Belfast - Northern Ireland

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I feel a bit displeased that we are leaving Dublin.

I have grown to liking it even though it is very cold here. We spend the day continuing to check out the city before we move on in our journey to Belfast.

We visited an unusual mall we had missed the day before called Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. It use to be the home of an upper class man and his family. It was home to unique designers especially of clothing but of other items as well.

We also went to see Dublin Castle (est. 1205 AD). I found out that an O'Neill (my Mother's last name before she was married) had been prisoner in the tower. He was the first to escape. Perhaps one of my relatives had been in the castle before, lol. The gardeners had grown huge calla lilies, on the grounds, one of my favourite flowers, think Diego Rivera paintings.

Once going back towards Trinity College we saw a white horse pulling a wagon. He was a very curious boy with blinders on but kept trying to see things behind him. No wonder, he was pulling a wagon full of unusual antiques to encourage people to come to the pub he was advetising.

We went back to the Buttery Food Court to eat as it was so good yesterday.

 In the afternoon we still had time to kill before going off to Belfast. I wanted to see the statues dedicated to the victims of the potato famine from the early 1800's. That is when my relatives came over to Canada. It was such a moving piece of art with a dog, women, men and children in obvious peril because of a lack of food. It actually brought tears to my eyes, very moving even to Ken who is so not Irish.

Famine Park made us both cry, so powerful. Art, great art is moving.

It was not fun lugging our suitcases from Trinity College to the train station. I was extremely exhausted, cold and had sore feet.

We had reserved seating on the train, luckily. We sat with a man and his daughter. Ken and Dermit engaged in conversation about Ireland and Canada and about politics. I was far too tired to care or make much conversation. Helen, the daughter, had again won an award in Ireland for her art. Her and her father had gone down to Dublin to collect her prize of art supplies. She was so proud to have won.

We were so fortunate that Dermit and Helen decided to give us a ride to where we were staying. It is rather unnerving to come into a new town tired, hungry and unfamiliar with a new place. We were so thankful that Dermit knew Andersons town and drive us right to the door of where we were staying.

Friday, May 29, 2015

We got up and made our own breakfast even though this is a B&B. The owner left us money to buy milk and bread for toast. She went away until Saturday or Sunday and left us here on our own. I would never do something like that, what if we were thieves or whack jobs and wrecked the place. Anyway we are neither of those things, she is lucky. She did leave us 3£

We find the bus stop after waiting in the house until it stopped raining and hailing. I am really not please about going out in this weather. Both Ken and I have long underwear on because it is so cold and windy. This is not usual weather for this time of year, come on, it is the end of May.

Before we leave our temporary abode I realize I have lost one of my credit cards. Ugh!!! I am beside myself for awhile until I phone the bank and inform them. No charges have been made on the card and they give me time to try to find it.

I decide to phone where I last used it and yes, they still have it.

I stupidly left it in the thrift store. That business will put it in their safe until I return to retrieve it on Tuesday in Dublin. I was so glad to have located the card because I already have had my client card compromised for another trip.

 We have a friendly bus driver that lets us know we should buy a day pass for the bus. That would save us money even if we just use it to go into town and back, which is what we did. By the way in case you did not guess from the hail mentioned earlier it is very cold out and I do not feel dressed for it.

Once on the bus we see lots of wonderful street art on the walls of the buildings. Some of it is really political which is what you would expect in Belfast I suppose. 

Downtown we take pictures of wonderful old Victorian buildings many of which are made of Belfast red brick. We see the twin steeples on our ride into town. We see a Catholic graveyard in Andersontown, The opera house, Europa a hotel where President Clinton stayed in 1995, we saw statues of women in bronze, a very styling TESCO grocery store with cupulas, the Victoria Shopping Centre, etc.

The shopping centre had a lift (elevator) to an upper floor with views of the city all the way to the outer, green, surrounding hills (a real hit with us Canadians).

We find the food here very different from Canada, yet the same. Here is what we bought for a few suppers, tonight and in the future. For supper we bought lightly battered cod with McCains potato wedges and a green salad and dressing. For tomorrow we got spinach and cheese tortellini with an unusual red sauce and a red pepper for the veggie. Now that I have written it out it does not seem that unusual but it was. We never eat that sort of thing at home. I had a small bottle of wine and Ken had a Dutch beer. For breakfast we bought Farls which is some kind of potato, wheat bread. It will be eaten for breakfast.

