Well lovelies, this post is about our last day in Ireland, or Northern Ireland, depending on whom you ask. It has been so much fun recounting this trip and sharing the memories here, so I am feeling rather nostalgic.
Alex is a massive Game of Thrones fan, and he had really wanted to book a licensed tour so that we could see the stunning locations that the GoT cast and crew filmed at. So after we returned from our afternoon tea at Blarney Woolen Mills, we were cruising the internet for deals and dates. Unfortunately, all the tours for our last day had all sold out, and we were disappointed and ready to think of something else to do when we came across a non-licensed and fairly new touring company, Finn McCools. Did we want to chance it? Yes, we did. So he booked the tour, and I booked a cab with Hailo (now MyTaxi) for very early in the morning. And by very early, I mean that I had booked it for 5:15 am (boarding the tour bus was at 6:30 am), to make allowances for getting to the car park, traffic, and the cab not showing up or showing up late, etc.
Well our taxi came precisely on time. In fact, our driver showed up 15 minutes earlier, while Alex was still fiddling with the pay machine for the parking. We were so impressed and happy, because… well, perhaps it’s just me but when it’s chilly and dark, and you’re in a foreign country (even if they all do speak English), it’s sort of an unsettling feeling waiting around in unfamiliar surroundings. Thus, we ended up a whole hour earlier in Dublin, and found ourselves walking around the city in the dark. This terrified me even more. Folks, I hate to say this, but the smell of Dublin in the wee hours of the morning smells a little bit like pee and vomit. We actually did see someone relieving himself, and several times had to watch where we stepped or sat down, because… yay for nature calls whenever, wherever. We also encountered several staggering drunks. Most were quiet, others were rowdy and would shout something unintelligible when they passed another person. Having heard over the radio of several stabbings at pubs throughout the week we were there, I was very much on the alert for avoiding trouble. I don’t know if Alex caught on, but I would be scanning the streets rapidly, and if I thought I saw a shady figure, I would pretend I had seen something interesting across the street and just had to go take a closer look, thus avoiding any encounters. At one point, Alex said that it would take us forever to get to Dublin City Gallery if I kept up these meanderings, but he good-naturedly tagged along. Darling, if you’re reading this, I pretty much saved. your. life. *ahem*
No coffee shops were open at such an ungodly hour, so we finally sat down in front of the gallery, cuddled next to each other, and took turns lightly napping, as a neon lady in an art fixture a few feet away from us kept on walking and walking in her frame. About ten minutes before boarding time, other folks taking the tour started to show up, the dark sky was starting to lighten, and everything felt more friendly and cheerful. Finally, we were on our way!
Our driver gave us lots of interesting facts about Northern Irish and Irish history, as well as a quick rundown of our schedule. Everyone in our group was pretty much on time, and that made the experience so much more pleasant. It’s no fun waiting around and having tour stops cut or shortened because people are running late! The driver also put on traditional Irish tunes for us to listen to, while explaining their origins, and I had to explain what he said sometimes to Alex. I think growing up on the BBC has helped me understand thick UK accents tremendously!
When we arrived in Belfast, we were told we had only a short amount of time to go for a restroom break and to stock up on drinks and snacks for the drive. We didn’t feel like juggling food and drinks in the tour bus, so we looked around for a nice place to sit, and found the cutest café/cake shop — Patisserie Valerie!
Patisserie Valerie opened in Frith St., London’s Soho area in 1926 by Belgian-born Madam Valerie. She wanted to introduce a taste of the continent to the English. Many locations have sprung up since then all around the U.K,, and I found this one absolutely darling. They even had a menu for afternoon tea! If only we had had more time!
We sat down and ordered some drinks. He ordered an espresso, wanting to be more awake, and I secretly think it’s the European thing to do. I don’t have the taste for such strong drinks, though. I wanted something comforting and warm, so ordered some delicious hot chocolate with fluffy cream on top, and then when they arrived, we ordered a few bites to eat. Everything was so satisfyingly toothsome, that we just had to get a Mille Feuille cake to go!
After all this, we had only five minutes left before re-boarding, so all we had were some quick views of downtown Belfast, and its most impressive city hall’ definitely a place we would like to go back to again and see more thoroughly. Our first Game of Thrones stop was at the Dark Hedges which was used to depict the Kingsroad in the show, and we had only 15 minutes here. I cannot stress just how many people there were, and I was very disappointed with most of our pictures, because it just doesn’t seem as foreboding a tree tunnel as it could be! Sadly, the grey lady of local lore that haunts this avenue did not make an appearance. Perhaps she doesn’t when there are so many tourists…Next stop, Dunluce Castle, in Co. Antrim. The castle ruin was inspiration for Harrenhal, but with 10 minutes, there was no time to actually get a close-up look at the ruins. Instead, we were in a spot across from it where we could take pictures. I was a little disappointed, but I understand that for logistical reasons, it had to be so.
