Yesterday I turned in my final essay of the semester; I’m free from academic work at last, and can spend my last two weeks traveling and having fun in Belfast!
I am too ashamed to count how many days it’s been since I last blogged. Final essays and presentations and a stream of visitors have given me plenty of excuses not to.
Here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been doing while my parents, British friends Jan and Alan, and sister Kelsey have been visiting at various times.
The Grand Opera House. A glorious old theatre in Belfast, where Kelsey and I saw a beautiful adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire by the Scottish Ballet.
May Street Presbyterian Church, one of the oldest churches in Belfast, where Kelsey and I were welcomed warmly by the tiny and rather geriatric congregation. One of the men who spoke to us was a retired police officer; at one time, about 90% of Belfast police were Protestant, which was a huge source of controversy (and often power inequality) during the Troubles. A perfectly friendly, grandfatherly man, he alluded to the Troubles in describing the church’s history; the central location of the church was at one time very dangerous, contributing to the decline of its membership.
Titanic Belfast. The new museum covers everything from Belfast’s booming industries at the time of the ship’s building to the building and fitting out processes, the sinking and the aftermath. It’s elegantly designed, very interactive, informative and a lot of fun.
St. George’s Market. Of course, I go here all the time, and I couldn’t wait to introduce my visitors to its wonders. Kelsey and I went after the May Street service, as St. George’s is just down the street, and I finally bought the pretty apron I’ve been eying at Tees and Toasts, hand-stitched with rainbows, clouds and sunshine in differently patterned fabrics.
Derry/Londonderry. Kelsey and I met up with Kathryn Dean to take a wee day trip to Derry, where we had our own personal trolley tour, visited the Bloody Sunday memorial, and climbed about on the city’s historical walls, built in the early 1600s.
The Ulster Folk Museum. My parents and I enjoyed learning about urban and rural life in Belfast and County Antrim at the turn of the century. Highlights included my mom and I eating soda bread we found sitting on the kitchen table in a demonstration house (clearly free samples) and petting the hens in one of the farm areas.
Giant’s Causeway. You know all about this, but now I’ve been three times in total, and explored Dunluce Castle (Cair Paravel), which was a dream. I think they ought to let you camp inside the ruins during the summer months.
Dublin. On my second trip to Dublin, Kelsey and I visited the National Leprechaun Museum (a pure delight), toured the Guinness Storehouse (where I discovered the Guinness tastes MUCH better than in an ordinary Belfast pub) and went on a literary pub crawl, led by two hilarious and knowledgeable actors who performed excerpts from Joyce, Beckett, Plunkett and many more. We stayed the night in the lovely Globetrotters Hostel, had a full fry in the morning (minus the meat for me) and went on a Mary Gibbons tour to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara. Both were amazing! Standing on the Hill of Tara, where the ancient Kings of Ireland were crowned, took our breath away. There is an incredible energy about the place, and you can see practically all of Ireland!
I’m enjoying more sunny weather in Belfast, and I’ll be traveling more in the Republic soon. Trip planning begins now, so feel free to post suggestions if you’ve been somewhere in Ireland I shouldn’t miss out on!