Ireland, Sept 17-October 10, 2011
We’ve been here in Meath, Ireland just 48 hours but it feels like we’ve done a lot already. We arrived to witness Dublin winning the all Ireland football championship against Kerry, something that have eluded them for 16 years, so the city was wild in celebration. We were warned not to make the 40 minute trip to Dublin from our hotel in Meath, because the city would be crazy. We’ll, we want crazy so we went anyway and we had a grand time with the locals. We did the pub crawl and the Guinness was flowing. I had to hold on to my red Kangol beret, it was snatched from my head a few times, I don’t know why since the winning color was Dublin blue.
Yesterday, we were in Drogheda and entered Ollie’s Pub around 3 PM to fortify ourselves for the 56- step climb to the Millmount Tower. There were only men inside and all eyes were on us, then this guy sided up to us and very friendly like introduced himself and claimed that he is the bravest man in the room to approach us. We’ll, we were the toast of the pub for the time it took to finish a pint of Guinness.
The Irish are story tellers as everyone knows, and we were held captive by Owens, the guy at the Tourist Bureau who had us enthralled with trivia and tales about the place. He gave us good recommendations for restaurants, and being a golfer he told us to introduce ourselves to Bobby Brown, the pro and Richard, the bartender at Bettystown Golf Club where we will be golfing the next day. We casually invited him to join us for lunch, and he stopped by indeed to join us while we’re finishing at Stockwell Artisan Foods, but did he surprise us when he left his lunch bill for us to pay. Now I don’t recall if I said, we’ll buy him lunch. Oh well, he was charming and all his recommendations were excellent, that was his tip.
Marci and I enjoyed golf at Laytown Bettystown today. It was 56 degrees, sunny for 4 holes, then heavy drizzle for the next 3 holes, then suddenly sunny again for a couple of holes and cloudy the rest of the way. The course featured dunes and tight fairways, wind and the Irish sea. We got lost finding the next holes, since they were sparsely marked, and had to ask for directions from the other golfers, who were all very obliging and charming BTW. Kathy went on the Tara hop- on- hop- off shopping tour. We have the Solheim Cup scheduled for Friday.
September 23, 2011
It is said that the people of Ireland are genuinely friendly, and we don’t doubt it. Much obliged, and no problem at all, is a common response to any request, and even if you are referred to as Luv, it does not seem sexist at all. Children here can still venture out of their yard to play, and people chat you up so easily, you feel like best friends after your conversation. Life in these villages hark back to a time we have become nostalgic about.
It’s unbelievable that we’re coming to the end of our week here. We saw the USA team lose to Europe today, the 1st day of the Solheim Cup competition. Tomorrow, Kathy will join her family arriving in Dublin for a wedding and I will hitch a ride with Paddy, a genuinely friendly Irish who will take me along to Belfast since he was going there for a christening anyway, no problem at all. I will rendezvous with my Ireland in Depth Tour and Marci has a flight back to Atlanta on Sunday.
September 25, 2011- Belfast
It is amazing that Belfast can go on like any city as we know it, considering that the Good Friday Agreement for cease fire from sectarian violence, they refer to as the Troubles, had only occured in 1998. From the late 1960’s to as recent as 2001, bombings, kidnappings, and terrorism were facts of daily life, but from the rubble and ashes, it has emerged like the phoenix and life in the city center pulsates with energy. The wound still smarts, the population is still divided, and walls still exist to maintain the peace, but it is transforming its tragedy into opportunity. These walls are tourist attractions now. And from the remains of its linen factories and ship building graveyard, it is completing a harbor side multi-use tourism center with the Titanic Museum as its centerpiece. There you go, economics is the certain agent for peace. And the ultimate irony, Belfast has been designated as the 2nd safest city in the world for tourism, after Tokyo.
September 26, 2011-Derry
We drove on the scenic Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast to Londonderry/Derry, the UK City of Culture 2013. The double name of this gateway city to Ireland’s northwest reflects the sectarian division that continues to be a fact of life for residents of this historic 17th century walled city. Like Belfast, this city is still reconciling with the infamy of the Troubles. It continues to stir passionate partisan affiliations, and how you name this city identifies who you sleep with, the Nationalists call it Derry, and the Unionists, Londonderry. I’m hungry for insights about the local’s take on the Troubles, and how it affects their lives now, and I’m delighted that our tour guide who is Irish does not wince from expressing her views, albeit very partisan, but authentic.