Northern Ireland Changed

Trip Start May 30, 2010
Trip End Aug 15, 2010

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Flag of Ireland  , County Donegal,
Thursday, June 17, 2010

We spent the past three days in Northern Ireland. Chris and I bicycled through the north in 1994, a time when there was short-term peace but the military presence was everywhere, partisan leanings were clear, and the people generally seemed tense.  This time, everything was different!  One man we spoke with in County Down said that people are generally happier and more relaxed now than ever before.

Any appreciation of the 20th century unrest in Northern Ireland was lost on Andy and Liam, but they were quite taken with the city walls and gates of Derry and the cannons still pointing out from atop the city walls.  Liam desperately wanted to find a cannon store to purchase a cannon ball to shoot.

This time, the only way to tell that we had crossed into the north was the notice that the roads were measured in miles rather than kilometers.  No border stoppings, no armored tanks, no machine-gun toting soldiers to literally bump into.

Andy liked Belfast best because it is the first national capital in Europe that he has seen.  Liam liked Derry best because of the walled city.  This visit with the children is different in so many more ways than the absence of a military presence.   On our earlier bicycle trip we spent two nights in Derry, walking nearly every street in the city, finding music in the pubs of the Bogside, and talking with locals.  With kids, it's an open air museum of ancient history.  They wanted to know more about the Apprentice Boys and the history of 1690 than they did the history of 1972.  They just wanted to find an castle in Derry to make their fantasy complete.  We did speak with a local (sporting a green and white mohawk) about the apprentice boys lodge, which the boys were unhappy with because it was locked.  We decided then to go looking for the cannon store.

We've lucked out with the weather--it's been mostly dry days, with absolutely brilliant sun as we played at the Giant's Causeway.  The boys liked scrambling around on the rocks.  Liam especially like the story of Finn MacCool and how he built the causeway to Scotland with the hexagonal stones.  We were pleased to learn that Finn's wife shares the name Oonagh with our friend!

We stayed on the end of the Inishowen Peninsula last night--no beach.  However, the boys were recyclers, building a ferry and an ocean liner with the rubbish they found near the boat ramp.  We're off to the wilds of County Donegal now--it's one of our very favorite places!
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Cami on

Hey - Andy & Liam:
Your recycled boats were cool! I love the picture of the Giant's Causeway basalt pillars from above - showing just how perfectly they interlock! I'll print it & laminate it to use in class, for geology discussions. It's the most efficient use of space, so the crystals adopted those forms as they grew upwards & outwards, against each other, as igneous extrusive rock!

Deanna & Family on

Hi everyone! Liam I would have loved the beach too, the beach is amazing... Those hexagon stones are so COOL! Good job boys with your recycling creations very CREATIVE! Love , Deanna, John, Graice, & Malachi

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