We're "celebrating" another bank holiday weekend in Ireland. Since we don't observe the usual end-of-May Memorial Day, we're on the tail-end of the longest 4-day weekend since... well, last month. But in May we got the heck outta Dublin and spent the long weekend in lovely, wet Northern Ireland. Here's the debrief:
Our first stop was W5 in Belfast, a kind of educational, science-based kids' fun zone. They had climbing frames, water play, a programmable robot, and other hands-on experiments suited to all ages. Jack loved the tornado display and virtual reality volleyball, and Asher and Ella loved being crazy. Thankfully, W5 suited all their very specific needs.
[ASIDE. Traffic in Belfast is the pits and we accidentally took a wee detour through East Belfast with a pukey 5-year-old. I don't recommend it. END OF ASIDE.]
After W5, we treated ourselves to our one nice dinner out: TGIFridays for the win! We used to visit Victoria Square twice a year when we lived just an hour and a half south in County Meath. At the time, they had a Chili's which was just the very best thing ever for a homesick pregnant lady in need of some queso. This was our very first visit to Friday's and while it's not exactly cheap or authentic, it was perfect for our worn out crew.
Finally we headed towards our "glamping pod" in County Antrim via Airbnb. The pod was more rustic than the glam in glamping suggests, but it was perfect for this unenthusiastic camper, including an ensuite toilet with hot shower, a little kitchenette and heat! Most importantly, in a weekend where it rained for 24 hours straight, we all stayed dry and toasty, enjoying nightly viewings of Nacho Libre and Paddington.
Our host, Brian, made sure we found the place and provided us with some instant cappuccino and biscuits. Also, he encouraged us to bring goodies for a cook-out, so we stopped at the local Sainsbury's for chocolate digestives (replacing the elusive graham crackers and Hershey's squares) and marshmallows, roasting our own Irish version of smores. Perfection. We highly recommend his little pod in the woods of Antrim and hope to make a return trip next year.
We spent our second day along the Antrim Coast visiting Giant's Causeway. Since our last visit in '08, they have really done up the place (and the price), now boasting a state of the art museum, gift shop and cafe.
Even though we feel like seasoned travelers, we still drop the ball occasionally. We got a late start in the day, packing lunches but forgetting to eat them before embarking on our long walk to the Causeway. Once we got down to the rocks, our kids were done. Totally done. And hungry. And sad. And tired. In hindsight, we should've packed snacks and picnicked on the coast instead of forcing them to continue.
But at least we got some pretty pictures, and some sad pictures.
After a final night in the Pod, we headed back home, stopping in Armagh to visit one of two St Patrick's Cathedrals. Both the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and the Roman Catholic Church boast cathedrals on two separate hills in the city. The Anglican St Patrick's Cathedral on Sally Hill is said to be the site of the first "stone" church Saint Patrick founded in 445.
The Catholic Cathedral (below) sits on Sandy Hill where, according to the Book of Armagh, Saint Patrick carried a fawn to its rescue on the day he acquired the stone church at Sally Hill. The construction of this 19th century cathedral lasted nearly 60 years! We weren't able to visit the Anglican Cathedral, but I'm hoping we'll make a return trip soon enough.
So there's a wee taste of a weekend away with three kiddos in Northern Ireland. What we saved on food we spent on general admission, but I feel like that's a fair trade-off. Jack enjoyed exploring some of the ancient sites he's learned so much about in school. Asher and Ella were especially thrilled with the camping. And Matt and I love that just a couple of hours beyond our doorstep, we have a rich bounty of religious history and mythology to explore.
Our next stop? Kerry with Matt's parents! Stay tuned...