Day 9 – British Isles:  Dublin to Belfast

 

We left Dublin en route to Belfast in Northern Ireland.  On the way, we stopped at Malahide Castle.  The castle has been owned for nearly 800 years by the Talbot family.  The end of the family property came recently when Rose couldn’t pay the inheritance tax after her brother died.  It worked out because the 93 year old also passed on ending the Talbot lineage.

Originally, the castle was just a tower with three floors.  On the top were family bedrooms.  The middle used for entertaining.  And the bottom level served as a kitchen.  At night, the servants AND the animals used the first floor also for sleeping.  The animals being inside heated the rest of the castle.  These first occupants used a staircase on the outside of the tower.  Future Talbots added on, brought stairs in and added a fourth level and put the servants up there.  On the third floor was an historic certificate signed by the Archbishop Walsh of Dublin.  And even spookier was a framed picture in the bedroom looking like my dad in a crown and cape.

I really enjoyed the tour.  I’m taking away two interesting nuggets.  Back in the day, women’s makeup was made out of wax.  To ensure they ‘didn’t lose face’ or ‘save face’ (I love language origination stories), the ladies sat with a screen between them and the fireplace.  The other tale was one time 14 Talbot men sat down for breakfast before a battle and only one returned that evening.  Interesting stuff.

We drove on to Belfast where we swapped our guide for a local gal named Rosemary.  The Belfast accent is thicker with a bit of a twang.  She was delightful.  She pointed out the sites but also told us about The Troubles, 1960-1994.  Belfast has a volatile reputation for Protestants fighting Catholics.  Rosemary said it’s not religion based.  In Belfast, there are 4 cultures:  Irish, British, Irish-British, British-Irish.  The folks that are more British minded tend to be Protestants.

The conflict started over unfairness in employment and public and social housing. Today, no one is able to penalize people based on gender, age, religion or disability.  Belfast is very thankful for President Clinton’s part in the peace process.  He stayed at our hotel, Europa.  The hotel is now nicknamed “the maternity place of the peace process.”  Art work around town illustrates The Troubles.  A “peace wall” now separates the feuding folks.  Rosemary made it sound like the duress is in the past.  She bragged about the increasing nightlife.  Still, why do you need a wall to keep the peace?  We also saw signs encouraging people to travel together.  The sign indicated it was an emergency contact spot.  We think a police officer must be on nightly patrol there.      

I snapped a picture of this building’s quote:  a nation that keeps one eye on the past is wise.  A nation that keeps two eyes on the past is blind.  Interestingly, there is an upcoming celebration for the British-minded.  It’s a large bonfire in the middle of the street.  Now, that really sounds like playing with fire.

We also saw the Parliament House at Stormont, Queens University and the Albert Memorial Clocktower.  After 9 days, buildings are starting to take on a monotonous flavor.  The clocktower was cute and it leans four feet.  It was built on a wooden foundation that rotted due to the wetlands.  It is now fortified with concrete so the lean is at its permanent position.

We are staying at the Europa.  Directly across is Robinson’s Bar established in 1895.  It has a china doll on display that was salvaged from the Titanic.  It’s a bittersweet memory of that tragedy but more about the Titanic tomorrow.  Next door to Robinson’s is Crown Liquor Saloon established in 1873.  They are still lit by gas lights.  There are also these wooden private booth chambers for craic in private. They even have a door to shut out the public.  

We had a two-course meal in the private room on the second floor.  The three options were fish and chips, chicken and mushroom potpie and bangers and champ (sausage and potatoes).  The food rivaled our Granville experience.  The service was not even close to Niall’s crew.  It was very slow.  1-2 servers for 43 people!? Our table was served last so by the time we got our dessert, everyone was leaving.  Not a problem on another day but it was my Uncle Rog’s birthday.  Aunt Sue had bought two cakes to celebrate with our bus people. He blew the candles out and packed the cakes up.  

Jenny and I had a nightcap at the Europa bar.  David, our server, was a charmer.  He told us that The Troubles continue.  He said it might not be bombings but there is still strife. We loved that he is only 23 and has already traveled to the USA and other places.  He and his girlfriend are going to Asia for five months.  I encouraged him to get a part on Games of Thrones.  He’s a darling.  I’ll be looking for him on Season 5.  We even gave him the Walsh gang sign to work into a scene.  Games of Thrones is currently filming in Belfast…more tomorrow.     

 

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