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PADDY'S IRELAND TOUR
BELFAST - ANTRIM COAST

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Monday May 17, 2010. We woke up in Belfast, and took a bus tour around the town. One of the first things we saw was the Belfast City Hall, a very impressive building. The city has construction in a mixture of styles, some very modern, others very old.

                   

On the way to the Parliament we passed by some iconic cranes, sporting the letters H & W, which the locals say are the initials of "hello" & "welcome". Once near the Parliament we were treated to a panoramic view of the building, as well as a glimpse of the famous yews which adorn its gardens. I had my photo taken with the Parliament in the background, and then Pat & I posed for the same. This area is known as "Stormont", a synonym for the government of Northern Ireland.

                   

The whole group stood in front of the imposing Parliament Stairs for a posterity shot. The next photos are of a close up of the building and its iconic emblem on the top.

                   

From the hill one can see a wonderful panorama, and we caught a bird just standing there.

After the Parliament we went on a tour of Derry (or Londonderry) depending on who's talking. Nationalists refer to Derry; Unionists call it Londonderry. Legally the city & the county are called Londonderry, while the district is called Derry. In general Unionists are Protestant & favor the inclusion of Ireland in the UK; Nationalists are mostly Catholic and proclaim Ireland is a separate republic.

The term "The Troubles", refers to the decades of fighting between these groups. There are many remnants of the clashes among Irish citizens of different ideals. Ironically, the famed Titanic was built in Belfast.

                        

There are fences and barriers dividing the city even to this day; youngsters are slowly becoming more accepting of the "other" side, but it's very slow going.

The paintings on the walls have become a tourist attraction, so I took a few photos. Slogans abound, as well as the portraits of perceived heroes in both camps.

                            

              

 

There are hopes in the horizon. In the middle of the city there stands a monument officially named "In Thanksgiving", presumably erected when The Troubles were over. The irreverent citizens, however, call it "The Doll With a Ball". There are some other iconic representations of the conflict, such as "Hands Across the Divide", showing two young men with their hands outstretched towards each other, and whimsical male & female figures atop chairs shouting at each other, presumably trying to communicate.

                                         

 

Our next stop was the University. It's made up of three Colleges, in Cork, Galway & Belfast. Queens was the first university in the North of Ireland. The buildings are beautiful, and the statue in the middle of the campus supposedly helps the students who rub its extended foot.

                                

 

From there we embarked on a tour of the Antrim Coast, designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1988. It was really beautiful, and in one of its parks we found a plaque honoring my namesake, a messenger pigeon.

                   

         

We continued along the water and saw some awesome views, including a breathtaking hanging bridge between some cliffs.

                   

   

 

Finally we arrived to the Giant's Causeway, an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of volcanic eruptions. In 1986 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage State. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. It was a very difficult and arduous walk.

              

In the distance we could see the ruins of Dunluce Castle, one of the many owned by the McDonald, or McDonell, Clan.

                   

We continued to Derry, and checked into the Hotel Derry, where we would stay for two nights. It is situated in The Diamond, which made it easy to find once we got our bearings. More about the monument later. We had dinner there.

            

Of course we went out to find a pub, and soon we went into one that was very warm and inviting. We loved the decor & the camaraderie, and I sampled another Guinness .

        

 We returned to the hotel and prepared for the next adventure, a full Donegal Tour.

                                                                       

 

 

 

 

 

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