Thursday, January 10, 2008

Irish Highlights

I’m back!!

Do you remember how when we were kids we all had to do essays about “My Summer Vacation” almost every beginning of the school year? Well, that’s how I felt about blogging about my Christmas break! But unlike those summer vacation essays where you write about the usual went to the beach, watch TV, and all that, I actually have special stuff to write about—coupled with the excitement of being back in cyberspace. It is a small miracle that I survived the limited internet connection I had during my break but then again, I thought it would be pretty pathetic to be holed up in a room surfing the net when I should be out enjoying my first time in Northern Ireland! So there—hopefully that will excuse me for my long absence from cyberspace.

Anyway, what was it I was going to say? Oh yes, highlights, highlights of my Northern Ireland adventure—oh how do I count the ways?? Anyway, here goes..

A Blast in Belfast
Not the political sort, thankfully, as Northern Ireland has experienced peace for about 10 years. I had fun scouring through different shops and just enjoying the sights of Belfast—including going on a bus tour on an open top bus on a rainy day! The tourist guide’s Belfast accent was so thick that I did a double take at one point on her short spiel about the docks where the Titanic was built (they claim not to be responsible for the sinking!) and pointed out the presence of “two giant yellow Koreans” that was a testimony of the busy shipyard of the Belfast past. Koreans?! Oh…cranes! Oh well, she almost got me there. (And yes, I did manage to go a few rounds in the Belfast wheel!)

Awesome Sites

I loved the walks down the beach that I did with friends on Christmas eve and on other occasions—though nobody would ever-ever dream of going in for a dip, except maybe for a few odd Irish who has made it a ritual to freeze their behinds for a few seconds, I guess just to check out how it feels like to get hypothermia! Anyway, I was happy enough to hear the sound of the waves crashing while some of my friends decided to lie on the sandy shore in their warm jackets—a pathetic but funny sight, if I may say so!!

And wouldn't miss the chance to see the famous Giant's Causeway--even if my hosts rolled their eyes when I asked if I could go there--apparently, they have been there a million times, since every single visitor who goes Northern Ireland wants to see it. One of my hosts happily obliged--wee!

Irish Hospitality

I spent time with a number of friends and that meant sleeping in a total of 5 beds in 5 different houses over 20 days—which meant literally living in my suitcase but it also meant being able to spend extended times with friends and getting to know their friends and family as well. I think I can safely say that I know half of Northern Ireland’s population—and if you talk about six degrees of separation, I think I must be then “know” every single person in Northern Ireland somehow—you see, I found out how all my Irish friends knew each other, or at least knew somebody who knew them who knew me. Oh well, you know what I mean!! The Irish culture is such a warm inclusive culture that it didn’t take too long for me to feel at home (which also meant lots of tea, coffee, potato bread, minced pies, Christmas pudding and chocolates.) Speaking of chocolates, I found out the secret of winning the Irish over--just feed them chocolates!

White New Year

THE highlight of my stay turned out to be the fact that my holiday was snow-capped—literally!! You see, on my third to the last day in Ireland, I decided to spend it staying overnight with a retired couple who are long time friends (from their days in the Philippines) in the seaside Irish town of Newcastle. The plan was for them to drive me back to Belfast the next day at about 530pm after I have seen the sights. So we spent that day enjoying the sights—the fact that the wind was strong and bitterly cold by the shore and up the Mourne Mountains did not deter us (though it was the first time my cheeks were frozen!) from enjoying the sights. Almost the whole day, there were drops of ice that intermittently rained down and each time I would look eagerly at Sam, my host and ask, “Is it snow?” and he would say no each time I asked (which was problem a hundred times) and then finally 530pm came and it was time for them to drive me back to Belfast so that I can catch my flight back to England early next morning. By 530pm the sky was already dark and so I could hardly make out the shapes outside the window. So how was I to know that the lumps by the side of the road as we drove more inland was actual snow? Until Sam pointed it out to me, “There you are—snow!!” The more inland we went the more excited I was as I saw the white sheet that seemed to cover thing around the countryside—but as our car came to a crawl and as we looked out at the gazillion of red taillights in front of us, thrill turned to worry. After twenty minutes of inching our way and sometimes just waiting on standstill, we were able to ask the cars on the other side, seeming to be coming back from Belfast and realized that most cars were unable to go up the slopes because of the slippery road conditions. So my hosts decided to take another route and with the same results! So we decided that I should just miss my flight the next day and book a flight two days later just to be safe. And so I did miss my flight and returned home with my hosts in Newcastle-but hey, I was not really all that put off—who would since missing flight meant enjoying an hour a half’s walk on 6 inches of snow (it felt like taking a tour of Narnia when the Ice Queen still ruled), taking in the awesome sights around me and building my wee snowman? (I could hardly go into snowball fights with the retired couple I was with so had to settle with crunching on snow--which was just as great).

