Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The holiday comes to an end

May 26 - Saturday    

A perfect weather day for a drive through Glens of Antrim.  Truly spectacular vistas.  Paul was thankful he was just a passenger and didn't have to worry about driving.  Well done bus holidays like this one make travelling and enjoying easy.

lush green hills ( through bus window )

constant views

at low levels, water on one side  (low tide )

and rocks on the other

We had a short stop at Carnlough and while Paul read and photographed plaques, I stocked up on chocolate.

Carnlough harbour.  Not as much commercial fishing as there once was but fish stocks are starting to increase (Atlantic Coast)
 We skirted the outer edge of Belfast ( heavy traffic flowing out of town to the beaches we had just passed ) making our way to Downpatrick . Parking at the Saint Patrick Centre we had time to wander the market set up in the square, have lunch...Paul and I went to a small fish and chip shop and shared a plate complete with mushy peas...do a quick tour of the gift shop and then join our tour of centre.  Very high tech self guided units were handed out and  in most cases they failed, so we were glad to have a human guide with us.   Bit more time to shop before we left and a short drive to  Down Cathedral, burial place of St Patrick.  
burial stone
one of the magnificent windows
 The cathedral is beautiful inside and we had a marvellous guide pointed out highlights of it's history.

 Just as we were leaving the choir arrived to practice for the service marking Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee.  
I still have difficulty remembering that many of the cathedrals in Ireland are Church of Ireland not Roman Catholic due the many years of English rule.  Monasteries were taken over in the Tudor times the same as they were during the dissolution in England. 

a view from Down cemetery
 Our hotel for the next two nights, The Canal Court in Newry, south of Belfast was another of the restored and maintained older places.   Obviously the centre for special events we witnessed a wedding party having photos done on our arrival.
After getting settled into our room we took a quick walk to the nearby shopping mall but didn't have time to see much thanks to Saturday closing hours.
Paul did find something of interest on our walk back.  This apparently is the colour and model Jaguar that he finds most attractive.

May 27 - Sunday

Just one of the many impressive down town building
 We drove back into Belfast, capital of Northern Ireland, for our city tour picking up our guide at the local bus station.
Samson and Goliath H & W. gantry cranes
 Leaving downtown it's not far the waterfront and the docks of Belfast.  Harland and Wolff were the Titanic was built is now an empty space but the giant yellow cranes will remain as part of the history of Belfast ship building.  museum link.  Money is being invested in the waterfront as a tourist locale. There is a huge new Titanic Centre open  and was certainly busy the day we went passed.  take a look at the link and see if you like or dislike the building that they say was inspired by the hull of the ship.

From the harbour we continued to area where the Peace Wall  remains in Belfast.  It divides Catholic from Protestant neighbourhoods in an area of what appeared to be mostly public housing.  We were told that sections have opened over the last few years and that neighbourhoods can petition to have dividing sections removed.  You do see the difference as you cross from one side to the other.   Signs on the Catholic side can be in English and Irish and posters painted on the wall somber.  On the other side the Protestants had out more Union Jacks than I've ever seen in one place, probably for the jubilee and they were big into what looked like "hero" posters.     Belfast does seem to be moving passed the years of The Troubles, as does the whole Island.   ( my view as a tourist )

We entered a lovely area of tree lined streets and neighbourhoods you'd find here at home.  Nice houses, nice gardens and not wall or signs of destruction.   In this area is Stormont.

Top of gate post at Stormont.  I love stonework like this.
 Normally you can drive up to, Northern Ireland Assembly building, but we arrived just as they were closing the gates to traffic.  A charity run and event was set for the day.  We did get off the bus and have a wander in and only managed a distant view.  A long impressive walk would get you to the front door.
beautiful park setting for an impressive building

more stone work
 Heading back downtown on an almost deserted road....Sunday noon and nothing opening til 1pm.

Queen's University Belfast

our bus parked on the road in front of Queen's
 The area round Queen's University is quite lovely with facility buildings, research halls and student area older houses.  Not too far away are the teaching hospitals that are associated with it.

We returned to the bus station and were given free time to visit the city centre on our own.  Seeing as it was lunch time Paul and I found a nearby pub.    It has now become normal to order at the bar and then wait for the food to be carried to the table.  Drinks you carry yourself.   There isn't a pub/bar I've visited here that has the charm of the real thing.
Brennan's Bar

fish stew ... it was delicious

Fun or for charity?  We never did find out but there was quite a crowd participating and viewing.

