I have discovered that I’m essentially a cave dweller. If I don’t have an outside goal for the day, I’m very happy to stay inside my house reading, or watching TV, or playing games on my iPod, or getting on my computer and checking out the internet. I decided that it would be singularly stupid of me to pay all the money and go through all the stress of getting to Ireland, if I didn’t get out and see something of the country, so my goal became to go out and visit at least one landmark a day.
After a wonderful night’s rest, I had breakfast at the hotel and asked the desk how a person could take a tour of Belfast on a double decker bus. It turned out that they have a Hop-on Hop-off sightseeing tour. The best part of that was that the start of the tour was within walking distance of my hotel! After the adventures in my car the day before, I decided that it would be best if I limited my driving! Taking my courage in hand, I strode out to meet the day and found the bus place with the help of a couple of nice people. There was an open seat on the top deck just for me! We had a great tour of the city. We drove by the shipyard where the Titanic was built. It’s a big museum now, and you can walk through, seeing pictures of those who set sail on the Titanic. There were bits and pieces of things that had been saved from the wreck and it was quite a moving display.
We drove by the parliament buildings where there were still bullet holes from the Troubles in the 1970s. There was still some unrest in the city, and you had to be careful how you dressed if you went to some of the pubs. There is sadness in the history of Ireland.
The English conquered it in the 1100s, and, at some point, they brought over some Scots Protestants into the Northeastern part of Ireland to try to settle the country. These transplanted Scots became known as Scotch-Irish and one of them emigrated to America and became an ancestor of my dad’s mother.
Coming back from the tour, I stopped by a Tourist Information Center. These are great places scattered throughout Ireland where you can get stuff to remind you of your trip. I found some marvelously scented candles and soaps from Bog Standard. This has since changed its name to Field Day and I still buy some candles from them. I was also introduced to Thomas Joseph. A charming artist who creates whimsical cards.
I collected more maps of Ireland and pamphlets that talked about the wonders to see in Northern Ireland. Worn out but feeling more settled, I found my way back to my hotel and had fish and chips for supper. (It seemed appropriate!)
The next day I braved the road from Belfast to Eniskillen and my first bed and breakfast, Willowbank House. My hotel was on the south side of Belfast, so I basically just had to drive west following a very clear map provided by the front desk clerks. After almost running headlong into a bus, I found the road and got along very well. I was still praying my favorite prayer (“Oh, God! Oh, God! Oh God!”) but it had settled down from stark panic to concern.
I found the turnoff to Willowbank and headed south on a generous one-lane road. This is when I discovered how wide my car was! It would have been a tight fit if I had met another car, but I didn’t, and I was able to get tucked into Willowbank.
One of the things that I noticed about Ireland is that everything is close by. The distances are so much greater in western Kansas that everyone just naturally jumps into their car to go anywhere. In Ireland, most everyone parks their car and walks. That was kind of a problem because they had parking meters and I was never too sure how much money to put in!