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Post Info TOPIC: IC's '07 VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY TOUR


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RE: IC's '07 VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY TOUR


     Ive been off the boards for some time, dealing with numerous crisis (would the plural be crisii ?), relating to work, family and home. Nothing life-threatening, mind you, just things like a leaky roof, the unexpected, but not surprising demise of our faithful, OLD washing machine, etc., etc, etc .

     So, Ill begin my return with apologies to all for having Dropped The Ball and not getting this finished. I would also like to extend specific apologies to Merle and Dude for having dragged this out until the contained info is no longer of any use for YOUR trips. I really had INTENDED to have this all done before yall left!!!


     Also, thanks for all the kind and tolerant commentary. Thanks to Anchoress for the Rest Of The Story, local background info and to Dude for allowing me to participate, in my own small way, in her Good Works. I really, REALLY will TRY to finish this up soon. Honest.


YOU CAN TRUST ME.


WELL given my track record cry

MAYBE NOT.


Bob



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Not to worry Bob. Life gets in the way when you get home. I intended to start my trip report right away, but as you can see I just started. I did get some valuable information from you before I left.

Merle

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Merlene M Black


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Aw, Bob, you know we think your reports are worth waiting for. And you were very helpful to me before my trip, so put your mind at ease on that account.

Anchoress is away from the forum for a while. With Christmas approaching, she is very busy and has periods of required Deep Silence so doesn't communicate with the outside world unless it is truly necessary.

Glad you're back!

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Well, Thank you all.

                                FRIDAY, 29 JUNE:


"SO WEVE COME TO THE BORDER

  WEVE BEEN DOWN THIS ROAD, BEFORE

  AND, COME HELL, OR HIGH WATER

  I WILL MEET YOU ON THE SHORE


     The other guests had departed by the time we had our breakfast , so we had the place to ourselves for morning showers, etc. It was a dreary looking morning, at that , neither boding particularly well for either OUR ambitious plans, nor for Movilles Dylan Festival. As we drove down from Moville, a Fine Irish Mist kept us company most of the way to Derry. But, by the time I had eased the Passat into a close-in parking space along side of the Tourist Office, the Mists had departed -- gathered up into the overcast skies in heavy gray clouds like great balls of wool.


     A young man sought us out to sell us a seat on the upcoming Tour Bus. We only had about a fifteen minute wait before we loaded up and were on our way. I have become convinced, that these City Bus Tours are ESSENTIAL to gain a quick, short and entertaining overview of any destination. Derry IS a compact city, but had we tried to tour it on our own, Im convinced that it would have taken us many hours of fumbling and bumbling about and we probably would have missed HALF of what we saw by taking the Tour.


     The bus tour through and around Derry was interesting, informative and ENLIGHTENING. We saw a vibrant, small city displaying the now-familiar and unmistakable signs of prosperity that are anthemic of the Republic -- spilled over as it were, into the border marches. There is no greater promoter of peace, then prosperity!


     Derry is a very self-aware place. The people seemed intent to acknowledge the past, but not to be governed by it. The Tour Guides banter showed a dogged determination to recount the excess of the past on BOTH sides) without becoming embroiled in any senseless assignment of blame that would only serve to PERPETUATE the old animosities.


     The city itself is charmingly delightful. After the bus dropped us at Guild Hall, we wandered for a couple hours or so -- touring the opulent elegance of the Hall, walking a brief stretch of the Walls and meandering in and out of the shops of the Craft Village bordering the Diamond. It helped, no doubt, that the sun had burned through while we were on the bus, but I think we might have enjoyed our time there, even if the weather hadnt turned so glorious.


     We had an early lunch at a pleasant, but non-descript sandwich shop, located a set of Celtic door knockers (Brass and Black Enamel ) for my wifes brothers new house (Part of the, While youre in Ireland, can you pick me up list) but ALSO found a nice, blue-green pitcher by a Dublin potter (Marrianne Klopp). The pottery pieces are my wifes passion. She has a number of Jack OPatsy (from Youghal), Louis Multiage (Dingle) and a few others.


     We hated to leave Derry, but we had a ways to go and a LOT to see. Crossing the bridge over the River Foyle, we easily found the A2 and made a leisurely, VERY scenic drive to the north and east, through Coleraine and Portrush. Portrush is a busy RESORT town, but we passed through without stopping. It reminded me too much of a typical US Resort Town (like Lake George, NY or Saint Augustine, FL).

