I go home in just under a month and my last multi-day trip abroad before I go home was to Ireland. It turned out to be exactly the sort of trip I needed: a break from dissertation work and some relaxing and enjoyable adventures with friends.
Hannah and I took the seven hour bus/ferry ride from Edinburgh all the way to Belfast, where Belfast native and all around excellent friend Karen picked us up to stay for three days with her family.
The weather threatened clouds, rain, and mist for the whole journey, but we had some unexpectedly beautiful weather sneak up on us. Our first afternoon in Belfast was rather dreary, but there was no rain, so we gathered up the two rambunctious family dogs and went for a walk in the nearby park. What I’ve had to learn (and relearn and relearn) since living on the incredibly rainy isle of Britain is that you can’t wait for typical ‘good’ weather to venture out of doors, and if you do dare to go on a walk on a cloudy day, you might be surprised at how beautiful it turns out to be, whether or not the sun ever comes out. The rain really does turn this into the Emerald Isle, so I can’t be too annoyed with it… well, I can, but some days, I just can’t bring myself to mind.The really great thing about staying with a friend when traveling, as opposed to a hotel, is that you can enjoy the comforts of a home. Sometimes homes come with these, too:Playing with animals is therapeutic. Silly dissertation; who cares about you when I have a kitten to snuggle? Or antagonize into an adorably ferocious rage. Kittens are cute when they think they’re being terrifying.Hot tea, kitten, and some good Irish company revived us enough for an evening jaunt to see the Mourne Mountains. It was an unexpected treat for me because I had read that the Mournes inspired C.S. Lewis when he conjured forth Narnia. I wanted to see Narnia the way he saw it.
Unfortunately, the world had gone from grey to invisible and the closer we got to Newcastle the more we wondered if those mountains truly existed or if they really were just a part of an otherworld landscape. But as we drew close, it turned out that maybe both were true. The mountains simply appeared right in front of us as the mist parted and the sky turned a glorious blue. Talk about magical. If I didn’t believe in Narnia before, I certainly do now.Clearly, we were being summoned into those magical mountains. When we walked further away from them down the shoreline, the mist closed back around us. As soon as we turned back toward the mountains, the skies cleared again. So, logically, our only choice was to start climbing. Visit Narnia: Check! We followed the rushing stream further up and further in, and I was hoping for some good viewpoints, but the woods surrounded us completely.
We found ways to entertain ourselves on the way up…
Eventually, we realized that we were not equipped with gazelle feet and we probably wouldn’t make it to the top before dark. I was game to get lost in the woods and meet Aslan properly, but my friends had this strange notion that returning home and sleeping in normal beds was the wiser choice. I conceded the point. Besides, we were off to Dublin in the morning and getting a good night’s sleep would probably be a good idea. Dublin put our perseverance to the test, but since it held the greatest treasure on the planet (in my opinion, anyway), it was worth the adventure. More on that later.