Free Derry and Great Hospitality!

Trip Start May 30, 2012
Trip End Nov 07, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Friday, August 17, 2012

Continuing north from Galway, our next stop took us on a very scenic ride through small "mountains" out of the Republic of Ireland into Derry City, Northern Ireland. Our first impression of Derry was quite pleasant, despite the gruelling hike up the steep Derry hills to our hostel. Our hostel owners Liam and his wife, were running the hostel right out of their home. Most of the people we met in Ireland were extremely warm and friendly, and Liam fit that description perfectly. He was a very jolly fellow, and at times I could not understand him because of his accent, but he went out of his way to see that we had everything we needed. He even offered for us to switch rooms to the nicer top floor private room for a night because he had double booked our other room. After Jess and I settled in, and met a couple other people at the hostel, we went for a walk down toward the old city. Our original goal was to look for an ice cream shop, but we weren't having too much luck with that. Feeling a bit dejected, we were about to head back when we passed a movie theatre. Batman was playing at 8:00pm…and it was 7:55pm! It was a long shot, but we decided we would go see if there were any tickets left. Good news, there were! Actually the theatre was quite dead, and it was a Friday night. Anyways, we had excellent seats, and we didn’t have to wait in line at all.

The next morning Jess and I started our self-guided tour of Derry. It started with a walk along the River Foyle, to the Peace Bridge. Sound familiar? This pedestrian bridge was built to unite the long-time feuding groups of the west bank protestant side of the river, with the catholic east side. Derry has had a rough history of violence that in all reality did not happen too long ago. There was a strong military presence in Derry from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Civil rights protests caused a lot of unrest and lead to numerous clashes between the Irish Catholics and the British Police, including the infamous Bloody Sunday incident, and the Battle of the Bogside. Outside the old city walls on the west side are huge murals on the side of buildings representing different events from these “troubled” times. There are also murals of peace showing that Derry, and Northern Ireland in general, has come a long way since these times. Speaking of city walls, Derry is the only city in Ireland with a completely intact outer wall. It’s amazing! It’s about 1.5km long and can get up to 35 feet high at some points. There are cannons everywhere, and cute little churches that date back as old as the wall to the early 1600s. When Jess and I were walking along the wall, I spotted a guy standing by one of the cannons that looked really familiar. It was Richard, a fellow Aussie hosteller that we met back in Brasov Romania!! What are the odds?! Needless to say, Richard and I scheduled to go out for beers at a Derry pub that night to catch up. Jess sat this one out. We had a great time at the pub. I now know why all the movie theatres are dead during the evenings: it’s because everyone is at the pubs. It was packed, and extremely lively! It’s amazing that after 2 1/2 months of travel our paths crossed with a guy we met back in Romania. Richard was going the opposite way as Jess and I. We were headed northeast to eventually leave for Scotland, and Richard was headed south to the Republic of Ireland.

It was in this pub that Richard and I had the privilege of experiencing true Irish hospitality. I started talking with two local guys who were brothers and regulars at this pub. Very friendly and welcoming they were. When they found out that I was from Canada and Richard was from Australia, they insisted on buying us a baby Guinness shot. They told us they wouldn’t feel right until we experienced true Irish hospitality and had a baby Guinness on them. Wow, there aren’t any pubs that I have been to, at home or abroad, that show this kind of hospitality. Well done Derry!

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