Belfast II

Before I leap into Belfast, I wanted to talk about St. Andrews for a few.

I forgot to mention that St. Andrews is the patron saint of Scotland. At one point in time, it was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and people would take pilgrimages there. Andrew’s knee, an arm, some fingers and some teeth were kept here. The white “X” in the Scotland flag is the diagonal cross on which Andrew was crucified. According to legend, St. Rule had a dream to bring the relics northward and the ship carrying them shipwrecked there.

With the reformation, the church was picked over. In England, churches were destroyed but in Scotland it happened gradually.

Today, I did a tour of the Antrim Coast, and I loved it! I would certainly visit there again. My favorite part was the Giant Causeway which is absolutely amazing. Also visited the Dunluce Castle. Apparently in 1639 dinner was interrupted by half the kitchen falling in the sea! This is after surviving sieges and attacks, go figure. Nature decided to take it out. We stopped by Olds Bushmills Distillery, but no tour. I don’t like whiskey or beer so I’ll pass. Also went to Carrick-a-Rede-Rope Bridge, which I thought about walking over but it was very steep and I don’t like the feeling of falling over, plus I wore the wrong shoes. LOL.

Today, on the way back to the hostel, I came across the marching of some Unionist. They had the Sandy Row flag so they are from around here. Apparently a few days before I got here, some folks decided to display a “show of strength” by setting up their own checkpoint, and they were armed. I guess the police didn’t interfere. Some folks say they should have but others say it would have just escalated into violence.

The guide from the tour told me that things were much improved these last ten to fifteen years. The fact that tourists are coming is a testimony to this. He said that 99.9% want peace but it’s that 0.1% that are causing the problem. People refer to it as the “Troubled” time in the history.

It’s sad here, and it has been a war zone, but even in the midst of chaos there is always hope and I think the good in people will overcome those who want to dwell in the status quo of division.

So tomorrow it’s off to Dublin. I was going to take the train but part of the track collapsed last week so bus it is!

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Belfast

I am currently in Belfast!

Yesterday, I decided to go to St. Andrews. I was torn, but I figured what the heck. I split a cab into town (the train goes to Leuchars) with a couple from Colorado. The first stop was West Sands Beach, which is where part of Chariots of Fire was filmed. Picture me running down the beach humming the theme music and you will get the idea. LOL

Even though I am not a big golf fan, I did check out the golf course. Apparently St. Andrews is a golf Mecca. I took pictures were Tiger and Jack play. Ha Ha.

I then went to St. Andrews Castle, or what is left of the castle anyway. I then visited the site of the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral. I tell you what, it’s an impressive site. I try to picture how the Cathedral would have looked if it had not been destroyed. It was raining hard and I was getting soaked, but I did see some of the school buildings.

Did I mention it rained EVERYDAY I was in Scotland. The day I leave, it’s like blues sky. Go figure.

When I was at Stirling Castle these four young men who I think are from Spain asked me to take their picture. I mention them because they were on the same tour I took to the Highlands. And then, I saw them in St. Andrews. We were walking different directions on the opposite side of the street, but we saw each other laughed and waved. It was SO funny. Then I saw this family I was the Highlands tour with at the train station this morning. I sat behind them without realizing it until I heard the dad’s voice. There is something comfortable and and familiar about them. I exchanged email with the daughter who is another 30 something. Basically it’s a small world.

So after St. Andrews I went to Gladstone’s Landing, which is a home that was a home to a merchant. It was a contrast to the Georgian House. I then ending my touring of Edinburgh the way I began, at the Royal Mile.

I was sad to say goodbye to Jill, the owner. Like Allison, she was very nice and good to me.

So this morning I caught two trains and a ferry to Belfast. When I was in the middle of the Irish Sea, I remembered my near-death Mexican Riviera Cruise and nearly had a flashback. Luckily Tropical Storm Evil, I mean Eva, is somewhere on the Pacific.

I checked in. I am actually staying at a hostel in Belfast.

Belfast. How do I describe Belfast? I am not sure what the word is but there is something __ (can’t find the right word) about this place. It may have to do with the history. I would love to hear any impressions anyone else has had. I plan on going back to Edinburgh. As of now, I have not plans to visit Belfast again. Maybe it needs to go through a rebirth or something.

I toured the Catholic neighborhood of Falls Road and the Protestant neighborhood of Sandy Row. I’m not taking sides but the Catholic murals I saw were along the line of we shall overcome and this is why we need to be free. The Protestant murals were pretty violent and angry. The youth hostel happens to be right by Sandy Row.

I’ll hold my judgment of the place until tomorrow but I don’t get the feeling of home and comfort I had in Wales and Edinburgh. I suppose with all the history it is to be expected.

Tomorrow my plan is to tour the Antrim Coast and then do laundry. I head to Dublin on Wednesday where I will meet Candy and Pam.

This is a good place to slow down and actually relax and chill on my vacation.

Oh, I saw the City Hall building which is really nice.

I also met three very nice Irish men. One of who was quite drunk. Very friendly, but yeah drunk. I don’t think it was quite seven when I met him.