Sunday, June 1, 2014

' tis June en Ireland

Terrified Miss Smoochie
Miss Smoochie and the Chauffeur
30 June: Leaving Ireland and our new best friends is tough. The song lyrics by Percy French speak for us about the Mountains of Mourne (click). Sorry, landscape photos taken with the cell phone cannot begin to capture the many, marvelous green shades of the Emerald Isle. Breakfast at 6:30 AM, Hammy arrived at 7:15 to take us to Belfast Airport for our 9:45 easyJet flight to Edinburgh where  Cynthia was told that she could not take both purse and bag on Easy Jet; she was told to leave the bag.  She likely did not understand the direction and put her bag down on the steps.  The attendant may have said take the bag down the steps to the Tarmac.  Ron showed up on the Tarmac with BOTH his backpack and large carry-on after the attendant told him he could not take two carry-on bags.  He had spotted Cynthia's bag on the steps and asked the stewardess to be certain it got onto the flight.  She did do just that, amazed that anyone would put down a bag unattended in the airport especially on the departure ramp.  The driver from Little's Transportation picked us up at the airport in a red Jaguar to transport us to Balcary Bay Hotel in Auchencairn, near Castle Douglas, where we spent five days walking the Beatty and Little cemeteries at Dumfries.   The distance from here to Castle Douglas is five miles, at least.  No bus service.  No A/C, no other restaurants within walking distance.  BUT we have a magnificent view of the bay from our room and walking trails.  This is exactly what newlyweds should appreciate.

View from our window
View from the window.  Interesting to watch the tide go out this afternoon.  Five course dinner was incredible; we had our very own special menu just for Ron with dinner rolls, etc.;  very funny to see pants and suit pressers in our rooms with shoe polishing machines in the hall.   We hiked the sea cliff wall (the dangerous one).  Early and busy days ahead.

Ron in his new thoughtful place

29 June: Tolleymore Woods Trail:  The trail to the top of the mountain was a mountain top experience despite having to take a wilderness path through thick gorse bushes and hordes of flies. The views were marvelous.  The weather was a mix of cool, then warm when the sun came out.  Once back at the hotel, Cynthia thought a scone and a diet coke would be a treat.  The wait staff offered us desserts from the Sunday buffet "on the house."  Everyone has been so very kind.  It will be difficult to leave Ireland (Eire). Here are some photos from "the top" and one of Ron enjoying a wee cuppa.

28 June: Carlingford. The medieval city is across the border into the Republic of Ireland; we traveled 45 minutes to Newry and waited about 45 minutes for the bus to Carlingford which was a 25 minute trip. Described as charming, it probably is, but we did not get enough walking done. Pictured are the Beatty Silly Beattys, King John's castle (built by a Norman, but King John spent three nights in the castle), the Lough or canal that is a border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, a Dominican friary, Holy Trinity graveyard (dating to 1300). The streets are typically narrow for a medieval city. Have we mentioned the streets the buses and cars travel on are incredibly narrow; oncoming traffic must pull off the road to allow the bus to pass. Our dinner reservations were for 6:30 PM; we did not arrive until 7:05. The food was excellent. The weather was also very accomodating. Tomorrow we have one last hiking day and pack for the (OMG) early morning pickup to travel to Scotland.

27 June: Dr. Wayne Dwyer describes happiness, "We are spiritual beings having a human experience." How appropos. And Ron had a marvelous experience discovering more Beatty history which included a lease that was passed down for generations dating to 1703 or 1713.

The photos depict today's Irish Sea Tide and the weather:

26 June: The ten feet high tides have been fascinating to watch. The high winds created white caps rolling in above the normally visible rocks. The sea wall is being repaired, not because of storms, but because of high tide damage. Rain today has prevented hiking; Ron walked the sea wall to the bakery dropping Cynthia off for beautification and spent the afternoon working on genealogy and doing Sudoku. We took the sea promenade walk to Brunal's for dinner enjoying the company of a very delightful Irish woman who has lived in Chicago for twenty years. She knows where Iowa is located. Our dinner was so marvelous we are returning tomorrow night.

