Mandarin Palace – London/Derry – Northern Ireland, UK

Apparently voted the best Chinese Restaurant in Ireland, it was worth a look and see. Irish food quality I’ve heard has had an explosion of flavors and variety and as someone who enjoys Asian food (and pizza) I had to give it a try. So four of use broke off from the group to give this place a go.

Bar at the entrance of the restaurant and the waiting space while they find and prepare a table.
Staff Preparing a Reserved Section of the Restaurant for what ended up being a huge party of people.
End of our meal we got our fortune cookie, a different take to what we normally get in North America
Promises… Promises…

Overall I was quite happy to of tried this restaurant. The food was good and there was still an “Irish” vibe in the service and overall everyone in the restaurant seemed to be having a good time.

If you don’t want to do sit-down restaurant they also have take-away and delivery

Irish Cairns and Drumcliffe, Republic of Ireland

Without a doubt, the longest bus day on the trip we leave Northern Ireland and head south through some extremely scenic Ireland green landscapes as we head towards the costal port town of Galway. We make several short stops along the route, each bringing its own flavor of Ireland…

What Irish Bus Tour would be Complete without a Third Stop to an AppleGreen Truck Stop?

Okay just kidding, the first culture stop was an old megalithic stone court cairns where people used to bury the dead.

Our next stop was at St. Columba’s, an old Irish Church in Drumcliffe which is notable for a famous burial plot of W.B. Yates, a famous Irish Poet.

Welcome to Drumcliffe
The resting place of the famous Irish Poet W.B. Yates

The Dumcliffe stop also had a washroom and a couple quaint tourist coffee shops right beside the Church Grounds.

While most of the bus decided to stop and have some snacks I found out the church was actually open and the nun in attendance was very friendly and happy to allow me to explore the lower level at my leisure.

As we said goodbye to Drumcliffe we continued for quite a bit of driving, I took some time to stare out the heavy glossed windows (cough cough – not 100% photographic friendly). This portion of the trip seems to be very focused on death and burial.

But our next stop was worth it, West Port, what I envisioned a coastal Irish town should look like… check out the next post!

Legenderry City Walk – London/Derry Northern Ireland

It’s day 2 of the Shamrocker All Ireland Rocker bus tour and I (and everyone else) took the 5£ option for a walking tour around Londonderry/ Derry / Legenderry* with Martin McCrossan City Tours. This is the oldest walking tour company in Derry with our host being the daughter of Mr. McCrossan who is officially named “Mr. Derry” for his efforts promoting the city.

The tour kicked off at our hotel lobby as we were already well situated downtown. Our guide wore a bright yellow jumper (as you can clearly see) which made it easy to follower her along as the tour commenced.

Now like all walking tours, you do require a but of walking stamina for the 1.5 hours or so jaunt around the city. There are frequent culture talk breaks but as the city isn’t flat be prepared to walk up some stairs and hill sides. This is defiantly a “culture vulture” activity to learn in depth about the city’s divided history and present day realities.

It was clear our guide is very passionate about Lendenderry* (her coined phrase) and you can see that on her face as she discusses the various elements of “The Troubles” and the lessons learned since then.

Overall it was a great guided walk if you wanted to learn all about the Troubles and had questions the TV series “Derry Girls” didn’t fully answer for you. She was open and willing to answer tough questions various members of the group had and overall I’d rate this guided tour much more strongly than some others I have been on. Defiantly worth more than the 5£ so be sure to leave a tip.

Dark Hedges and Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge – Ballintoy, Northern Ireland

After Belfest our Shamrocker Adventures All Ireland Rocker tour bus continued north towards the coast lines. Along the way we made a few stops!

Game of Thrones Fan? Well I’ve not inadvertently visited two major sites for Kings landing, with Dubrovnik Croatia being the other. I guess I should get around to watching that series…

Proof I was here!

The dark hedges basically line a road between two fields, one end is very popular and the site of most of those famous “Dark Hedges” photos you always see with tones of tourists clamoring to get selfies and photos. We came in from the other end of the trail… less people so viola!

The other end of the Hedges – I only had to photoshop out 3 tourist!

After our brief stop at the hedges we continued north to Ballitoy, a quaint small village along the north shore of the island where we will be staying the night in order to get us quickly to Giant’s Causeway in the morning.

The view from the front of our hostel and pretty much the entire village!