Our first real stop was at Dunluce Castle. Not only did we tour the Castle, but we also took the side path, all the way down to the waters edge at the very base of the Castle. The gloriously fine weather DEMANDED it. Back in the car, we quickly passed in and out of Bushmills -- it being entirely TOO pleasant out to spend time touring indoors.


     Instead, we navigated our way to the car park at the Giants Causeway, paid the 5GBP parking fee and purchased two round-trip shuttle bus tickets down to the shore. I suppose that a purist MIGHT walk it, but I heartily recommend the shuttle. There are PLENTY of opportunities for exercise once you start scampering over the irregular, basalt blocks AND there are numerous hiking trails along the shore. We left those hikes to the fanatics, though, content to climb around the rocks for a short while and then just sit and people watch while enjoying the views.

Besides -- after Derry and Dunluce, we had already had more than our minimum daily dose of healthy activity.


     After returning to the visitors center, we purchased two picture books about the Causeway for the Grandchildren. Once we got home, we inserted a picture of the two of us (sitting on the basalt blocks) along with an inscribed promise to take them to that very spot.


     Back on the road, we drove next to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. It was now, about 4:45 PM, however and since we had assured our hostess at Crockatinny that we would arrive by 5, and being uncertain as to how long it would take to find it, we reluctantly decided to post-pone our visit. Imagine our CHAGRIN, when we were firmly parked in the Guest House parking lot only 10 minutes later --- and NO ONE WAS HOME!!


     When I went inside to the lobby desk, there were a row of keys and personalized notes arrayed along the countertop, welcoming and advising us that our hostess and her family had stepped out for a bit. Grabbing up the key, there was nothing else to do, but jump back into the Passat and RETURN to the Rope Bridge, deeming it unwise and wasteful to not take advantage of the sunshine. By 5:30, we were strolling along the walking path, enroute to the Bridge.



Brief note: Apparently, it is NOT just the Irish from the South who suffer from an inability to judge Time and Distances --- You know, like how EVERY B&B in the Republic is located only a leisurely, 10 minute walk from the Town Center when, invariably, it is usually more like 20-30!! The SHORT walk out to the Bridge HAS to be at LEAST TWICE as far as they claim -- maybe MORE! Never-the-less, it IS well worth the hike.

     Once we crossed the Bridge, we spent quite a while just lolling around on the little island, enjoying the clear, sun drenched views of the coast, Raflin Island and the seemingly, IMPOSSIBLY close, Mull of Kintyre (Scotland). By the time we made it back to the car park, we were well and truly FAMISHED, but the Snack Bar / Gift Shop had closed for the day.


     It being nearly 8 PM, we rushed past Crockatinny to find dinner in Ballycastle. Well armed with the recommendations from Michelles book, we were rudely returned to reality by the fact that ALL of her suggestions were USELESS -- if it is a Friday night, in June, near 8PM -- and you havent had the FORESIGHT to make a reservation!


     EVERY establishment we entered turned us away, until we finally located a tiny Pizza Shop, just off the Town Square. Im sure that the Pizza was probably only mediocre, but STARVED as we were, it tasted like the BEST that we had ever eaten. We sat at one of the TWO tables (the place was primarily a TakeAway), wolfing down slice after slice and enjoying a clear, unobstructed view of the Square through the large, plate glass window. As we watched the small town life revealed to us from our vantage point, I found myself overjoyed that all the fine dining establishments had turned us away.


     What unfolded before us, was a Real, Slice of Life -- one BOTH uniquely Irish and yet, at the same time, so UNIVERSAL, that we might easily have been in ANY town, in ANY country


     On the sidewalk across the side street from us, a HUGE group of adolescents gathered. There must have been 40 or 50 boys and girls, all between the ages of 12 and 15. Occasionally, a passing car load of only SLIGHTLY older kids (usually boys) would stop briefly to drop off or pick up, or just to chat. All of them were Dressed To Kill -- the boys strutting about in dress slacks and shirts, while the girls primped and polished their hair and over-did their make up and posed and preened in their short skirts, brightly colored tights and clingy, frilly blouses. It was a study in Teen Angst and mating ritual that would have made a Sociologist proud!


     Eventually, a large bus pulled up. An adult climbed out, gathered up what looked like tickets, loaded up all the teen and pre-teens, and hauled them all away. I can only assume that they were off to some Dance or other, scheduled entertainment.

All the while this was going on, there was music softly playing inside the Pizza Shop, coming from somewhere behind the counter. It was typical Irish, Top 40/ Soft Rock / Pop and even though the Teens would have PROBABLY enjoyed it, I mostly blocked it out. It didnt seem to fit MY sensibility of being appropriate to the scene that I was viewing, so in my mind, I ADDED the CORRECT song.

