The Adventures of BJ and Tony Morris

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Limavady, Northern Ireland
September 2012
"Nice Day for a Wedding"

This wedding started out to be a bit stressful, and not just for Kat & Gordon, the bride and groom. The wedding was to be in Limavady, Northern Ireland which proved to a logistics challenge for all involved. September is not normally high season for Ireland, so we thought maybe some of the guests (and maybe even the bride and groom) could use buddy passes to travel to the event. We started checking flights and sending out availability reports several weeks before the trip. We worked out a schedule so that not all of the guests would try to get on the same flight. Of course, it would be most important for the bride and groom to get there so they would leave first, followed by the bride's family and then friends, a few each day. As the time for the wedding approached, the couple got nervous about the lack of available seats and decided to purchase confirmed seats directly to Belfast and home from Manchester where they planned to spend a short honeymoon.

A few weeks before the wedding, the groom (sort of) successfully used a buddy pass to fly over and do some preliminary footwork. The flight over went swimmingly, but the flight home was not such a sure thing. After being bumped off of a couple of flights in Dublin, he ended up taking a bus to Shannon and flying to New York. Bad weather in New York meant he had to spend the night. He took a bus from JFK to Laguardia where the airport provided cots with pillows and blankets for inconvenienced passengers and a guard patrolled the area all night. The next day out of New York looked almost impossible, but Delta added an extra section out of JFK, so he took a bus back over and got home, exhausted but happy.

Aside from the bride and groom, only one other couple elected to purchase confirmed seats. Jenny & Clay found a great deal on tickets so they went over early and toured around Ireland using the bus and train system before arriving in Limavady.

The wedding would be on Wednesday, so the first wave of stand-by travelers, including the bride's parents & nephew, Bryan, Sally & Kendal, and the maid of honor, Melissa, would try for a Saturday flight. It was a tight squeeze but they all got on! Sunday, two friends, Joe & Tib were lucky enough to get on and even in Business Class! 

Sunday night, two standby travelers, Tim & Lynn would leave from Honolulu, arriving in San Francisco on Monday morning. Their original plan was to stand by for a flight to Atlanta and then on to Dublin, but a mechanical issue on the Atlanta flight meant they would miss the connection to Dublin so they jumped on a New York flight for the connection to Dublin. Their checked baggage, however, did not. 

BJ, Tony and two friends, Sandy & Kristi were planning to fly out of Atlanta on Monday evening. Sandy had spent the previous weekend in Florida at a beach wedding and had trouble getting a flight back to Atlanta. She had anticipated this and packed a bag for Ireland, leaving it in her car near the airport. She realized that had forgotten her passport so Kristi had to zip over to her house & find it. The Dublin flight had started to look iffy, so BJ & Tony bought some back-up passes from London to Dublin. Sandy got on a flight from Jacksonville & just barely had time to make it to the parking lot to exchange her beach bag for her wedding bag before meeting us in the Sky Club. The four of us hurried to the gate just in time to get our business class seats to Dublin! Whew!

We enjoyed the Business Class service, took a nap and arrived in Dublin rested and ready for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Limavady. We headed to the rental car desk & after bickering with the agent about the insurance (which we always have to do - they do not ever believe that our credit card covers the Loss Damage Waiver in the Republic of Ireland), we were finally on our way. 

The rental car shuttle bus driver, after commenting on the dreary weather, recommended that we make a stop to see the Newgrange Tumulus, a tomb dating from 1699. He said that it was a half hour from the Dublin airport and on our way to Northern Ireland so we decided to make the stop. We programmed it into our GPS and set out. Sandy & Kristi were following us in their car. Before we realized that our GPS had us "avoid toll roads", we got stuck in some morning traffic so it actually took us an hour to get to the site.

We could see the giant mound as we pulled up. We got out, stretched and headed up the path to the gate where we were met at the entrance by a woman who said, "You're in the wrong place. Did your Sat-Nav (meaning GPS) bring you here?" Then she explained that to see the tomb we would have to go to the Visitor's Center, a 15 minute drive, to buy a ticket and then return for a tour that takes place every 30 minutes. 

We decided to snap a quick picture of the mound and be on our way to Limavady.

We corrected the setting on the GPS, but apparently our maps were not up to date because the GPS led us through Armagh and Dungannon and then a windy route through the Sperrin Mountains. We stopped for a snack in Armagh and another stop at a gas station that had an ATM where we could get some Irish pounds. We arrived in Limavady almost 5 hours after we had touched down in Dublin.

We found our B&B, the Whitehill Farmhouse where we had stayed on a previous trip.  We were warmly greeted by Maud, who commented on the dreary weather, and showed to our rooms where the groom had left us a surprise gift bag with a schedule of events for the wedding.