25 June: The morning fog turned into afternoon fog which became late afternoon mist.  Never daunted by weather we stayed at breakfast until 11:00 doing Sudoku followed by staying in our room until 1:30 PM doing Sudokae when Cynthia became hungry for a scone.   We strolled the seaside promenade to the farthest bakery because they have the best scones and the most newspapers with multiple Sudokae.  Cynthia completed  her Sudoku in a few minutes which put her in such high spirits she opted to walk a mile or so to the outskirts of the city to look at the menu of a seafood restaurant.  They did not have fish today; Ron suggested fog and rain were good reasons for fishermen to not go fishing.  The pub owner agreed heartily.   On the return trip to town to search for another restaurant  we met an entertaining couple who suggested Brunei's plus another restaurant a ten minute ride away.  Ron asked if they would drive. They got the joke AFTER he explained he was joking.  Brunei's looks good but they do not open until 6 PM; off we went to Villa Vinci's to enjoy baked salmon, boiled potatoes, salad and two kinds of steamed veggies.  Lidl's fat free sorbet has not been replenished so we are back at the hotel with Cynthia working on DNA and Ron doing another Sudoku!

24 June: We rode the bus to Downpatrick to see St. Patrick's Grave, a church he started and to peruse the County Down library,   The helpful librarian assisted Ron discover his Forbes family land in County Down using the 1866 property records (Griffith's Valuation); of course, 1866 was well after the family had emigrated to the US.  With the land location it is possible to locate church records around 1801.  What a surprise to see one of the women we met in Silent Valley returning to Newcastle on the same bus.
Wild flowers against Slieve Donard peak 


Irish Rose

Church of Holy Trinity Downpatrick

St. Patrick's Marker

St. Patrick's Grave

Stained Glass windows of Holy Trinity

23 June: Talleymore Woods hike was marvelous although we missed going to the top of the Mourne Mountain for the scenic view; the hike was worth doing again.  Cute young girls were hiking bent over with back packs bigger than the biggest of them.   Enjoyable conversation with a homeowner who told us an Irish (Gaelic) poem guaranteed to keep the rain away.  Two women gave us aid with their maps.  Our legs became tired - a lot of uphill.  The doorman was quite delighted when Cynthia thanked him for entertaining Ron and quickly responded, "it is he who entertains me!"  Ron has charmed the entire staff proving Cynthia's point that he is a "balcony person."  He lifts people up by validating their person-hood.  He remembers their names.  The joy he gives to others is delightful to see.

Slieve Donard Peak
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22 June:  Feet are finally fit again!  Silent Valley  is 11 miles from Newcastle by bus; the trip was $25.00 RT so we could hike 4 miles, enjoy awesome views, listen to the sounds of Irish folk music in the distance as we climbed, enjoy the camaraderie of other hikers, babies in strollers, and four-legged doggers.  Here is a link to a Virtual Tour:  and here are photos from our dandy day that Ron will organize; tonight we are tired:

Happy Passenger
Coffee and Scones
Irish Country Faire with Folk Music
Reservoir Belfast's Water Supply
View of Irish Sea on Horizon
View from Hilltop
Back side of Slieve Donard

Ron at Mourne Wall

Purple Fleurs Everywhere

Mourne Wall

Slieve Donard in Distance

Ron on Mourne Wall

Climbing Fence

Irish wildflowers
Cockle Bells
Irish Wildflowers
Purple Fleurs Everywhere
Stone "Fences"

21 June: Two walks... Lots of computer stuffs done, met a cyclist from here now living in Hawaii who returns to cycle Ireland.

