Yesterday started with an early morning run. That wasn’t a planned event, we just underestimated how long it would take us to get Ella out the door in the morning and found ourselves a bit tight for time getting to our 7:00am train.
Our first train was from Cork back to Dublin where we then took an LRT across town to the other train station and continued on to Belfast. All that efficiency and ease crossing town, you can see why Rob Ford hates them.
It was a fairly long day of travel but Ella was a champ as usual. Busy and exhausting on the trains but quiet enough that I don’t think she bothered any of the other passengers. Again our apartment wasn’t far from the station in Belfast, about a 10 minute walk.
Belfast first impressions, no signs of trouble
After Ella had a quick nap and we recovered from Ella management, we headed into town for a walk around. Just across the river from our apartment, the city centre has a large pedestrian only area, something I always love, and a covered, but open-air mall called Victoria Centre. Walking around the city centre you get no sense of The Troubles of recent history. We learned later that some of that sentiment still bubbles under the surface.
Something Ella and I seem to share is a healthy love for pizza. So, as you can imagine, we were both pretty happy to find a very kid friendly pizza place called Little Wings for dinner.
When you think Ireland, you think volcanoes, right? Us too. That’s why we spent our first full day in Belfast by heading north along the coast to visit the Giant’s Causeway.
In planning the trip, we had intended to rent a car in Belfast and drive ourselves out to the Giant’s Causeway. Once we we’re arrive though, we were looking at the Black Cab tours and noticed that they would also drive you out to the Causeway. It cost more, but the extra space, having both of us in the back to entertain Ella and not having to drive on the left side of the road all seemed like good reasons for the extra £70.
A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, the Giant’s Causaeway is a formation of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that resulted from a volcanic eruption. I’m not sure when said eruption occurred but I’m fairly confident it was before 1986.
The drive up took about 2.5 hours but it’s a beautiful coastline and well worth the drive. Arriving at the Causeway, they have a new super modern visitors centre that wasn’t at all what I was expecting. The interesting thing is that if you just want to go see the actual Giant’s Causeway you can skip the centre and avoid having to pay.
The area walking down to the causeway is beautiful and there are a few different circuits you can choose from that offer varying degrees of length and difficulty. With Ella we opted for the moderate route. If you didn’t have a toddler and like running, the longer routes would make for a beautiful and challenging run.
The columns themselves are pretty neat to see and run out into the water. The myth is that the columns are the remains of a highway built by the giant Finn McCool in order to reach Scotland and accept a challenge to fight a Scottish giant, Benandonner. And you thought Finn McCool’s was just a chain of pubs in Toronto.
Never one to pass up a chance to expand her rock collection, Ella took some time to wander the paths.
“I wouldn’t be going out there today”
Not far from the Giant’s Causeway is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. The bridge spans 20m, at a height of 30m between the mainland and a small island. There doesn’t seem to be much that makes the bridge a site other than your dangling 30 meters in the air. Apparently nobody has ever fallen off the bridge but (according to Wikipedia) several people have been unable to face the return crossing and had to be taken off the island by boat. Sounds like the perfect thing to be doing with a rambunctious toddler, no?
When we asked Jimmy, our friendly black cab driver, if we could stop there he joked that he wouldn’t be going across in this wind. I think he actually thought that we would just walk to the bridge and turn around without crossing.
That would be silly though…
No toddlers were hurt in the taking of this picture.
The walk from the parking area to the bridge (about 20 minutes) also gave us a chance to show Ella where the cream in Oreos comes from.
By this point, Ella was starting to run out of gas so it was time to make the drive back to Belfast.
We took the shorter route back to Belfast, rather than going back along the coast. As we had stayed out past naptime, we hoped that Ella might sleep during the drive. Unfortunately her little cat nap on my back had reengerized her and there would be no sleep until we got back to the apartment.
Up next, a black cab tour through Belfast and a history lesson about The Troubles.