Wednesday 24 April 2013

Ireland: Day Two - Making our way to Belfast

After waking up and getting our stuff together, the group was on the bus by 9:00 am to make our way to Belfast. Our first stop was where the Battle of the Boyne took place. This battle was between King Henry and his son-in-law King William in 1690. On the site of the battlefield there is a museum dedicated to it as it was a key part of Irish history. We got to see weapons from the battle, read/learn about it, see a video reenactment etc. Though interesting, I am glad it was a short stop, as it would have become boring if we stayed there any longer. But it was definitely interesting and a place where I learned a lot. One lingering question I found myself wondering about was Queen Mary's opinion on all this --- I can't imagine my father and husband waging a war against each other. I wonder how she felt/dealt with it all. There was a great little tea shop attached to it, which was a nice way to end the attraction.

Afterward we kept driving toward Belfast and stopped in a small town named Carlingford for lunch/sightseeing. We had lunch at one of the local pubs - Taaffes Castle - which was fun. The food was decent, but the atmosphere, people and overall feel was exactly what I had heard Ireland is all about. The manager Barry was friendly, welcoming, humorous and just a great guy as were all the employees. As soon as you walked in you felt welcomed, as if it was a usual hangout and not just a quick stop. They also had free wifi so I was able to log in and check my emails for a few minutes. We walked about the town for a bit which had some cute shops and then re-boarded the bus.

Once we arrived in Belfast we went to the Ulster Museum. It was the most modernly designed museum I have ever been to - it was all an open concept using glass. The museum was a good combination of art, history and nature, and just the right size that you could visit within an hour-hour and a half. On the art floor there is an art area for children/adults (okay mostly for children!) where you can participate in making your own art in whatever craft they have on that day. Today's was making art with letters - finding letters to create something, or cutting letters out to make something. It looked like so much fun that I had to participate! I was of course the oldest person there, and my father just shook his head when he saw me but it was worth it. I could definitely see this being a great art activity to do with primary students. The museum had a great mix of art, and they had the modern and classical laid out beside each other. It was the first time I had ever seen this layout and was struck by how unique and thought-provoking it was. You could definitely see the changes "art" has undergone throughout the course of time. There were also a good mix of dinosaur/nature exhibits as well as antiquities and local history.

After leaving the museum we checked into the Malone Lodge Hotel where we will be for tonight and tomorrow. It's a beautiful hotel and the room I have is much nicer/larger then yesterday. At dinner, Dad and I sat with a couple from BC that we hadn't really had a chance to talk to yet. (For those of you who haven't done group tours, meals are taken at long tables that seat 6-8 so your always sitting with fellow travellers and getting to know them). This couple was so inspiring. They are both in their 80's and travel as much as they can. The wife tends to mainly go back to South Africa where her family is, but the husband has been to 131 counties. Some of the places he named I hadn't even heard of. He doesn't just stick to the usual, touristy ones - he goes everywhere, even places most people would be wary of. In his eyes, traveling, history and different cultures is his hobby and he is going to do it as much as he can until the point he can't do it anymore. He reads up on the place, and then immerses himself in it - going off the beaten path and really experiencing the country/culture. In his home life he skis, plays golf, swims and performs civil marriages - some of which he had to be helicoptered on top of a mountain or glacier to do. I can only hope to be that adventurous and active when I am their age. They were wonderful to talk to, and I learned a lot about their adventures and growing up in South Africa which reminded me of my Uncle Allen who is also from there.

The one issue we had today was currency related. As Northern Ireland is a separate country, they don't take Euro as they use pounds. We didn't prepare for this and AMEX isn't accepted many places so time was spent trying to sort that out. I had read that they used the pound, but both my father and I assumed Euro would be accepted here also... Definitely not going to make assumptions before traveling anymore!

Tomorrow we are off to tour Belfast, their city hall and the Titanic Museum.

Photo 1 - Battlefield
Photo 2 - Weapon display
Photo 3 - Irish scenery
Photo 4 - Me in Carlingford
Photo 5 - Taaffes Castle Pub
Photo 6 - Dad leaving the Pub
Photo 7 - Taaffes Castle
Photo 8 - My "artwork" from Ulster Museum
Photo 9 - Our hotel
Photo 10 - My room
Photo 11 - The Hotel Lobby

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