Guinness Mother-load

The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin has the mother-load of gift shops for Guinness “stuff”. And yes, yes we did partake.

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Buses, People, and Pints! Oh, my!

Dave and I left Belfast early this morning by train to Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. For those of you who don’t understand what that means, it means the island of Ireland is actually two countries: Northern Ireland, which is actually a part of the United Kingdom (UK) and the Republic of Ireland, which is independently ruled with it’s government. We’ve spent the last week and a half in Northern Ireland, which include Belfast and today we crossed the border into the Republic or Ireland which includes Dublin. Got it? If not…Google it! 🙂

Now that we’re clear on that, Dave’s I has enjoyed train travel in Europe so much before, we had booked first class tickets for this short, two- hours ride to Dublin. We also got an awesome breakfast on the train I was able to catch up on my blog from the previous day. Duncan also came out for a visit.

Still an overcast kind of day, but it wasn’t raining when arrived in Dublin and the taxi driver found out hotel for the night at the Albany House. We were able to check in early to freshen up then we took the hop-on-hop-off bus around the city, which’s has kind of become our “thing to do” in each big city we’ve entered to get a lay of the land and layout of the city.

Our first observations are that Dublin truly exemplifies the words “bustling city”and then some. THIS is a thriving, alive city with many shops and restaurants and a LOT of energetic, young people. There are also a LOT of bicycle.

After going through every stop, we finally got of the bus at the Guinness Storehouse. You’re greeted insides the doors with the 9,000 year lease Arthur Guinness signed. There was a wax seal by his signature. The lease is inside sunken area of the floor covered in glass.

THEN there are 7 floors of wonderfulness explaining everything about Guinness from the temperature the barley is roasted at, to the advertising designs they have used over the years.

It’s all a self-guided tour and there were a LOT of people there so getting around from floor to floor proved a hassle at times. We did a great beef sandwich at one of their restaurants and then a free pint on the top floor at the Gravity a Bar overlooking the city. I loved it, but we were both tuckered out. Old and out of shape!!

Overall we loved Dublin even though we did’t get to experience much of it. I’d visit again for sure.

Guinness is good!

It’s the last day of our vacation as we fly out tomorrow (Thursday)

Rivets and Icebergs

For our last day in Belfast and Northern Ireland, we chose the Titanic Belfast attraction. Titanic Belfast is a visitor attraction opened in 2012, a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city’s Titanic Quarter where the RMS Titanic was built. It tells the stories of the ill-fated Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sank during her maiden voyage in 1912, and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMS Britannic. The building contains more than 130,000 sq ft of floor space, most of which is occupied by a series of galleries, private function rooms and community facilities.

Dave and I grabbed a taxi from the hotel and decided on the deluxe tour. We purchased the White Star Premium Pass which offered us discounts in two restaurants and gift store and entry to the attraction as well as an hour walking tour and entrance to the Nomadic, tender boat.

We had a couple of hours before our guided tour, so we were outfitted with headphones and started on the very extensive, multi-floor exhibition. They begin with conditions in Belfast in the early 1900’s and how the company was formed, how the ship’s plans were created and the how the ship was built.

There was even a gentle, but very clever ride, reminiscent of Disney ride showing the building process with narration of a riviter behind it. Such backbreaking work in the shipyard.

Each display was VERY well done going into as much detail as you wanted or as little. Every floor was crowded, but not to the point you couldn’t get to each visual and enjoy it.

Obviously, the end of that fateful cruise was looming and they did a wonderful job of showering the hard work each shipyard worker endured and how the design of the ship was created using the best materials available to them at the time.

As that fateful day neared, the rooms darkened and the tone changed from hopeful and excited to dread and fear as the alerts about icebergs were sent…ignored, then disaster as a result. One felt your heart grow heavy as you listened to first-hand accounts from survivors as you looked at some of the last photographs of the ship ever recorded frozen in time.

We had to end our tour right then because the guided tour was about to start. Libby, our guide, was a perky Irish Lass who told us about a lot of the symbolism surrounding the construction of the attraction and took us through the Harland and Wolf buildings where the designs of Titanic were drawn. Those buildings are now a very expensive hotel.

There was amazing attention-to-detail put into the design of the attraction as well as the grounds surrounding it. The wooden benches outside spelled out the last message of Morse code from the Titanic. The outline of the entire ship was embedded into the pavement where the ship sat under construction. I was a amazed how narrow it actually was, but it was very long.

There were vertical steel beams to indicate where the Titanic and her sister ship, the Olympic would has sat in the shipyard. However, they indicated the height of these beams were only about a quarter of the actual height of each ship.

Even the design of the main building itself represented the full height of the bows (front) of each ship and they were covered with thousands of steel plates representing the workers. Really well done.

Of course most everyone is aware of some of the “famous/rich” people who were on board like the Asters, Molly Brown, etc., but our guide told us about the Sage family. They had 11 members of their family on board. All went down with the ship. Only one body was recovered….a 12-year old boy from the family. All of those stories need to be told.

After the guided tour, Dave and I enjoyed lunch in one of the four cafes and had a terrific ham and cheese quiche. Then we continued with the rest of the exhibit.

They continue with the inquests after the sinking including the findings in the number of life boats which no doubt resulted in numerous deaths. The movies made about the sinking and the technical advancements in not only ship building, but underwater discoveries were also explored.

A highlight for me was the astonishing way they displayed the wreckage in the sea floor. They had a glass floor in a darkened theater and lit the scanned images underneath it as if you were in a submersible floating over there ghostly wreckage. It was brilliant and sad.

The last part of the tour was spent touring the SS Nomadic. It’s the last remaining ship of the White Star line sitting in dry dock. It was mainly used a tender to transfer passengers from ship to shore and transferred passengers from Titanic on it’s last stop in France before it sunk. The last time for many to be on dry land.

We were both pretty pooped after a long day on our feet, so we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel and decided to eat dinner in the hotel for the first time. It was great and I asked to take a piece of lemon meringue pie back to the room. They wrapped up a plate including a pitcher of cream for me to take.

Oh, and I now have Dave’s cold. Cheers!

Paper Ghosts and Thirsty Goats

Today, Dave and I were following the paper trail left behind by our ancestors in Northern Ireland. We spent three quarters of the day at PRONI (the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland) here in Belfast. Like our national archives in USA.

Dave had arranged for us to meet up with Dr. William Roulston. Roulston is Research Director of the Ulster Historical Foundation and is a renown author of numerous books about the Ulster area.

We were honored William agreed to meet us and generously spent an hour of his time showing us the ropes of the process at PRONI. Unfortunately, the electronic process of requesting documents was down today, so it was a paper process all the way around.

Upon arriving at the PRONI building, we were required to register and get ID cards, which needed a photo being taken and having a card to gain access to areas throughout the building. Then we had to place all belongings into a locker. We were only allowed cameras, a notebook, pencils and any meds needed to be carried in a clear plastic bag they provided. Everything else had to go into the lockers so that documents could not be smuggled out in any bags. Security was everywhere here.

You then went into the Search room, where you’d request the documents needed. You’re then given a table number (where you’ll view the documents) for the Reading room. Once they have found your requested documents, they post your table number on a digital board. You go up to the reading room desk, sign out your documents, then go to your assigned table to read them.

Luckily, Dave had done his research on the PRONI website and had written down some of the exact PRONI document ID numbers we needed, so that part was easy and pain free.

We requested multiple records for both McCausland and Magee/Macghee and were overwhelmed by the fragility of these live documents and the shear history contained in them. The paper was so old it either crackled and cracked when you opened it, or was so thin, it felt like touching fabric.

The documents that made our jaws drop were:

MCCAUSLAND

  • The will of Alexander McCausland in 1675. Dave’s possible 14th great grandfather.
  • an extensive family tree created in 1830 dating back to Baron McCausland, chief of Clan McCausland in Scotland.

MAGEE/MACGHEE

  • A bargain and sale document between George Macghee and his brother Patrick with William Stevenson for land and premises in Strabane in 1729. What was so cool about this was that all three signed the document and all three had their wax seal on it.
  • A lease between Sir George Hamilton (Duke of Baronscourt) and David Macghee for land in Strabane in 1671. This doc also had s single wax seal on it that was almost complete and had detailed graphic on the seal, probably the Duke’s signature ring.

The most exciting document for both of us was a bargain and sale between George Macghee and his wife Rebecca Macghee with Oliver McCausland. BOTH of our families recorded on a document for property sold between them. We had the security guard take our photo with the brittle document. So neat!

Then I remembered a document we both already knew about and had read a transcript of it online that I really wanted to see the original of. It’s the will of George Macghee from 1742. PRONI had it and I wanted to see it.

They brought it to me and I was shocked it wasn’t even in a protective envelope, but was all folded up. Dave took a video of me opening this very large document, but I’m having trouble transferring videos on the road, so I’ll post it once I’m home. Dave thinks the “paper” is some kind of canvas. It’s VERY thick and had a texture to it.

What is so unusual about this will is that it’s a grandfather (George) recognizing his illegitimate grandson in his will and also providing for him after his death. Pretty extraordinary, expecially for that time period and in Northern Ireland.

This day left me gobsmacked, as they like to say in the UK. Just blown away at reading these long-forgotten documents and signatures of our possible relatives. I have to continue to say “possible” until we find out for sure. Until we’re proven completely wrong, they could still be potential relatives. We did pay to have copies made of some of the documents and we were allowed to take photos.

Either way, it was a great experience. And we needed a Guinness! So we took a taxi back go the hotel to freshen up, then went back to White’s Tavern for dinner. However. after we arrived and Dave went to order us dinner, they informed him they were only serving drinks. So, we moved on to other pub. They weren’t serving food either, so we went to a third option, even closer to our hotel and they WERE serving food, so we stayed.

The Thirsty Goat has a mix of modern and vintage decor with wood paneled ceiling, plush cushioned booths, and wooden menus. I chose the beef fillet special and Dave ordered up the Irish Stew. Probably the best meal I’ve had in Belfast so far. The two Guinness helped and then I applied Sticky Toffee Pudding directly to the hips. Oooo…so good! They even had some life music tonight. A man playing guitar and he threw in some Irish tunes, so it was a fun night.

Derry – the City in The Walls

Derry, Londonderry, Stroke City, or LegenDerry. No matter what you call it, the walled city of Derry has a history riddled with strife and a future ripe for peace.

Before our tour of the city of Derry today, I knew a little bit about it, but had yet to fully understand what had fueled the religious, social, and economic battles that have been going on for decades. And to be honest, even after a truly riveting four-hour walking tour, I’m still struggling a bit to grasp it all.

Dave booked us a tour with a reputable touring company called Marty McCrossan City Walking Tours and had hired a private guide for four hours. He wasn’t crazy about driving directly into the very busy, and very compressed city, so we caught a bus to Derry from Strabane this morning after breakfast at the hotel.

It worked out great. The bus trip was uneventful and quick and our meeting point with the tour guide was in the Peace Flame Park right next to the bus station in Derry.

Right at 10am, we met Sorcha Bonner, our guide. She’s a lovely woman with a charming Irish accent. We felt at ease with her and could understand her accent, so that helped. There are some accents we’re having a little bit of trouble fully catching.

Sorcha started out by asking us what WE wanted to know. We tried to narrow it down by time period and also explained to her about the family history research Dave has been doing. She indicated a few of our stops may be able to shed some light on questions we may have.

Rather than try to come up with my own description of Derry, I’ll take some copy from the tour’s website:

The city of Derry, or Londonderry is Irelands only remaining walled city and offers 1500 years of social, cultural and religious history. Derry was initially a monastic settlement, which became a plantation town and in later years it was a center port for emigration to America, Australia, England and Scotland. Derry is still making history as the opposing communities continue to work together towards a lasting settlement of disagreements.

In common with many areas of Northern Ireland and indeed the world this city has witnessed a recent turbulent past. The Bogside in 1972 became the focus of world news with the worst ever atrocity to hit a European city since WWII on what has been named “Bloody Sunday”.

Our guide will recount in detail the events of that day and the subsequent result of the initial inquiry. The second Bloody Sunday Inquiry finished in 2006, and is awaiting its conclusions.

Sorcha took us onto the city walls and described how they were completed in 1618 and mainly planned as a defense of the city against Irish raiders from Donegal. They are up to 26 feet high, and up to 30 feet wide, enclosing the old merchant city (where the money was). When the defiant Derry Protestants (apprentice boys) slammed and locked the four main gates to the walls, blocking the approaching Catholic army, the walls became an iconic symbol of Loyalism and Unionism. The original 17th century locks and keys (which are huge) are on display.

We were also able to visit several of the churches and neighborhoods were the “Troubles”, as they are known, began and still continue to this day in some neighborhoods. Although the peace process has begun and has been marginally successful, to an outsider, still seeing security gates/walls and clearly divided neighborhoods for Protestant and Catholics can be disturbing,

Dave and I could not help but compare Derry to another walled city, York, England where we visited in 2013. Derry is not that blessed when it comes to beauty spots. The city’s history and the buildings related to it make it a worthwhile visit from a tourist’s point of view, not her sheer opulence.

The newer efforts for peace had created several lovely monuments and symbols including pedestrian Peace Bridge that crosses the River Foyle. We walked halfway across. It’s a beautiful bridge.

