Past, Present, and Future

This morning Dave and I checked out of Fir Tree Hotel. I can honestly say we will not miss it and will not be visiting again. You’ll notice we haven’t posted any photos of it or our room. Onward…

We are now headed to Belfast to drop the car off at the airport, get a cab into the city and check in to our hotel for the next three nights.

Dave indicated I had not taken a photo of him driving the car. I took a short video in Scotland of him, but realized he was right. So here it is!

He did a great job driving, despite my nagging him he was too close to the curbs and hedges and a GPS/SatNav that died and having to use a different one. We really liked the Audi we got upgraded to by the nice man inside the airport at the Hertz desk. He was great even taking us outside to let us know where we’d be returning the car.

Dave got us safely back to Belfast airport today. It was a shame the young men who man the outside Hertz rental car pick up & return were so unhelpful and rude. Both at pick up and return, they were unpleasant to deal with.

Anyway…the taxi driver and hotel receptionist more than made up for the airport dudes. Both were extremely friendly and helpful and answered all our questions.

We were both hungry and walked over to White’s Tavern for lunch and a pint. I had Bangor’s (sausages) and Mash (potatoes) and Dave had fish n’ chips and we both had Guinness. What a cool pub. Supposedly haunted, it originally was established in 1630. Which means it has been a pub since around the times the Pilgrim’s landed. Think about that.

Our first order of business after checking in at The Premier Inn, was to take a hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city. We walked to the first stop and were glad to see the tour was just about to leave. We sat on the outside, upper deck of the double-decker bus and were whisked around the city for an hour and a half tour.

Unbeknownst to us, there was a woman’s rights march today in Belfast and the bus had to wait for the march a bit and drive a slightly different route.

The tour showed the good, the bad, and ugly. Unfortunately, there is still some major bad and ugly in Belfast with the religious differences and segregation. There has been peace, but you can tell the unrest could bubble up at any time. After photographing a few of the murals dedicated to those who sacrifices or were innocently killed, I stopped photographing them. I hate war, I especially hate violence, and I wasn’t crazy about it all being a focus of a tour bus. It is, however, part of Belfast’s past and should be remembered to not repeat in the future.

There are some historical buildings in Belfast NOT associated with The Troubles, and they were pointed out and they drove through what could be considered the “slums” of the city as well as the more affluent neighborhoods. It was uncomfortable to me to not only take the tour bus down the streets of these poorer neighborhoods, but for the tour guide to be talking on the speaker about how poorly they live….while driving down the street and people who live their walking about. Edinburgh, this was not. And perhaps that is WHY they do it. They need to show the world.

We also drove to the Northern Ireland parliament building which is very grand, but way outside the main city.

After the tour we walked around the city for awhile and did a wee bit of shopping. Dave picked up a free Guinness hat and I bought one of the two things I’ve been looking for in Ireland: a Claddagh ring.

There is an old Irish saying that goes, “With These hands, I give you my heart and crown it with my love.” The Claddagh ring consists of a heart with a crown held by two hands symbolizing love, loyalty and friendship. There are specific ways one is supposed to wear them as well.

Dave is still not quite over his cold and I was starting to get a sore throat so we cut our night short and hope to get some rest.

Day 2 Scotland

Day two in Edinburgh was met with mist & drizzle, but we didn’t let that stop us. After a quick bite to eat at the hotel we took a taxi over to Leith to view the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA.

The Britannia was in service as the Queen’s yacht for 43 years, from 1954 until 1997 and it’s a bit of a time capsule from the 1950’s and 1960’s with simple furnishings and mechanical fixtures and navigation that were never really modernized.

The audio tour and the tour process itself was fantastic and the folks this attraction employs were friendly, helpful, and very informative. Dave and I give the whole experience five stars! My mom would have LOVED this!

We were able view the queens private study, bedroom, and sitting room as well as Prince Philip’s rooms. Very simple, but lovely. Then we viewed the crew quarters, laundry, and engine rooms. I was particularly fascinated by the very old communication system they apparently were still using when the ship was decommissioned in the 90’s. It must have felt foreign to any young guests who visited. Having to flip an actual switch to contact another room and deck. VERY 1950’s.

Paying guests are also invited to partake of tea and/lunch in the tea room, which Dave and I did. The weather was still overcast and quite foggy, but it was nice to enjoy a meal out on the covered deck.

I ordered the Cream Tea for One that included tea, a fruit scone with jam and cream, and a glass of sparkling Rosé. The scone was fabulous, as was the jam and the Rosé. And of course the tour ends at the gift shop and I then picked up my first two souvenirs of the trip: a beautifully ornate mug and a thistle shortbread mold.

We then took a taxi to the Water of Leith Walkway, which is a highly-maintained footpath through several lovely areas. One of the locations was one I’ve been admiring on Twitter & Facebook — Dean Village.

What a wonderful, peaceful and serene walk this is. Tree-lined paths meander along side the river called the Water of Leith. There are lovely bridges, waterfalls, ivy plants dripping from trees and ledges and beautiful mossed-covered stone walls. What a lovely oasis for people to visit. We met many out for a stroll, even on this overcast, coolish day.

Fortunately, the sun DID come out, but unfortunately, not until we had left the path and walked back into the city. Figures.

Dave and I continued into the city on foot making a few shopping stops along the way before settling in on a wooden bench at Princess Street gardens where we were able to view the castle one last time and enjoy this suddenly, sun-filled afternoon.

We stopped at the hotel for a brief break, then wandered back to the Royal Mile where we visited St. Giles Cathedral. We stopped here in 2013 and really enjoyed it. We enjoyed it this time as well, although we were highly disappointed the Thistle Chapel was closed. Apparently, people had been stealing when they were simply letting people wander in on their own. Dave and I were truly saddened that such a remarkable landmark had to succumb to such measures. Now only small groups are allowed in at a time and with a guide.

Our dinner tonight was at Whisky Bar where I indulged AGAIN in fish n’ chips and a Guinness and Dave had a haggis tower, which he said was very good. My fish fry was much better than last nights, but still not the best I’ve had. Then it all came back to haunt my poor acid reflux and hiatal hernia and I was left in a lot of discomfort for some time. Perhaps I need to stick to salad for dinner tomorrow, night.

Tomorrow morning we meet up with Helen for further adventures in Scotland, so we need to pack and get some sleep. Thank you again Edinburgh for your beauty, charm, history, and zest for living!

Day 2 Scotland