Pavlova–the wonders never cease!!!

Campbells, old, quiet, unassuming, established….A huge bowl of whipped cream sprinkled with chunks of real chocolate and glazed with caramel, with some surprise underneath.  As I dug in, I realized it was a very fine meringue shell, with a soft, airy meringue underneath.  And some creamy vanilla substance.  And raspberries. Thanks for your suggestion kind waitress,  you do indeed make a lovely pavlova.

The days go by so fast….

I am so spent! But part two of my adventure has so far gone remarkably smoothly….
I’ll back up a bit because I’ve been slacking and not keeping you updated.
The Giant’s Causeway: amazing. You saw the pictures. Need I say more? If you’re curious, look up the legend of Finn McCool, who is said to have created the causeway. It was stunning and exhilerating, and the tour was really good. I was blessed to have a perfect day, and the rest is in the photos.
Glenariff National Park: lovely, and a good hike. The waterfalls are wonderful, and the views are fantastic. Once I got up off the main path, I was completely alone. I felt like I could have been the only one in the world. The wind was so loud through the pines, it sounded like running water. The green moss on the rocks under the tree canopy was so brilliant that it stood out like precious stones and treasure. I was powerwalking around, as is my wont, and suddenly I stopped. And stood still. And looked up, and spread my arms out, and just stood there. It was amazing. I felt for the first time in a long time that inner peace might exist somewhere. I can’t really describe it. Ijust felt like Iwas completely in my body, and that there was so much around me to love and to experience.
Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge: If you saw what looked like a rope bridge in the Causeway album, you were right. The rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede is 60 feel across and 100 feet above a lot of crashing waves and sharp rocks. It was created (a long time ago) by the salmon fisherman who used the little rock the bridge is connected to (it really can’t be called an island) to set salmon nets…it’s still used today, hence the little boat. It looks impossible to navigate, but I’m no fisherman. The views were, of course, amazing.
Torr Point: photos included in the Glenariff album. If it looks like I’m on top of the world, it’s because I was. I scaled a hill, went over a barbed wire gate which probably meant I should have stayed out, and climbed up to an abandoned building. And then, because there was a ladder, I climbed to the roof. And shit it was high up. And cold and windy. I could see what might have been Scotland or possibly the Isle of Mann in the distance; it for sure wasn’t part of Ireland. I could see every where. Did I mention that to get to Torr point, I took the scenic route of the scenic route? The one that buses are not allowed on? My car barely fit around some of the corners, and the inclines winding up to the top of the cliffs were insane. My little car almost coughed it’s last breath several times trying to make it up those hills. It was slightly terrifying…..try starting a manual car on a hill that feels almost vertical….with nothing behind you to stop you from just rolling backwards right over the cilff.

Derry: It’s supposed to be Londonderry now. I think the implications are obvious. In America, if we know much about the Troubles at all, we automatically think about Belfast. But the conflict continues all around Northern Ireland, and I saw evidence of it in Derry. Known as the walled city, Derry is lovely, clean, and almost San Francisco-esque, with it’s waterside location and steep hills stretching up away from the Foyle River. The town center is well kept, with nice cafes and restaurants, and two great shopping centers. However, when I ventured past the walled part of the city, I discovered the Irish part of town. Look for the acronym on the Free Derry sign photo I’ll post. The rest of the photos are murals, some along the main street separating the northern wall of the city from the pro-Irish area, others hidden within the dilapidated neighborhoods. They are very political, as are the grafitis, the County 32 flag, and the Irish colors painted on sign posts and curbs. Check out the pictures, I was fascinated.

The Popplewells: the amazing family that took me in when I was homeless in Belfast continued to be fantastic, letting me return to them after my visit to Derry and the Northern Coast. They fed me, let me do laundry, and took me on a family outing to Castle Ward, an estate that’s maintained for the public to visit, and has endless hiking and mountain biking trails. Some of the land held by the National Trust that we hiked by was where Game of Thrones battle scenes had been filmed. Andy and Una packed sausages, tea, rolls, biscuits, and bacon, and Andy brought his camping grill to the park to fry up lunch. Then we hiked, stopping halfway through to have hot cocoa (that I tried to make, and successfully allowed to boil over…always learning something). But no bother…they tease and give you a hard time, all in good humor. The trip reminded me of going Christmas tree hunting, with breakfast and cider in the back of the car after we found our tree. These are the kindest people I’ve met, and I owe them so much. I almost didn’t want to leave…..
Which brings me to part two of my adventure. Now.
I was in Bangor Monday morning. In a further act if kindess, Andy drove me to the Belfast bus station, and actually walked me in to show me the ticket counter (that’s the kind of person he is), before telling me that I could call them any time, if I needed anything, and could come show up on their door stop whenever.
The bus from Belfast to Dublin only takes two hours. The rental car agency was right out the door. The rental car was right where it was supposed to be. I got out of the airport and the city without a problem. Amazing right?? I have a lot planned for the next week, and I can’t believe how easily it went. I also got a fantastic car, it’s a little Nissan mini-SUV, diesel and manual, which makes it really powerful, and really fun to drive. It’s relatively new too, so it’s quiet and smooth (except when that diesel engine kicks in…mmmm).
I got to Wicklow early Monday afternoon…..I will add that it was absolutely pouring the entire drive from the airport to the mountains, and I didn’t bring a raincoat…why would I need one of those in Ireland? Glendalough park is gorgeous; I was really interested in the area because it has housed many Irish rebels over the centuries. It’s easy to see how they could just disappear into the endless mountains, forests, valleys, and glens of the Wicklow Mountains.

I wanted a hike. A good workout, after all the delicious food I’d had at the Poppletons. After studying the trail map, I set off in my running sneakers,  workout pants, and hoodoo into the rain and wind. I had settled on the four hour hike that was supposed to be somewhat “hilly and treacherous terrain” according to the map. No bother, I thought, how bad could it be? Well, this was the path the entire way up:


Basically glorified railroad ties stuck in the hillside in stair formation….so many stairs…..I couldn’t tell if I was wet from the rain or the sweat. I see stair masters in my future. The wood planks were narrow and slippery and when I finally got to the top of the mountain (did I mention there were SO many stairs?!) they followed the crest of the mountain for a mile or so, and I felt like I was standing on a balance beam suspended in space.  I can’t believe how I up I was. Every once in a while I turned around to see how far I’d come: the valley stretched away down below, and the lake looked like a drop of water. When the path finally started to curve down and back towards civilization,  I was relieved. …until I realized that the way home was through a riverbed–literally.

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Climbing down was just as challenging,  in a different way, then climbing up. I definitely fell on my ass a few times, but I started to get my groove on and after a while I was mountain goating it down the mountain. I passed an old mining camp ruin, and then I was home free. The path widened and smoothed out as I reached the lake,  and I was elated at having survived the mountain….so I broke into a run, and jogged the last several kilometers back to the parking lot, practically skipping. It was a little sketchy at first, and I was a little worried at being alone on the top of a mountain, no one aware of my exact location (I figured if I fell off the mountain someone might wonder who’s car was still in the lot, and perhaps send out a search party…no bother). So I was almost ecstatic at my successful adventure. And the rain had stopped!!


And two and a half hours later, after only a few wrong turns, I was in Carlow.  Check your map of Ireland: not a bad days work to start in Bangor, survive a hike in Wicklow, and end up in Carlow, all in one day.