Also in Co. Antrim, we saw the Giant’s Causeway, which has 40,000 interlocking hexagonal stone columns likely due to a volcanic eruption, and you can even see the outline of part of Scotland a long way off across the waters. We had 1.5 hours to spend here, and took in some fantastic views and fresh, bracing air. I only managed to step on around 40 of those columns –what a shame! We heard it was absolutely breathtaking when seen at sunset, with mist and fog rolling in, but no atmosphere was to be had with the sun smiling brightly down!!
Fourth on the list was Larrybane, and Larrybane Quarry in Ulster, which was used in the filming of Renly Baratheon’s camp. If I’m to be honest, this part was the least impressive stop on the tour for both of us, even though we got to actually stand right in the middle of the place where Lady Catelyn Stark is asking for Baratheon’s help. It is surrounded by natural scenic beauty, but the spot of the scene itself is underwhelming. It has to be, to be the setting for a camp after all. I would have happily given this stop up in order to have a few more moments in the Dark Hedges, or even Belfast.
Now for one of our favourites, 40 minutes at Ballintoy Harbour, which the crew of Game of Thrones barely changed in order to transform it into Pyke Harbour, where Theon Greyjoy returns after being released. It was so picturesque and peaceful. I just love when civilisation is located right beside water; so serene yet with a tingling undercurrent of feeling that says you can go anywhere and do anything, because this water connects you with the rest of the world.
Coat: Banana Republic short peplum trench in preppy navy (2016)
Scarf: Patrick Francis ‘Book of Kells’ scarf in red (2016) [Shop it here]
Jeans: Unknown brand from Winners (2016)
Shoes: Timberland ‘Ellsworth’ new classic ballerina flats in black nubuck (2016) [Shop it here]
Bag: Longchamp ‘Le Pliage’ shopping tote in indigo (2013)
Just a little segue into talking about my outfits for the trip…
Since we each brought only a mini carry-on, I wore the same jacket and shoes for the entirety of our trip. I had a rotation of a few sweaters, a Juicy Couture dress, and a Club Monaco skirt that I wore for dressier places, such as to tea. This trench coat came a day before we embarked on our trip, and I wish I hadn’t been so rushed because then I would have seen just how unflattering it was on me. In the excitement of leaving for our trip and being thrilled to have something new to wear while on it, that important point missed my notice. The peplum was so heavy and voluminous, it did not look good on my petite frame. I also have a shorter torso and a fuller chest, and the short cut of the jacket paired with the very full bottom just didn’t suit me, even though I bought the petite version. I ended up being so unhappy with how dumpy it made me look on top that I wore it from autumn 2016 until spring of 2017 (y’know, to be cost-per-wear savvy), and then donated it. A lot of reviews from even a few tall people also mentioned that the peplum did not look at all flattering on them, so I feel a lot better in knowing that it’s not just my body. I usually wouldn’t share purchases I regret, but I figured I ought to be more honest and share what doesn’t work, too. My search for a flattering, affordable trench coat continues.
Back on topic! We next found ourselves at Cushendun Caves near the Glendun River in Ballymena. This is where HBO shot the scene of Melisandre birthing a shadow monster, and we had 20 minutes to explore the structure of the caves. I almost regretted my footwear as it was very slippery and wet in some places! Still, I came out with less mud on them than I did walking on the Cliffs of Moher, so that was nice!
Some very nice views to be seen in the Cushenden area:
That was our last Game of Thrones stop, and then we took a scenic route through the Glens of Antrim. The photos that were by necessity taken through the bus windows were terrible, but the landscapes! Heartachingly beautiful.
We made another stop in Belfast, and though we had 40 minutes, it was getting dark and Alex and I preferred to stay on the bus and wait for everyone to come back. Once safely back in Dublin, we decided to sup at Beshoff’s which was established in 1913, and offers fresh, quality food in old-world surroundings.
The look of the place is Edwardian, and on their site, it specifies that they try to evoke the look of an Edwardian oyster bar. It was a hearty last meal –I think we ordered the cod– and we really tried to make every last bite count.
All good things do come to an end though, but this particular one was glorious.
One last night at Pebble Mill, and then it was straight to the airport at 4 o’clock in the morning…
I savoured every moment, and cherished every memory of our honeymoon and first overseas trip together. Here’s to the first of many!
Thank you for coming along with us on our little trip!