Well, this e-mail about my thanksgiving trip is just not going to be nearly as detailed as the others, as I was gone for 7 days, and if I wrote everything that I’d like to, it’d just be too long!
Crystal, Austin Miller, and I flew into Dublin on Tuesday night, nov. 21st. The thing that struck me most about Ireland was the people…..everyone is so nice, friendly, and helpful. We met a guy on the bus who helped us find our hostel, then invited us to come hear some of his friends play some traditional Irish music. It was really cool.
Wednesday, we got up early, walked to the train station, only to find out that the trains and taxis had gone on strike that day in all the major cities in Ireland. So, we had to pay big bucks to take a bus instead, across the country to the west coast. During the bus ride, everything we passed was green. Just like you would think, Ireland is entirely green.
We spent that night in the tiny town of Lahinch, right on the ocean! That afternoon, I left my camera on the bus, and despite the help of many nice people, it was never recovered. I guess not everyone’s nice, because someone stole it….probably another American tourist!
We stayed at a bed and breakfast as the hostel was closed, and got a great cooked Irish breakfast Thursday morning. Then, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, the highest sea cliffs in Europe. They’re so high, you look down and the sea gulls are beneath you! We went to the highest one and got down on our stomachs and leaned over the edge…..what a rush! The wind’s so powerful there, we threw rocks and they’d come back over our heads, instead of going to the bottom!
We next took a bus to galway. That hour and a half or so on the bus was the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen! We went through this region called the Burren that has these rock mountains that look like they’re right from the moon! Ireland definitely has a thing with rock. All their fences are made out of rocks piled on top of each other, by the thousands!
We spent the next night in galway, then got up at 4:30 to catch our train! We ended up having to back to Dublin, changing trains, then continuing up to Belfast. We were about an hour away when there was an announcement that they had received word of a bomb on the tracks and we’d have to stop the train and take a bus the rest of the way!
So, because of the delay, we missed our ferry and it was 5 hours till the next one, so we ended up seeing a movie to kill the time, then took the ferry from Belfast to Stanraer, Scotland. This ferry was like a mini-cruise ship with like 10 restaurants, big-screen TV, video games, a store, and more. From stanraer we took a train up to Stirling and got there about 11PM, found a hostel, went out, then came back and crashed.
The next morning, we were putting our stuff in a locker at the train station, when we saw our friend Kelly Ko, who we were supposed to meet there but couldn’t get a hold of. He was visiting his friend from home who studies in stirling. We made plans to meet up with them that night, then headed for the Bannockburn Heritage Center. For those of you who have seen braveheart, the Battle of Bannockburn is the 30 second blip at the end of the movie….it’s the battle that finally wins them their independence, led by Robert the Bruce, who I am supposedly distantly related to on my mom’s side. They had a museum/exhibit thing set up there that was cool, then we walked up the hill where there is a famous statue of the Bruce on the very hill he is said to have directed the battle from! It was pretty cool.
Then, we headed to the William Wallace monument. It’s a tower on a hill where Wallace is said to have directed the Battle of Stirling from. That’s the first big battle in the movie….when he comes riding in, decked out in all his war paint and gives that big speech, and they pull off a stunning victory! The 3 major battles in the movie: Stirling, Falkirk, and Bannockburn were all fought within miles of each other. Anyway, you climb 300+ stairs to the top for a great view of the area where the battle was fought, the town, and stirling castle. Along the way, they have several exhibits. The first one had Wallace’s very own sword……amazing! It’s very long, like taller than me, with a huge handle. It’s flat, and has a rounded tip, and must have taken great strength to wield. Because of his sword, historians reckon that he was a big man. Anyway, it was just cool to look at it and think that it was Wallace’s sword, held in his hands, used to kill so many Englishmen. Wow. Next, we went to the castle, but they’d just closed it. That night, we hung out with Kelly and his friend and stayed at his dorm.
We got up the next morning and went to Edinburgh.
First, we went to the castle which has an amazing view of the city. We got to see the crown jewels (crown, sword, and scepter) and the very famous Stone of Scone (or Destiny) which every king but 2 has been crowned upon since the 800s. It was stolen by Edward Longshanks in 1290 something, placed in Westminster abbey, and not returned to Scotland until 1999….last year! After leaving the castle, we walked down the Royal Mile, doing a lot of shopping, and ended up at Holyrood Palace (where queen Elizabeth vacations) after it had closed.
Monday, we took a train to London. It was supposed to take 4 ½ hours, but because of new speed restrictions took 6 hours, and we had only an hour to meet our friend at the London house and get to our show that she’d gotten us tickets to!
We made it there like 3 minutes before the show started, after a run in the rain! We saw the Starlight Express….which is all on roller skates…pretty cool.
Tuesday, we saw the Westminster abbey and saw a lot of dead kings and queens, including Edward Longshanks, Queen Elizabeth 1, Mary, Queen of Scots, and more.
We also saw the Buckingham Palace and changing of the guard, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Hill (where Wallace was imprisoned), the London Bridge (from the song London bridges falling down), then had to leave to catch our ferry from Dover. We ended up taking the 2AM one, then spent all day Wednesday on trains, missed one because one was late, got delayed, and got there around 4:30, halfway through the class I couldn’t miss! We were the last ones back from thanksgiving break and people were just starting to worry about us.
I didn’t travel this weekend as I really just got back and finals start on Monday. Plus, I wanted to spend my last few days in Heidelberg. We get kicked out of the house on Friday. I have mixed emotions, as the day gets closer, but I’ll write one more time before I leave and share that.