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Day Six: Titanic in Belfast underground music in Dublin by Ann Treacy
August 18, 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Belfast, Dublin

Day Six was a travel day but we made the most of it! Aine and I got up early and went to the Titanic Museum. Aine is an expert in the Titanic. She has loved it for years and I had to laugh at how much I knew because Aine likes to share what she knows. For example – the old lookout guy was moved to another ship right before the maiden launch. He took the binoculars (or maybe the key to the binoculars) with him, which of course hindered the spotting of the iceberg. We have been to several Titanic exhibits over the years. It is always chilling to think of how scary it must have been and the impact surviving such a tragedy would have on the rest of your life. Watching so much life and death and the best and the worst of people. From Margaret (Molly) Brown, the woman who helped others onto the lifeboats to J, Bruce Ismay, he worked for the shipping company but somehow found his way onto a lifeboat – perhaps taking the last seat available.

After that Aine and I walked around town until the girls and Sean met us at the bus station. We did get to St George’s Market, a fun food market where they have tons of spices and fish and plenty of food to eat on site. And we stopped in the Belfast City Hall.

Then the bus to Dublin. Unremarkable – until we saw the place we will be placing in for the next week. It is gorgeous! There are three bedrooms, two living rooms, a patio and a fully stocked kitchen. The woman who owns it had filled the fridge with “everything Irish” from smoked salmon to brown bread and digestives. Aine and Kate especially were so happy. It wasn’t the food their Irish grandma would have had waiting but I think the fact that there was food waiting reminded them of when we used to come stay with Irish grandma. It was a very thoughtful gesture, more meaningful than the host even intended I suspect.

We are staying behind Trinity a few blocks from Merrion Park – home to my favorite Oscar Wilde statue. It’s not as central as the last place – but it’s even better. It’s not as loud with partying tourists and the place is so nice. We hung out and eventually Lily and I went to dinner. I finally got a bowl of seafood chowder!! It was worth the wait. And the it turns out everyone met us at the pub, including a cousin of Sean who then took most of us to an surprise gig by The Murder Capital. So much fun! Probably will not be repeated again while we’re here but totally worth it.

Day Two in Belfast: Black taxi tour and dinner with friends by Ann Treacy
August 17, 2019, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Belfast

I was reminded that teenagers like to sleep way more than visit anything. So I walked around Mary’s place in Belfast in the morning. It was great. As fast and as far as I wanted. And no one asked me for anything. I walked through some parks. Saw lovely vistas and pretty good street art.

Then by 2pm I made everyone get up for the Black Taxi tour of political murals. We did it when the girls were very young and it’s so good we did it again. Joe was our driver and gave us the quickest history of the Northern Ireland ever – starting with 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne. The battle was really about who was the rightful king of England (King James or King William). The fight wasn’t really about Ireland or religion; in fact it wasn’t about religion at all but it was the first step in a long step that led to the troubles.

I won’t recount everything – you can find a podcast on it I’m sure but only highlight two things that struck me. (I’ve heard the story many, many times. And for folks who don’t know, I have a MA in Irish Lit. But it seems like everything I hear the story something new bubbles up.)

The start of modern troubles begins in 1912, when the 32 counties of Ireland were divided into 26 (Republic of Ireland) and 6 (Northern Ireland). It was a compromise of sorts but a compromise that favors the Loyalists (folks who liked England and were generally Protestant) over the Nationalists (mostly Catholic) – despite the Nationalists being a strong majority nationwide. In fact, North Ireland was gerrymandered to create a Loyalist majority for the area. Joe pointed out that this is where things should have gone differently. A peaceful protest or other movement should have pushed for the will of the people in 1912. (Inspires me for more Women’s March work!)

From 1912-1916 there were uprising but few and far between – until Easter Rising 1916 when Nationalist volunteers took over the GPO (General Post Office) to defend Ireland. It lasted for 6 days, which is pretty impressive, then the rebels were captured and many sentenced to death. While public interest in the movement had been middling until that point, the executed rebels (the idea, the image, the romance) turned the public. And that spurred a renewed interest in a free and united Ireland.