Irish Sea view from our hotel
Tipperary Woods
Sunset View from Hotel
Ron's Thoughtful Place
Slieve Donard Peak on Right
Irish Sea Beach
Irish Sea Bay
Irish Sea

20 June: Another day with a couple of good walks and good food.  We enjoyed the Tipperary Woods. Interesting signs: Do R Dye (Hair Salon); Cod Almighty Restaurant.  The exchange  rate is fifty cents to the pound sterling.  The CHEmist does not have over the counter items like Benadryl or Ibuprofen which are RX only.   We located a Health food store with a few protein bars and limited whey protein. It is difficult to locate sugar free or fat free items.   Cynthia needed new backing for an earring; the shop in the hotel said she needed to see a "proper jeweler."  The proper jeweler did have backings for the earrings but thought she meant restoring white gold when she asked to have jewelry cleaned (in the states they have a cleaning fluid).  The Irish people are marvelous, absolutely delightful.

19 June: A quiet day with a couple of walks.  Cynthia wishes she had brought her Red Wing Hiking boots instead of the Aasics Mountain Trail shoes that are lightweight for distance hiking but not good on rocks.  Ron is working on SCS material and taking a look at his Beatty timelines after discovery of an 1866 land census with the realization someone may have stayed in Ireland. Cynthia is satisfied after locating the MacDonnell family castle.  Her IPad has good reading:  "Finding Me" by Michelle McKnight (a very tough read!), "12 Years a Slave" by Solomon Northop, an 1853 autobiography that is another tough to read but outstanding book made into a movie.  Movies are destructive to good books.  Reading the book "Our Declaration"... Should be required reading for every student. "Orphan  Train" has an interesting plot about an Irish orphan although the literary style is not to my taste.

18 June: Slieve Donard Trail: We came! We saw! We conquered!  Almost!  Ron's leg muscles complained on the last leg of the 6 mile RT journey hiking to Slieve Donard Trail.  We made it to the wall and Cynthia's feet complained saying, "NO Way can I go to the peak!  The last piece of the trail is straight up the wall ( shown in photos below) with Ron leaning against the wall that is visible when he is standing.  Ron thinks the views on this hike are the best of any to date.  Thanks to the Hike Supply for loaning us a hiking pole.  Cynthia bought a headband that worked nicely until she put it in her pocket before dinner at Vanni Vicce Restaurant where it promptly disappeared.  The hike was marvelous: 40-50 foot high wall of Rhododendrons in bloom along the Glen River, wonderful aroma.  Hiking through the woods on pine needles on the return was comforting to our sore feet.  One of the locals said so aptly, "Hiking the Slieve Donard Trail isn't like it is."  2000 foot elevation gain starting at sea level is a stretch.
Scotland is on the far horizon

The Great Wall, Mourne Mountains

Slieve Donard Peak is up there higher

My Hero!

View From the top of the saddle


17 June:  Cynthia is a bit under the weather today; likely she has been coming down with a virus or a flu bug.  On the way towards our walk, Cynthia suddenly reversed opinion and decided to lunch at Percy French Restaurant - $25 for a salad w/ a shred of smoked salmon.  We took a nice road walk on unused gravel roads on the mountain.  It was a longer distance but more comfortable walking than the trail.  Unfortunately the scenery was less impressive although we did get a different view of the bay and town, and we did enjoy our favorite views of the stream.  Dinner was same price as our luncheon salad but was more filling: house salads, hake, potatoes and veggies.  We are back at the posh hotel, but the internet refuses to tell me the fat grams in breads available hereabouts (from Centra and Cookie Jar).  It promises to be an early evening.  Time to feed the seagulls the bread I've been saving for them for more than a week.  The O'Beatty's are enjoying Ireland!

16 June:  Ron awakened at 6 AM and shuffled some paper towards recycling.  Our stroll up the mountain was an uphill struggle for Cynthia until the views became spectacular.  She was motivated to continue but didn't want to miss dinner reservations at Vanilla.  It was well recommended and the food was good, but they prep most everything for their menu.  We shoulda explained our diet in advance.  Why is it that the most expensive hotels insist on charging for WiFi?  We have it free in the lobby, but that is a nuisance.  Oh well.