And, since this WAS Northern Ireland, OF COURSE I chose Van The Man:


  "The wild night is calling.
    And all the girls walk by
    Dressed up for each other
    And the boys do the boogie-woogie
    On the corner of the street
    And the people passin by
    Just stare in wild wonder
    And the inside juke-box
    Roars out just like thunder."



     We drove back to Crockatinny and settled into our rooms. After quick showers, we were soon in bed and asleep, only just a little after 10 PM. It had been a LONG, ACTIVE day.


And yet,

           It STILL wasnt DARK!   hmm hmm



More to Come

(Really!)


Bob



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Bob, we also stayed at Crockatinney. In Ballycastle, we lucked out and walked into "The Cellar" without reservations and they had one table left. It was probably earlier in the evening. That might have been across the diamond from the pizza place. The food was delicious, or shouldn't I tempt you?

Merle

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Merlene M Black


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Bob,

Thanks for the continuation of your trip report. I know how pesky reality can intrude into the best laid plans. Glad it was not of a really serious nature anyway.

It looks like serendipity found you in Ballycastle with no restaurant reservations. You and your wife seem like the kind of people who turn lemons into lemonade. I like that kind of an attitude.

Michele

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Bob,

It's worth the wait and I look forward to more.

Joan

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Saturday, 30 JUNE


      These are the days now that we must savour
        And we must enjoy as we can
        These are the days that will last forever
        Youve got to hold them in your heart.


     In the morning, I strolled the grounds, observing the available Self-catering cottages and the additional ones under construction. I also made my way to the old Famine Grave Yard. The morning was appropriately cold and dreary for such a solitary endeavor, but there were tantalizing hints of bright sun and blue sky on the horizon.


     After breakfast, we set out for Armoy. Having accomplished SO MUCH the previous day, we were hoping to be equally aggressive today . We drove down into Ballycastle and then followed the A44 through Glen taisle, stopping at a shop and petrol station just the intersection of the A44 and the B147 for drinks and snackee cakes. Returning to the highway, I noticed a small sign indication a Round Tower, pointing to the left.


     Our goal was the Dark Hedges, however so we continued south until we saw the entrance to Lime Park. On a whim, I swung the Passat into the drive and got out to look around. The sky was dull and dreary and the air had turned rather chill. As I walked around the cottage buildings, no one else was about, even though there did APPEAR to be some occupants. The place FASCINATED me -- I could have easily spent hours discussing the architecture, the renovations and the solitary wind generator had the owners been out and about. If / when I ever return to Antrim, I most definitely want to stay there. I envision Lime Park as the ideal, stereotypical site from which to retreat from the world and write ones Memoirs


     Once I finally tore myself away, we opened Michele Erdvigs IRELAND DREAM TRIP to page 376 and followed the directions therein to the Gracehill Golf Club. We only had a small spot of trouble, early on, as we discovered a T intersection, but following Micheles advice - veering right, when in doubt, we soon found our way to the Dark Hedges.


     NOTE: One of the crossroads that you drive through while en route, is actually the B147. If you were driving from Ballycastle and WERENT visiting Lime Park, you could turn right at the A44 / B147 intersection by the shop / petrol station in Armoy and cut a few miles off the trip that way.


     The Dark Hedges are quite impressive, though there were some gaps that foretell a time in the not terribly distant future when the magic may completely disappear. I also recommend that you continue on and actually drive up to the club house ( the old Gracehill House ) as the tree shrouded lane is also quite evocative. Like Michele, we too parked, and walked the lane. The dull, gray sky seemingly setting a perfect mood for reflection and introspection. If you have the time, it is well worth the journey.


     Back on the road, we turned left onto the B147 and drove directly into Armoy, passing under the cross road Welcome sign festooned with Union Jacks that announce that you are entering the town limits. At the intersection of the A44, we continued straight at the urging of the Round Tower sign. It is located only a mile or so from the A44, sitting in the side yard of a small Protestant church. As Round Towers go, it wasnt the most impressive that Ive seen, but Im glad to have taken the detour to do so.


     Our original plan was to return to Ballycastle and then follow the Coast Road, down to Carrickfergus, but the limited visibility caused by the weather discouraged us and we decided to follow the inland path instead. I drove the A44 to Ballymena, then the A36 to just beyond Moorfields and then followed the B94 to Ballyclare, before making our way into Carrickfergus. Once on the main road, theres no missing the Castle and there is a large Car Park just to the south of it.


