The Hands that Built America

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
Trip End Aug 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Granny's House

Flag of United Kingdom  , N Ireland,
Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Bristol to Belfast route is one that we have flown many times, but every time we book a flight it's a little different. It appears that both airlines are targeting the business traveler as the two daily flights are either first thing in the morning or late at night…or is that these are the cheapest slots for the airlines to buy? The route is operated by both Ryanair and Easyjet, and despite the slightly earlier departure time and marginally higher price, we opted for Easyjet; sometimes even a traveler has to put principles before cost ;-p

With bleary eyes (the result of an early morning and a few tears) we left Grandma and Poppy behind and Grampy drove us through thick pea-soup-fog to Bristol airport. Apparently a lot of flights leave Bristol early in the morning and the lines for the bag drop and security were exceedingly long. However, we made it on to the plane without any drama and even managed to get seats together.

It was Derek’s Uncle Jim who met us at the other end and before long we were sipping coffee with Auntie Margaret in their front room. After a lovely morning catching up with Jim and Margaret, Jim very kindly drove us Londonderry and we were back with Granny again by lunchtime. With only a few days to prepare after her European break, Granny was ready as always with the larders stuffed, and house as welcoming as ever. A leisurely afternoon followed before Uncle Trevor and Auntie Fiona arrived from England for the weekend - Granny’s house has never been so full!

Now that there were so many of us we couldn’t fit into one vehicle and we’re very grateful to Roger (Derek’s good, but way too kind, friend) and his sister for the loan of an extra vehicle for the weekend. With an extra set of wheels there was no stopping us; On Saturday we headed to Portrush, a typical British seaside town, where we walked along the seafront and spent a few hours of fun in Barrys, a small amusement park. Barrys may be small, but has some pretty good attractions and some of us managed to scare ourselves silly on one or two of the rides (The bigger they are, the better the scare!). One of the biggest draws of the visit should have been the parade of traditional tartan-clad pipe bands who’d been competing at a competition in Portrush all day, but an unfortunate downpour just before it started sent many people scurrying for cover and although Sarah and the kids saw a few of the bands, the return of the rain saw us also make an early exit.

On Sunday we made our way to the Ulster American Folk Park, a museum recalling the lives of the hardy souls who emigrated from Ulster to America in the 19th century. One of the sponsors of the Folk Park is the Mellon family, and the exhibition charts their family history, emigration to America, and ultimate successes as founders of the Mellon banking empire (more recently Chase-Mellon) and Gulf  Oil... truly the hands that built America and the American dream personified.Given our immigrant history, and imminent return visit to Derek’s mid-1980’s Chicago host Karla (from the Ulster project) it was quite a timely and appropriate visit. Unfortunately the day was again dominated by the weather and we were forced to run through a downpour leaving us all soaked – still, the kids enjoyed the park, and the rain didn’t seem to bother them as much as it did the older folks!

One of the highlights of Alex’s whole trip was scheduled for our final two days; Alex is an avid Manchester United fan and as we’ve travelled his devotion to the Reds has grown, so what could be more exciting for a little Red Devil than a two day training course with Manchester United Soccer Schools! Even though he knew his hero Wayne Rooney and namesake Sir Alex wouldn’t be there, Alex was a little nervous about the course and had some trouble getting to sleep the night before it started, but once he’d arrived and joined the rest of the boys he seemed to settle in well and had a great time "learning to play the united way".

As always in Northern Ireland we whiled away many a pleasant hour with lots of Derek’s extended family, sharing photo’s and stories from the trip (hope we didn’t bore you too much). And of course, Alex always looks forward to any time spent visiting his magical “Fairy Godmother” Susan (Derek’s cousin). When Lauren gets together with the girls, Emily & Annabel, for girlie fun you might think that Alex would be left out, but not a bit of it … all the more to show off to! Our departure from Grangewood and Granny was almost inevitably a tear-filled one with a certain little dinosaur stuffie left behind getting an un-representative share of the spoils. Granny drove us to the local airport (as she had almost everywhere else … more that she thought herself capable of I’m sure, and much appreciated) … and then we were off to Dublin on a plane with only 7 other passengers!

Now the countdown is on, just three more flights, two hotels and one more friend to catch up with before we return to Canada…..
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