Because much of the day was spent traveling from my hostel in Edinburgh to my hostel in Belfast (which was difficult to find and not well managed), I only had time to see the Botanical Gardens. Well, I had time to see the Ulster Museum too, but it was closed. I had forgotten that some places close their museums one day of the week. I mean, I don’t run into that problem in D.C., nor had I in London, so it took me by surprise, and I was really disappointed, because the UIster Museum is about Irish history, and I thought it would be interesting to get that from the Northern Ireland perspective. The Botanical Gardens aren’t as inspiring as Alnwick Gardens, but I did get some really good pictures. (As in, I could see them being published in a nature calendar).
I wandered around the area, taking pictures of interesting buildings then returned to my hostel. My room was the most tightly packed I had encountered. I couldn’t sit on my bed with my legs hanging over the side without being in someone’s way. I got the choice bed, though, because it was by the window and I could use the ledge for things like my glasses and contacts case. Silver linings.
Finally, the main attraction of the tour, Giant’s Causeway, is incredible when you take it all in visually and think about how it was formed. I climbed all over the rocks and took pictures. When strangers saw me trying to take selfies with my camera (no, I don’t have a smartphone, and if I did, I wouldn’t have a selfie stick), some would offer to take my picture for me. There are still nice people in the world, and sometimes it’s easier to find/notice them when you’re travelling solo. (Just as there are liabilities to travelling solo; there are advantages).
There’s also a rock formation at Giant’s Causeway called “the camel,” and that meant that I found an anthropomorphized camel character magnet in the gift shop, continuing my streak of finding a camel on every trip abroad.
Though the day was filled with natural beauty (and I had been really excited about finding a tour that included Dark Hedges and didn’t stop at a whisky distillery), two weeks of schlepping from one place to next every other day had clearly worn me down, because when I returned to my hostel, I recorded my day in my journal and ended with, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I have travel fatigue. It’s stressful to have to figure out my next steps each day or every other day. Now I’m going to have to figure out what to do after Galway because Killarney is all booked. Cork isn’t much better. I wish I were rich and it didn’t matter how much a room cost. Or that I had a partner to help plan and split the costs. I’m also tired of just traipsing to a new place every other day. I might just stay in Dublin the rest of my days to make it easier. I felt melancholy during the bus ride today. I’m still feeling everything about [my Brexit].” And it got worse from there.
I’m not proud of that journal entry. But I’m not ashamed, either. I thought about not including it, but I want my travelogue to be a true account and that means including the negatives too. It means showing you that two weeks in, my trip still hadn’t “fixed me.” And, more importantly, it means showing you that I was very tired. I’d spent two weeks sleeping in strange places, never staying more than a couple nights in one place. Packing myself into buses, trains, planes, subway cars, and walking so much that my feet hurt every day and had blisters. Even on that day when I’d been driven to and from sites, I spent much of the day walking around in the heat at each of those sites and rushing to get back to the bus before it left. So, yes, in that physical state, it was easier for me to become melancholy. And perhaps I needed to hit that nadir in order to be receptive to the mystical experience I had two days later on Inis Oirr…