     As you walk from the Car Park to enter the Castle grounds, a statue of King Billy looms above you. The self tour of the Castle was quite enjoyable, though the use of mannequins did seem a bit over-done. There were guided tours that you could join and leave as you saw fit that provided good commentary, as did the numerous information signs. Over all, though, Carrickfergus is a must see -- one of the finest castles in all of Ireland. There were a fair number of visitors, but the place really wasnt terribly crowded. We saw a goodly number of young knights and Ladies departing as we first arrived, that had apparently been attending a private birthday party, so it would seem that the Castle is still used for a NUMBER of functions.


     As we were leaving, I took advantage of the light crowd to cajole and coerce my wife into letting me snap a photo of her furtively throwing a rock ( a pebble, actually) in the direction of the King Billy statue. I told her that her ancestors would never forgive her, otherwise. Im a firm believer in letting go of the old hatred and I applaud the Good Friday agreement, but Even as a Methodist, Italian, Im offended by a statue commemorating the arrival of William of Orange onto Irish soil, as the SAVIOR of Ireland!


Never-the-less,

We were VERY discrete.


     Since the day offered no improvement, we decided to forego the coast drive, once again. -- just too much to see and not anywhere near enough time to do it justice -- and so, we retraced our route (more or less). At the A26 / A44 junction, we opted to remain on the A26 and follow it in to Ballymoney. From there, we followed the B62 to the B17 and drove into Bushmills. Following an excellent, INDOOR (mostly) tour, we drove down into the village.


     It now being relatively late on a Saturday evening, we were once again faced by an inability to secure an evening meal in any of the recommended dining establishments . We found a small, busy Chinese Take-Away at the end of the main street and decided that the constant stream of locals that we observed bode well. Securing our bountiful, heavy bags, we drove to the now vacant picnic area at the Carrickarede Visitors center and dined to the breathtaking views of the North Atlantic coast, beneath the low, gray clouds.


It couldnt have been any finer.


     "Theres a small cafe on the outskirts of town
       Ill be there when the sun goes down
       Where the roadside bends
       And it twists and turns
       Every new generation
       And Ill be praying to my higher self
       Dont let me down, keep my feet on the ground"


More to Come


Bob



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Bob,

I loved staying at Limepark and Ned's Loft. It was the perfect cottage for two people. However, it does have steep stairs and the bedroom and bathroom are upstairs. If you are real cozy the Little Pig's House was very cute. But it only had a double bed and was a studio type accommodation. If I was traveling with friends I would choose Dark Horse as it has its own private enclosed patio. I was fascinated with Melanie and John's photo album of the "before and after" of their property. Some of the cottages looked like piles of rubble before they started. What a wonderful job they did! Did you see the barn with the chamomile roof (looked like grass)? I wonder how they get the lawn mower up there?

Michele



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Sunday, 1 July 2007


Belfast On The First Day of Marching Season


                 ME THINKS THE LAD (y) DOTH PROTEST TOO MUCH



    "OH MY NORTHERN GIRL, WITH YOUR NORTHERN EYES

     MY NORTHERN GIRL, NEATH THESE NORTHERN SKIES

     WHAT HAVE THEY DONE, WITH THEIR NORTHERN GUNS

     -- CAN WE EVER LIVE NEATH THIS NORTHERN SUN?"


     We departed Crockatinny after another fine breakfast. Once again, the weather and an ambitious schedule conspired to deny us the pleasure of a drive down the coast Road. Once again, we headed inland, via Armoy and Ballymena, into the heart of Belfast City. Along the way, we passed under NUMEROUS cross-road signs proclaiming the entrance to town limits -- each HEAVILY festooned with Union Jacks.


     Clearly, we were well and truly in the very HEART of Loyalist Ulster. At one point, our progress was seriously impeded by a slow moving farm tractor and I took the opportunity to pull off the road onto a graveled area alongside an empty building. While we waited for the tractor to make its way to the next field or farmyard, I availed myself of the opportunity to step out and have a smoke. It was only then, that I noticed all the heavy, metal mesh that covered the doors and windows of the building, and read the plaque mounted by the padlocked, reinforced door that proclaimed that this was, in fact, an Orange Lodge.


