Welcome to my blog about my trip to Ireland with the Greeley Chorale in May/June 2013.  This site will consist of blog entries for each day of the trip and contain pictures (that I took while on the trip), excerpts from the blog I kept while we were in Ireland (which will be placed in quotes and italicized), and just some various other bits of information or my thoughts/feelings about the trip now that we are back and I've had a chance to soak in and process the journey we took.

The Chorale left in two separate groups for this trip.  I was a part of the first group to leave but the second group to arrive.  The group I was in was made up of all the people who were staying an extra 4 days for the extension portion of the tour.  This group included my parents who were excited for the trip as well.  My dad is a part of the Chorale which is why we were getting to take such an amazing adventure.

Ireland is a place I have always wanted to go.  Anytime someone would ask me, if you could go anywhere in the world where would you like to visit most, I could quickly and without any hesitation say Ireland.  Usually before they even could complete the question.  :)  That made this trip a dream come true for me.  We were going to visit many of the places I wanted to go (Ring of Kerry, Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle) as well as a few areas I had never had a specific desire to go (Belfast, Dublin). However, even those places I hadn't had a specific desire to go to were exciting prospects, mostly because, I was going to be in IRELAND!

I hope you can enjoy the journey with me as I walk back through my trip and share the experiences that make me still answer the question of where I would go if I could go anywhere in the world with a quick and resounding IRELAND....AGAIN!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Friday, May 31st (Dunluce Castle --> Giant's Causeway --> Stormont Dinner)

After some breakfast and getting ready for the day we left to take the 2 hour (approximately) trip to the Giant's Causeway.  Once again Katie was full of information for us.  She told us about the people, the history of how people came to Ireland, how Rome never came to try and conquer them, etc.  On our way we made one stop to see Dunluce Castle in County Antrim.

"It's in disrepair, but beautiful in it's own way." Apparently the cliff it sits on gave way and the kitchen of the castle fell into the ocean, killing many people.  The only person left was a small boy who was told to go sit on a stool in the corner before the collapse.

Then it was onto Giant's Causeway. There are a multiple different paths you can take to walk around the Giant's Causeway. I decided on the longest route, along the bottom first, and then up to the top of the cliffs and back. The Giant's Causeway has a legend, which we heard first from Katie and then again by the audio guides we had once we got there.

"Finn McCool was a giant who was "at war" with a Scottish giant.  At this spot Scotland is 15 miles off the coast, so Finn started making a path of stones."  It became clear enough that at times you could make out Scotland in the distance.

There are plenty of interesting formations at the causeway, this one being called the Camel.  It took me a couple of minutes to see it and it's easier to see from other angles as well, but it is pretty cool.  There are also a ton of yellow "flowers" called Gorse, which are considered weeds in Ireland.  I thought they were pretty.

To start out the day it was a bit cloudy and what they call "soft" weather.  Basically a lot of misting and moisture in the air without it really raining.  It did allow for some pretty pictures though, without harsh shadows or a lot of light reflection in the water.

The way the stones appear to be cut is a natural phenomenon.  It's called the "honeycomb" and is part of the path Finn McCool made.  It was fascinating to see so many stones shaped like this, as well as the black rocks that line much of the coast.

"When he saw, however, how big this other giant was he quickly went home and dressed as a baby." Which was Finn's wife's suggestion after he told her what he had seen.  Apparently during his quick departure from this area to get home he left his boot behind.  Which is one of the prominent stone features here.  It took me awhile to get a picture without someone standing on or around the boot.

About 1/2 way along the bottom path you pass through the Giant's Gate (the upper pictures). Then you can see the Giant's Organ.  I got a close up of the "pipes."  Which are also naturally forming. It is also known as a lion's head I believe.  Which you can see if you are standing back from it, but I never took a picture of that.

After taking some INSANELY difficult and steep steps up to the top of the causeway I stopped to catch my breath and take some pictures of water droplets, and a flower.  The view from the top was amazing!  Back to Finn McCool though.  "The Scottish giant came to his house, saw how big the "baby" was and thought, "then how big must the father be?!" and he left." So all worked out for Finn McCool.

When I was walking back along the top of the cliffs the sun began to come out and I was rewarded with some beautiful views and able to capture some amazing pictures.  Seeing the land, the rolling hills, and sheep grazing, the water far below in this awesome natural landscape was breathtaking to me.  I was so amazed at being IN Ireland and seeing the beauty of it for myself, I just wanted to stay in those moments forever.

Looking back out across where I had come from just offered some fantastic views of the causeway.  I almost couldn't make myself walk down the path to go back to the visitor's center and gift shop, I wanted to stay and soak it all in. However, I was on a time limit and still had to eat lunch. After lunch we returned to Belfast and our hotel to prepare for our Stormont dinner.

"At a little passed 4:30 PM we were back on the buses and headed to Stormont...Then came the tour.  It's all done in white Italian marble, has a German chandelier which was marked as missing from Windsor Castle, even though it was given to these guys.  The assembly room was magnificent.  There had been a fire there, so the room was completely redone.  It is covered in Bur Walnut, which is what they use in Bentley's...Then we saw the Senate room."  Stormont is the Northern Ireland Parliament building. It's a magnificent building and quite large, and we were very lucky to get invited to dine here with the men's choir the Chorale would be singing with the next night.

We could not take pictures in the assembly and senate rooms, but they were magnificent. The assembly room especially, since it had been redone and was obviously newer.  The entire building is stunning and it was quite a chance of a lifetime to have dinner here with the Donaghee men's choir.

The ceiling and chandeliers are exquisite and the view back down the road is also very beautiful.  The ornate chandelier in the middle is the German one I mentioned above. The dinner we had was amazing!

SO much food.  There was a soup course, then salad course, some sorbet to cleanse the pallet, I think. Then the main course was salmon, which I was worried about but actually enjoyed.  I'm not a big salmon person, but I wouldn't have gone hungry even if I didn't want to eat it.  After the salmon we had desert, tea or coffee with some chocolate.  A magnificent day to be sure.

I even made a couple of friends in the men's choir.  Terry, is a bass, is fond to telling stories and joking around.  He kept me quite entertained before dinner. During dinner we sat with a man named Andrew.  He and his wife are quite sweet, and we had a good time getting to know the men in the choir and their wives.

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