Before leaving town I go into a charity shop, thrift store to you North Americans, and buy a rain coat. I need the extra warmth. I look a bit like a stuffed Teddy Bear but I do not care anymore. Being comfortable is definitely winning out over good looks.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

There was actually a bit of sun this morning but instead of being warmer it was colder. It was around seven degrees Celsius...burr.

Ken broke a wine glass so he will check the thrift stores for a replacement.

 were off to Lisburn today which is small city of about 70,000 people outside of Belfast. We took the train after walking almost a kilometre to the Finaghy Station.

We are really noticing the plants of Vancouver Island or Gabriola in this area - Azaleas, Oregon Grape, Mexican Mock Orange, Berginia, Lilacs, Clematis Montana, etc. I do not know if they have the same names here. I doubt Oregon Grape has the same name here in Ireland. Some of trees are different, but some are the same. I have not seen cedar trees.

Once in Lisburn we walk to the Irish Linen Centre. Northern Ireland use to be the big area for growing and manufacturing of flax and linen. It prevented some of the people in this area from starving during the potatoes famine of the early to mid 1800's. Those people involved with the industry had income to buy other food. The display was presented from growing the flax, through to manufacturing the fabric.  It was a very moving display, especially the parts where they took quotes out of old journals of workers in the linen industry. One women said she and others who embroidered from dawn to dusk where saving as much money as possible to buy passage to the Americas. Working conditions were not good with little compensation, almost slave labour. It was, however, much better than no job, thus no home, clothing or food. The workers in these home industries worked very hard.

We walked around Lisburn stopping in shops for a wee look.

Hunger over took us and we went to The Tuesday Bell which is a part of the Wetherspoon pub chain. We could certainly see why it was so popular with the locals - great food and drink at a reasonable price. The place was huge with two floors.  We found other Wetherspoon pubs and enjoyed their service.

Our tour to Castle Gardens was side tracked by an art gallery and display of quite spectacular cars. The Italian Motor Club of Ireland had many cars on display, cars and motorcycles we have heard of but have not seen in person. It was impressive to see Ferraris, Jaguars, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, etc. all in one place with loud, good music blaring in the background.

We did make it to Castle Garden which was similar to other city parks. From the park you could see the rolling hills of the surrounding areas. The fields are not fenced off but have hedges marking off the boundary lines of fields. It look rather impressive.

Our train ride back was uneventful but it was nice to arrive back so quickly after a long day.

We have been making suppers and breakfasts at the place we are staying. This makes the trip more affordable.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The buses do not run often on Sunday in Belfast.

We decide to walk to the Ulster Museum which is about three miles from here or about six kilometers. I am not absolutely sure that is a great idea because I still have sore kness, legs and feet. Maybe walking it off is what I need to do. It is unseasonably cold so the cold is affecting my joints and muscles thus my walking ability. There is hardly anyone out when we first venture forth. We only saw about one guy walking a dog and only a few cars. It is Sunday morning after all. We have allowed about an hour and a half to walk the the Museum.

The Ulster Museum is an absolutely wonderful place to visit. It encompasses the arts, history, palaeontology, it is a natural history museum with a twist.

There is a section set up to tell about the "Troubles", the political upheavals from 1969 onward to the late 90's and beyond. The museum is set up somewhat interactively for children and for school groups yet we throughly enjoyed ourselves. We did not finish looking at the History of Ireland part because we had to go eat then off to the Titanic Experience. That would have been so interesting. I must say that I do not totally understand what happened with the "Troubles". Each time I read about it things become more clear, but being a specifics thinker I get lost in the details.

We stopped for lunch at the second Maggie May's, which was closer to the train station and much less crowded.

Trains here in Ireland are so great - on time and fast. 

It is a good addition to our transportation repertoire. 

We took the train as close as we could get to the Titanic Experience. At that time walking for me was still difficult from the knees down. 

Wow, it must be awful to be have permanent difficulties with walking. On our way to the Experience we experienced a rather unfortunate event. 