     Since it WAS Sunday, once we arrived in Belfast proper, it was not a difficult task to locate a parking space less than two short blocks from the impressively massive City Hall. Walking past that, we discovered the Tourist Office. From there, it was only another block or two to the Square where the City Tour Buses depart. There were three or four differently painted and labeled, double-decker buses, some open-topped and some enclosed, but we were told that they were, in fact, all in the same. The tickets were 11 GBP per person and we departed only a few moments later. It was 1 PM.


                       www.befastcitysightseeing.com    


     The tour ticket describes the itinerary as: Living History / Stormont and for the next two hours, we were regaled with tales of the Troubles -- some poignant, some personal and some disturbing. Our Guide Narrator informed us that he and our driver had driven regular City Buses, back during the Troubles. Between them, he said, they had been high-jacked, at gunpoint, a combined total of SIX times, and our driver had been Shot, once.


    But, its NOT like that, any more. Youre all perfectly safe, now.


     Those two sentences became the chorus to the litany of tragic woe for the next two hours. While it was comforting, at first, though, with each re-telling the assurance grew thinner and thinner. As my wife put it, it was believable, the first three or four times that he said it, but after THAT

Later in the tour, we drove down Fishkill Road, taking in the Murals and the assorted Memorials. Our progress was halted, about mid-way, as we drove past a procession, Marching. It was the very first March of the Season, we were told, commemorating the Battle of Ypres. People flocked out to the sidewalk from houses and bars along the route, doffing their hats as the Marches proceeded by to the steadied jarringly disturbing beat of the big, Lambeg Drums.


     Further along, we passed the site of the annual Big Bonfire. It was a large, vacant lot -- perhaps as large as two city blocks square. The structure under construction was being built up of interlocking walls of large wooden pallets. Within the open interior, any and everything flammable was being tossed. We were told that Loyalists save up materials, all year long, for that fire. With nearly two weeks more left to build, I have NO doubt that ultimately, that fires size might easily rival the one that College in Texas builds for their Homecoming.


     The tour took us past many Belfast landmarks, as well as past the shipyards of the famed, Harlan & Wolfe. We saw the Tall Ships gathered, the dry dock where the Titanic was built (With typical, Irish Humour, there are Tee Shirts for sale that show HER, on the front, whilst on the back, there is printed: DONT BLAME US --- SHE WAS FINE WHEN SHE LEFT HERE ). We also drove into Stormont, past the Guard House and the Blast barriers, to within a few hundred feet of the building, though the bus was NOT allowed to stop. We were told that the government had only just recently permitted the tour buses this access.


     We had also toured along Falls Church, running parallel, as it does, to Fishkill, and seen the Peace Wall -- the 50 foot barricade that the British erected through Belfast to separate the two sections. We saw the check-points, now abandoned, and the heavily fortified police stations with re-enforced concrete barriers, tops strung with razor wire and metal shuttered window and doors. We had even passed by one or two police vans -- that looked more liked armored cars then patrol vehicles.


     It was an ominous and unsettling tour, quite unlike our visit to Derry. In Derry, our guide imbued us with a That was then, this is now, optimism. There, they were looking forward, seemingly confident that the Troubles were behind them. Here, in Belfast, the vibe seemed more pessimistic. How else to explain the oft-repeated chorus: But, its NOT like that, any more. Youre all perfectly safe, now.? If we heard THAT once, we heard it at least a dozen times.

Still, and all, we had been in Derry, in June. Now, in Belfast, it was July and Marching Season had begun. It would be reasonable to expect a heightened sense of nervous anticipation, I suppose, just based upon historical evidence.


     And, then, the END of our tour did LITTLE to ease our minds. Just before we re-entered the Square at Castle Place, to disembark, we had been regaled by the number of bombs that had been either found, or had exploded at the hotel where most of the journalists had stayed during the Troubles, followed by the now EXPECTED recitation of the Chorus. As we stepped down from the bus, a STARTLING view met our eyes. The Square is a juncture point of several streets, perhaps as many as seven or eight. There before us, parked at the point of EACH and EVERY intersection, was one of the Armored Police Vans. There were two men with each van; some sitting inside, and others standing along side. Those that were out and about were wearing body armor and carrying machine guns.


     I began humming the theme song from the Twilight Zone, but my wife found it upsetting and so, I stopped.


    "AND I HAVE SEEN THE VISIONS ON THE TV SCREEN,

     BUT I GUESS MY RELIGION HAS LEFT ME

     SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN "


     We made our way back to the Tourist Office, attempting to book a room for the night, somewhere near Drogheda, but the NI Tourist Office doesnt do that and the small, attached TI of the Republic is closed on Sundays. We did some shopping, surfed the web and then did a walk around of the grounds at City Hall. With advice from our bus driver, I located the McGinnis Monument ( the only Irish Catholic to have ever won the Victorias Cross, during action in WWII. ). It was erected, amid great controversy, in the late 1980s or early 1990s. I snapped a few photos, but didnt dawdle, as it was starting to mist a bit heavily.


