Arrived in Dublin

I check out of my hotel in Belfast and head to Dublin today but first I head out to see the peace wall that I missed earlier. Thank goodness I still wake up very early so I can go out and sightsee before I need to leave. My sleep schedule is not so great for pub visits but opportune to seeing sights during the day.

The peace wall is the barricade that separated the two fighting groups of Ireland in the middle of Belfast to help foster “peace”. Before the mid-90’s this country was torn in pieces by constant violence. I am going to try to simplify it and I’ll probably get it a little wrong but basically it is between the British loyalists or Protestants (Ireland used to be ruled completely by Britain) and the Irish Separatists or Catholics. Ireland was technically declared independent in 1922 but I guess Britain wasn’t totally out of the picture and it caused factions to form. Northern Ireland remained loyal to the crown for the most part while Southern Ireland wanted to remain independent. This morning I walked down to the peace wall, which still exists, to see the art and written messages promoting peace and unity. There is talk of bringing the wall down but this particular wall is still up for now; perhaps so they never forget the past and they don’t repeat it. I learn later that I should have booked a black taxi tour to get a real feel for the history. I have another reason to return.

I had planned to take the 20 something minute walk to the train station to catch my train to Dublin but then it starts raining, then it develops into sleet and snow. I take an Uber instead. The train is on time and even the basic car seat I purchased is pretty comfortable, although it was never quite clear if I am in the right class. I have flash backs of getting kicked out of first class in Spain. I don’t get comfortable until we move and I see train staff walking by not caring about which ticket I have.

It’s ice snowing

My hotel is a little distance from the train station in Dublin so I Uber again (Ubers are taxis by the way). It starts pouring, sleeting, and snowing just like Belfast. The weather has seemed to follow me here.

After hotel check in I decide to waste no time and sneak off to an last minute tasting at the distillery around the corner. The triangle shaped area I am staying is called “The Liberties”. It used to have the highest concentration of Dublin whisky distilleries. Irish whiskeys where thriving in the 19th century, people couldn’t get enough of them. Three things happened in the early 1900’s to change that: Irish independence, prohibition in the USA, and the Irish ignoring new technologies in the industry. All the existing distilleries closed in Dublin by the 1970’s (some moved operations elsewhere and stayed alive). In 2015, Teeling Whisky Distillery became the first new distillery to open in Dublin in 125 years. A distant relative once had a distillery not far from where the current location is so basically whisky is in their blood. I purchased the tasting where I try 3 different whiskies. Each had their own merits. My favorite being Single Grain Irish Whisky. The other tasting included a special cocktail that I also want to try so I purchase one at the bar after our official tasting. Now that I am all liquored up I decide I need dinner.

I wander around town in the evening. I go by all the temple bars. I notice teenagers lining up for blocks for some concert of a band I have never hear of. They seem to be wildly popular though.

I make reservations to try boxty – a local dish.

I get to the area early so pop into a pub where a person is performing Irish tunes and contemporary covers. I remember to order half a pint this time. Seems to be perfect for me lately for a quick drink.

Boxty is ok. I was expecting a life changing experience but it was just good. The meat was more tender than I expected so I liked that.

No late night drinks for me so I head back to the hotel for the night. I am meeting my friend tomorrow.

Ha’Penny Bridge

Giants Causeway day trip

Today is a long day. I am taking a coach tour north to see the Giants Causeway with a couple other stops. I contemplated renting a car and doing the drive on my own but since I have limited time here in Belfast I decided the whole rental car business is too much trouble – I really need to come back and do it properly when I have more time. There are some things I miss without the car: stopping at the cute small towns that catch my eye along the ride, the rope bridge that forbids bus tours from visiting, and stopping for whatever views I like. However not having to stress about driving is nice too.

We stop briefly at one town to see the Carrickfergus castle. Not really much time to see anything but walk along the water a bit and visit the bathroom. I’ve gotten my fill of castles lately so I skip trying to tour it quickly.

Our bus isn’t totally full so I get a row of my own as well as do other single travelers. There are days I am social and there are days I am not. Today I really don’t feel like being social so it is nice to have my space.

We pass by this hill that hides a school place where kids where taught Gaelic language in secret when it was outlawed by english.

We additionally stop at the dark hedges, famous mostly for a Game of Thrones scene. They are nice but I bet were much nicer in the past. There are parts not so dark and scary anymore….perhaps it is because it is technically still winter maybe. Before the dark hedges we are advised to get lunch at the hotel. It is a buffet of pub food. I wish I would have skipped it and snacked instead. I would have liked more time to take a longer walk down the street with the hedges.

The highlight of the day is visiting Giant’s Causeway, a rock formation near the water in Northern Ireland. Lava created this formation many millions of years ago. It is kind of impressive to view the symmetry that exists among the rocks.

