TLDR – COVID lockdown phase 3 means we can travel anywhere on the island – Road trip up north. Leg one, Belfast, Tim Hortons, and Helens bay Beach
The Basics of the trip
We’ve been in lockdown for about 5 months now. We’reollowing the rules, and not going further than 10km from our home. The routines of a life where we hardly ever leave the house have become a deep runt. We desperately need different sites. We need some travel and adventure. As soon as Ireland entered Phase three and we were able to travel anywhere on the island Michelle started trip planning. New for this trip Mila helped out with the planning. Mila and Michelle would look up places at night on the computer during tuck in building our trip plan.
The basic plan was to rent a car and drive to the northern tip of Ireland for some beaches and adventure. Maybe toss in a GOT site or two. Booking rentals turned out to be an issue causing the girls to change the plans a few times. Rentals were not open, or unavailable when we needed them. Eventually, they worked something out. I have a rough idea of where we were going, but no hard details. I love traveling this way. We get in the car, Michelle pulls out her notebook to tell me how to program the GPS and off we go. – I know Belfast for a few nights, somewhere else, then Derry for the remainder of the trip with day trips to beaches and hikes.
Maddex and I rode the LUAS green line to city center playing word jumble, caught the Red line to Blue Bonnet stop where we picked up the car. We were 20 minutes early and ran around the parking lot a bit exploring; killing time. Our rental car was in the garage all the way in the back. The sales agent had to pull out 5 cars to get to ours in the back. We ended up renting a van looking thing with the passenger side mirror duct-taped on. They sure do put the crazy costly insurance to good use. Insurance for 8 days is 780e upfront you don’t get back or 2,500 deposit you get back a week after the car has been returned. The car rental was only 400 euros. Insurance costs in Ireland being a huge part of why we do not own a car.
About 16 seconds after we pulled into the driveway the girls sprung into action loading the and car claiming their spots. 20 minutes later the Millfam is on the road headed to a Tesco extra up north for shopping and snacks. Maddex is all the way in the back in his nest with stuff packed around him, the girls are in the middle sitting 3 side by side, I’m driving and Michelle is working as the hospitality stewardess making sure everyone is taken care of. Michelle reported she approved of her new in-car title.
Tesco was Meh. The hope was a more US like shopping experience picking up some new outfits for the girls, school supplies, and food. Our shopping cart arrived back at the car with a few swimsuits and snacks. Next stop a few K away, Ballbriggen beach. Oh finding parking, how I have not missed you at all. Forgot how much owning a car is annoying thanks for the reminder. We parked the car on a random street and walked to the beach where we found a nice big parking lot with loads of space; mutter.
Along with the parking lot, we found a playground the kids ran for. Big spinning thing, water screw for moving water supplied by a hand pump, slides, and climbing things all on a sandy base – kids were happy. Michelle walked to the edge of a short cliff and checked out the beach. Michelle is happy at a beach with a view. Took her a bit, but she eventually convinced the kids to leave the toys and walk to the beach. As we hit the sand the shoes came off, and kids started to dig holes. Then they asked if they could go into the water. Sure, why not go for it we have towels and a change of clothes.
Maddex ran to the water, waded out a bit, then dove headfirst into a wave and vanished underwater. Put him in the water and he is in his happy place. The girls waded out with him a bit, but no one else dove head underwater. Not sure what happened getting ready to return the car but Maddex took a good 15 minutes fighting to put his shoes on. Eventually, the girls left and I waited with him. It was like his shoes were alive fighting to stay off his feet. He ended up saying F-it and ran after me with his shoes half on.
The next stop is some fancy playground Mila and Michelle found about an hour north. As the park was getting close the closer the car was becoming quieter. No more sounds of kids of playing, only the sounds of kids snoring. Michelle woke up and we decided to skip the park and keep on for Belfast; let everyone sleep. Roaming was blocked on my phone for some reason, so I could not reroute. Michelle had to work out how to sync her phone with the car apple play GPS thing and take over navigation.
In front of our row house flat, we found door side street parking we took then started to unload. We are staying in an Airbnb with three bedrooms. I do not think it has been used since the lockdown. Cobb webs abound and loads of spiders in the corners. Had to clean all of that up before bed. Princess Mila was cowering in fear of the big mean spiders and was never going to sleep otherwise. The kids all claimed their rooms, made their beds, and unpacked. I say this every time but I love watching the kids move into a new space and make it their own. Even for one night stay they like to build their nests and put things away.
As we were leaving for some adventure all of the kids came down ready except Roxi. Michelle told the kids it was time to leave and the girls came down. Roxi heard us wrong. Thinking we were packing up and leaving for another flat she packed up her whole room and came down ready to depart. Poor honey badger had to put everything away a second time. On our walk exploring the area, we played in about five playgrounds – kids and playgrounds make for a nice night.
While the kids were playing at the first playground I crossed the street and bought a few bags of chips they ate while playing. Chips are always a great snack. From the first playground, we walked along a stream in a wooded park stopping at a few other playgrounds. Near the end of the walk, we came to some large cement ponds to walk around. At the first one, there was a gaggle of swans on the water who swam right at us and followed us the entire time we were next to the water – Both cool and creepy. The need for a toilet ended the night out. We quickly walked back home for toilets. After bathrooms off to Tesco for food then home again to eat and end the night.
Today’s morning mission Timbits, followed by a beach. Michelle has been on none stop “I want Tim Horton’s” — “When we get Timbits” — “we need to stop at Tim Hortons for some Timbits” for a few days now; time to give her what she wants; Timbits. Friday morning after getting dressed and sun screened we drove to Tim Hortons at ConnsWater Retail park. No rights turn across traffic into the place it took a few times around the block before working out how to get into the parking lot. – Do not miss driving. Do miss the Canadian donuts.
More odd turns on tiny streets and 20 minutes drive time took us to a parking lot near Helens bay beach. The sandy bits of the beach were a bit more covered with people then we love in the COVID times, but they were not covered to the point we turned around and left. Michelle and I set up our spot in the sand. The kids took off their pants and shoes and ran for the water. Maddex hardly left the water the entire time we were there. He had his face underwater with a mask on checking things out. How I spent so many summers his age. Makes me happy to see the kids enjoying life so much.
The girls alternated between water and building sandcastles, Michelle set up and wrote, I dug holes to place kids in. Was a great day at the beach with some cloud cover. After enough time on the sand, we all walked to climb and explore some rocks before a toilet need lead us back to the car park with public toilets. From the park, it was back to our flat for a mellow evening.
Quotes from the trip
Mila: oh finally we get to be a car looking at the walkers, instead of all the cars looking at us
Maddex to Dad: I trust the water more than I trust you…proceeds to do several trust falls into the water