     We popped in to a restaurant just across from City Hall (Ten Square ??) and had a terrific late lunch, then returned to our car and followed the signs toward Lisburn and the A1, beating a hasty retreat to the South. The weather had been gloomy and overcast, leavened with occasional, light, scattered showers. We even picked up a few bursts of rather heavy misting as we drove, but by the time we reached Newry, the rain was gone and the sun was burning through. It was about 5 or 6 PM, and JUST NOW, the sun was coming out!


     We had no luck finding lodging or open Tourist Offices in either Dundalk or Drogheda, so we finally just gave up and returned to the M1 and drove into Swords. There, in semi-desperation, we booked ourselves into the Travel Lodge for our remaining two nights. We ate a late dinner in the attached café and turned in for the night, about 10:30.

It had been a long, disturbing day of travel.


"AND IT'S A LONG, LONG, LONG, LONG WAY THAT WE HAVE COME

  YES, IT'S A LONG, LONG, LONG. LONG WAY THAT WE HAVE COME

   -- LONG MAY WE RUN.


More to Come


Bob



-- Edited by Itallian Chauffeur at 11:55, 2007-11-19

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Well done, Bob. Usually we have a different destination for each trip, but things have changed after our first trip to Ireland. Now that we have done a bit of the south and west, "She" has expressed a wish to see the north of the Ol' Sod. My family history has made me very nervous of trusting the myth that the entire island is now free of the Trouble. Your info on Derry and Belfast is very welcome. " It is good ye ken the truth, e'en tho' obscured by the mist", said the poet; I second the motion. WC

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Bill --

Belfast really ISN'T as bad as I've made it sound, but what I've described DOES accurrately convey how we felt AT THE TIME.  There were, in fact, very good reasons for what we saw / experienced, on THAT day ...

Hate to sound so cryptic, but all will be explained in my next day's report ---

Our time in the North was Most Excellent.  We would NOT hesitate to return.

Even, to Belfast.

Bob

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Bob,

It has been well over a decade since I saw machine guns in the streets of Northern Ireland. I suppose it was because of the Marching Season? I have seen armed soldiers in the Republic when money is being transfered from banks.

Michele

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     As I am writing this, it is a RAINY, Thanksgiving morning. Ive managed to Stretch this report out for almost SIX months. On the down side, it has made the information contained USELESS for those that were planning trips in 2007, but hopefully, the '08 and beyond crowd MAY find SOME useful morsels of tips and suggestions ..


     More importantly (from MY viewpoint), is that I have managed to keep the memories alive long enough, so that the planning for our NEXT trip is no longer a PAINFULLY long time away.
 

               "SUMMERS GONE AND THE RAINS HAVE COME

                I SIT AT HOME AND I WRITE THIS SONG FOR YOU"



Monday, 2 July


                "I CAN SEE CLEARLY NOW THE RAIN HAS COME

                 I CAN SEE ALL THE OBSTACLES IN MY WAY"


     This was to be our last full day in Ireland and I had a busy agenda planned. I went to the hotels café, grabbed two bottles of juice and two pastries and returned to the room, so that we could get on the road as early as possible. There was no time to waste on reading newspapers, or watching the news on TV. Anything that might be happening in the world at large was irrelevant, today. Today was a day dedicated to exploring the past.


     Not counting THIS trip, we had been to Dublin three times, previously -- and yet, we had NEVER visited Newgrange, nor any of the other historic sites that surround the Boyne Valley. It had been my intention to rectify that omission. As it turned out, I was only PARTIALLY successful.


      I guess that means that Ill just HAVE to go back ...


      It was cloudy, misty and chilly, as we set out. Light showers dogged us all the way to the car park at the Visitors Center, but my single-minded impatience seemed to have been rewarded, as we arrived, purchased our tickets for the next scheduled tour departure (only about 30 minutes later), just MOMENTS before a huge mass of people swarmed into the building, presumably just disgorged from some small fleet of just-arrived Tour Buses. I overheard one of them complaining, later, that THEY had an hour and a half wait, for THEIR scheduled tour!


