Monday, October 17, 2016

Scotland + Ireland: Belfast Day 10

Ohmagaaaah. It's taken me forever to get to sharing our last day in Ireland. Partly because fall has been crazy, somewhat because I took a gazillion photos that day, and mostly because I still haven't completely processed that day or figured out exactly how I wanted to share it. But at the risk of forgetting many important details, I figured I'd forge ahead.

We spent our last day of the entire trip taking a road trip up to Northern Ireland. I had mixed feelings about taking the kids. I was a little worried that by the end of our trip they'd be OVER road tripping. And I was worried about how to appropriately share with them the inevitable subject matter we'd encounter on our trip north. But I was incredibly glad that we took them. Once we decided to go, I also wanted to tack on an additional jaunt up to see The Giant's Causeway, which looks insanely cool and right up their alley. But we ended up spending so much time in Belfast that another stop just wasn't possible. Another thing to add on our return list to do, but I actually think we were all emotionally spent from Belfast anyway, so if we did The Giant's Causeway we would have needed a night in between to regroup.

We hired a guide through a Black Cab Tour company and ended up getting a really thought provoking, insightful (while still humorous) tour of the city. We started out stopping at the neutral city hall, and getting a peek at the outside of the new Titanic Belfast Museum (the site where the Titanic was built) and the Game of Thrones sound stage (many of the show's scenes are filmed there).

Then our guide drove us to the Protestant side of the city first, stopping at various points along the way to show us particular sites of interest, including the actual wall that still divides the city (and is locked at nights and over weekends). He provided a great overview of "The Troubles" as well as giving us his own thoughts about how the country is working to heal. It was pretty insane to see it all in person and we all struggled to understand how this kind of divide exists today. I know full well that divisive hatred exists in the U.S. as well, but no one in our family is used to seeing such overt physical representations of that on a daily basis (and the kids might not recognize it as such anyway). The kids had a tough time comprehending it at the beginning, but I actually think visiting the murals, walls, and memorials was a good way of bringing the concept home for all of us.

We stopped at one point along the Freedom Wall to contribute our own thoughts, and then moved on to the Catholic side of the city. We made a brief stop at a church to light a candle for my very Irish grandmother who passed last summer, and then continued looking at more murals about the conflict.

Our tour guide finished up by dropping us at the wonderful St. George's Market where we wanted to grab a quick lunch. The market was starting to close up when we arrived, but we were still able to snag some delicious lunch from various vendors, listen to some local music, and do a bit of shopping. We could have spent much more time there if we'd had it!

After lunch, we walked our way over to The Crown Liquor Saloon, one of Belfast's oldest pubs that sports pretty incredible Victorian gin palace design and decor. Kids aren't allowed in the pub, so they did a little roaming about with their grandparents while the rest of us grabbed a last pint. We all sadly piled back in the van to return to Dublin for our last night. Everyone was taking off at different times the next day and we very sadly said our final goodbyes before packing up and hitting the sack!

It was such an absolutely fantastic vacation and both Ireland and Scotland will remain on our wanderlust lists for return trips!

That does it for our Scotland + Ireland posts!

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