Following our smooth ferry ride from Stranraer in Scotland, we took a bus tour around Belfast, after settling a fight between two tour bus ticket sellers who were fighting over our business.Belfast has some lovely areas, especially over near the Parliament house area, and the city is a mixture of the old and rundown, and new.We saw the impressive ship building dock with its huge cranes, and this is where the Titanic was built.They are in the process of constructing a very impressive building which is to be the Titanic Museum.It has 4 ship's bow shaped corners that are the same height as the actual Titanic's bow, so it is huge and will be a wonderful structure when it is finished.They will also be converting an old warehouse into a hotel whose interior will mirror the interior of the Titanic.Part of our tour, of course, took us to the tragic Shankill area of Belfast, where there are still dividing fences, called 'Peace Walls' and strong gates, one of which is still locked to this day.The murals in this area are both uplifting and haunting.They are called 'Peace Walls' because they were the solution to keeping the peace, i.e., separating people so that they would not fight.There are great murals and graffiti on the peace wall today, with words and signatures from many ordinary people and some notable people, such as the Dalai Lama and President Clinton.Although life seems to go on in this area, there are still tensions (plus police with body armour and sub-machine guns) and I felt sad being there.
We had lunch in a 'snug' in a pub in Belfast, then later in the afternoon we made our way to Mullingar, which is near the centre of Ireland.Snugs are little enclosed booths with a door where, in the olden days, women could go to have a drink away from the perving eyes of males!Once we left Belfast, it only took about 15 minutes for us to be in rural surroundings.We are so used to seeing the gentle green hills, the grazing animals and the story-book country cottages, that we really notice any modern structure that we happen upon.Today we saw a very modern brick and glass church, which is a far cry from the usual ancient churches that we see everywhere.Our accommodation in Mullingar, a B&B, was lovely and our hostess was very generous - she served us home-made apple pie with cream and a drink while she told us about Mullingar and surrounds.We had a nice meal in town, and then stayed on to listen to an Irish folk singer in a typical Irish pub - this was on Ian's to-do list, and he enjoyed it.It was fascinating just watching and listening to the locals, although we could only understand half of what they were saying.I went to the Ladies Room in the pub, and met a very tipsy lady there who said in her tipsy Irish accent "Hello dearie, I'm here to have my smoke.Oh, but it's far too cold for me outside, so if you don't mind I'll just go in here (the cubicle) and kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.Now, you won't be telling on me will ya?".I assured her I wouldn't dob her in, and left her to her smoke and other business.
On Good Friday, after a nice (meat-free) breakfast and a fond farewell to our hosts, we set off for Galway.Again, we were soon in the beautiful countryside, driving down roads so narrow that if I put my hand out of the car window, I could pick the foliage off the hedges.After that, we were mostly on main roads for the rest of the trip, and made it there in time for a quick (meat-free) lunch.We checked in to the Sea-Breeze B&B, where we had a nice view of Galway Bay, and then went into Galway town to explore.It was very lively in town and we wandered the shopping lanes and made a few purchases.They have a lovely, old cathedral in town, and a very fast running river and causeway, where people were fishing for salmon.We found it very strange that all the shops were open on Good Friday (although pubs were closed), and other workers, like those in construction, etc. were still working.Apparently, all the shops and businesses will be shut on Easter Sunday here, when everyone gets a holiday.We finished the day with a (meat-free) Chinese take-away dinner then an early night.
First thing the next morning, after breakfast, we went back into Galway town for a bus tour of the city.Galway is small - there are dairy farms within 7km of the city - and it's very lively - out of a population of 70,000 people, students from Galway University and the Institute of Technology number 22,000, plus the population doubles in summer when the tourists arrive.We were shown an area, called a halting site, where the Irish 'Travelers' or 'Tinkers' were allowed to set up home, close to the city, and the authorities are hoping that providing a dedicated area for them will encourage them to settle down, have their children educated and become part of the community.
