Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Lovely Northern Ireland Coast

Good Morning from across the Pond! This will be a blog post from both Regina and Mary!
Regina: Although we are far from home, the day started out in a normal fashion, I slept through my alarm and Katherine had to stir me from my slumber for our morning run. All three of the Mount Aloysius girls--Rosalie, Whit, and Tonya joined us. We took a left out of Farset International and ran up the hill/mountain that Liam took us on last night! It was so neat to see all of the murals and now have the background of them too! Although it was raining, it was still a gorgeous view, filled with plush green grass, cows and horses!
From here on, this is from the voice of Regina and Mary, the duo that conquered Giant’s Causeway and Beyond!!!!!
Of course Regina snoozed on the bus ride to Giant’s Causeway, as Mary enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Nothing so far prepared us for the “Brilliant” view that Giant’s Causeway had in store for us!
As we stepped off of the bus, we attempted to adjust to the gusty winds and extremely cool temperature. It was more than a wee bit cold that morning on the coast! The sky was gray at the moment, but the ever changing Irish weather left us hopeful that the sun would be shining shortly! Finding ourselves only 11 miles off the coast of Scotland, there were contemplations of just running o the shore across the sea. Since that would be nearly impossible, we decided to climb all over the oddly uniformed hexagonal columns of Basalt, which scientifically were formed by an old volcano around 60 million years ago. The lovely Irish with their fantastic imaginations know that the columns were formed by the Giant Fin McCool throwing stones around in competition with a giant form the nearby Scotland.
After nearly slipping off the piles of damp columns, we saw a windy and steep gravel path that wrapped around the mountain. Of course, being eager to explore, we trucked up the path. Mary, of course, got distracted by all of the beauty that we were immersed in taking a million pictures and causing her camera to go dead halfway through the excursion. Regina was busy touching all of the red rocks and practically everything else around! Words cannot express the feelings that overwhelmed us as we explored this natural wonder. One thing that could not escape our thoughts, was how we both wished our mother’s were with us to share in the beauty. We made plans to bring our mothers back with us when we have children, so that they can share the experience and of course watch the kids when we venture out to the pubs! Sorry Moms!!! Word’s really cannot express feelings that engulfed us at Giant’s Causeway, so pictures will have to suffice.
The next adventure was along the magnificent Northern coast of Ireland. We visited Dunlace Castle, which partly fell into the ocean, bringing down a handful of servants. Once again, the view was spectacular, and the grass lush and soft. It was so soft that Regina lay down and just rolled around and down the hills in it. The sun was out, the sky was blue and we’ve never seen an ocean so blue. The drive down the coast was incredible on the perilous yet gorgeous back roads that followed the ocean. Awe filled the bus as everyone snapped pictures, pointed out the sheep (which are spray painted according to each farmer), and just soaked in a sight we could have never created in our wildest dreams. The next destination was Carrick-A-Redge Rope Bridge. The “wee” bit of gust our new Irish friends claim are normal kept blowing us away, so we enjoyed the view from afar rather than crossing the rickety rope bridge that is suspended between to high cliffs. Everyone was giddy and breathless from trying to capture everything to store into memory. The views we took in today will be special places in our memory, which we can always go to when stress takes over. 
Our final stop of the day was a place called Corrymeela, In the gorgeous town of Ballycastle, which roughly translated is the lumpy crossing place. It’s a safe haven for Protestants and Catholics to come and discuss the “troubles,” and anything else in a safe environment. The grounds included housing for volunteers, housing for those visiting the center and workplaces. It was founded in 1965 by Ray Davie. We were given the history as well as a rundown of what typically goes on during sessions, such as a puppet game. Again, it was situated on a high, jagged, cliff along the beautiful coast. Next to the view. the best part was the traditional Irish food of stuffing wrapped in steak, potatoes and carrots. The dessert was coco-rice-krispie treat in a custard. Listening to the volunteers talk about the mission of Corrymeela was as addicting as their energy was contagious.
               The GMC group outside on the grounds of Corrymeela
On our way back to Farset, our bus was driving down the streets of Belfast and we saw Bonfires that were as tall as buildings with the British Flag pinned to the sides. One bonfire was a building down or two from our hostel. Joe, our nice Irish receptionist told us that the bonfires mark the beginning of “Interment” which was when the British soldiers came around the Catholic areas and randomly arrested Catholic citizens. Some of the students from Mount Aloysius walked down and talked to one of the teens building the fire. He referred to the night as “Bonfire” night and explained how bonfires are a form of competition between Catholics and Protestants, and how the Protestants always win, because they are more privileged. The bonfires were lit and burned all through the night causing most of the gates along the peace walls to be closed off.
                                  One of the bonfires in Belfast
Our receptionist Joe is quite helpful, he calls our cabs and sent us to the “Bot”, Botanical Inn, or as us Americans referred to it as the “Butt.” Although Joe claimed it would be “hopping,” the only ones who were there were Regina, Beth, Kellie, Kate, Steven and Kady. It was nice to have a place to just sit and talk and converse with the local bartenders. Since there were “troubles” through the city and specifically the road where we were staying it took us forever to get a cab. The security guards Mario (from Croatia), and Paul (from Poland) kept us company as we waited. Paul helped Regina practice some of her Polish phrases.
Finally a cab came and driving around it seemed as though all of the bonfires were out, but around midnight Joe took some of us out to the balcony to watch multiple bonfires. No matter what direction I looked I could see a bonfire. There was lots of fire and smoke. Joe explained that during the Parade Season there would be more bonfires and how it is merely a way of life for the teens in Belfast. It was enlightening to have someone who’s lived through many Bonfire nights to comfort us as we questioned the point of such chaos.

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