Throughout Ireland we saw Spar variety store and Spar gas stations and in more than one...Tim Hortons.

Old and the new as we looked down a narrow street.

City Hall.  A perfect sunny day to sit on the lawn, work on a tan

and to watch the Monaco Grand Prix.  Paul was quite happy to watch the start while we ate lunch in the pub and was rather please to see a bit more on the giant screen that appeared to have been put up for the Jubilee celebrations and the coming Olympics.

Intricate enough to warrant a few shots.
We were slowly making our way back the bus when Lucia, our tour manager started waving from a street corner.   Others on the tour didn't seem to want to spent quite as much time as we did wandering the city streets so our free time was cut short and we returned to Newry.
It was early enough to visit the mall before dinner so we went looking.  In the end the only thing we bought was another new summer shirt for Paul at Dunnes. 

Our farewell dinner was held in a private dining room at the hotel.  Open bar no less but knowing we had an early morning for our flight home tomorrow few bother to over indulge.     Both weeks we were travelling Lucia had taken a collection and purchased Euro lottery tickets.  At dinner we learned we weren't rich enough to charter a flight home and retire in grand style.   I think we won  4 or 5 euros that we left with Pat to try again.

July 28 - Monday.

Up at 5:45 am for breakfast at 6:30 and bus departure at 7:30.  We had an easy drive to Dublin airport and a shorter trip through customs etc than at Heathrow.   I finally found a pair of earrings that appealed and Paul bought a bottle of Bushmills.   Being sealed and accounted for as duty free made it much easier than buying at the plant and trying to wrap and protect it in our luggage.

Again Heathrow was a horror and with transit time from one terminal to another and several level changes and miles of corridors we had little time to visit any of the duty free shops.

A very crowded plane home and even though Paul wanted to upgrade there were no spots available.   He spent the time watching a movie and snoozing, I read.    By the time we cleared customs in Toronto, collected our bags and got our transportation home we were exhausted.  It was well after 2am Ireland time when we fell into bed.


Ireland was wonderful.  We had gone expecting more wet cool weather, and being prepared for it, than we had.  How many people come home with an Irish tan?

I was so taken with the scenery that I didn't even bother pulling out the camera some times knowing that all it would take was a look at a good professional shot to be reminded and I didn't want a camera between me and the view.

I was surprised at how constantly busy Dublin was.  People crowded the streets every time we were out and traffic constant.

I was surprised at how many middle European accents we heard in restaurants, shops and at the hotels in Dublin.    EU membership makes working in other countries easy.

Our hotels were all excellent.  Our meals good and the pubs great fun. I still miss the hotel cold and hot breakfasts.

In some ways it would have been nice to have had more free time to explore on our own but we would have never been able to cover as much of the country or seen as many of the top sights and highlights if we had tried to organize the holiday and driven ourselves and we would have missed the history and background info that Pat passed on every day.

We travelled approx. 2000 miles according to Pat travelling around the  whole island -  Dublin to Dublin with amazing stops along the way.

The only place I had trouble with an accent was in Letterkenny.  The clerk in the shop had to repeat himself 3 times before I understood.  Perhaps it was because he had spent many of his early years in Newfoundland before returning home. *laugh*

We brought home more money than expected.  Breakfast, dinner and some lunches were included and the ones we purchased on our own either in pubs or at the restaurants of tourist locations were cheaper than we had imagined and in all case,  fresh and first rate.

Perhaps we brought home money because I spent so little time in gift shops.  I wanted the experiences not the souvenirs.

Glad we went, sad it didn't last even longer.  I was getting quite good living out of a suitcase.   The 3 times we had second nights in one location was a bonus.


Jayne said...

Ohhh, it's over?
What a shame, I loved your photos and commentary.
That view of City Hall is almost identical to our Melbourne Exhibition Building.
That fish stew looks scrumptious, I hope you got the recipe?

Shellie Nunn said...

What a great vacation in the UK... thanks for sharing since I've never been to Ireland.

Looks like the weather fates where in your favor. When it's warm it is so beautiful.


Jayne...I no longer ask for recipes. Nothing I make at home tastes as good as special meals I have that others have cooked for me.
I am a very happy guest who cleans her plate. *grin*