Day 16: Bushmills, Giant's Causeway, and a suspect Rope Bridge

Bushmills Travel Blog

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Yawn.  Uh oh.  What time was that tour again?  9:40am?  What time is it? 9:26?!  I flew downstairs with the speed of a Celtic warrior (I actually have no scientific proof of what velocity they achieved) and managed the last ticket to the bus tour to the northern coast.  Phew!

Got into one of the new "grasshopper" buses.  Air conditioning and a nice window seat.  I sat down at 9:36, we were off at 9:40 on the dot.  We took the A2 coastal road and drove by the Glens of Antrim.  First stop: the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, with majestic views of the coast and, farther away, Scotland.  It was a perfect, perfect day.  The sun was out, and the flowers were blooming, and the king fisher birds were plunging into the waters from break-neck heights.  Awesome.  If you ever get to go, make sure to make this one of your stops.   You have to pay £3 to actually cross the bridge, but oh well, it was worth it.  Although I don't think the British are aware of the phrase "nickel and dimed to death", you can bet your ass they do it mercilessly.  The bridge itself is nice and rickety.  Perfect for people watching ;)

Next stop was the Old Bushmills Distillery, the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world (dating back to 1608).  That's 399 years of Uisce Beatha ("water of life" in Irish), and it's said that it was Queen Victoria's "only true Irish friend".  The distillers were huge (the pots, not the humans operating them), I think they held something like 48,000 liters.  The whole apparatus reminded me of my days doing fracture distillations in the lab of Organic Chem.  Now I know the difference between Scotch and Whiskey.  Ready to hear it?  Scotch (or Scottish whisky - no 'e') is distilled only twice, as opposed to Irish whiskey which is distilled 3 times.  Also, although both only use three ingredients--malt barley, water, and yeast--the barley is smoked in Scotch whisky, giving it a smoky flavor. 

It all still tastes like shit to me.

The tour comes with a free drink coupon, so I got myself their finest special 12-yr Reserve whiskey, which is not available outside the town of Bushmills.  Almost hurled. 

The tour guide was a puny effeminate balding Portuguese man with huge eyebrows.  I bet you anything he's a bottom.

The last stop was the Giant's Causeway, the only World Heritage site in the North of Ireland (I think it's not kosher to say North Ireland, but I haven't asked).  Touted as "North (of) Ireland's biggest tourist attraction", as many as 2000 people a day flock here.  Gladly, although it was a wonderful 18 C, there were not many people at all.  As the main attraction in the tour, I was really looking forward to it, but when I got there it wasn't giant like I had thought.  They're just a bunch of hexagonal stones jutting out like steps from the sea.  They were pretty cool-looking, and legend has it hat the Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. 

Just graduating with a Biology degree, I was a little bit skeptical.  Wikipedia has this to say:  "Although the basaltic columns of the Giant's Causeway are impressive, they are not unique. Basalt columns are a common volcanic feature, and they occur on many scales (faster cooling produces smaller columns). Other notable sites include Fingal's Cave in Scotland, the Garni gorge in Armenia, the Cyclopean Isles near Sicily, Devils Postpile National Monument in California, Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, Santa Maria Regla Basalt Prisms in Hidalgo, Mexico", blah blah blah.  The list goes on. 

The last stop was a quick photo stop at Dunluce Castle, built in the 16th century so close to a cliff's edge that the kitchen fell into the sea during a grand banquet, resulting in the arrest of the host; the cooks all died.  Fantastic view, though.

My companion for the day was a South Korean student named Dong Wan (yes, I asked him twice to confirm it).  He's on the last leg of his 1-month trip through Europe, and he said Barcelona was his favorite (yay!).  Did you know that in South Korean schools they have to study 8 years of English, but not a single class in speaking it?  How weird.  He understood me fine, but not the other way around.

10.5 hours later, we arrived back in Belfast, and I was tuckered out. 

I headed to the city center for a bite to eat then went to the Northern Ireland's most famous pub, the Crown Bar.  It's exquisitely detailed inside and out, and is the only pub owned by the National Trust in Belfast.  It's windows were blown out in 1988 by a bomb attack, but pubbers would never know it: the stained-glass windows have been restored.  There are also a bunch of booths inside, called snugs, that have a door for privacy and gun metal plates for striking matches.  Sweet.

I realized it was the perfect place to surrender my Guinness virginity.  Yes, I'm not a fan of the dark ales.  At least not until my (first) Guinness arrived.  Ruby and Cream.  Black and White.  Two distinct parts, one perfect pint.  I've had my fair share of stouts and porters, and they are all way too heavy.  But, as millions before me have realized, it's actually really really good.  It's surprisingly smooth, which made me all sorts of giddy.  Did you know that "it takes 119.53 seconds to pour the perfect pint"?  An original ad slogan.  And, coincidentally, it was first made in 1753.  Ok, now for what you didn't know:

Despite its reputation as a "meal in a glass", Guinness only contains 198 calories per imperial pint (20oz), fewer than an equal-sized serving of skimmed milk or orange juice and most other non-light beers.  The perceived smoothness of draught Guinness is due to its low level of carbon dioxide and the creaminess of the head caused by the very fine bubbles that arise from the use of nitrogen and the dispensing method.  "Original Extra Stout" tastes quite different; it contains only carbon dioxide, causing a more acidic taste.  Finally, studies show that Guinness can be beneficial to the heart. Researchers found that antioxidant compounds in Guinness, similar to those found in certain fruits and vegetables, are responsible for health benefits because they slow down the deposit of harmful cholesterol on the artery walls.

Lovely day for a Guinness, no?
chrisrae says:
Your description of the day is much more detailed than mine...I think I'm getting lazy in my blogging. I enjoyed my whiskey at Bushmills, however ;)
Posted on: Jun 14, 2007
dannydickman says:
Glad you caught that. My parents reading this are totally in the no-know zone on that one ;)
Posted on: Jun 01, 2007
raularanda2001 says:
I can't believe you said that about the portuguese guy. LOL!!!! So I guess Guinness is better than Milk and Orange Juice? Guinness is my new breakfast!!!
Posted on: Jun 01, 2007
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