The troubles continued with lesser and greater fervor until last 1960s, early 1970s. Uprisings happened. Rebels were arrested and treated as political prisons. It wasn’t always front page stuff until Margaret Thatcher decided to not call IRA volunteers political prisoners but treat them as criminals – starting with wearing a regular uniform instead of criminal uniform in prison. But the rebels weren’t having it. Instead of a criminal clothes, the prisoners went naked with blanket protest. (Only had blankets.) That stirred troubles that eventually lead to the Hunger Strikers and that (like the executed rebels) struck a chord. People paid attention again. Bobby Sands (most famous Hunger Striker) was voted into political office (MP) while in prison.

Fast forward to today. A ceasefire was signed with the IRA with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

As Joe pointed out, the crease fire has brought much greater investment and return than the troubles ever did. We did speculate about what will happen in the wake of Brexit. Most people in Northern Ireland would prefer to stay with the EU than the UK. Brings us back to 1912 – will the will  of the people be heeded and what romantic image might it take to spur interest.

SO there’s a long winded recap of our time on the tour. It was interesting to see what the girls remembered. Lily remembered the memorial to a Catholic community that had been burned out of their homes while police stood by (or worse). They all remembered the Peace Wall that separated Catholic from Protestant parts of town. The murals tell the story. And the murals continue to be painted. Our friend Mary had just helped with one and I loved the recent-ish mural on Resiliency. One strange push we saw near Sandy Row (and really in the UK Flag demonstration we saw the next day) was the push by some people to celebrate and remember the oppressors. It very much reminded me of the discussion back home of changing the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

In short – the back taxi tour gave us so much to think about!

Then we enjoyed a really nice dinner with our hosts Mary and Ricky. Mary generously invited us to stay in her place, drove us around, gave us great ideas for activities. And it was a delight to catch up with Mary again – we worked together 30 years ago at the Half Time Rec!

Day One in Belfast: Street art and everyone is together by Ann Treacy
August 16, 2019, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Belfast

Thursday was a travel day. Aine, Kate and I took the bus to Belfast. It’s a trip we’ve done many times. We met up with Lily and Sean here. I have to give a special shout out to Mary, a long time friend who has given us her whole flat for a couple days. And so much great advice on where to go and what to see. And it’s just great to see her. (Mary and I worked together at the Half Time Rec many years ago.)

When we got here we walked around. We ate at Pizza Express, which is something Aine has been looking forward to for a long time. She just remembers going there as a kid. SO we went there and then got the bird’s eye view of the city in the big elevator in Victoria Shopping Center. It was sunny and we could see for miles. And on our walk we saw the giant Belfast fish, a favorite of mine and lots of street art.

At night Lily, Sean and I went out to the Duke of York and a couple places around there for a pint and to see some live bands.

Belfast Children’s Festival – last minute super star Aine! by Ann Treacy
March 12, 2014, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Belfast

Aine and I decided to take a day trip to Belfast. That way our family teenagers could enjoy a night at friends unhindered and we get out and see something fun. Belfast is about 2.5 hours away from Dublin by bus (add an extra hour to get from Cabinteely to town) so it’s a jaunt but a fun one. And the super luxury of visiting a place like Belfast again is that we didn’t feel like we had to see any of the big sights. We mostly went to have lunch with a friend and check out the Belfast Children’s Festival.

I was excited to see a special event at the festival – performers from Catalonia (past home of mine) were there doing fancy hair stuff. I know that Catalonia knows how to put on a show. And when we got to their performance I was not disappointed – there where doing hairstyles that would make Dr Seuss proud. Much to our delight – Aine was selected to be a model. So that made the event even more fun.

Also it was fun to catch up with an old friend and to hear how things in Belfast were going. I think they may be experiencing some growing pains as different cultures (and some not-so-new) cultures learn to coexist.

