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Day 8: Donegal to Sligo

We awoke in our wee bed at the Green Gate, hoping in vain for another gorgeous day.  The weather had been a mixed bag over our first week; usually rainy and grim in the morning but burning off and warming up in the afternoon.  After a lovely breakfast (one of the best of our trip and while I love bacon more than life itself, I got a bit sick of Irish bacon everyday) with a shell-shocked looking Swiss couple, I signed Paul's guest book, which is about the size of the Oxford English Dictionary composed mostly of photos and drawings sent to the Green Gate.  I had to reassure him that I would tell the gang at Conde Nast Traveler that his website has changed, and I'm glad to see that they got the right one.  He gave us some recommendations for beaches and drives to check out on our way to Sligo that were well appreciated.  After a bath in brown water (sign reads: "The water is brown.  It is normal." due to peat in the ground), an odd but not unpleasant experience, we headed into town to check out the tweed, which is what Ardara does best.

We didn't go to Eddie's (shown above), as he also runs a pub next door and was installed at the bar when we passed and we didn't feel like making him open up shop for us.  We did go to a large store and factory at the end of the main road in Ardara, whose name escapes me at the moment, but can be recognized by the large amounts of tour buses outside.  We went in and wandered around, and while the stock is very nice, hearing the employees give their well-rehearsed spiel to masses of tourists with their wallets open at the ready turned me off immensely.  We walked up the hill and ended up buying our Aran sweaters at Kennedy's, which had the best prices I found and a no-pressure atmosphere.  We headed to the coast, driving through gorgeous misty hills and valleys, past many sheep of course.   Here is a map of County Donegal, we were in region 4, on the westernmost side:

Stopped in the little town of Glencolumbkille, where we were met by the
village idiot dog, who chased after us for ages, insisting we throw him
rocks and sticks to fetch on the deserted beach:

Gorge.  Moving on, we drove all the way to Malin Beg, which is even more remote and gorgeous.  We took a long flight of stairs down to the beach:

Just ridonculously beautiful but not that warm.   My forlorn bathing suit remained in my suitcase, tag still attached. e attempted to get closer to this structure to figure out what it was, but this was as close as we could get without incurring the wrath of rural farmers and sheep:

 Last stop in Donegal was the Slieve League Cliffs, the highest in Europe, but not as well known as the Cliffs of Mohr.  To get to the top, you can either hike about a kilometer from the lower parking lot or drive a harrowing drive to the upper look out spot.  We opted for walking and when we got to the look out spot, I was amazed but ready to turn around and go back. Oh no, H was insisting we go up *further*, up the ominous One Man's Path.  Um, yeah, perhaps you're acquainted with my fear of heights?!  He suggested we just go as far as I felt comfortable, since we'd come so far.  It was misty, but the views were still remarkable:

I don't think we actually made it to the pass, as it is described as having sharp drop offs on either side and I don't recall anything that scary.  We did get pretty high up there, enough for me to sit clinging to the dirt, far away from the edge, while H took photos and I begged him to stop before he fell down the mountain and left me a widow, a la Auntie Mame.  The way down was scarier, but I made it without tears or hyperventilating, though I am trying hard to keep it together here:

I will have to relabel this set of photos so that they have more information, we have a slew of beautiful shots from Donegal and Slieve League.  A word on my shoes: I had bought a pair of Dansko clogs for the trip, finding them practical but not hideous, despite H's snickers.  Anyway, I had tried to break them in the week before we left, but even a week into the trip, they were still making me walk in a way I can only describe as a pimp roll.  It turned out to be because of a small piece of leather embedded in the top of the shoe, which I still haven't bothered to get repaired.  I wore them anyway most of the trip, but seeing them again makes me wince at the memory.  Wow, that was a dull story.  Sorry.

On to Sligo next..

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Day 6: Death-defying Antrim Coast

So…I left off at the Carrick a Rede rope bridge and my imminent death.  Actually approaching the bridge and seeing how high it was above the water, I started to get quite a bit nervous, but I was determined to do it.  The guide/ticket collector told me it took her several days of trying before she could cross it and not it ain't no thing.  My strategy involved: no other people on the bridge to make it bounce, looking straight ahead and not down or to my sides, and a low center of gravity.  To wit:

I literally shook like a leaf when I got to the other side, and it took awhile to get the feeling back in my legs, I was so freaked out.  It is gorgeous on the other side, but I would just assumed see it from the other side and not cross the bridge again.

Getting ready to go back was almost worse, knowing how it really was.  H insisted on going first so he could photograph my face for later mocking.  Bastard.

But I did it!  A small step for most people, but a giant leap for me.  Speaking of giants, we pressed on to the Giant's Causeway, another supercool feature of the Antrim Coast.  Photos speak more than my description:

It was after 5pm and we had no hotel room, so we decided to head to Portrush for the night, a resort town on the coast rather than drive further to Derry.  Portrush is pretty but nothing too exciting, but we did see this cool abandoned castle on the way.  The story is that the kitchen fell into the ocean in the middle of dinner.  It's also on a Led Zeppelin cover!

Arrived in Portrush, where after 4 or 5 tries, we found a room for 50 pounds with a sea view at the Ramona Lodge.  Portrush is a cute harbor town with a lot of nauticalness:

We ended up making more sandwiches in our room and avoiding have dinner out, but we did go to a great pub that was tiny and most untouristy:

We spent the evening drinking pints and watching a fascinating program about home makeovers, one of those when someone British comes over and yells at your housekeeping, but you get it together and make dinner for your girlfriend and you get a crown and a ceremony!  Fun!  Then some local boys came in and complained about the TV, so we watched American COPS again and they asked us if it was really like that in the states.  Not having been busted for running a meth lab, I can't say, but it was another surreal moment.  We made friends with one guy, Dave, who goes by Booger and is horrified that his sister has just become a cop in Northern Ireland.  Here's me and Booger:

His shirt "Zoo York" is a Yankees tee, not some racist comment as I feared.  We were invited out with Booger's peeps to a nightclub, but decided to make it an early night, perhaps to our detriment.  Good times, though!

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Day 6: Mo’ Northern Ireland

Our first stop out of Belfast was the charming town of Glenarm, where we stopped for food and ATM.  Very picturesque:

Cool old cemetery:

Lacking any sort of place to get food to go, we bought bread and sandwich things and I fashioned some sandwiches in the car.  We also succeeded in setting up my iPod so that we could listen to some music rather than more obscure talk radio, so I had the surreal experience of listening to Snoop Dogg's P.I.M.P. while sitting in the car on a street like this (actually, I think that little red car is ours):

Sandwiched up, we got back on the road.  Here's what our view looked like most of the time:

Next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge.  Now, I have a pretty decent fear of heights, but I was assured by many that it was "not that bad" and as long as there weren't other people shaking the bridge, it felt pretty steady.  I was confident that I could do it, as long as I threated bodily harm to any people who looked like they might shake the bridge while I was on it.  You have to walk about a kilometer to get to the bridge from the car park, and the views were amazing.  This is Sheep Island, which begged the question: Can sheep swim?  Consensus: yes, if they have to, but not that well.

Clearly, I'm alive to tell the tale, but I haven't time now to do so, as I'm late to go somewhere. For now, I'll leave a taste of what's in store:

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