Day one. North Ireland. We arrived in Belfast (above) at about 2:00 after a 2 1/2 hour ferry ride from Scotland. We checked in at the Pearl Guest House--an apartment of four bedrooms, bath, living room, kitchen (we bought cold cereal and milk for our breakfast) and washing machine (beats using a hotel bathroom sink). We then called Belfast Black Cabs Tours +44 (0) 7842 697 314 to arrange a tour of the murals of a divided Catholic/Protestant Belfast. Our delightful, informative, fast talking guide and driver Brian (a Catholic, but other drivers are Protestant--each giving his own bent to the narrative) showed up at our door step 15 minutes later and took us on a rainy 2 1/2 hour tour of the Catholic neighborhood along Falls street and then the Protestant neighborhood along Shankill Road. They are divided by an imposing wall with gates that close during the night. The wall does not extend forever so there are ways to get around it. It is thus nothing more than an inconvenience to keep the two opponents from interacting much or fighting each other. Things are certainly much better now in North Ireland now that it has more autonomy, its own parliament, and greater rights and opportunities for the Catholics, but his tour showed that there is still a long way to go. Like South Africa--on paper things look good, but in reality apartheid and the old divided/hostile IRA days of north Ireland still linger in many ways.
North Ireland Catholics sympathize with many other disenfranchised minority groups and individuals.
The Protestant side. They are descendants of Sottish and English Protestants who settled in Ireland hundreds of years ago. They want to remain a part of the UK while the Catholics want to be part of the Republic of Ireland. Once the Protestants made up 70% of the six counties of Ulster. Now they are down to 47% with the Catholics at about 44%.
The River Boyne. Its valley is home to some impressive neolithic sites called collectively Bru ua Boinne.
Entry way and fertility rock--very smooth on the inward side which indicates that early visitors to this site all ran their hands along this now much smoother side,
Some of the streets are now gated communities.
We enjoyed good Arab food for dinner (a meal we can always agree on) and then walked around Dublin Castle. One Norman tower from 1258 remains.
Bedford Tower flanked by gates topped with statues for justice (right) and fortitude (left). Built in 1750 when Ireland was still a British Colony, this was one last reminder of how the British viewed their presence in places far and near.