      We killed some time wandering around the gift shop and by looking at the various displays, before making our way to the collection place to catch our designated shuttle bus. We made good use of our small, pop-up travel umbrellas on the long walk out to the buses. Given the weather, we had opted to purchase the NEWGRANGE ONLY Tour and after some bit of chaotic confusion, our bus set off on its 10-15 minute journey over the narrow back lanes.


      Those that have been to Newgrange already KNOW why it is worth seeing. For the rest of you, I can only say that it is, WITHOUT ANY DOUBT, one of the most significant sites in all of Ireland. In my opinion, it MUST be experienced. I will not bore you with a description -- I doubt seriously if I could even come CLOSE to doing the place the justice. If my opinion and the pictures arent sufficient to pique your interest, a lame description certainly wont be likely to sway you, either. I WILL, however, make these few, brief observations:


      Forget the technological accomplishment involved to create so massively impressive a structure. Forget the intricate, decorative features and the fact that ALL THIS was built even as the very first pyramids were being built. Forget, even, the whole, winter solstice alignment. Those ancients really KNEW how to pick a VIEW!!!! I think that the scenery alone, is worth the time and expense.


     The OTHER key pieces of information are that there is a LOT of walking involved and, you can NOT be even MILDLY claustrophobic to enter the passage into Newgrange. My wife, who had NO trouble touring Mary Kings Close, in Edinburgh, FROZE at the dark, narrow mouth and could NOT make her feet move her any further. At her insistence, I went on with the group, while she stepped aside and struck up a conversation with the Guardian At The Gate.

In spite of that (or, BECAUSE OF ??? -- the young man WAS, after all, quite charming!) , as recently as THIS morning, my wife insists that the visit to Newgrange was well worth the time, for her.


     We walked around the grounds for a while and then re-boarded the bus for our return trip to the Visitors Center, where we took advantage of the large café to grab lunch. As we returned to the car, I suggested that we might have had enough of slogging about wet fields under damp and occasionally drizzly, gray skies. There for, we opted to forgo Kells, Tara and Trim, etc. and spend our remaining time in Dublin.


     I drove to the DART station in Swords and had great, good fortune to find an available parking space. A few moments later, Day Return tickets in hand, we were boarding along with about 50 teen-aged French (or, possibly, Italian) students and their three, harried and harassed chaperones. A few stops and about 20 minutes later, found us emerging from Connolly Station in a light rain. We wandered about, past the IFC and crossed the Liffy over the small pedestrian bridge near the Jennie Johnson berth. We paused in ONeils Pub for a glass and to enjoy the sheer beauty of the building. Later, a sudden, HEAVY downpour drove us into the Tourist Shops along Nassau Street for a while. At the rains passing, we meandered past Trinity and walked down and back, the length of Grafton Street. Making our return, we wandered in and THROUGH a confusing maze of alleys and corridors within Trinity, finally emerging near College Street / Pearse Street.


     We walked across the OConnell Street Bridge and on, up the street, weaving in and out of the throngs. After a brief stop at the GPO, another viciously heavy outburst drove us into Carrolls, where the 30-45 minute downpour proved QUITE profitable for the store. During a slackening of the rain, we dashed, umbrellas in hand, across the boulevard and down to the café at the corner of Earl Street North / Talbot and found some hot mugs of tea, our evening meal and some VERY satisfying deserts.


     We spent our time in the café people watching and observing the miracle beyond the windows, as the rain faded into nothingness and the sun burned through the worst of the clouds to brighten the remainder of the day. Exiting the café, we strolled along Talbot, leisurely making our way back to Connolly Station, amid amassed throng of young Trinity students whom had all apparently chose today to outfit and accessorize their dorms. I remember observing all the storefronts along the way and observing that we no longer had any overwhelming need to visit Warsaw -- seeing as how we were passing through so very near a REPLICA of that city, here on Talbot Street.


     Dublin has changed in many different (and interesting) ways, since first we visited, in 2000. I dont know the city well enough to opine if it is for better, or for worse. I only say that it IS a much different place.


     The return trip on the Dart was an Express, with limited stops that required a change of trains, but by being alert, rather than merely blissfully oblivious, we managed (with the kind help of strangers) to make our connection without riding all the way to the end of the line. Upon our return to the car park, we witnessed FIRST HAND, just HOW fortunate we had been, in finding a bona-fide parking space. A handful of less fortunate individuals, whom had, in desperation, parked just WHEREVER, were now waiting to have Parking Clamps removed from their wheels. I believe the gentleman doing the removals said that the charge was 100 Euro (but I might be mistaken)! I DO remember thinking that it was QUITE expensive and that those who discovered that they had been clamped seemed VERY unhappy. Breathing a sigh of relief for having dodged that particular bullet, we returned to our hotel, emptied out the car and began the tedious process of consolidating our luggage for our departure.


