Leprechauns, ladyboys and brushes with giants: Irish intrigues
So I've just come back from a weeklong tour around with Shamrocker Adventures, and I had an absolutely amazing time. It was a great way to meet fantastic people and travel all around the country hassle free… although it certainly would have been less hassle for my liver not to have gone, because I seem to have developed quite a taste for Guinness. I detect a slight hint of Vegemite in its murky depths…a sentiment I was careful to keep to myself in the pubs.
The Irish landscape is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful, starring rolling green hills speckled with mildewing monasteries, crumbling castles and dilapidated dry stone walls. I walked along the edge of the famous Cliffs of Moher (and got very excited at the spot where they filmed Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince), trying very hard not to lose my footing in the somewhat treacherous mud. The weather is truly in a league of its own in Ireland; we'd enjoy hours of baking sunshine (even getting sunburnt), stripping off our jackets and hiding behind our sunglasses, to be absolutely soaked the next minute by an absolute downpour that appeared to be magicked by a leprechaun out of nowhere.
One of my highlights of the trip was walking along the beach where they filmed the film Ryan's Daughter. Legend has it that if you dip your toes in the ocean at a particular spot on the beach, you leave a part of your soul in Ireland, and are bound to come back and collect it in 20 years to make all your dreams come true. Needless to say, I absolutely drenched my feet; Gerald Butler and I can come back to collect my soul in 20 years on the way to our palace in the countryside.
It's never clever to pick a fight with someone bigger than you, as the famous Irish giant Finn MacCool found out in Northern Ireland. The Giants Causeway is a stretch of the Northern coastline that is covered in naturally formed hexagonal cylinders of basalt that look like steps stretching all the way out into the water and across to the islands of Scotland. Legend has it that Finn, a hot tempered lad, heard word of a rival Scottish giant mouthing off about him and so decided to march over to Scotland to teach him a lesson, carving out the rocks from underneath the sea (the present day steps) to build him a little pathway to his rivals door. Upon seeing his kilt wearing, bagpipe playing enemy, however, Finn realised he was actually quite a small and timid giant, and not so keen on conflict, so he decided to run back to Ireland sharpish. However, when the Scottish giant Benadonner heard him nosing around and giving some lip about how he was going to teach him a lesson, he was not pleased, and so decided to follow Finn to Ireland to knock some sense in him. Seeing Benadonner running along behind him, Finn panicked, and desperately asked his wife for help. She bid him hop into their baby's kilt, and cover himself up with a blanket, so when the Scottish giant came a knocking, all he was confronted with was what he thought was a GIGANTIC baby. When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he had no desire to see the father! Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway behind him (hence the gap between Scotland and Ireland), so the 'enormous Finn MacCool', would not follow him.
My absolute favourite part of the trip was our day cycling around the Aran Islands. Michelle and I split off from the rest of the group and cycled along the coast, passing crumbling forts, holey boats, a seal colony and sleepy little fishing villages. We clambered up to the ruins of a Bronze Age fort on top of the cliffs where they filmed the movie Leap Year and got absolutely hopelessly lost in the hills trying to find an elusive 'worm hole' in the coast. This was also the day of my hatrick of injuries; I somehow managed to straighten my forehead with my hair tongs in the morning, awkwardly fall into the sink and get wedged in the bathroom with the rocking of the boat over to the islands, and then absolutely stack it off my bike on the way back. After a day's cycling, I was feeling a wee bit lazy and tired, so decided to get off my bike and walk it up the rest of a particularly steep hill. As I swung my leg over, my foot got stuck in the spokes of the wheel, and I then proceeded to fall face first flat onto the road, with the bike falling in a heap on top of me. Of course, this happened to be a day I chose to wear a dress… the Dutch couple behind us probably got more of a view than they anticipated. Error. Needless to say, Michelle, good friend that she is, proceeded to absolutely cry with laughter, doubled over on the road. Awesome.
We also visited the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and island, where they filmed Game of Thrones (Winterfell!), the mountain St Patrick climbed in his famous barefoot pilgrimage, an island off Enniskillen that boasts the most perfectly preserved monastic round tower in Ireland, the Titanic museum in Belfast (which was meant to be built in the shape of a ship, but now eerily looks like an iceberg. I mean really…out of all the shapes in the world, they choose to build the Titanic commemorate museum in the shape of an ICEBERG?) and of course, Blarney Castle, where I kissed the Blarney Stone. Looking back on it now, it seems a little bit suspicious that everyone on the trip got sick after kissing the stone…which we later found out the locals boys think is great craic to go have a pee on after a night on. Charming!
So it was an amazing tour, with lots of great memories. To finish this post off, I'll share one of the more embarrassing stories of the trip. So, one the second night out in Ennis, a group of us head from the pub out to a skeazy bar, where we take over the upstairs section. Standing up on the balcony, I see this woman sitting at the bar alone, who looks like she's very sad and almost crying. Half an hour later, she's still sitting there, so when I go down to order a drink, I strike up a conversation with her so she won't be so lonely and conspicuous sitting there alone. We got chatting so in an attempt to be nice and inclusive, I ask her if she wants to come upstairs to meet some of my friends. As I'm walking back up the stairs, she grabs my hand, turns me around, and says "You know I ladyboy, yes? You want rent me for one hour or whole night?"
LOTS OF LOVE, ALEX XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX