Belfast, Northern Ireland
Wednesday, Oct. 9
This morning we left Derry, Northern Ireland, and moved on to Belfast, which is the capital of Northern Ireland. As always, we never go directly to the next destination. There is always something of interest to visit along the way. This morning our first comfort stop was in Ballycastle where there is a lovely sculpture of four swans. They depict the Irish mythological legend of the “Children of Lir.”
Next we stopped at the Glenariff Forest Park. There is a lovely long nature trail to the top of the hill where there was a gorgeous view of the valley. For those who could, most of the group, there was a hike down the hill, which included over 150 steps. Toward the bottom there were lovely water falls. For the few of us who couldn’t/shouldn’t do that walk, we stayed on the bus and were driven down to the bottom so we didn’t have to miss the waterfalls. There were a number of falls coming from two streams. We settled in at the Laragh Lodge, which was all decorated for Halloween. This is a HUGE Holliday in Ireland. When the rest of the group arrived from their hike, we were served a nice lunch of roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The last rest stop before getting to Belfast was in Larn. There we viewed a plaque honoring Paddy the pigeon who was given the Dickin Medal for being the fastest carrier pigeon used during World War II. He was released in Normandy at 8:15 on June 12 with a coded message on the Allied advance and returned to Hamptonshire in 4 hours, 50 minutes.
We pulled into Belfast in the late afternoon. It is a very prosperous city with lots of building going on aided by tourism which is booming. Our driver took us by the Titanic Museum and a few other places of interest to help us get oriented. At 6:00 we all met our guide for a walking tour of the hotel area, ending at the large dome where we could see a 360 degree view of the city. We had dinner together that night so that we could be totally free and on our own the next day, afternoon and evening. The weather had turned colder, so the down coat stays out and worn.
Thursday, Oct. 10
This morning we started off taking a ride with a “Black Taxi” driver/guide. We were divided up so each taxi took 4-5 of our group and gave us a tour of Belfast. The driver talked about the troubled times and took us to the Protestant and the Catholic areas of the city. There is a wall separating the two areas, which are still segregated. The murals on the Catholic side are painted depicting social and political events and opinions. They change every once in a while. On the Protestant side there are large photographs of border walls from around the world. At one location, we got out of the cab and signed the wall. As we heard from many, “Peace is a process still playing out and not a done deal.” Each of the drivers gave his personal perspective on the turmoil and shared how it affected them and their families personally. Some even drove through their own neighborhood.
Next we had a chance to hear from three fellows who were ex-political prisoners from the time of the “Troubles.” Two were on opposite sides of the war and had been politically active. A third fellow was a British service man who was stationed in Belfast. They have joined together to tell their stories and to promote peaceful solutions. Besides talking to groups like ours, they also go to schools to promote their ways of getting along. They are all still personally in danger if some activists were to take offense at what they are doing or saying. Their main take-away was that education is the key. We also heard the theory that it can take up to seven generations to change people’s thinking to a more positive point of view.
By now it was after noon and our driver dropped all of us off at the Titanic Museum. Before starting the guided tour, using an audio guide, we had some lunch. It took at least two hours to go through the well designed museum. The shape of the building is kind of like the bow of a ship and the height of the structure is the same as was the Titanic. The museum was extremely well done and walked you through the concept, planning and production of the ship. Since the museum is located right on the dock, at one point you can look out and see the outline of where the ship was built and launched. When we were finished with the museum we caught a cab back to the hotel and only went out again for some dinner.
Friday, Oct. 11
This was a transfer day from Belfast to Dublin with interesting stops along the way. More in the next post.
Grace and Paul Pitzer are retired school teachers who love to travel and share their stories and photos with others.
Chronicles Grace's journey through breast cancer
Grace and Paul Pitzer
We hope you will keep checking back regularly to see what is new. I'm always out and about with some camera and love to stretch my skills and add to my volume of work.
Motto: "Pack light and take lots of pictures."