Eugene Little, Black Cab Tours, took us to our first stop which was the Catholic Church in the upper strand area, then onto Shankill Road near the area where the loyalists tried to interfere with the republican parade a few weeks ago! The curb stones in this area are painted yearly, red white and blue, the flags, the Union Jack are displayed everywhere to celebrate on July 12th, the Battle of the Boyne. There has been so much violence here since 1922 when Northern Ireland was created! Major fencing surrounds seniors homes, schools, even back yards. Even fencing around new construction is destroyed to disrupt their work if the development is somehow controversial. Check out ‘The Holy Cross Satire’, for a better history! Passing out of the Shankill area, we stopped by the wall separating the Protestant/Loyalist and Catholic/Republican (or Nationalist) areas.This wall is 3 1/2 miles long, 45 feet high and took 2 years 3 months to build. There are gates that can be closed to completely separate the two areas, and they have been closed a few times this year.
‘The Children’s Committee’ In 1982 sent 30 kids on a trip to North America to give them a chance to connect with each other. Half were Catholic, half were Protestant. They threw them together in inter-denominational pairs in foreign homes where they only had each other and they bonded out of necessity. Most are still friends today. This project continued for quite a few years.
‘Our divided society can be a better place to live – there are great opportunities for Northern Ireland, we just have to grasp them – David Ervine.’ – written on the wall.
Clonard, the Catholic area has a memorial listing casualties for ‘only’ the victims of their neighbourhood. All other Catholic neighbourhoods do the same! But these Catholic communities are moving on and have removed all graffiti murals and are fixing up their surroundings. But on the houses adjacent to the wall, instead of sun rooms over their patios,there are metal cages, in case objects are thrown over from the Loyalist side of the wall.
Next, we stopped at The International Wall! Eugene explained the significance of each mural. Read up on it, it’s truly heart wrenching. This tour is essential in piecing together the political and religious history of this awesome city and divided country!
Back at our hotel, we packed up, had lunch and walked across the road to visit the parliament buildings, the beautiful estate with expansive lawns and gardens. Somewhere in there is the Stormont castle, but we didn’t see it, nor did we get in to see the parliament either because of the bank holiday, we did thoroughly enjoy our walk up to the building and back to our hotel!
Then we headed into Belfast, I checked out the Europa Hotel, while Brian had a coffee in the lounge (fabulous hotel and great location for my tour next year).
Off again, this time to dinner at James Street South. We met Robert, Ruth and Rachel for our last meal with some of the Irish Greers. We enjoyed a wonderful steak meal! I’m very happy that I’ll be bringing my tour here next August!
After our goodbye, sad to be leaving but delighted to have met our new found family, we headed to the airport for our flight to Glasgow. Somehow Brian got us to the gate of an Easy Jet flight to Manchester, but with minimal panic we got to the right gate and squeezed into the plane to Glasgow. I was too busy writing my blog to pay attention!!!!
We arrived in Glasgow picked up our car and arrived at the Indigo Hotel around 11pm! After we checked in, we took the time to help the staff discuss where the planters should be located at the front entrance of the hotel – what fun!!!
After all the stress of the gate mix-up at the Belfast airport plus driving the new mid-size car through Glasgow, Brian had worked up quite an appetite and needed a BLT from room service before he could sleep.
Into another chapter of our trip!