I have been in Japan

Last year was a good year when it comes to travelling. Not only was I so lucky to see the amazing Iceland with Doro, thanks to her identity as an international woman of mystery she could bring me along to Japan as well.

And so I left Europe for the first time ever on an international flight to Tokyo.

Ireland! Day four and five! We went to Bel and fast!

On day four we mostly planned our stay in Northern Ireland. We used our mobile internet traffic to browse the interwebs for things to do. We spent the afternoon on a walk to Prehen Woods, a small patch of forest 30 minutes on foot south of Derry. The way there was marked by a beautiful motorway and a boring residential area. The forest itself was completely lacking people which was a good thing. Not the most exciting forest, but relaxing nonetheless. All the pictures were done on analog cameras, they might follow once I cleaned my dev stuff and got some development going.

The next day we got up early and took the bus service to Belfast. We saw a church thing that might actually not be a church but more of a thing.

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We went on a saturday. Which brought the big advantage of being able to visit a lovely food market. It featured some grocery stands but mostly freshly prepared food. And fish.

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And lovely baby clothing.

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We ate breakfast/lunch (someone should invent a word for that) consisting of a beef steak bap (which is like a regular burger) and some paella. Both dishes were really good. Unfortunately there was not so much space available to sit down, which was a bit of a downer. But then again a great band played some relaxed jazz/reggae/rock.

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And so many cupcakes everywhere. Note the boxes on the side containing another truckload of fancy decorated cupcakes that drown in colored icing, silver pearls and colorful sprinkles. Of course we didn’t buy any as we both preferred taste over looks, and sugar icing and sugar pearls and colorants just don’t taste that great.

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As we went back outside to stroll around the city, it started to rain. Constant, annoying, wet, pouring, mean rain.

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Not even a giant herring could cheer us up.

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As an emergency solution we did a boat tour of the harbor with this lovely tiny boat.

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The boat instantly pleased by being kind of indoors and with chairs.

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This are the Titanic Studios, where Game of Thrones is made. Also a lot of the exterior settings are actually located somewhere in Ireland. A good choice by HBO to produce the series on this beautiful island.

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The harbor looked like a harbor, with docks and stuff. Somewhere in this harbor the Titanic was built by Irishmen before it was sunk by an Englishman, as the locals never cease to point out. “She was fine when when she left us.”

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I am enjoying myself so much. And my raincoat was basically useless as it just soaked up all the water and kept it around me.

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In this dock the Titanic or the sister ship Olympic or maybe some completely unrelated ship was built. The guide was fun, I guess, as we could hardly understand him. But he sounded nice.

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Doro has a bit more fun than me as she actually brought proper rain clothing to the land of everlasting rain.

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Navy seals hiding on the bank.

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They built an impressive giant thing that was quite big. I have about a million pictures of it, but I only show you this one because I am a good person.

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And by the end of the tour the sky cleared up and the rain stopped. Big success.

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We enjoyed the little tour a lot, not only because it provided shelter from the rain, it was also interesting to see the docks, the size of the machines and hear a bit about the story of the harbor. We saw “THE TITANIC EXPERIENCE” (yes, it has to be all caps and be read in a deep dramatic voice) which is just a fancy wording for museum that features stuff around the Titanic. The interesting thing about the building was, that the top edge of it was constructed in a way that it would be exactly the height of the nose (technical term for the front thingy of a boating machine) of Titanic. The building was quite tall. But I did not find a picture of it in the folder. Can’t be that interesting then.

We said goodbye to the lovely boat people and their boat and went on.

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We then finally did some city strolling. Unfortunately Belfast is quite boring on a saturday night if you are not interested in spending a lot of hard earned money on beer in small bars full with people. The shops close at very early, the pubs are expensive.

We saw this cathedral. Its tower has been blown away by the IRA and was not rebuilt. Instead, to appease the situation a sky needle was constructed.

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Before the shops finally closed we jumped into an outdoor supply store and looked for a rain jacket that would actually repel rain instead of sucking it all up and using it to chill the body down to cozy 12 degrees Kelvin. We were so lucky to find a big rack of jackets on sale and after trying on several different options Doro bought me a very nice Northface jacket that I then wore for the rest of the holidays.

After nightfall we got on the bus to Derry and went home.

