As the final weeks of term loom ahead, I would like to reminisce about being new to this whole living in Europe thing. Back in the day (sure seems like a heck of a lot longer than just 3 months), I felt the electric excitement of exploring Derry and its surrounding areas. Early on in the semester, a group of American students and I decided to hop on a train one Saturday morning and take it to the coast. Two hours and a long stream of breathtaking landscapes later, we arrived at the Giant’s Causeway on Northern Ireland’s Antrim Coast.
When researching the must-see sights of Ireland, the Giant’s Causeway always tops the list. Ever since I saw a picture of this geological phenomenon, I knew I needed to see it. My American companions all had the same thought. Just as we stepped off the bus, rain began to fall. It didn’t matter to us, though — we were determined. An advisor here at Magee actually told me that going to the coast in less-than-perfect weather was kind of a good idea. She said that seeing the waves violently crash against the coast made the cliffs and sights dramatic to behold. Anticipation was building as we made it all the way down the winding coastal path, passing signs warning of falling rocks. We rounded a final rock wall, and then we saw it. There is no way to describe it. Pictures don’t even do it justice. It’s one of those sights that you have to experience in person. Here are some pictures to give you an idea:
The Giant’s Causeway is basically a path of huge circular rocks projecting into the sea. Millions of years ago, the lava of an erupted volcano cooled in a certain way to form the almost perfectly circular rocks. It is really amazing because they look completely manmade. Even more interesting than the science behind the causeway is the Irish myth (and its namesake) about the place. The story is that an Irish giant named Finn MacCool wanted to battle with a Scottish giant known as Benandonner. Finn built a great stone bridge to link Ireland with Scotland so that Benandonner could cross. As Benandonner began approaching Ireland, his sheer figure terrified MacCool into hiding. The myth goes that MacCool was disguised as a baby and was placed in a giant crib. Upon seeing the ‘baby’, Benandonner did not want to imagine how massive MacCool would be if that was the size of his child. Quickly he turned around and ripped up the pathway as he ran back to Scotland.
As we were exploring the Causway, the rain finally let up and we were able to see the sights really well. We then took another bus to the nearby town of Bushmills. The attraction here? Ireland’s famous Bushmills Whiskey brewery, of course! We took a tour of the plant and learned about how “the water of life” is made. This is the literal translation of the Irish word for whiskey! They sure do love it here. A picture of the factory even appears on some Irish £20 notes. At the end of the tour we were offered a sampling of the whiskey. I’d have to say it was a wee bit strong for my tastes… Here is a picture of me next to a bunch of Bushmills barrels:
The next stop on our journey of the coast was the resort town of Portrush. Seeing it during the month of September obviously wouldn’t reveal all that the place has to offer, but it was beautiful in any case. The city is a place where many families in Ireland and the UK come to vacation. Here I finally had my authentic Irish Fish and Chips that I had been dying for! Here’s a picture:
Reflecting on it now, that trip really opened my eyes to the wonders that exist outside the borders of the United States. It made me hungry to see more and more of what else is out there! This is probably the reason why Megan and I planned a last minute trip over to Scotland. With only 2 weeks until all my final artwork is due, it’s proper crazy if you ask me! Well, at least I’m making progress. Here’s a wee picture of my latest work-in-progress creation… he will end up being a dinosaur of sorts:
Fun Fact #13: The Titanic was built in Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast.
Fun Fact #14: The HBO series Game of Thrones is shot here. I met someone who was actually an extra in next season’s filming that took place earlier this semester. Also, Rihanna’s video for “We Found Love” was shot near Belfast. Apparently she was filming in a farmer’s field, but the shoot got a little too risqué, so the farmer kicked her off his land.