker about how poorly they live….while driving down the street and people who live their walking about. Edinburgh, this was not. And perhaps that is WHY they do it. They need to show the world.
We also drove to the Northern Ireland parliament building which is very grand, but way outside the main city.
After the tour we walked around the city for awhile and did a wee bit of shopping. Dave picked up a free Guinness hat and I bought one of the two things I’ve been looking for in Ireland: a Claddagh ring.
There is an old Irish saying that goes, “With These hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love.” The Claddagh ring consists of a heart with a crown held by two hands symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship. There are specific ways one is supposed to wear them as well.
Dave is still not quite over his cold and I was starting to get a sore throat so we cut our night short and hope to get some rest.
Finally in Edinburgh after a couple of long flights. The fog bank that greeted us quickly cleared revealing the beautiful history, architecture, and gardens of the city.
The weather felt much like Maine this time of year. Stay in the sun, and it’s flip flops & shorty-shorts weather. Move to the shade and the fleece and socks are more appropriate.
Our first stop was an early check-in (thank you Dave) at our hotel near the Royal Mile. The Ibis is a funky, modern spot where we will rest our weary heads for two nights. It’s a great, centrally located spot to walk the Royal Mile and other areas. The rooms are wee and a little odd (took us awhile to figure out how to turn the lights on!) but it’s a good location and the price was right. Certainly geared towards the younger modern set.
Because the weather was so stunning, we decided to venture up to visit Edinburgh Castle. We didn’t pay to do the tour as we did five years ago, but just walked in the main gates. It rained when we visit last time, so this was very nice.
We then headed out on the hop-on hop-off bus tour and got the tour of the city again with guided narration by a live person. We actually visited a few spots we hadn’t picked up last time. It was also a good way to rest and not exert ourselves to much as we were both pretty tired, but excited.
Our stop for lunch was at The Dome. A former bank, it now consists of several restaurants, bars, and event rooms. However, the Grill Room is by far the most outstanding. An amazing domed ceiling, huge columns, a round bar, spectacular flower arrangements (although they may have been artificial), and beautiful chandeliers. You entered another era in this building and our fleece jackets and sneakers felt very out of place, but the staff treated us wonderfully and we enjoyed some sandwiches and a drink.
Afterwards, Dave and I walked to the Sir Walter Scot Monument. Stunning architecture honoring this famous Scottish literary giant. You CAN walk up to the top, but with over 200 cement spiral steps, I declined!
Then we hopped on the tour bus again and visited the National Museum of Scotland. We chose to limit the exhibits we visited to Scottish history and REALLY enjoyed some of the amazing historical artifacts displayed there and there is a stunning atrium with a glass ceiling.
There is also a lovely terrace garden on the roof with spectacular views of the city. It was then that the dreaded jet lag hit us…and hit us hard! After a slow walk back to the hotel, we both promptly collapsed and napped for a good two hours.
After the refreshing nap, we walked down to The Royal Mile Tavern for a good pub meal. Fish n’Chips and Guinness were in order. We were disappointed they didn’t carry Belhaven ale, our favorite Scottish ale, and the fish was not that great. We’ll do better next time.
With daylight still going strong near 9 p.m., we continued to walk around the Royal Mile, window shop, and took more photos.
We saw and heard several bagpipers today and everyone we met couldn’t have been nicer. Glad to be back Scotland!
Dave and I have a taken MANY photos and if get enough energy to post them all, I will try to while we’re here, but it may not happen until we’re home from the trip itself.
Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland, wasn’t on our original itinerary, but due to flight times and dates, we’re ending up spending a day there before flying out the next day.
As a Guinness lover, I am VERY excited about this! We’ll tour Dublin and stop in at the Guinness Storehouse for a tour and dinner and hopefully enjoy a pint…or two. One HAS to believe enjoying a Guinness at Guinness and IN Ireland would taste better.