15 June:  Happy Father's Day from Newcastle, County Down, Ireland!  The seashore has vanished beneath the tides by 1PM.  Breakfast was fine, but Cynthia is not feeling rested.  Perhaps 20 hours of daylight is too many, even for someone with (partially PURE) Norwegian ancestry.  We've lunched on salad & scone for $55.  I'm thinking that the Lighthouse Lounge serves "light and healthy" food (which still has too much fat for our diets) at hefty prices; upscale doncha know. Walking past Ben and Jerry's was a nice treat for Cynthia who had a caramel and a raspberry dip.  118 calories in the cone with no fat and no sugar. We won't discuss the fat and sugar in the ice cream; because it IS Sunday!, the day beloved SmoochSmooch is allowed to treat herself.   Ron forgot his cap; not wanting a sunburn, he wore his new tee shirt as a head scarf; why does that confuse passersby?  The Donard Forest was discovered in a round-about way, offering respite from the sun and heat.  It is indeed going to be a tough climb tomorrow.  Too many people today and we had no water with us.  It took two hours to try to lighten the photo of Ron in the Donard Forest.  Cynthia is going to learn how to use photoshop!
Ron in Donard Forest

Beside the Glen River Waterfalls

Slieve Donard
Seaside at Slieve Donard Receding Tide
14 June:  After breakfast, packing, and one last Causeway Hotel scone, Hammy transported us to the Slieve Donard in Newcastle, on the east side of Ireland.  Poor Cynthia could only hear Ron's side of the conversation.  Several of the British tabloids scream sensational headlines with every issue.  Harrison Ford was "CRUSHED" on set; the fine print reveals that he was struck by a door and broke an ankle.  This morning, it was very surprising to read the Daily Mail News about national health care in the UK.  17,000 people are on waiting lists for cancer tests after diagnosis.  It is very difficult to get in to see a doctor; many physicians close their offices in the afternoons and don't answer the phone.  Hammy reports that everyone with any money buys insurance to bypass the queues because the system is so slow.  Our arrival at Slieve Donard preceded two weddings, replete with attendant young ladies on stylish five inch heels (either graceful or wobbly).  One flower girl had heels.  This is a five star hotel with spa, so Cynthia is delighted that we will spend 16 nights here, and the view from the upgraded "resort room with sea view" is magnificent.  Ron, always one for exploring new environs, walked down a couple of flights of stairs to the first floor and then through several doors marked only "fire door, keep closed."  He was still blithely looking for "reception" when an attractive female spa attendant, aghast, informed him that he was in the women's dressing rooms.  She quickly guided him, pleasantly but firmly, to a more satisfactory corridor and provided directions towards the lobby.  Smooch and Smoochsmooch enjoyed lovely walks before a lovely dinner.  Ron continued his recent appetite, eating another entire loaf of bread after dinner.  Tomorrow we climb the Moane Mountain on the Slieve Donard Trail. ... or not.

13 June: Today the weather here in Bushmills met our expectations by being cloudy all day and rainy/drizzly most times.  The News Letter Sudoku was very challenging, and Ron made a mistake early, so had to redo the entire puzzle to get it right.  Promptly after breakfast and pills, we departed the hotel at 1 PM to go for a walk.  (Amazing how time flies when we are having fun or battling a difficult sudoku.)  We walked down to the Causeway and beyond to the end of the lower trail, but decided against climbing the 162 sheperd's steps.  Billy (the guide) seemed delighted to see us at the rocks but had to leave to resume his work schedule.  Near the end of the lower path, the tides were creating a swirl over rocks below, bouncing from one rock to the other and back, allowing the study of naturally caused wave form interference.  Cynthia was disappointed to learn that our entire walk today was only about 1.25 miles times two, but the increasing fall of moisture precluded additional walking until after dinner.  Brian (the bus driver) again dropped us off directly in front of our destination, the Bushmills Restaurant.  The food was as good as Brian had assured us.  Again we walked home after dinner along the tram tracks with pauses to puzzle over the numbers of seagulls drifting beyond the surf offshore.  Our total mileage hiking today was a very satisfying 4.5 miles!  Tonight we must pack, and Ron again ate an entire loaf of bread before retiring early (10:30 PM), an hour before darkness.