We drove into town and had lunch at the Alexander Arms hotel where the waitress commented on the dreary weather. We had the vegetable soup & brown bread. We found that the vegetable soup in Northern Ireland is not pureed like the soup in the Republic. 

We made another stop at the Thatch Bar for an Irish beer. The bartender commented on the dreary weather. We were very confused by all of this talk of dreary weather since we were accustomed to it being rainy in Ireland. We got the bartender to laugh when we told him that "It never rains in a pub!"

After lunch, we went back to the Whitehill for a nap before the "rehearsal dinner" that night.

They don't really do rehearsal dinners in Ireland, so this was more of a meet & greet party held in a tent outside of Owen's pub where we met many of the groom's family and friends over pints of Harp & Guiness while a group played traditional Irish music. 

Grilled Pork Baps (sandwiches) were served with applesauce and a delicious red sauce. Heat lamps kept the tent toasty warm. 

At the party, we learned that our poor exhausted Hawaiian friends Tim & Lynn would have to travel back to Dublin the next morning to pick up their bags. Thankfully one of the band members (for a fee) was willing to make the 7 hour round trip for them so they could sleep in!

We returned to the B&B for a night cap & to scarf down some of the cookies at the coffee/tea station!

Wednesday morning, wedding day, we woke up to a beautiful sunny day! This was quite a treat after all of the dreary weather talk from the day before. Maud prepared a huge Irish breakfast for us, including bacon (which looks like ham to us), sausage, 2 poached eggs, a potato pancake, a piece of fried bread, toast, brown bread, coffee, tea and orange juice. 

BJ, Sandy & Kristi left Tony at the B&B and went over to the Roe Park Inn for a champagne toast with the bride as she was getting ready for the wedding.

We got back to the B&B in time to change clothes and meet the van that would take us to the wedding. 

Gordon's friend Siddy drove us to the Alexander Arms hotel to pick up the rest of the Americans. We enjoyed basking in the sun outside the hotel while we waited for everyone to come out. Tim & Lynn had gotten their bags a half-hour earlier!

BJ took over the flight attendant duties in the van, imitating the Delta video where the redhead with the big lips instructs passengers that smoking is not allowed while she wags her finger at them.

We were a little early for the wedding so we made a stop at CastleRock to enjoy the beautiful view of the ocean. The wind was brutal on our hair, but the view was spectacular!

When we arrived at the wedding venue, we were greeted by a man at the gate playing bagpipes.

We explored lower grounds, the Dovecot & took advantage of the restrooms,

before traipsing across the field to the Mussenden Temple.

The temple is situated on a cliff over the ocean and is only open for weddings and special occasions. We learned later how lucky we were to get to see inside it since most of the people we met who had lived there their whole lives had never been inside.

The bagpipe music continued as we milled around the temple enjoying the view.

Inside the temple, the chairs were each set with a program for the wedding and a little bag of lavender for giving the couple their send-off.

 

It was a beautiful ceremony followed by the signing of the wedding documents! 

 

Outside the temple, the beautiful weather and scenery made a perfect backdrop for the wedding pictures!

Of course, the Americans who had traveled over for the wedding (fourteen of us, in all) wanted to get in on the pictures!

Afterward, while more photographs were being taken, we were treated to a glass of champagne. 

We made a quick tour of the Downhill Demesne, built in the early 1770s. After a fire, the house was restored in 1870 and remained in use until the 1940s.

It was soon time to leave the beautiful grounds of the temple and head to the reception..

The reception was at the Point Bar where we had a wonderful meal.

The wedding cake was adorned by a Belleek china bride & groom and the groom's cake was in the shape of a pint of Guinness!

The best man's speech had us laughing until the tears rolled down our cheeks!

Following the dinner, we were taken back to Owen's pub to dance the night away!

Thursday morning, it was back to being a bit dreary. Maud wanted to hear all about the wedding over breakfast and was thrilled that the weather had been so beautiful for the big day. After breakfast, most of us took a nap except BJ who took the 1.25 mile walk into town to get some exercise. We met the other Americans at the Alexander Arms. Keith, the best man, picked us up in a van to take us on a tour of the region.

After a scenic morning drive, we made a stop for lunch on the coast where the Rathlin Island Ferry departs. We were disappointed to find Morton's Fish & Chip shop closed, but we found a little coffee shop where some of us burned our tongues on cappuccino or hot chocolate!

Our next stop on the tour was at the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. Swinging 100 feet above the sea, made up of planks strung between wires, the bridge spans a 60 foot chasm to the island of Carrick-a-Rede.

The walk across the bridge is across the mouth of an ancient volcano. We nervously gingerly made our way across to the island and back and were rewarded with spectacular views.