Personal Tour of Belfast City Hall: aka we met the Mayor of Belfast! by Ann Treacy
March 8, 2014, 11:17 am
Filed under: Belfast

OK I’m on a bus to Belfast – months after this summer visit but I’m going to make a real effort to catch up the blog a little bit while I’m on the bus today. Last summer Mary and I got the best hook up from my friend Bobby. He got us in with Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell to give us a personal tour of Belfast City Hall. I’d been in the building a few times in the past – but never for a personal tour! Mary Ellen is Sinn Fein – and the Lord Mayor is Sinn Fein, subsequently we got a very Sinn Fein tour of the building, government and history.

It was interesting to see what Sinn Fein was doing to try to balance the Irish and English threads of Belfast’s history. Efforts were being made to blend the gold, green white with the red white and blue. Some efforts seemed more successful that others – I was impressed that there was definitely an effort for blending though – not replacing. Also we heard about how open Sinn Fein is. We missed the big Gay Pride Parade by just a few days. Apparently, outside of St Patrick’s Day, it is one of the largest events of the year – bringing in lots of tourism and the event is embraced by the local government.

Our super score was a quick visit to meet the Lord Mayor, who gave us super fun gifts and snapped up a quick picture for Twitter. So it’s not every day I get Twitpicked with anyone famous. It very much made our day!!

A personal tour of Belfast by Ann Treacy
June 25, 2013, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Belfast

We landed in Belfast after a very full and partially Amazing Race kinda travel day from Tobermory. We covered a ton of ground – but when we landed in Belfast my friend Mary was waiting for us! Which was totally unnecessary and totally appreciated! We headed out for a pint or two at McHugh’s, which was fun. The next day we took a whirlwind tour of Belfast.

Mary is from Belfast and did a great job touring us around. We started with St Pat’s – where Mary had been married and where much of the consternation regarding the recent flag flying had taken place. We saw the Belfast Cathedral, the Victoria shopping center, the big fish, lots of shopping, especially some nice secondhand places, Linen Library and a ton of other things as we toured around. It was interesting to hear about the recent history of Belfast from Mary who lived through much of it.

Then – and I super appreciate it – Mary brought us down the Falls Road to see the murals. I think the murals are fascinating. I have seen them before but I thought Mary would enjoy them – and of course I never mind seeing them again. I think they are such a testament to the recent history. We also visited the Milltown Cemetery – which includes many IRA members. It was interesting to see the graves and to travel out a bit.

Finally we had a really nice dinner and a few drinks at the Duke of York, which has a cool alley/patio for drink, which I feel is pretty optimistic of them given the weather.

Belfast to the Boat by Ann Treacy
April 6, 2010, 11:09 am
Filed under: Belfast

We’re officially on vacation! It was a quickly devised plan – but a good one. We’re heading to Edinburgh. As Irish Grandma says, we’re taking the slow boat to Scotland. We started yesterday by taking the bus to Belfast. We headed into town where we saw (from a distance) and commemoration event at the GPO (General Post Office) for the 1916 Easter Rising. We could have joined the event but we were a family on a mission – lunch, new shoes and bus. It did make me think that it wasn’t so long ago that a bus trip from Dublin to Belfast during the Easter holidays might not make Fromme’s list of safest vacations.

Anyways we got to Belfast. We had about an hour left of daylight so we ran around the city center for a while. We saw the City Hall, Langan River and a bunch of empty shops. Apparently they take Easter Monday more seriously in Belfast. Even the Crown Bar was closed for a few days – the girls were bummed. (Actually they have been in the Crown Bar but they didn’t love it in the way they don’t love most pubs.) We ran into some troubles finding a restaurant that would take kids. We’ve noticed before that on the one hand Belfast pubs are generally better than Dublin pubs; on the other hand it’s tough to find a place that serves food and kids – because so many restaurants are pubs.

We ate. The girls drew a picture of their wishes. I had to add Kate’s (below). Apparently she’s not really looking forward to the boat.

We slept in our very OK but definitely right-prices hotel. We walked for about 20 minutes and went to the Stena Line launch – and that’s where we are now. We’ll take the boat to Stanraer and train to Edinburgh.

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