12 June:  We struggle to get out of bed and to breakfast before 10 AM.  Ron has not yet fully recovered from too little sleep ever since his long evening road walk.  We started our day up the hill to the nearest headlands, but the rain/drizzle increased before we got to the summit, so we returned for lunch.  After lunch and more sudoku, we retraced the same eastward steps all the way to the top, to the point where the trail changes to grass.  All too soon it was time to catch Brian's bus into Bushmills for our reservations at the French Room.  Brian asked if we preferred the French Room to the Bushmills Inn and suggested that we might enjoy their menu as well.  The French Room again lived up to our expectations, and we were well satisfied.  Since the rainfall had abated, we enjoyed a pleasant walk home, including stops to wonder at the waves breaking onshore.  Ron bought and ate an entire loaf of bread before going to bed.

11 June: Carrick a Rede (click to see) our exciting destination.  Too bad the hotel internet is so very unstable again today.  It took an hour to upload photos from our super, fun day with good hiking following the morning bus ride to Carrick a Rede (the rock on the road) where we encountered a sheep stampede, Irish rush hour.   Two cute Chinese girls asked to have their photo taken ... but they surprised Cynthia by rushing over to Ron and curling up against him. Cynthia was laughing so hard at how close they snuggled up to Ron she forgot to take photos with her camera, too.  I think they plan to tell friends and family about their American boyfriend.  Ron had a nice chat with a geek from Dublin about PHP protocol; later we chatted with motorcyclists from Holland.  We enjoyed the ambiance of the island and warmth of the sun before hiking the mile from Carrick-a-Rede on the North Antrim Coast Trail to Ballintoy (Balli = town or city) or Gaelic: Balli -traegh.  We met a woman with a backpack who reported she was from KY,  and she said she was waiting for a bicycle to arrive to tour Ireland.  She was not very conversant so we did not ask her to join us for a very delicious lunch/dinner.  Ron ate chicken curry prepared sans oil.  Cynthia had a chicken caesar without dressing which is always good.  We caught the back to the hotel where Ron found a trillion Sudokus to complete while Cynthia is trying to catch up with photos and texting her children and grandchildren.  The evening hike along the sea coast trail was fun even though the sunset was not so spectacular. Ron's YDNA has been selected for doing the Big Y test.

Gorgeous Blue
Irish Rush Hour


Rope Bridge

10 June:  Dunluce Castle (click here), the "ancestral" home of the MacDonnels, is our goal for today's hike ... after Ron completes every possible Sudoku to be found in the multiple daily news magazines.[Not True, I only did one.]  Cynthia's great-great-grandfather was Elijah MacDaniel/MacDannell/McDonald.  Her YDNA Lee/Lea research project is providing major excitement as Caswell County Lea family inter-connections are surfacing in time to be added to her manuscript before it is sent to the publisher (this fall).  Internet in the room at the Causeway Hotel is sooo verrry sssslow that Cynthia is reading classic such as Harry Truman's "State of the Union Address," actually a very good read.  And Sudoku King Smooch is ready to hike !!!  Imagine our surprise to emerge into rain as we walked out to catch the bus.  Two of Ron's newest best friends, bus driver Brian & guide Blly, took us to Bushmills, whereupon Billy volunteered to drive us to Dunluce in his car.  Both Irishmen contend that Cynthia bears a striking resemblance to the portrait of an ancient MacDonnell.  Billy absolutely refused to accept any tip or "gas money;" he simply likes to assist travelers, in part because he thoroughly enjoys travel himself.  He has had "starring" roles on Good Morning American and an NBC program about Northern Ireland, because his accent is authentic and his enunciation, cadence, and diction allow non-natives to understand him "easily."  Entrance to Dunluce Castle was £10, and Cynthia was deterred from claiming her MacDonnel birthright by considering the hideous cost of remodeling needed to bring the castle up to modern standards.  (Imagine the cost of replacing the automatic disposal cliffside with a septic field in a rock outcropping and a cartage service.)  Our tour was a wee bit abbreviated by spotty showers, so we opted for coffee, tea and a scone (best one ever!) at the Wee Cottage across the street (£5) Thereupon Ron told Cynthia that we'd have to use her cash for the bus.  WHat????  She who plans every detail has become accustomed to Ron paying the bills, so she had left her purse (well, it is heavy) which contains her passport, her cash, her credit card, etc.  Of course we had both insisted that she retain some cash in case she might need it; fat lot of good it does back in the hotel room.  We walked back to Bushmills, and it was a lovely walk, maybe three miles, with the nearness to traffic and the asphalt underfoot being the only drawbacks.  "Hillbilly" is of Irish origin; farmers and prospectors were known a billys or hillbillys because they lived primarily outdoors without much creature comforts.

