Tag Archives: murals

Day 7: Out of Northern Ireland and into Donegal

After I had recovered my composure about my second potential nude sleepwalking venture, we headed out of town, stopping at the glorious beach.  Way too cold to swim, of course, but lovely to walk along:

A few hours drive from Portrush brought us finally to Londonderry/Derry, where Bloody Sunday happened.  It's also one of the oldest walled cities in Europe and very pretty.  We spent some time walking around the wall before we got our day's fix of political murals.

Uh, yeah, this is blackface.  Pretty offensive blackface, at that.  There must be some explanation?

Meg atop the Roaring Meg:

Stopped in this pub briefly, where an old drunken lady sang along to the Westlife music video and asked H if she could kiss him:

We spent a long time watching this car get repo'd:

Finally, we got to the Bogside, home of the nationalist murals and the Free Derry corner:

There are many more where that came from, but I feel I've been overselling these murals.  Finally, reluctantly, we left Derry and Northern Ireland.  You could tell immediately when you crossed the border into the Republic, as the road got suddenly much narrower and shittier.  We stopped in a supermarket for supplies right before Donegal and saw this notice by the bathrooms:

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Day 6: Northern Ireland

Before leaving Belfast, we decided to have a stroll around the (amazingly stinky) river and check out East Belfast, where we saw, wait for it…more murals!

Another peace line:

Guess what this is?  Not a fortress or a prison, it's just a police station, and we saw many in Northern Ireland that looked like this:

Nearly the opposite of West Belfast, the Protestant area of East Belfast was more cheerful than the Catholic section, but again, not at all scary.

The cranes that helped build the Titanic. They are called Samson and Goliath:

If you need more mural photos (and who doesn't?!), I made a handy dandy set of them.

On our way out of the city (actually, it was the opposite direction, but not far from Belfast), we went to the awesome Ulster Transport Museum.  With tons of old cars, trains, motorcycles, and some Titanic stuff, I called it the zoo for boys, but actually I was more excited to go than H!  I took a gazillion photos of everything, which proved less interesting when I looked at them later, but here are some highlights:

The De Lorean, another Belfast product, looks way uglier in person.  Ah, the 80s, they thought it looked really cool:

Cute recreation of a train station newsstand:

Thought this was cool and a bit dangerous:

Funny diorama of the Night Bus, the late night bus that traditionally takes all the drunkies home.  See, the old ladies are all shocked and disapproving, the dude on the left is having smoke and the woman next to him is checking out her ripped stockings:

More neat things:

For the Deadwood fans:

We spent far too long at the museum, but it was a really fun outing and got us wondering why no one is making cool cars anymore.  What happened to the bubble car and other odd but fun designs?  Why do Europeans have so many more cool tiny cars than Americans?  We saw cars there that made the Mini Cooper look like an SUV. 

We planned to drive up the Antrim coast, loosely following the route taken by my esteemed former colleague, and land somewhere for the night in either Portrush or Londonderry.  If I had it all to do again, we would have spent more time enjoying the glens of Antrim and the coast, rather than just trying to get from point A to point B before dark.

Paranoid I might lose this, so posting…

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Day 5: West Belfast: Murals! Murals! Murals!

As I mentioned before, everyone says you *have* to take a Black Taxi tour of West Belfast and the murals.  But H, averse to any thing that even hints at tour, was determined we could do it ourselves without a guide.  After some breakfast in the beautiful Great Room at the hotel, we went out to figure out what bus to take. The Belfast bus system is fantastic, all lines begin and end around City Hall, have easy to follow routes, and an all-day pass costs about $5.  Before getting on the bus, we did go inside to see the exhibit at City Hall, but missed out on a tour as they were in session.  Saw the Christmas tree light switch that Bill Clinton pulled when he visited Belfast (they, like me, are big fans of The Bill) and the building is lovely:

Armed only with the vague idea that we should get to the Falls Road area to see murals, we got a bus to Falls Road and just got off when we saw a mural.  Easy-peasy.  For ease of posting and reading, I made a set of all the murals photos: West & East Belfast murals

Falls Road is the Catholic section of West Belfast that has seen a lot of violence, but it's nothing like I expected.  Safe, working-class, sorta like Queens, even a bit boring.  We wandered into a cemetery, which was sad to see many who were killed very young in the worst years of the Troubles.  Some of the graves were like MENSA test questions: "Here lies our mother, Mary Rose, in loving memory by Jack and Shannon. Also her son, John Joe.  Also our uncle, Patrick Riley.  And my wife, Sheila. And our grandfather, John Joe."  Whaaa?

Most of the murals are pretty peaceful, mourning the lost or supporting other causes:

Pub on Fells Road (which had snugs!):

Had to explain the humor of this to H:

Without trying, we somehow stumbled onto the ironically-named peace line dividing the Catholic from the Protestant neighborhood.  They still close these things at night!

Despite the ever-present development all over Belfast, the Shankill Road Protestant/Loyalist area is far more depressing than Falls.  And more interesting:

The murals are a lot grimmer and more hostile, as well:

At one point, we wandered by a large lot, filled with broken furniture and wood:

As we stood looking at it and taking pictures, a Scottish minister approached us (he was wearing a collar and said "Have ye any English?", that's how I knew he was a Scottish minister) and told us about the wood.  Apparently, each July 12th, there is a large bonfire to commemorate the Battle of Boyne, victory by William of Orange over the Catholics.  It happened in 1690, yo!  The Scot said the piles would get much higher, and if you look it up on Flickr (belfast bonfire or july 12 bonfire), you will see that they did.  He told us about some of his parishioners, who had their homes damaged by the fire's smoke and heat, and how the peace line next to his (Presbyterian) church shut every night.  He told us about the "thugs" were celebrated as heroes by extremists, though he takes no side in the conflict.  Then the Scot told us all about his favorite Belfast guy, C.S. Lewis.  I learned more about the Troubles and C.S. Lewis standing on a street corner in Belfast than I ever could (or wanted to, in the case of C.S. Lewis) on a Black Taxi tour.  We might have been standing there all day but (thank God, no pun intended) the Scot had a meeting to get to, but invited us to come to service the next Sunday and he'd take us to lunch.  It was a Tuesday and we were leaving the next day, but it was a nice invitation.  I looked him up when we got back to send him a note, it turns out his name is Jack Lamb!  My maiden name is Lamb!  Small world!  Don't think I'm related to any Scot ministers, but neat!

We wandered a bit more of the neighborhood, which wasn't scary at all, but I wouldn't recommend to most tourists to wander there by yourself.  We're just hardcore like that, I guess.  Cool to see a mural being painted:

I think it was going to be something to do with Oliver Cromwell. Or maybe Vikings.  Or pirates!  Okay, maybe not pirates. 

Grimmest community center ever:

On that cheery note, I say good day sirs!

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