Goethe, a wise german author once wrote that the best things parents can give their children are wings and roots. Maxim and Callum's wings are growing stronger and stronger during our adventures around the world, but during each trip to Northern Ireland, their roots are growing deeper and deeper as we are welcomed by the warm and convivial Desmond family. I could sit for hours and listen to the happy and unique sound of their banter. There is no disharmony here, just relaxed family members having a good time together. Each celebration includes every one and they are many.
July brought us a rich harvest of family moments to keep preciously in our memory box. We spent a few days in the Desmond mobilehome on a pristine beach in Donegal, went for a week end in a luxurious resort with the whole family ( more than 30 of them) and celebrated Maxim's first communion with a party in his honor including a giant bouncy castle. We met family and cousins over many lunches and diners... we can hardly fit in our clothes. It will be salads only in Spain and France, and lots of walking.
Paul spent a whole month surrounded by his loved ones, a rare luxury. Maxim and Callum spent a month happily curled up in their grand- mother's house, like cats on a comfy sofa, not bothered at all by the rain and the cold, sprinkled by a few sun rays at just the right time. They got to make new friends with Derry children during a week long summer camp. They came back every day with stories of treasure hunts and epic swimming pool battles. They even got to hold the olympic torch on the last day. They spent hours playing with their cousins during sleepovers. They would have easily stayed here a few more weeks...
I got to rediscover the historic and pretty city with two names. Twenty years ago, there was a troubled cloud over this town, forever caught between an impossible dream and a disputed reality, between its Derry past and its Londonderry present. Even the river took side, some bridges were never crossed. There were walls everywhere, mentally dividing entire generations, blue and red on one side, orange and green on the other and in the middle, innocent white, stained with blood. People made do, hurrying on the lovely streets, among the pale buildings. Shopping was no fun. There were no tourists. Derry had a place of choice in the world news, expecially during the July protestant parades, drumming up hate and confrontation.
In the 21th century , Derry/ Londonderry is reinventing itself. The cloud has gone as it is looking towards the future. A new peace bridge has been built, symbolically linking the protestant to the catholic side. It litterally twists both ways and can only be crossed on foot to give people time to think and get used to the idea. Most of the walls have gone even if the flags remain. Shopping is now a pleasant experience. There is a new brightness among the freshly painted buildings. Tourists and backpackers are taking notes and pictures. Derry now features worldwide in the travel section of newspapers. The July parades are still going, but the drums have been muted.
In the USA, we saw cities going all the way down the economical drain, it is very uplifting, in this day and age to see Paul's city of birth waking up and moving on.
As sad as it is going to be, it is time again for us to be moving on too. Our luggages are nearly packed and another journey between buses and airplanes is about to start. We are now fully rested, resourced and debriefed, ready for new landscapes and new languages. From buenos dias to bonjour, Spain and France here we come.