9 June:  Gorgeous, warm day!!! Our week-end rest allowed Cynthia's foot and knee to recover,  so off we hiked to Portballintrae, then into Bushmills, stopping along the way for Ron to make many new best friends, two-footed and four-legged.  The four-legged new friends don't have email addresses to keep in touch.   We might have walked four miles today but are still a long way from being fit enough to stride along for 10 mile days.  We saw two sailboats moored near the beach and were told by one local that he had not seen boats moored there in his 40 years.  (His dog offered mute agreement.)  There were several large geese (?) and goslings diving close to the rocky shore.  Seagulls were perched, one each on every rock, presumably searching for food.  Beautiful world.  And Smooch is reminded that the friendliness and cheerfulness of the local Northern Irish folk is one of the strongest reasons that Cynthia desired to return.  Nearly every local we have met is personable and hospitable.  Here are a couple of local viewpoints: 1) there is no reason to ruin a good story by telling the truth; 2) if you do not know the answer, tell a good story so as not to disappoint the audience.  Ron again stayed up until dark (midnight) working on Swedish Colonial Society e-mails, DropBox text files, and WordPress search research.

8 June: Lovely, quiet morning.  The Causeway Hotel Carvery had a first year anniversary besides its usual Sunday feast, so we enjoyed a very fine dining experience.  Cynthia ate turkey.  Twice we tried hiking, but the rain interfered.  The Causeway was overflowing with tourists.  We enjoyed chatting with a family from Ohio.  Cynthia was amazed watching a very small, young, Oriental woman consume a very large burger in a. "Bap" with cheese, fried onion rings and vegetables stacked very high.  The woman had to use a knife and fork, but she did eat it all.

colors change quickly
7 June: We expected to be somewhat sore from our long hikes, but the damage was localized to Cynthia's foot and knee.  We should have taken a cab home last night.  This latitude is not far south of "the land of the midnight sun."  Daylight arrives by 5 AM, and darkness after 11 PM.  Without a clock, we dread missing breakfast.  Today it started raining immediately after breakfast.  Ron found newspapers and worked Sudoku for hours.  The rain let up around 4 PM, and Ron went on another guided tour in order to ask several questions.  He came home wet.  Internet reception is poor.  Cynthia delighted herself by considering dinner tonight at French Room to be special and thoroughly enjoyed prettifying herself.  Ron was too over-full after eating for several days now, so went for a stroll at 10:30 (and was amazed that it was still quite light).  Without the distractions of day, the cliffs and sea were amazingly beautiful, and the seagulls cries resounded remarkably.

Smooch & SmoochSmooch
6 June:  Today we overdid the hiking.  After an "early" breakfast, we did indeed hike five miles along the cliffs from Giant's Causeway to the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and returned on the 172 bus.  My goodness, the views just keep improving as we see more and more.  Interesting to discover so many hikers on this long trek.  One of the hikers was very impressive recounting his service with Americans in foreign stations over the years.  From him we learned the origin of "hillbilly."  Wm.  of Orange's Scotsmen were known as billys who became Ulster Scots with their own language; many of the emigrants to America came from this group settling in Appalachia along with their nick-name: hillbilly. A salad with grilled chicken revived us enough to ride the shuttle into Bushmills to dine at the French Room Restaurant (their website is down, but reviews are here).  The shuttle driver is becoming Ron's newest best friend at the Causeway.  It is still quite a shock to look the "wrong" way and discover that an automobile is about to overrun that bit of roadway where I intended to set foot.  Before 6 PM we arrived too early to be seated and were seated soon after 6.  Cynthia had read reviews complaining of small portions, so she ordered FAR too much food.  The bread and the salmon and ocean trout were all marvelous.  By the time we waddled out, buses were not running.  The Co-op grocery is open late, so we replenished the essential supply of Coke and hiked two miles back.  We should have taken a cab.  Oh, our poor tired legs.