I made dinner reservations at a pub but I still have a couple hours. I need some more St Patrick’s paraphernalia so I pop into shops real quick before they are about to close. Shops close early around here just like a small town. After shopping I decide to do a tour of a couple pubs since I have yet to do this in Belfast. Dinner at one more pub and then time to sleep since its been a long day.

Tomorrow I am going to visit the peace wall and head to Dublin where a friend will join me in my travels.

The not so wee Titanic

Slip for white star ships

I am in Belfast and everything is wee this and wee that. I originally thought we was a Scottish-only thing but watching the amazing show “The Derry Girls” corrected me in that matter. Side note: I wanted to originally visit Derry during this trip but due to me traveling off season, none of the tours are running there yet. I love the show and cannot visit the town without a proper tour of all the filming locations. If you have not seen it, this fantastic show gives you a glimpse into life of Northern Ireland during the 90’s through teenage girls. This show hits even harder because I was a teenage girl in the 90’s and I get to see what life was like for girls my age overseas in Northern Ireland.

Anyway today I am to visit the Titanic experience and tour around town. I look at the weather report and rain is expected this afternoon so I force myself to go wander around town this morning before my Titanic reservations.

I finish my morning tour of the city at the waterfront. I have to cross the Lagan Weir footbridge across the water to make the walk to the Titanic Museum. It is a about a mile walk but there are things to look at along the waterfront like Game of Thrones glass panels and a sound activated wind chime that makes sounds that replicate an active ship construction.

I finally pass the smaller boat, the nomadic, a smaller version of the same class of boat as the titanic. I will tour this boat a little later.

I get to the main building, it is designed to look like a boat, even the reflections in the pools outside are specifically designed.

I am early for my entry time and I guess because I bought the package with a guided tour I have to actually wait. I go to the cafe to try to get a cider while I wait but they have the same law as back home, you cannot purchase alcohol before noon on Sundays (I find out later that is the case for bank holidays too).

Finally it is time to start and our guide takes us to the building across the way. Normally more time is spend outdoors but it is still raining so she takes us to cover so we are comfortable. The tour I am on basically takes us through the offices of the company that designed and built the titanic White Star Line (building is now a posh hotel). We learn many things about how the boats were constructed and the workers who built it. For example, workers building the ships were not known by name, only by number and had to have access to their numbered time card at all times or they would not get paid or worse fired. Bathrooms breaks were pretty strict. It basically seemed like hard work.

Good thing I did my sightseeing before titanic because I end up spending multiple hours at the titanic so there is little afternoon left when I am done.

I start at the nomadic after the guided tour because it closes earlier. I get to see inside a smaller version of the company’s ships.

Finally I enter the main museum. The main exhibit is huge, being multi-floors and interactive. It is very thorough. There is a little ride inside that takes you through a titanic construction experience. There are exhibits about the missions to discover the wreckage years later. The museum also talks about immigration and labor history. A visit to the titanic museum can take the entire day if you tour it properly.

I make a dinner reservation for the early evening because I don’t want to be caught scrambling like I did last night for my dinner. It is at a fish restaurant. I enjoy oysters and a cod with a side of chips.

It’s raining again so I am in my hotel lobby drinking a smithwicks. As you remember I have some beer homework to do to prepare for St. Patricks Day so its all legit. I just have to force myself to stay up somewhat late so I don’t wake up at 2 am once again.


Outside Duke of York pub

It is 2 am and I head to the airport in Muscat. Everywhere says arrive three hours before your flight but I arrive 2.5 hours before my flight and I feel like I am waiting around forever, especially trying to stay awake the early hours of the morning. My first flight is a short 1.5 hours to Doha and then around 7.5 hours to Dublin.

Immigration at Dublin isn’t too bad. The line could be shorter but it also isn’t the longest I’ve waited in. I actually got a stamp in my passport. It’s a nice memory that seems to be slowly going away in some countries.

I am heading straight to Belfast. I don’t stop at the Atm this time because I brought British pounds from home from a previous trip (that I find out are obsolete when I try to use them). I also converted the excess Omani money to euros (I got confused with conversion rates/cost of traveling and took out way too much money in Oman). Northern Ireland is still technically part of the UK so they use British pounds as their currency. Basically in Belfast it is pounds and when I am back in Dublin I will use Euros.

I bought my bus ticket to Belfast in advance but not knowing how long it would take for immigration or flight delays my bus is not scheduled for many hours. There is a bus coming soon, it is cold, raining and I am not yet prepared for it the weather so I ask to board an earlier bus. It is a space available situation after the correct ticket holders are seated first. Luckily there are a few seats available so I get an earlier start to Belfast. It is a two hour ride. I can’t see anything because rain and aisle seat so I do some reading. My hotel is a seven minute walk from the bus stop. I brave the cold (again I have not really taken my winter clothes out yet) and walk to my hotel. I can see snow covered hills in the distance. I love the cold so I don’t want to complain about the weather. I am staying at a Hilton property so I am happy to have a comfortable consistent hotel experience for a change.