Sorcha was a wonderful tour guide and we both enjoyed this whirlwind tour, Her personal story of living here and her wealth of historical knowledge was incredible. She also introduced Dave to Ronnie at a church who shared with Dave how a family member emigrating to America in the 1600-1700’s would have been thrown a “wake” right before they left because the odds of their family members ever seeing them again were so slim. IF the family had any money to give, they would give them what they could, and potentially any wills written would NOT have included the family member/s who had left for America.

After our tours Dave and I had lunch in a wonderful area called Craft Market. It’s a hidden gem with refurbished buildings turned into small shops, cafes and apartments.

The struggles still faced by the residents of Derry quite simply makes me sad. Sad that people have died for decades because of the way they choose to worship their God. Sad that our tour guide Sorcha grew up with armed guards around her otherwise civilized city. And sad that Derry’s children of today are still forced to deal with the crimes of yesterday.

As an American, I shouldn’t throw stones regarding another country’s peace because we’ve struggled with bigotry and racism in our country for decades. It IS better, but we’ve only entered the driveway. We have yet to open the garage doors and park the car.

Good luck Derry. May you find common ground and move forward but never forget those who innocently lost their lives in the past. Love & Peace

Too Many Castle Photos You Say?

Our last day in Ballintoy greeted us with more haze and clouds, but still warm and no rain! We’ve been very fortunate thus far.

This morning I tried the white pudding for breakfast and found I quite like it. White pudding is broadly similar to black pudding, but does not include blood; modern recipes consist of pork meat and fat, suet, oatmeal and breadcrumbs formed into a large sausage. It had a nice crunch and wasn’t as spicy as the black pudding from yesterday. Would I go out of my way order it again? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t turn it down if offered.

 

We met a nice older couple from southern England over breakfast this morning and shared pleasant conversations about travel and places we’ve all visited. The O’Rourkes were lovely.

We shared our day’s plans with Theresa and she told us to take any of the breads and muffins we’d like with us for our lunch. I had just enjoyed a piece of what I believe was strawberry bread that was delicious, so I grabbed two pieces of that and two muffins. Theresa gave us a small container of butter and two plastic bags to take. Great idea!

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If you have tired of descriptions and photos of ancient castles, then look away, because this one is a doozy. Our last castle in Northern Ireland was Dunluce Castle. Even though it was abandoned in the late 1600’s it was amazing how much of this castle remains, especially with it’s ocean-side, cliff-top setting.

It has easy access and an easy-to-read map describing each area. A lot of archeological work has been done on the grounds and some of the photos and artifacts are on display.

I was fascinated with the “lodgings” or guest quarters where each room had their own fireplace. This was actually OUTSIDE the castle grounds. One of the two-feet thick walls had fallen over at some point and it has been left right where it fell.

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The views out every window and ledge were stunning. Dave and I both took so many photos from different angles and locations. We would rate this attraction high on our list of must-sees.

We kept seeing this spectacular sand beach while touring Dunluce and were able to pinpoint where it was. A short drive along the coast and there it was…just ready & waiting for us. It’s called White Rocks Beach in Portrush and it’s wonderful.

Dave and I settled into a nice spot on the sand, enjoyed the rolling waves and people watching and had our baked treats we had brought with us from the B&B. A terrific spot. And, yes, it does have white rocks,

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Our next destination was to  Carrick-a-rede rope bridge. Although both of us had already agreed we probably would NOT walk across this narrow, rope bridge, we DID want to see the way to get to it and enjoy the view on this suddenly warm, sunny day. The path TO the bridge wasn’t too bad, but it would have been a bear for both of us to complete on the way back. So we enjoyed the tremendous views.

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We went back to the B&B for a rest before dinner and the TV was on in our room. Really odd since we haven’t turned on the TV since our vacation started.

Then we went back to the Fullerton Arms for dinner. When we walked in to the place, it was noticeably quiet and dark. The power was out. Just as we were deciding what to do, the power came back on. I had fish n’ chips and it was fantastic. We then drove to Ballintoy Harbour for a final look. It was lovely being bathed with sun this time instead of haze.

We returned to B&B and the TV had come in again in our room. Then we learned there was s power outage here as well. I guess it’s not that unusual.

Dave andI go inland to Strabane tomorrow. I will miss Ballintoy, it’s scenery and the very friendly people. Thank you!

 

Day 9 Photos -Northern Ireland

Another cloudy, hazy day, but not cold and more importantly, NO RAIN!