Happy Days 63: Mischievous Giants and Rickety Bridges

Day 7, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland
I just discovered something heartbreaking. All these window boxes, and no hummingbirds to enjoy them. That’s what we discovered in Sabrina’s bird book. There are no woodpeckers, either. As for other animals, there are no snakes or wolves in Ireland, which could be both a boon or bane to some.

We’ve been on the road since morn from Joy’s place to Belfast, to see the Giants Causeway, took a little break and had a picnic at a forest park, and we’re back on the road again.
Northern Ireland is green country, too, not as green as Ireland. Which is baffling since surely, in terms of geography, they aren’t that different, are they? The roads are wider and there are actually shoulders on the road to pull over at. The trees are denser here, meadows with little yellow flowers. Just below our road, there are horses grazing. Very similarly, a rural feel in places, but the city areas are a bit worn down. Older buildings, faded signs, cheerful ads that tout “Supereasy Supermarket” with parking lots that were completely full we had to leave in a not-very-supereasy way. Smiling posters along the road where unsmiling people waited for buses.
We passed a couple with thinning hair, furrowed brows, a little stooped at the shoulders, weighed with years of worry; a man carrying two grocery bags; women in drab colors. A harder set in the mouth, a hungrier look in the eyes. More rubbish on the street, discoloration on tin roofs.
I’m not sure what accounts for this North Ireland look, other than a deduction from what Joy and Tom told me about July 12 – to not go to Belfast then because of the potential for riots. Could all that political unrest and lack of stability contribute to that? In a sense, the main streets of Northern Ireland have that European window box and brightly painted facade appeal but with a rougher street vibe.
We stopped at a grocery store and asked to use the toilets. A lady directed us to the back of the building, “up a hill”. Outside, when we clarified directions, another employee, an elderly man, said, “For the lot of you?” Then he took us into the store to use the employee bathrooms. Waited for us and was very kind. I decided that the unattractive “poor, tired, huddled” view I had of Northern Irish people was not accurate nor fair.
Especially when I saw Giants Causeway, on the northern tip of North Ireland. The legend is, a giant named Finn McCool threw a path of rocks into the water between Scotland and Northern Ireland so he could challenge another giant on the opposite shore. As he came up to his foe, he realized the other giant was so much bigger. So he ran back home, where his wife disguised him as a baby. Thwarted, the other giant smashed down the causeway and left a rubble of paving stones. Yup, that Finn was quite the guy.
There are about 40,000 basalt stones at the tip of this one shore, black volcanic rock lapped up by the waves, and reddish lighter colored stones further up the dry hill. I want to believe in the legend; otherwise, it’s hard to understand how this all came about. Again, my stereotype faltered. The visitor’s center was run by smart, friendly people who know how to run a first-class tourist site.
We had our photo taken by a couple from Italy. It’s been fun to practice my rudimentary greetings in various languages.
I sat on a hill and looked below at this black, reddish stone formation, amazed at this marvel at the tip of a country I never thought I’d visit anytime soon in my lifetime.

The rope bridge
Afterwards, we went on to the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. This isn’t so much about the rope bridge, which is quite a short little bridge, but about the journey to and from the rope bridge. Along the way, we passed meadows of wildflowers, cliffs that dropped off to the turbulent shores below, soft green Irish moss.
It’s been said that the rope bridge was a way for the fishermen to get to the rock where they could put out to sea. It’s a short bridge, and fairly sturdy unless your husband insists on jostling it. But it was beyond that, the little outcropping cliff, that made me wish we had a lot more time to spend here. Under my seat, the ground is soft and springy; the sea an emerald jewel; the Irish moss glowing different shades of green on the cliffs. Seagulls soaring above. The Northern Irish have their troubles, but today, here, there’s no sign of it. It’s just calm and beauty, and they could be the most blessed people in the world if I am to hedge a bet based on this.
Finally, we started “home”, supping at a “traditional Irish pub” called Scenic Inn, and enjoyed some good steaks and gammon (ham), while a cover of Janis Joplin’s “Take a little piece of my heart” played in the background. Most of the night the music was country. Based on the great interest in an upcoming Garth Brooks’ concert, they are country music lovers here.
It’s 9:25 and we’re now driving the kids to meet Tom near Dublin. He’ll take them back to Cavan while Drew and I will stay a night in Dublin and fly out to Paris for one (yes, one!) day tomorrow. A two-day-early romantic anniversary date. Here’s to 22 years!

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