I change and head out to do laundry because I am very close to having zero clean undergarments. On the way I am getting wet because I decide to wear my winter coat instead of my rain jacket. I go buy an umbrella because I figure it is a good investment here since it never seems to stop raining. This is when I find my British pounds are old. I try to use them to pay for my umbrella. I guess they really are souvenirs now. I can convert them at a bank but it is the weekend so I’ll probably just end up keeping them.

While doing laundry I look for places to eat dinner while I watch group after group on the pub crawler pedal parties blasting their loud music down the street every 5 minutes. It is Saturday night so probably a big party night. When I do try to eat after laundry is done every pub I want to eat at is already full, including a few restaurants I try. I finally find a restaurant with tables available across from my hotel but that gets very busy as I eat. It is a nice comfort food dish for the cold rainy weather. I also try to have a cocktail or two. I have to get in practice for upcoming St Patricks day. I haven’t really been drinking alcohol for a couple weeks due to illness and conservative alcohol policies. I am really out of practice.

I keep seeing adorable bearded Irish men everywhere I go. They are all so nice and kind. I could get used to this.

I go back to my room originally planning to do trip research and other things but I struggle to stay awake. I give up and sleep. Of course I wake up at 2 am because I fall asleep too early plus jet lag. I am not getting back to sleep so I guess I play catch up now.

I head out early in the morning to sightsee. I have a mid-day titanic reservation but since I’m up early it is good time to start a self paced walking tour. It is still raining on and off so I make good use of my umbrella, it just doesn’t seem to be a good match for the wind though.

I stop at the chain Tim Horton for a coffee and a doughnut. I know its a Canadian chain but it is my first time trying it. It seems like a fancier Dunkin Doughnuts.

I walk by some churches and street art.

More on my morning later…

Jebel Shams plus goodbye Oman

Jebel Shams coffee shop

I apologize in advance for the long post. I know its long but I just wanted to sum up the end of my trip to Oman in one more post. I am very glad I made the time to visit.


We start the morning with breakfast then a morning walk around the town of Nizwa. We learn the history of the town and we admire the architecture which is a mix of old abandoned buildings, some made of mud and such, and the nicely restored historic buildings.

We head to the souq and are given a tour of the different parts of the souq. We have free time to shop afterwards. I only buy a couple things but I do taste many different types of dates at the date souq. I eye the tahini making machine and a gentleman working the shop gives me a warm sample of the freshly made tahini. Being so very good I am tempted to buy a jar to take with me but I still have a couple weeks left for my travels so it is not a practical idea. I go into an air conditioned building with the upstairs “antique market”. I am disappointed because there are no antiques here, just junk I can get in the USA or other countries. I do enjoy a pistachio coffee from the shop upstairs though.

I ate camel

We stop at the home of a bee farmer where we are fed a nice home cooked meal. We actually get to try camel today. It is quite good, especially how it is seasoned with a beef like flavor. It’s funny how I will no longer ride animals like camels but I am still eating them. I keep saying one day I will break down and become a vegetarian – but today is not that day. We are also taught how to eat like an Omani – on the floor, with our right hand.

We are then served coffee, thyme tea with honey, more dates and fruit. I am very full after this meal. I try a date covered in tahini and sesame.

We head to town to visit his honey shop but only after having a nice nice nature walk.

Jebel Shams

We make our way to Jebel Shams where we are staying the night. This area is known for its Grand Canyon. Impressive on its own, it isn’t as big as the Grand Canyon in the USA, but still very nice to look at. We head from there to watch the sunset over some mountains. It is noticeably cooler here. In the evening a jacket is needed. I even stole the comforter to use off the other bed in my room to stay warm in the evening.

Lodging in Jebel Shams

After dinner most of us call it an early night.

The next morning we meet for a hike along the side of the canyon. We only go a small portion of the 7 km trail but it is nice and we see great views.

We then take a very rocky road down into a valley that tests the limits of our 4×4 automobiles. Amazing views appear around every corner. We eventually get to the bottom and visit another small town. We take a short walk around. This area is called Wadi Bani Awf.

We have bought another picnic lunch and head outside a nearby snake gorge to eat. We have a few minutes to explore the path before we leave. We don’t have too much time so we don’t go very far ahead. I have of course seen things like this before but it doesn’t make these canyons less fascinating to me. I wish we had more time here.

We head back to muscat where many of us say goodbye. Some of us have one last dinner. I make my final goodbyes and go back to prepare for my 2:00 AM pickup for the airport. I am off to another country. My last before returning to the USA soon.

I couldn’t resist a Zatar croissant at the airport