View ... see tinyyy Seagull ???
These sheep soon disappeared over the edge. 
Landscape Patterns
5 June:  Yikes!  The front desk called at 10AM to ask if we wanted breakfast.  Having no alarm is desirable; missing breakfast is not; we scurried posthaste to enjoy our egg white veggie omelets (the Causeway Hotel cook does a superlative job).  The plan, at noon after 6 Sudoku in 3 papers and lunch, is to hike cliffside from Giant's Causeway to Dunseverick Castle, a five mile route, and to catch the bus for return.  If we survive, I'll post more later.  Oops, Cynthia felt a bit queasy, so she is napping and I'm e-mailing.  Unbeknownst to Ron, the better half already reserved dinner at the hotel, so we did not walk into town ... yet.  An hour before sunset, immediately after finishing a nice dinner of spabrim (?), we hiked towards our original destination, Dunseverick Castle (ruins), for about an hour.  Cynthia even headed out onto a promontory despite the exposure and was thrilled to see sea gulls glide close by below her.  We turned around when the sun was nearly set.  It takes forever to set, so we enjoyed good light all the way back, during which time the sun threatened to set immediately for the entire return trip.  I promised Richard to give a good review, and that is easy since EVERYONE on the entire staff of the Causeway Hotel is unfailingly cheerful and eager to please their guests. They have been prompt and courteous too.  Staying and eating here has been a pleasure, and they even easily accommodate my restricted diet (no fat, no oil, no butter, no cheese).  Besides that they seem to enjoy engaging in conversation and becoming acquainted.  Great hospitality !
Five Miles of Sea Views

Sorry, close, but no pictures of the ruins.

4 June:  What an awesome day !, although it did start with an abrupt bolt from bed to breakfast.  Ron's newest Irish "best friends" asked for his pithy observations about life.  Puzzled, we all struggled to remember, eventually, a favorite saying, "too soon old, too late smart."  After lunch we walked the cliff path to the shepard's steps, down them            (totally162 steps), and around the lower trail until the closure (due to rockslide).  The return up the shepard's steps was a bit more arduous, but a fun time was had by the survivors.  Cynthia was ready for rest, but Ron preferred to be in the gorgeous weather outdoors and went for a long walk up the roadway.  Some of the farm equipment covers much of the roadway and  leaves precious little room for an automobile.  My reflexes are terrible here; I am forever looking for cars in the wrong direction ... good thing we didn't rent a motorcycle.  No way I'm going to walk on a road again.  Sunset was slightly less remarkable than yesterday.

3 June:  Nada wink of sleep for Ron with sore, achy upper back muscles, although he has no memory of the night sweat that obviously occurred.  Cynthia is again the victim of Ron's restlessness; I feel so sorry that she isn't sleeping much.  The strange thing is that our energy remains good; we walked the entire way to Bushmills and were deterred from visiting the distillery only by the afternoon shower.  

Cynthia started feeling queesy, so we are hoping that she is well.  We returned by bus, and the driver was representative of the lovely people we've been meeting hereabouts.  Cynthia opted for a nap, which seems to have rejuvenated the girl somewhat, and Ron opted for the professional tour from the Giant's Causeway Visitor Center.  (The tour guide was excellent fun, full of Irish wit & humor.)  Dinner of grilled chicken, steamed veggies, and boiled potatoes suits; but Cynthia is happy to hear that there will be an option tomorrow evening for Hake (whatever that is).  After dinner we embarked for a sunset walk to the causeway, and Ron mimicked his VERY amusing Irish tour guide for Cynthia's benefit.  Late in the evening Ron enjoyed chatting with our host Richard about travel.  Since he did look at the blog, I'd better elaborate.  Richard LOVES to travel and has exhausted his entire bankroll at least twice previously in life traveling.  He recounted being awakened from a deep sleep on a bus by a sinister masked figure obscured entirely in black carrying a machine gun; with heart in throat Richard asked what was wanted.  Answer, his passport; it was a "routine" check.  I forget the entire list, but Richard has been to the US for a time, to Egypt and vicinity, and many many shorter hops.  I told him a bit of my history, and we agreed that Cynthia is ideal for me since she loves to travel (and laughs at all my jokes).