Back to Reality

There is so much more to tell (Like my first fox and reindeer sighting, like the first time I ate blue cheese...)!! But alas, since my flight was three days late, I came back to college hitting the ground running—that is, having to do all my pre-class readings, housekeeping, etc etc. It is indeed back to reality, and after hugs and hellos from classmates, it was great to find out that even though this meant the end of a great break, I was still happy to return to Gloucester.

May the New Year be a great adventure with the Lord--for me and for you.


Rudy said...

What? All those places and you didn't get to visit an authentic Irish pub for a round of beer? ;-)

That was one heck of an adventure you have, gypsy. Welcome back and a belated Happy New Year. :-)

ZJ said...

Oh what a great Christmas adventure!! Inggit ako :D

carlotta1924 said...

awww! that's so nice, siguro nga sa wintry atmosphere na yan maiimagine mo ngang nasa narnia ka. sana maexperience ko rin yan someday =)

naimagine ko rin tuloy ano kaya kung nakipagsnowball fight din sayo yung elderly couple ano? hehe.

happy new year!

Annamanila said...

Aaah your holidays are crammed full of new people and new adventure and new food and stuff. And here we are in Pinas still dreaming of a white christmas just like the one you just had.

I'd just it couldnt happen to a nicer girl.

Stay happpy. Has half a year passed since you left? Uhmmm maybe more of three months?

Wil said...

Sounds like an awesome time.

I also felt the same way when my mom got high speed internet in Baguio. I should be out-and-about instead of surfing the internet when on vacation. hehe

mitsuru said...

many of us were green with envy with your emerald isle adventure.

did you find your leprechaun there?

but i guess you're more excited about the white snow. he-he.

happy new year.

zherwin said...

your christmas vacation is one for the books! and that missed flight really do you more good than harm.

happy new year! :)

philippine dragonfly said...

irish, eh? saya naman tumawid ng dagat sa kabilang isla

exskindiver said...

this sounds like fun and that you took the time to immerse yourself in the culture.
not engaging uncle sam with a snowball fight was probably a good choice hehehe.
you are most blessed to be able to go through all of this.
happy new year.

Gypsy said...

I DID visit an Irish pub--The Crown-its the oldest pub in Ireland..but no beer for me, but they might not give me any since I dont have ID with me and there's a huge chance they might mistake me for a minor *wink*

ZJ, oo nga adventure talaga..hopefully, more to come. Hehe...

Carlotta, Narnia talaga! I could almost imagine seeing the Lamp post and Mr Tumnus!

Anna, aawww...thanks! :) Too many new faces nga, in fact when I went for a walk at Belfast, everyone seemed to look familiar!

Wil, oh yea, Baguio, one of my fave places--yes I wouldnt let myself be holed up there either!

Bill, thanks! I actually bought myself a wee leprechaun souvenir (made in china..)

Zherwin, true ka! I had a hard time showing regret to the people I missed appointments with (due to the missed flight). :)

Tutubi, oo nga...islands are always great places to you would know, too!

Chesca, thanks-yup, no snowball fights--or else I might get an invite to return! Haha

Swipe said...

I had an Irish co-worker once and I couldn't understand every other word he said. I found myself trying to guess what he was saying based on context. Half the time though I had to ask him to repeat what he was saying. He also kept saying "emmm..." whenever he paused to think what to say next. I think that was the equivalent of our "ummm..."

Em Dy said...

I was in Dublin in 2004. Ireland really looks magical. Did you try Butler's chocolates?

Toe said...

Ano kasalanan ng mga koreano kaya lumubog yung titanic? Acheche... hindi pala ganon. :) Belfast looks beautiful... must be a place where few Filipinos have gone (I think). Grabe yung Narnia... parang postcard. :)

rowena said...

Hi Gypsy, enjoy naman ako sa post mo as if I was there with you. Am glad you had a very enjoyable holidays. Suddenly I missed my sis who's also abroad like you, taking up her masteral in kobe. I can just imagine what she's been through last Christmas, just like this entry of yours (I guess, she also spend it with her new-found friends)....Btw, when are you coming back? Hope to meet you when you get back here in Manila.