June 22nd, 2017 – Holyhead, Wales to Antrim, Ireland: ~200 miles
Missed Day 5? June 21st, 2017 – Cardiff, Wales to Holyhead, Wales: ~215 miles
Our time in Wales ends as T-Pain would wish: on a boat. This is the Irish Ferries line from Holyhead to Dublin and it’s the first of two ferries that we will take on our trip. It’s a painless process, as employees have straps ready to go and they tie down the bikes before you can even get your gear off.
A satisfying nap’s length later and we are in the capital of Ireland. When you go to Dublin, you have to have Guinness, right? After some extensive research, we determine the best place to enjoy one would be The Stag’s Head Pub. It was built in the late 1700s but the interior was last modified in 1895, so you can get a side of history with your pint.
Vy asks the bartender for something warm, and he says her options were Irish Coffee or tea. She almost never drinks alcohol, so she chose tea. Amusingly (to me), the bartender looks at her very intently and repeats that her choices are Irish Coffee or tea. Message received – Irish Coffee it is!
Unfortunately, due to a miscommunication with the fine folks at Triumph, our motorcycle insurance is only valid in the UK and so Vy and I need to minimize our time in Ireland. I am quite disappointed by this, but if I’m being honest with myself, 10 days wasn’t enough to cover everything anyway. I try to look on the good side – now we can spend more time at each of our future stops coming up. Vy and I commit to coming back and touring Ireland at a future date.
Seeing as we’re in Dublin anyway, we explore a few notable monuments before fleeing the country. Our walking tour takes us to Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university. Founded in 1592, it’s full of gorgeous classic architecture and it’s actually one of the most popular tourist attractions in Dublin because the school’s library is home to the Book of Kells. It’s 680 ornately-illustrated pages of calf skin (estimates say that it took the skin of 185 calves) created by monks that share the tale of four Gospels of the New Testament. At least, that’s what the internet says. Turns out Vy and I are there right after graduation so campus is packed and the line to see the book is over an hour – time that we decide would be better spent exploring the rest of campus.
Our exploration leads us to Sphere within Sphere, one of several similar sculptures (how’s that for alliteration?) by Arnaldo Pomodoro that you can find around the world. With Baby Jack’s head in it, it should be called “Sphere within Sphere within Sphere”!⠀
The unofficial anthem of Dublin is a song called Molly Malone, which is why the city put up a bronze statue of her in 1988 as part of its Millennium celebrations. In 2014, the statue was temporarily moved to a location with much more foot traffic, and people have responded by groping the statue so much that certain parts of her are shinier than others.
We get back on the bike, and I immediately regret it. Traffic in downtown Dublin around noon is brutal, and on a big ADV bike with large metal panniers I’m finding myself having to wait my place in line at a few lights. Vy helps to break up the tedium by requesting a stop at a post office so she can mail out some postcards. I think back to countless times where I’ve walked into a post office in the United States, used an automated self-service kiosk (to mail out a beautiful Bike-urious shirt, obviously) and left without bothering to take off my helmet. Apparently, that would be an issue here:
The one nice thing about being stuck in traffic is that I can take my time and look around. That’s the reason I spotted the only Harley we saw in the wild on this trip:
Time heals all wounds, and eventually we’re making good progress as we head out of town and into Northern Ireland (where our insurance works). A quick gas stop gives me a chance to remember that green and black have different meanings on this side of the Atlantic. Make sure you double check that you’re not filling your tank up with diesel!
At this time of year and at this latitude, the sun doesn’t set until about 10 pm. So, when we arrive at the Titanic Belfast museum, it is already closed even though there is plenty of light outside. That doesn’t stop us from getting a photo of the distinctive architecture.
Vy and I arrive in downtown Belfast with the hope of grabbing a late dinner. Her Lonely Planet book suggests a stop at one of Northern Ireland’s most famous pubs – the Crown Liquor Saloon.
As soon as we park, someone walks up to us and I assume he’s about to tell me that I accidentally parked somewhere that I’m not allowed to. Turns out he just wants to talk about bikes! He tells us about his collection at home and it sounds wonderful – he even invites us to stop by his place tomorrow to check out the bikes tomorrow but we have a few monuments we need to see before we get on a ferry so I don’t think we’re going to be able to make the scheduling work.
Back to the Crown. It was acquired by the National Trust in 1978 and it quickly received a renovation to the tune of £400,000. In 2007, the pub was restored again – this time the work took £500,000! That’s a lot of money, but this is a special place. It has 10 booths, also called “snugs.” Each booth looks like this:
Unfortunately, the bar was packed so Vy and I don’t have the chance to take over a booth, but each one features a metal plate against which you can strike a match, as well as a bell that triggers a light on a main board so that the staff knows you need assistance:
I get my 2nd Guinness of the day and then Vy and I go upstairs to the restaurant. We get some traditional fare and then hop back on the Triumph so that we can make our way to our B&B in Antrim. We still have some planning to do, but Vy’s excited because tomorrow we see one of the monuments that inspired our trip in the first place: Giant’s Causeway.