Monday, February 3, 2014

My Ireland, Part 3: the North, Part B

I've been very remiss in completing the Ireland series I began in September, following our trip in August 2013. If you were looking for more, and I know some of you were, here is the first post in a continuation.

Here are part 1 and part 2, if you missed them or would like to review.

I'm going to try to capture the remainder of our Northern Ireland trip in this post, so we can move onto the Republic soon. This should help us to get through the "February blahs" together.

In addition to Bushmills, the Giant's Causeway, and Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, we visited Portrush, Coleraine, Londonderry (or Derry, if you prefer), and Lisburn. We missed the popular coastal town of Portstewart, somewhere to go when we visit next time.

Portrush is lovely, with its waterfront 'boardwalk'. It was a moist gray day when we were there, unfortunately, but we managed. The World Police and Fire Games were underway and we got to see part of a beach volleyball match between the Polish and Russian teams. Not sure which team was wearing which colour, but you could certainly feel the rivalry!

Portrush, Northern Ireland

We discovered a distinct drawback in technological communication for visitors, being informed at the Portrush Public Library that it would cost £1 to use the Internet for fifteen minutes. Considering that our library offers a free guest pass to out-of-town users, for as long as an hour or two, this seemed most inhospitable. We still booked two computers for the aforementioned time duration to quickly check e-mail and make sure all was well at home. More shocking than the charge for Internet services was the fact that the Portrush Library also refused to offer public toilet facilities for "health and safety" reasons. A prominent sign on the front door told people where else they could go. Wow. You've been warned.

There were several shopping blocks in Portrush, and you get a lovely view of the town from the top of Lansdowne Harbour.

In Coleraine we visited the Tesco (grocery store) and Caffe Nero (a coffee shop). Buying a coffee is an expensive pleasure in both the north and south of Ireland. In fact, I wouldn't even call it a pleasure, since in addition to the high price of a coffee, there's no such thing as a coffee that isn't strong. Even their 'filter' coffee is potent. You're probably better off with tea - herbal, if you can get it. Every time I ordered a coffee, I lived to regret it.

The following day we traveled from Bushmills to Londonderry, passing through approximately a million roundabouts en route. It was exciting to visit the city of my ancestors' birth and where my husband's mother had also been born. Unfortunately, we had no time to visit any graveyards or to do any genealogical research as we were only there for a few hours. 

Londonderry is a walled city, billed as the only existing one in the world to never have been breached. The walls were built from 1613-1618 and endured three sieges, the longest in 1689, which raged for three and a half months. We walked a good portion of the walls and were treated to living history as actors presented the Londonderry story. At St. Columb's Cathedral, a Protestant church, we discovered a connection with John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, who is said to have prayed in the chapel twice daily. That was pretty cool. 

Looking over Londonderry

Just past the church, D spotted a huge stack of skids on the ground outside the walls. The stack was topped by assorted flags and an IRA flag was on the side. It was the makings of a bonfire in the Protestant part of town. We could see a black sign nearby; it read "Londonderry West Bank Loyalists Still Under Siege: No Surrender". We learned later that the next day was the Apprentice Boys annual march, commemorating the historic slamming of the gates against King James' men by the church apprentice boys in 1688. Twenty thousand people were expected to take part in the march, and we were quite happy that we would not be there to see it! Traffic in the city was sufficiently challenging already!

 There's a lot of history in Londonderry, to say the least, and there are a lot of murals in the city, depicting historical events. There is no shortage of books on the subject, but I'm not in a position to recommend one over another. Still, I'd encourage anyone to read up on it if they have interest. Our City Sightseeing tour was fascinating, and our guide, George, gave a fair and balanced presentation. Like all of the Irish we had the privilege of meeting, he favours everyone living side-by-side in peace, to which I say, 'amen'.

Sculpture depicting peace between the factions, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Our last stop in Northern Ireland was Lisburn to visit some of D's family and friends. On a Sunday morning, Lisburn is dead quiet. The only places open before noon are churches and pubs. We were too late for church and all we wanted when we arrived was a coffee, which was nowhere to be found. We stopped in for a brief visit with a neighbour of my husband's late grandfather, who was both shocked and delighted to see us.

That night we stayed with Ron and May Farrar at No. 3 Bed & Breakfast, so named for its street number and not for its ranking as a local B&B. And now to give them a plug: Ron and May are lovely hosts; you couldn't ask for nicer people to stay with. We stayed in Room No. 3 in the main house, which had a double bed and two twins to accommodate four people. The facilities were excellent, and our hosts even cleared a shelf in their fridge so we could keep some foodstuffs refrigerated. Although we were only there one night, we had some wonderful conversations with them. If anyone plans to visit Lisburn, we are happy to recommend No. 3 as a place to stay, for one night or several. And the breakfast was fantastic! [Note: This is close to Belfast; you could easily stay here and daytrip in] 

I'd also like to recommend Spence's Bakery in Lisburn. D's uncle praised their custard tarts and they did not disappoint. We also loaded up on their pancakes, soda bread, raisin bread, and sausage rolls at the recommendation of the baker. Everything was consumed and enjoyed in short order, nom-nom-nom.

One thing we really appreciated were the pedestrian-friendly  shopping districts in the North.

My next post will find us in the Republic. The highway from Lisburn to Enniskillen was lovely and wide, thanks to Enniskillen's hosting of the G8 Summit earlier in the year. They couldn't have Obama and his crew driving along 3rd world roads in a 1st world country, now could they? This is probably the only occasion you'll hear me say, "thank you, Obama!", so enjoy it :)

Parking sign in Londonderry

It took us forever to figure out what the Irish meant by the above parking instruction. Can you figure it out? ;)

1 comment:

  1. i think the sign means you can only park for 1 hour between the specified times, and once to leave the spot, you cannot reclaim it right away...but must find another spot. But who's to know really? How does one enforce this rule?