Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our journey continues ... Belfast and beyond....

On Sunday morning we left Dublin and headed north to what once was the "Border".... these days we drive right through and watch road signs change from Kilometers to military or police presence as we pass into Northern Ireland.

We travelled through Dundalk and Newry and on to Belfast where John, our driver, took us on a quick tour of the city before we alighted at the Europa Hotel, which was to be home for two nights. The Europa has enjoyed the reputation as the most bombed hotel in Europe in the '70's. We had the afternoon to ourselves and then we were taken by Marty Maguire, my old friend, and a fine actor to see him star in the play "The Sweetie Shop" at the Roddy McCorleys Social Club in a very Republican section of the city. In the 1970's, life in Belfast was so limited when it came to moving around the city for people, that "speakeasys" were not unusual in the various segregated neighbourhoods. The play is a tribute to those times and quite funny though some of the dialogue flew over my head as the Belfast jargon was laid on quite thick....

We also visited the "Crown Bar", directly across the street from our hotel and a landmark for Belfast's city center. Both exterior and interior are Victorian and the decor is breathtaking. Probably the most visited destination in Belfast..

The following day we spent the morning touring the Titanic Museum. Truly an amazing exhibit and though I thought I was well informed there was much more to see and learn from the experience. Oh, was my birthday...and I was given a gift of a "Titanic" Captains hat, just what I always wanted...

At this point we were joined by a Belfast guide who jumped on board the coach and gave us the real deal tour of the different neighbourhoods, the painted murals, the memorials and it was fascinating. One must come here to really appreciate or hope to, the pain, misery and loss the people of both sides of the divide have, and still do experience.

A few of us went out around 5 pm to Kelly's Cellars, est 1720 for a couple of drinks and then to Madden's music pub where my name is written among other well known musicians on the gable wall. The mural was painted by Danny Devaney, the muralist responsible for all the famous Republican murals in the Nationalist communities.

We got back in time for a lovely dinner in the hotel and the staff had baked a beautiful birthday cake, just delicious...I then played a show in the Lobby Bar where all our travellers joined me in song. Just a great birthday.

This morning we left the Europa at 8am and drove north to the Giants Causeway, a most unusual and quite unique basalt rock formation featuring thousands of hexagonal columns, created by a 60 million year old explosion and the lava flow being cooled into what apparently stretches across to Scotland and attributed in folklore to the battle between two giants from both countries. A heck of a walk was had by all to see this today. On our way we stopped in the small town of Carrickfergus and saw the 12c castle built by the Norman John De Courcey. King William of Orange landed here in 1689 with 10,000 men on his way to the Battle of the Boyne.

By the by, the weather has been cool but sunny, just lovely on our trip so far.....not a drop of rain...hope I don't put my foot in it....

We stopped at the "Old Bushmills Distillery" for a visit on our way to Derry and we eventually arrived at the City Hotel about 5pm. Rory and I scoped out my venue for tonight's show, The Dungloe Bar in the Bogside section of town. Derry is the official City of Culture this year and we had a tour on the coach which again included all the murals and memorials of this, Northern Ireland's second largest city.

Following dinner in the hotel, Rory and I rushed over to the concert venue and almost all of our fellow travelers came to the pub and a great evening was had by all. I am exhausted and am signing of to hit the sack....Off to Donegal, Fermanagh and Sligo tomorrow....until the next time...

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Ken ! I have great memories of Bushmills, Giants Causeway and Derry. It's great to follow along on your journey ! safe travels