Ireland! Day Three!

Oh it’s posts galore today!

We got to Ireland through Amsterdam, looked at Derry by day and by night, and now for the next day!

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Lovely day, isn’t it?

We started our day with rain and grey skies. But what to expect when you go to the country of the big rain.

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So what we wanted to do was to got to Bellarena (red circle in fig. 1) by train and the get to the beach on the west side of this kind of horn and then go up to the top and back again on the other beach on the east up to Castlerock (blue circle in fig. 1). The trip looked nice in the guide and on the map. A nice walk at two beaches, maybe four hours in total.

I should really take a class in map reading.

We ended up taking the way indicated in red in fig. 1 below. Doesn’t look so bad. It were 8.4 km.

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Bellarena train station. Nice weather, great start!

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Idyllic little settlements along the way. We did wonder how to get to the beach, but the locals just send us along the way and we just hoped for the best.

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The landscape was amazing, everywhere small groups of sheep and cattle. We prepared for a rainy day and had to put away all the rain clothes for the moment.

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Cow!

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The weather changed quickly that day. Soon we had to change from warm and dry anti-rain coating to yay-the-sun-is-so-warm non-coating every ten minutes. The next one is from Doro I think.

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And sun it is again! At some point the walkway was gone and we just kept on walking next to the motorway. We still felt hopeful for a nice day although we kind of really liked to see a beach soon.

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The grass is always greener on the Irish side. The color is not messed up, it was the most amazingly green lawn we’ve ever seen. And it went on for miles (maybe one or so)! We later found out that the Irish people are famous for farming lawn, rolling it up and selling it to the world’s golf courses and fancy gardens.

They stared at us for ages and started to run as soon as we approached the fence.

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Then it got beautiful. The farms of cows and grass changed to a military firing range on both sides. The sun also went away again and everything was dark and moist. Still no beach in sight.

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But hey, a firing range is not that bad. We instantly started to miss it when the next thing came up.

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That’s right. A prison. Endless miles of a grey wall to the right. And no chance of getting picked up as hitchhikers. We already were beyond the point of no return where we would have walked a longer way back than we expected to keep on. So we continued and chose this lovely spot near the prison’s visitors center to have our lunch. Great times!

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And then it went worse.

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Heavy rain from the side made us wet to the bone in a matter of seconds. At least our backpacks were rainproof. And doros jacket. Mine not so much.

In the distance you can already see bits of the ferry, marking Magilligan Point where both beaches were supposed to meet. And the beach on left looked nice, but wet and inaccessible due to steep rocks. Thank you, travel guide!

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Lovely. At least the belly kept me warm. Or it would have, if it wouldn’t have been the camera being protected by my unprotective leaky rain jacket. Luckily the 5Dmk2 is waterproofed. I wish I was a 5Dmk2. (taken from doros mobile obviously).

Look how much fun I have!

We wouldn’t have guessed that without the sign.

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We finally arrived at the ferry station and went to a restaurant there to dry and warm up. We had a nice cup of tea and desperately asked for the way to Castlerock. We spent the last 2 and a half hours marching all the way from Bellarena. The waitress was impressed. But she informed us, that the way to Castlerock is even longer. Yay.

But luckily I asked loud enough to also impress a guy and his wife at the table next to us.

“Oi give ya a lift.”

From there our day brightened. We finished our tea, our driver finished his meal and then he drove us to Castlerock. He gave us a tour of the area, told us in his lovely Irish accent about the landscape.

“Luffly bitches we ‘ave ‘ere. Only foive star bitches on the island. And beautiful legs up on the cliff”

He was talking about beaches and lakes by the way.

He then showed us what Castlerock has to offer and then let us out at the train station.

The sky was lovely and we were just so happy to be away from the motorway.

I fell in love with the village quite instantly. The dunes, the beach, the sea, I was just overwhelmed. I didn’t even care anymore about my hurting feet and my wet clothes.

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What would I give to live in one of the houses facing the beach in Castlerock.

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What better place to walk the dog?

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Yum.

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I apologize for the HDR-ness.

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We then took the train in the evening back to Derry. We had both blisters on the feet and were quite exhausted but I was so happy about the evening at the beach that I didn’t care that much. So we enjoyed the short train ride home and fell into our beds.