We picked up supplies in the Galway Saturday Food Market for a picnic lunch and stopped near Ballyvaughan in a small park to eat.We continued on to The Cliffs of Moher.These cliffs are on the west coast of Ireland and are a spectacular series of very high cliff faces, with views out to sea and across to Galway.We got our daily exercise climbing the hill to the top of the cliff, but it was worth it.We then made our way towards Killaloe, the place from where the Mannix Family emigrated to Australia.It is a designated heritage area now, and really beautiful.It is on the River Shannon, and there is an ancient bridge over the river between Killaloe and Ballina, a place with tiny streets and lots of pubs.Our accommodation here in Kincora Hall is really nice, and Ian and I ventured out for dinner and an evening of musical entertainment.Entertainment in Ireland doesn't start until late at night, so we had a late dinner and headed to a nearby pub.At around 10pm the two Irish singers arrived and began to set up, and it wasn't until 10.45pm that they started singing.Imagine how disappointed we were to find that their preferred musical genre is American Country, particularly Johnny Cash.We soon left there and found another pub where there was a piano player and fabulous fiddler performing - they had only started at 11pm, and we stayed for about an hour enjoying their show.
The next morning left Kincora Hall and explored Killaloe.Killaloe is the biggest town near to where my ancestors lived.It is very pretty, even on a dull day like today.We explored the graveyard at the Catholic church, but the oldest gravestones are unreadable now.We ventured to Bodyke, a smaller town further on, and got directions to Coolreagh, the area where my family lived.It was way out in the wilds and is a peat bog area, some of which has been turned into a duck sanctuary.It is nice to know we come from bog-folk!There is a controversy over here at the moment as the Government wants to close all the bogs.All the same, I'm glad that my forebears did not settle in the nearby community of Feakle.Would you believe that there is a Sewerage Treatment Plant in Feakle, and that there is a lifebuoy near the sewerage pit in case someone ends up in the sh*t!We reluctantly departed our ancestral land and made our way to Waterford.Waterford is best known for its crystal glass industry but as we arrived on the evening of Easter Sunday, the streets were quite subdued.
In the morning we walked around Waterford, and it was still fairly quiet as it was a public holiday here (Easter Monday/Bank Holiday).Fortunately, the Waterford Crystal Factory was open, and we did a tour of the glassworks.We saw the wooden moulds used for special orders, the glass furnace and the glass blowers at work, the finishing/quality control room, the design room, the glass cutters and learned about the acid wash process, which is done off-site.We saw some beautiful glass creations, like a full-sized grandfather clock, a Cinderella coach & horses, a violin and various sporting trophies.We then went into the retail showroom to admire the stock, knowing the processes and skills required to produce them (and a couple of purchases were made).
We left Waterford for Dublin, and after a couple of traffic delays, arrived around 4.45pm.We stayed in a lovely old home that is like a rabbit warren, with rooms up and down several corridors and stairwells.We were very close to the Aviva Stadium, the rugby arena in Lansdowne Road - it looked a bit like a UFO landed in our backyard.We went to a local restaurant for dinner, then to a typical tiny old Irish pub for a drink, and it was a happy coincidence for Ian that the soccer was on TV.The next morning, after breakfast, we caught the train (the DART) into the city centre and took a city bus tour.We saw all the major tourist sites in Dublin, and visited the Guinness Factory.The history of this Irish brewery is interesting, especially since Guinness beer is actually a London (inadvertent) invention.A brewer in London accidentally burned the barley, and not wanting to throw it away, used it to make beer, but sold it only to the porters around London for a cheap price.The porters loved it, and asked for more, so Arthur Guinness recognised a business opportunity and started to experiment with beer brewing using burned barley until he had an excellent product, and the rest is history.The exhibitions in the factory were excellent, and every adult got a free Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top of the factory at the end of the tour (I swapped mine for coke).Next, we had a wander around Dublin's shopping precinct then made our way home to get ready for our dinner at the lovely Lobster Pot restaurant. The next morning we made it to Dublin Ferry Port in time for our 8.45am ferry to Holyhead, Wales.
We all loved Ireland for its gorgeous scenery and lively, friendly people.We learned a bit about its long history, some to be proud of and some not.I must say that Lynne and I were really happy to see the area where our family lived long, long ago and were very pleased that it was so beautiful, but then most of Ireland is very beautiful.We are delighted to have Irish heritage, and besides, being bog-folk, we can't be fussy!