     About 8 PM, we drove back into Swords and parked along the Main street in the town center. After a short stroll around, we settled into a pub there, to spend a last hour or so enjoying a final Bulmers and people watch. There was a large, flat screen TV behind the bar, as I stood, waiting to order, displaying scene after scene of heavily armed police, interspersed by assorted Talking Heads and other portents of SOMETHING SERIOUS.


     I couldnt hear any of what was being said over the din of the crowd, so I asked the barman what was going on. From my accent, he clearly knew that I was a Yank, doubtless a Tourist and presumably, that being on vacation allowed me to be SO ignorant. In any case, I sensed no animosity as he explained.


  "Its all about YESTERDAY," he explained. "Some IDIOTS drove a car bomb into the Glasgow Airport."


     Mentally, I slapped the palm of my hand against my forehead, in one of those Lightening Flash explosions of comprehension. I guess that MIGHT explain Belfast.



                 "That was a wonderful remark
                  I had my eyes closed in the dark
                  I sighed a million sighs
                  I told a million lies - to myself - to myself"


Some last, little bits to follow


Bob



-- Edited by Itallian Chauffeur at 12:54, 2007-11-22

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Bob,

Thanks for concluding your trip report. We have all enjoyed following the continuing saga. Good idea to stretch it out and taper off gradually from your Ireland addiction. So, when is the next trip planned for?

Michele

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               "I'M MAKING FLOWERS OUT OF PAPER
                 AS DARKNESS  TAKES THE AFTERNOON
                 NOW MAYBE THEY WON'T LAST FOREVER ...
                 BUT REAL ONES FADE AWAY TOO SOON."       

        Thanks, y'all, for being SO-O-O tolerant.  And, for indulging my stubborn insistance to drag this out, so unreasonably ....

     I've put it (mostly) all down on paper for those who might be interested, but mostly, like I've said, I did it all primarily for myself, just trying tokeep the memories alive ....   'Till I get the chance to make some new ones.

             "But when that last guitar's been packed away

              You know that I still want to play

              So just make sure you've got it all set to go

              Before you come for my piano

              Oh, won't you stay just a little bit longer

              Oh, please, please stay just a little bit more,

              Now if the promoter don't mind and the roadies don't mind

              We can take a little time and we'll leave it all behind

              Singin' one more song "




        Hope it was at least mildly entertaining.  confused confused

         Bob 

Michele:    Current plans call for two weeks, more or less, begining 14 June, or thereabouts, with one week in Cork / Kerry and a self catering week in or around Westport. 

     So, once again,  THE GAME'S AFOOT!  biggrin biggrin

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Loved your report Bob. So nice to have another trip in the works.

Merle

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Merlene M Black


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Bob,
 
Do you have your self-catering booked yet? I have been searching for some myself and there are a ton to choose from. My head is spinning - but then I am looking at all of Ireland. I have to admit I am entranced by self-catering in the middle of nowhere on an island accessed by a causeway: http://belmullet.mayo-ireland.ie/Claggan.htm What are the odds I would get socked in with that lovely Irish weather for the week?
 
FYI, Loch Lein House in Killarney has extended their special offer to my readers and forum members. It really is an excellent place to stay and away from the madding crowd. http://www.irelandyes.com/specials.html
 
Michele

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I'm resurrecting this old report to offer definitive  (More or Less!  aww  aww ) info on the delightful 'road-side' park that we visited in Donegal.

Due to the joys of Google Map's 'Little Yellow Man', I can now semi-unequivocally identify it's location, as (probably, almost definitely confuse  confuse) being here:  https://goo.gl/maps/wSPwdSddgWC2  



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Neat!

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Bob,
I went to your link using my iPhone and made a startling discovery! I was viewing this while sitting in a swivel chair, and low and behold, as I turned my chair, I got a continuous 360 degree panoramic view of this spot! I knew this was possible on a PC using the curser, but this smart phone technology is amazing!
Since this is the area of our next trip home, I must go back and review your entire report!
Dan

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Dan -- Good to know!  I, of course, was viewing it through my desktop, so didn't realize that -- You may have introduced me to a whole, new way to spend my retirement and trip planning hours!  aww   aww   aww    aww

When we visited, it was toward the end of June, so the foliage and plant growth was fairly substantial, which altered the views a little. . .

Which is why I am 'waffling' about the location.  biggrin  biggrin



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