It seems fitting that I'm in Belfast now having just watched the season finale for Game of Thrones, in the place where it all happened. I had no luck finding reasonably priced accommodation here for two nights so I turned to couch surfing instead. All in all I can say it's been pretty great! It works in a similar way to Airbnb but there's just no exchange of money. Hosts either do it to meet new people, out of sheer generosity, or in the hopes that the favour will be returned in future. Being free, there's also the unspoken expectation that you hang out with the person a bit more than traditional accommodation, so John and I spent the last 2 nights falling into Youtube wormholes and last night he threw together some epic burgers for us both. It's not for everyone I'm sure, but it's a nice change of scenery in a sea of endless stinky dorms and bathrooms where thongs must be worn at all times.
I'm trying to quickly write this up before I set out again. My bus bound for Dublin airport leaves at 5 so I'll have a few hours to explore the city. Onto the stream of photos above, and I acquiesced to a second coach tour yesterday to the other Big Attraction in Ireland - the Giant's Causeway. It was a longer trip than the cliffs, but overall the people on this bus seemed a lot better behaved, although the driver was a bit too eager to tell us ALL of his lame dad jokes.
We started and ended at castles - Carrickfergus and Dunluce. Both were impressive but my photos didn't really reflect that so just google them... On the way up we also stopped at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, which back in the day was a precarious 20m rope bridge linking the mainland to a small rocky island off the north coast where local fishermen fished the salmon population to complete and utter ruin. It's just a tourist spot now but I the walk across was still exhilarating. As you can see the weather didn't quite clear out for us but the rain was never too heavy and it would have been that much worse had there been any wind as well. The coastline surrounding the bridge had a definite Westerosi feel to it, which stayed in my head all day. It was helped by the weather of course, and we also briefly zipped past the set for Castle Black partially hidden in an old quarry.
Giant's Causeway was a sight to behold. Perhaps compared to the cliffs I wasn't completely floored at the sight of them because the scale wasn't so insane, but it was still felt so crazy that nature had come up with this. Predictably so, the formations were swarming with visitors so there was no way to get the perfect serene money shot of most of the 40,000+ columns rising out of the waves. After clambering around for an hour I took the scenic route back to the bus via the sea cliffs up above. This gave a good view down below as well as out to sea, where the next land mass is America.
Ireland has been a real eye-opener, and I'm really glad I came. It never registered as somewhere notable for me to focus my attention on but how wrong I was. Maybe in the future I can find myself a nice residency near the coast here and rent a car for a cross country road trip... There was definitely so much that I missed on the way up and back.