There is honestly very little to do in Ballitoy other than head down to the shore and get some breaths of fresh ocean air. Since I brought my Z6 and Sirui Video Monopod I decided to give some long-exposure photography a go as we quickly lost the light.

Night finally set in and we headed back up the hill to the town
(Photoshopped Star Filled Sky as it Was Cloudy)
The Fullerton Arms – The Only Pub in Town.

Once it was dark we returned to Ballitoy and some of us, despite the rain decided to check out the local pub, the Fullerton Arms. I wanted to try some local Irish Ciders, and get some solid Irish experience. There was live music at the arms and it seemed like a pretty lively place.

Its a Saturday night so for entertainment the locals tried to play matchmaker with some of the female tour-mates and local lads from around town. It was all in good fun but we eventually turned in as we had an exciting day tomorrow and some of us (me) were going to try to stick in an extra event before we left.

Famous Rope Bridge just outside Ballitoy, Northern Ireland

I and a few other adventurous souls woke up early in the morning in order to make the trek to Carrick-a-Rede, a rope bridge that you can walk over (with a ticket). We didn’t have time to wait for it to open, which is fine by me (I’m not the biggest fan of heights – despite what that zip-lining video I took may disagree).

At this point I need to start thanking my Shamrocker Adventure Tour Mates for taking the time to capture some photos of me… I’m too often always behind the camera to remember that I need to show I actually visited places!

Okay, now on to the main attraction for which I’m in Northern Ireland for… the giant’s Causeway!

Belfest Black Cab Tour

Belfest is the capital of Northern Ireland and a major hub for “The Troubles” where historically Protestants and Catholics have dueled over the fate of Northern Ireland and its place within the UK and Europe. This has resulted in a very segmented city with distinct neighborhoods. The black tours gives you a opportunity to travel to various neighborhoods circumventing the complex series of walls wind through the city. Our Shamrocker Adventures bus dropped us off in the center of the city where the Black Cabs were already waiting to take us through the city.

Black Cabs Ready to Whisk Us Away

This particular Black Cab company is Big E Taxi Tours and reachable at 07968477924

Away we go!

After learning about the catholic struggle during the troubles we moved to a location which separates the city with a significantly taller wall (taller than the Berlin wall) which is known as the “Belfast Peace Wall” as it separates the warring communities and keeps the peace.

A major street now has a walls on both sides

The black cab drivers gave us markers so that we could write on the wall, quite a few people took them up on their offer.

Next the cabs brought us to Catholic side of the Peace Wall and a monument garden for people who were killed during the troubles called the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden.

Finally the tour was done and we got dropped off at the St. George Market to wander the stalls in search of lunch and any trinkets we might spy and want from our short time in belfast.

New Travel Friends after the Black Cab Tour

Now to figure out where the bus is parked…

Heading to the Emerald Isle (and England)

As a graduation gift to myself (who else is going to buy me cool travel presents) I decided that I should finally visit the Emerald Isle (Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) as everyone else in my family as done so at least once… yay heritage!
For most of the Ireland Portion I’ll be on a Shamrocker Tour, afterwards I’m heading to Southern England to visit with my brother and some free-styling adventure travel.

A hint of what’s to come!

Given my down-sizing a few years ago in order to move to Toronto for school and a 1 bedroom apartment I had to divest of a few larger pieces of equipment and especially a large assortment of travel bags… So I did a bit of Pre-Trip Shopping 🙂

I also rarely (if ever) drink, for me its more a taste of the culture when I travel, although yes… for some reason I can’t seem to avoid checking out every brewery/winery/distillery I come across. Guinness is apparently the drink of Ireland so I managed to grab a can and give it a go… I’m told it tastes better in Ireland… one can only hope!

Guinness in a can – pre-trip dive into Irish Culture
Evening Flight out of Kingston Airport
Seat in the last row of the airplane #winning!
There are like 8 people on this plane…
Toronto… I was literally down there 3 days ago… (Irony)
Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane
Tiny Bombardier Dash 8-100 Airplane landed in Toronto

So of course this tiny little airplane was not going to fly me all the way to Ireland, but in Pearson International Airport fashion… its time for a walk-about in haste to board the next (and much larger) plane!

Long story short… I made it to Ireland, now to find some Guinness.

Spoiler: Guinness is not hard to find in Ireland