A fellow all dressed in his Sunday best biking gear was happy biking along when he hit a thick, metal post cemented into the ground. The hit was so hard it made a noise. He bike was sent way in front of him and he landed, hard on the ground. We only heard the noise and ran to assist. He was out cold and was bleeding from the head. He was breathing, in a laboured way. An older gentleman had stopped to assist and was phoning an ambulance. Our phones are not hooked up and we would not have known where to phone. Ken did get out our Google map to tell where we were located. Others stopped to assist. Once we heard the ambulance we were relieved. By that time, which was longer than we thought it should be for an ambulance, we had continued on our trek to the Titanic Experience. Another disaster. Isn't it ironic.

Titanic - The Experience.

The Titanic Experience was very busy as it was Sunday plus being May 31 it was the anniversary of the launch of the Titanic in 1911. The curators had done an amazing job of personalizing the voyage with letters and pictures of people who had either been on the lifeboat or had perished in the sinking. To me that was the best part. They had created rooms with furniture that was like that which had been on the Titanic.

The view of where the launch occurred.

 I would do the Experience again but not the same day as I walked 6 km or the day I had visited another museum. This squeezing every last drop out of a place is wearing thin. I think we need to slow down, that is what my legs are screaming.

Once back at the B&B we are staying at we meet the hostess, Eimear. A younger lady with a bubbly personality and a strong Irish accent. We sat a talked for hours. She is interested in going some place warm for a month or so in the winter months. Maybe she will catch our enthusiasm for Mexico.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Well it is raining to day and supposed to get worse. We are supposed to get really high winds, almost hurricane force winds. But that did not happen. The winds would definitely play havoc with an umbrella but would not over turn trees, as was expected.

We checked out charity shops in the immediate area. I need to find more well cushioned shoes, running shoes would be ideal. I would like them to look half decent because I have rather dressy clothes with me for our Europe excusion. I decided, regretfully not to bring a bathing suit. I figured it would be a bit chilly here for a swim suit, I'd get one later. I can not find one that fits or suits my figure. I have found few tankinis in Ireland. Maybe I will find one in a charity shop. At any rate of all the charity shops we visited, which were a lot today, I did manage to find some memory foam insoles and will give them a shot. I just need to have a more cushioned walk.

We ate at a Subway restaurant for lunch. In Canada these establishments have bathrooms and give you glasses of tap water to drink if you request it. Well, not here in Ireland. Like, how are you supposed to wash your hands before eating? The veggie patty type sub was good but the establishment was not.

We met our "black cab" driver at the Jury Inn. Peter was a Irish man who lived through the Troubles. He was so well versed in all aspects of this political upheaval, with such precise detail. He drove us in a black British type of cab. We sat in the back. The journey started with him seated on one of the fold up seats, folding down from the front seat. He let us know that this was not a religious disagreement but a political disagreement.

Peter's Black Taxi for the tour of the Troubles.

When a mural is replaced or removed, a plaque noting it is placed nearby.

It burns so hot they have to cover the plastic in the nearby houses.

After the tour was over I had a much better understanding of the Trouble than I had gotten from any reading I had done. He drove us passed many murals, we were told of walls that have been built up in the city since the early 70's, he showed us both IRA neighbourhoods (Sinn Feighn) - Catholic (wanting to join the Republic of Ireland) and Loyalists and Unionists (UDA) - Protestant (wanting to stay with England as they are today). It is very complicated and the Troubles certainly have deep roots in history which goes very far back.

The courthouse...

accross the street from the jail.

There were so many interesting or fascinating tidbits of information to be told. I felt like my jaw was dropped for much of the trip. One little tidbit was the curbs in the UDA area are painted red, white and blue.

The British flag flies high there, you might see a mural painted of the Queen.

In the IRA neighbourhoods you would see a mural of Bobby Sands or other hunger strikers of the day. There are murals and memorials to the "heros" of either side.

Peter tells us depending on your religion you say the letter "h" differently as Catholic teacher taught it one way and Protestant another way.

When I told Peter of my O'Neill ancestry he told me that the flag of Ireland had a red hand of it which is the red hand of O'Neill which goes back goes back to The Ui Neill clan of Ulster.

We signed the wall asking for peace. Not far down from another Canadian, Justin Beiber.

Our "black cab" driver, Peter was an Irish man who lived through the Troubles.

 I did want to see the library in town, if only for the ten minutes closing time afforded us. The staff was polite when they reminded us of closing.

Robert Burns

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