Today was quite the day.
It was wonderfully pretty.
It was wonderfully surprising.
It was wonderfully- oh my god how did we end up in Belfast?
This morning my friends and I woke up super duper early to go on a private guided tour through Northern Ireland. I was especially excited because I saw photographs of the places we visited, and I was so excited to take my own pictures I fell asleep on the ride up. Before I passed out with my mouth hanging open and hitting my head on the window every fifteen minutes, our tour guide mentioned the date.
“Today is July 12th.”
Everyone in the car was like, yeah, okay, that’s cool bro, but then he went on:
“It is an important date in Northern Ireland. It’s the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne, so there is a lot of tension between the Protestants and Catholics. We usually go through Belfast, but there are riots there every year, so we are not going through Belfast.”
I essentially paraphrased all of that, but yeah, that was the gist of it. So we didn’t go through Belfast and went on our merry little way to the Dark Hedges.
And then we left the real world and started living in a fairy tale.
Apparently 200 (or was it 300?) years ago some rich dude had all of these beech trees planted on the road leading up to his mansion. Today they look like this.
Now, I’m going to get all pensive for a moment, so bear with me and suffer through it: I was thinking a lot about the title, “Dark Hedges.” The word dark has a mixed connotation. As I looked up at the branches, I understood that the trees looked sinister, but they were absolutely mesmerizing and beautiful. It’s kind of interesting, because as humans we sometimes look at things that are bad for us, or “dark,” and are tempted by them. Alluring, just like the Dark Hedges.
But enough of that pensive stuff.
After lying in the middle of the road (we’re dead,) my group and I hopped back in our little car with our home boy tour guide, and headed in the direction of the Giant’s Causeway. But first, a pit stop at Dunluce Castle. I wasn’t expecting this, and dang, it was so cool from the outside.
But it was even cooler on the inside.
Whenever I’m walking on history, my heart beats a little faster. People lived there hundreds of years ago. It was a grand place back then. Now it is ruins. It’s fascinating to sit in the middle of it all and picture the people walking around. I wonder how many ancient paths I crossed on my visit.
Dang, I’m really reflective today. But after seeing all the stuff I saw today, you can’t blame me so ha.
Also the castle was on the sea so there was that. And there was a cave under it and some kids went caving and apparently the cave opened up into the ocean so that was hella cool.
Then we hopped in the car and went to the Giant’s Causeway. The cool thing about the Giant’s Causeway is you can’t see it right away. You have to walk quite a ways to see the real treat. So my homies and I walked about a kilometer (I still don’t know what that is in miles, I’m a lazy American,) along the base of a cliff, and when we turned the corner I lost my hold on reality for the second time today.
It was incredible. These formations were made from volcanic activity. I got separated from my friends and went off on my own for a bit, mostly because I took my sweet time exploring all of it. The rocks. The people. The tide pools. The ocean. The view. Just, everything, and I was trying to experience it fully because I never ever want to forget something like this.
Oh and I totally took creepy shots of people ha.
Then we noticed there was a path leading up to the top of the cliffs. As we American people like to say,
YOLO carpe diem, so we hiked to the top and it was worth it. The view was breathtaking (and I mean that literally, because we were all suddenly extremely asthmatic by the time we reached the top.)
At the top, there was a precious town in the distance, straight from a fairy tale book. I’m all about the fairy tales today. And there were sheep and it was just so wonderful and it made me jealous that I didn’t have the sort of life that would let me live in that town and have sheep and live by the sea and ahh. Dangit Ireland, I need to leave and go back to London, stop enticing me to stay!
After lunch we had a brief stint at some bay that was relevant to Game of Thrones (I don’t watch the show, I know, I know, I’m working on it-) and had some delicious cake and ice cream. It was a charming little place on that bay that was relevant to Game of Thrones (that’s the new name for it, officially,) and I never had cake so good. I should mention at this point in our journey it was starting to rain hella hard. So we got back to the car where our guide was waiting, and we started the car, and it stalled.
But then it started so all was well and we went to the Rope Bridge and didn’t really do anything there except walk down a hill and got soaked and hid in the bathroom and yeah. We had had enough adventure for the day, so we returned to the vehicle and started the three hour drive back to Dublin. Naturally, I fell asleep.
I woke up to: “Get out, we need to push the car.”
The car stalled on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. I guess I was asleep for maybe a half an hour at max, so we weren’t even relatively close to Dublin. The girls and I hopped out and helped push the car into a parking lot of a pub, which thankfully was also in the middle of nowhere. I don’t want to think about how different the situation might have been if it wasn’t.
We went into the pub while our tour guide started to panic. We just kinda sipped on some water and joked about how crappy the situation was, while also silently trying to figure out how we were going to get back to Dublin. A few minutes passed and our guide returned with,
“Have you ever tried hitchhiking before?”
An unanimous “No.” was his answer.
“Do you feel like trying?”
See previous answer.
We were not about to try and get four young girls from Northern Ireland to Dublin via hitchhiking. No way, no how, and we were not about to endure some Hostel or Taken crap. So our guide, bless his soul, called a cab to take us to a bus station, and he paid for it.
But here’s the thing.
The bus station was in Belfast. Remember what I told you about Belfast?
Our cab driver was aware of our predicament and while on our way to the legendary city, and made calls to find us a bus ASAP. He also told us about how it was July 12th. We knew fully well it was July 12th- in fact, we were becoming increasingly aware it was July 12th as we went under a motor-way overpass that had two armored police vehicles on top. With a chuckle our cab driver told us that those were for riot control.
“We call ’em beat wagons.”
So we get off the motor way. It was official: we were in Belfast on the worst day possible. The thing was though, even though we saw like ten
riot control vehicle things beat wagons. We also saw the occasional bonfire. There were hardly any people, until we got near the bus station, where a march was happening near by. It wasn’t an issue though. The issue in that moment was how sketchy the bus station was. It looked like a prison. Here have some iPhone photos as proof:
Our cabby sat and stared at the station for about a minute before realizing that he should probably walk us in. So he did. And he found us a bus and wished us luck and drove off into the sunset. The story ends with my friends and I getting a bus back to Dublin and living happily ever after with the motto:
“If I can survive Belfast, I can survive anything.”
Happy shooting! And I mean in the photography sense- protest peacefully!
UPDATE: Apparently this was the first year there were no riots in Belfast. Phew!