We enjoyed a bowl of soup at the visitor's center Tea Room.

The Giant's Causeway was the highlight of the tour. We climbed on the unusually shaped rocks and marveled at the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.

We didn't understand the red and yellow flags on the hill around the causeway until we read the sign telling us that it was art. A display called "FLAGS" by internationally acclaimed German artist Hans Peter Kuhn. There's even an app that you can download to your smart phone which provides content, video & sound while you look at the flags. (We still don't really understand it.)

Our next stop was at the Bushmill's Inn next to the Bushmill Distillery. 

It was a quaint little place for a drink before we would head back to Limavady. When we walked in, the bartender told us to "have a wee seat" and he would bring us a drink! It just happened to be Arthur's Day (Arthur Guinness' birthday), so BJ celebrated by having a Guinness!

The Inn had a neat little library upstairs with a secret room behind the bookcase.

After the tour, we returned to Limavady for our final meal with the group at The Classic next door to Owen's Pub.

Friday, it was time for us to say goodbye to Maud and our friends. 

Kristi & Sandy were heading back to Dublin to go home while we were continuing our tour of Northern Ireland. We drove over to Derry, Londonderry a quaint little walled city where there are many reminders of the strife that took place there.

We walked the wall around the city, stopping at the Verbal Arts Centre for a cappuccino and to use the free wi-fi. 

We saw St. Columb's Cathedral, peeked into St. Augustine's Church, and saw St. Eugene's Cathedral in the distance behind the large wall murals depicting the strife. 

We hiked down from the wall to see Rossville Street and the murals along the street.

We stopped at the Bloody Sunday memorial and while we were reading about it, some boys set off a fire cracker next to it, causing us to jump and giving us an eerie feeling that the strife might not really be over.

We were just finishing our walk around the wall when it started to rain so we headed back to the car and, once we figured out how to pay for our parking, started on our way.

We wanted to wind our way back toward Dublin so we picked a route that would take us through Strabane, Omagh, and Enniskillen. We stopped for a Guinness & Magners at Pat's Bar in Enniskillen because it advertised free wi-fi on the door, but after we ordered, we discovered that the wi-fi was down. Note to self: Ask about the wi-fi BEFORE ordering next time.

Out of Enniskillen, we drove through Cavan and made our way to Kells. It had a blue "i" on the map which made us think it was a big enough town to have a Tourist Information office so it probably would be a good place to stay. We arrived after the TI was closed, so we parked and walked around town. We stopped into a place that advertised rooms above the bar, but smelled a bit musty inside. We were relieved that they were full for the night. The bartender said we could try at the hotel or one of the B&B's beyond the hotel. The sign in front of the Headfort Arms hotel said it was a "luxury" hotel which usually means it is out of our price range but we stopped in to ask about a room anyway. They were also full for the night.

We followed the signs to a B&B just outside of town & rang the bell, but the neighbors across the street said they were out of town. We were starting to get a little concerned that we wouldn't be able to stay in this town when we found the Avalon B&B. The price was a bit more than we expected to pay at 35 per person, but we were ready to stop for the night as it was getting dark.

We had sandwiches and soup at the Round House pub for dinner. The soup was pureed vegetable, just what we expected and love in Ireland.

We didn't find much else to do in Kells so after dinner we headed back to the B&B.

Saturday, we drove to Dublin Airport to turn in our car and catch the shuttle to the Airport Hilton where we would spend our last night in Ireland before heading to Munich for Oktoberfest.

Our room at the Hilton wasn't ready yet, so we dropped our bags and walked the 6km to the little village of Malahide. The day was warm and the walk seemed long, but we needed the exercise after all of those big Irish breakfasts and Guinnesses!

We stopped on the way to see St. Doulaghs Church. Apparently some wee people attend church here!

We witnessed a bit of an Irish traffic jam on our walk.

We had lunch of soup and fries at Gibney's pub while we watch soccer and golf, and then took the long walk back to the hotel.

The Hilton offered a shuttle to take us into Malahide for dinner and the driver recommended The Orchid Chinese restaurant. They had a great 3 course special menu available until 8PM for 16!

We took the public bus to the Tesco so BJ could buy some cough drops for the sore throat she had gotten (probably due to the dreary weather) and then it was back to the Hilton.

Sunday morning, we took the shuttle to the airport so we could take our Ryan Air flight to Munich. Flying Ryan Air is a bit like being herded into a cattle car, but the price was right so we endured.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this adventure where we meet up with other friends in Munich for Oktoberfest! 

BJ and Tony
bjandtony@bjandtony.com 

 www.bjandtony.com
bjandtony@bjandtony.com