London(derry) Calling

(You know I had to…it’s a good album…and you can thank/blame me for putting that song in your head.)

We rolled out of Donegal in the mid-afternoon and into Derry (officially Londonderry) just after 6pm. Early…but too late for any museums.

We’d been going to wing it with our accommodations when we got in, but a quick stop at the visitors center before we set off from Donegal made us realize that was no good. We ended up at the Tower Hotel. I was more than a little ‘Hrmph’ at the price (+120 pounds a night) but, since we were there for only a night and it was centrally located, it was worth it. (Seriously, though, no complimentary WiFi. WTF?!)

As soon as we got in, we heard music blaring from speakers. It was Friday and there was a free concert underway. Once we were settled with our rooms I set out to see what I could. I walked down to the water and across the Peace Bridge; Derry is a city with a turbulent past.

Coming from a heat wave, I wasn’t sure how to dress (I have no concept of temperature). Walking around in shorts, a sleeveless shirt, and flip-flops, I got a few looks from people in trousers and jackets. After a few miles, I headed back to take on the city wall; the last fully intact in Ireland.

After a lap around the wall, I met up with my sister and dad for a birthday drink at Peadar O’Donnell’s and a vegan burger from Build-A-Burger (total score! girl behind the counter was really helpful! 5 pounds with fries). I bought my sister a hot dog and noted I was conflicted, which prompted a civil dialogue about why I am vegan (yay!). [If you’re keeping track, I did switch from euros; Northern Ireland uses pounds.]

My legs were still restless, so I headed to the hotel gym for a quick run…at 11pm, lol. After a few km, I was ready for bed. Not a bad way to send out and bring in a new year.

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In the morning, after quickly seeing the city in the light, we headed out again. Destination: Bushmills (how could we not?).

The tour wasn’t cheap, but it was really worth it. Our guide was really enthusiastic and informative…and their was gold at the end (vegan-friendly according to Barnivore). I’m not a big drinker, but when in Rome.

The food on sale in the kitchen was mostly meat, but there were potatoes too! The woman behind the counter continued the trend of really helpful people and said that there were chips or she could make me up a salad. Since she said the chips weren’t cooked with meat products, well, when in Rome…

Really cool was that the couple ahead of me are vegan as well. They were Bolivian finishing up a one month trip. The young woman was in line with her partner while he bought a drink because they thought that’s all they could have. Once she heard my conversation, she ordered herself up a portion.

Chips and a Hot Totty, Bushmills Distillery, August 3rd
Chips and a Hot Totty, Bushmills Distillery, August 3rd

Adding to the not-Ireland-on-the-cheap-but-totally-worth-it theme of the day, we hustled off to Giant’s Causeway. This is one of the only places I was confident I wanted to visit and it was beautiful. According to our guide, you can see the coast of Scotland on a clear day, 26 miles away. The interlocking columns, that look from above like walkway stones, are the product of volcanic lava cooling at different temperatures (oh, nature, you badass).

The myth goes something like, the giant Finn McCool wanted to challenge two Scottish giants so he built the causeway to them. He came upon the giants sleeping and they were larger than he. It was a fight he couldn’t win so he ran back. The giants awoke and ran after Finn, who told his wife of his predicament. She dressed him as a baby and told him to pretend to be sleeping. When the Scottish giants came in search of Finn, his wife told them he was not home but would be back; to come inside and have some tea but do not wake the baby. Once the giants set their eyes on ‘baby Finn,’ they thought, ‘If that’s the baby, we don’t want to meet the father,’ and ran back to Scotland scattering the causeway.

Giant's Causeway, August 3rd
Giant’s Causeway, August 3rd (Click for full panoramic view)

You could walk the cliffs for miles. BEAUTIFUL! However, we needed to be back in Dublin, so off again we were…

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