Rock Climber
Gorgeous Estate

 Giant's Causeway
This four-mile-long stretch of coastline, a World Heritage Site, is famous for its bizarre basalt columns. The shore is covered with hexagonal pillars that stick up at various heights. It's as if the earth were offering God his choice of 37,000 six-sided cigarettes.

Geologists claim the Giant's Causeway was formed by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. As the lava surface cooled, it contracted and cracked into hexagonal shapes. As the layer of hardened but alligatored rock settled, it broke into its many stairsteps.
Of course, in actuality, the Giant's Causeway was made by a giant Ulster warrior named Finn MacCool who wanted to reach his love on the Scottish island of Staffa. Way back then the causeway stretched to Scotland, connecting the two lands. Today, while the foundation has settled, the formation still extends undersea [not true] to Staffa, just off the Scottish coast. Finn's causeway was ruined (into today's "remnant of chaos") by a rival giant. As the rival fled from ferocious Finn back to his Scottish homeland, he ripped up the causeway so Finn couldn't chase him.
What actually happened was Finns clever girlfriend placed him in a pram with a giant size rattle.  The Scottish giant, upon seeing the Irish "baby" such a huge size, turned tail considering the potential size of the father of that giant baby in the pram.  The 54 foot tall Finn's height was easily determined by his size 93 boot discovered along the shore.  

Humpfrey, Finn's camel

2 June:  Ron had a high fever at times; but Cynthia suffered worse from a sleepless night of worry that she might lose her beloved Smooch.  Fortunately he is a bit better this AM.  Likely bit by a flu bug.  Our breakfast was excellent, served in the dining room instead of the large gathering room/pub as the evening before where the crowds of people were off-putting.  The O'Beatty 's are ambulatory, journeying about 2.5 miles round trip on the sea coast pathway, greeted by the fragrance of lilacs on the last leg.  We shook the other leg (after a delicious baked cod dinner) by hiking the difficult to challenging sea trail hoping for sunset colors. Wildlife was baa-ing noisily, both wooly and shorn, and fat cottontail bunnies were bouncing too.  We are delighted to think that we will be here for 12 more nights.

Recommended: Philomena, the book and the movie.  Cynthia watched the film on the trans-Atlantic flight and downloaded the book on IPad.

Causeway Hotel, a short hike from the Giant's Causeway World Heritage Site
1 June, Sunday:  We awoke at the Merchant in Belfast, ate our usual egg white veggie omelet.  The Surprise is that these chefs can make a tastier egg white veggie omelet than any other we've had.  Interesting to read the local news: the Protestants and Catholics are still at odds in the centuries-old fighting; immigration has allowed other religious groups to enter the fray.  Ron assiduously avoids news & politics but was delighted to find a Sudoku in the paper.   Hammy picked us up at 1 PM to deliver us to the Causeway Hotel, where we will stay for 14 nights.  It was a delight to see him again and to hear that business is booming; he is busy, busy, busy.  He asked all about us, and we (Ron) indulged in tall tales of motorcycling, cancer, and Cynthia's brand-new walk-in closet sans house.  We arrived in Bushmills at three, but our room was not yet ready and the dining room was reserved for a private party, so we ordered dinner and felt hemmed in by the crowd and din at a bar-side table.  Since we were still exhausted by the miserable flight, we retired early, only to discover that Ron has chills.  Fever.  Da philosopher is reminded, "Never say that things cannot get worse; that expression has been proven wrong time and time again."