Béal Feirsde - Mouth of Sandbars

Trip Start Aug 22, 2009
Trip End Apr 07, 2010

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Sunday, November 1, 2009

We left derry at about 9am and i think we all enjoyed the 2 hour drive to belfast ira ceas (mostly sleeping!) it was raining heavily but the scenery was so beautiful, it was quite dramatic and i think the weather kinda enhanced it! we got to belfast and had about half an hour of free time before our black cab tour started (most of us headed for coffee shops!) the black cab tour is locals that take you round to all the mural sites in their taxis. it was really good. we went first to the  shankhill rd protestant area and were shown around by one of the protestant taxi drivers. it was just a quiet suburban area but it was quite scary listening to him talk. the uda (ulster defence army - pro uk) and ira (irish republican army - pro republic of ireland) have a cease fire now but aparently they're still active just not officially armed. when we first got in the taxi the driver asked us if we'd seen any ira members, we said no and he said how do you know? then he asked if we'd seen any men with guns, we said no and he said how do you know and pulled down the car's sun visor to show us his gun! (he also called the pope a nazi so he was a bit strange) but there's obviously still alot of tension there, our next stop was on the side of a road between two long 10m(ish) high walls that run right through the city and out into the mountains - the peace wall to keep the protestant and catholic neighbourhoods seperated. there was a sculpture set into the wall with random quotes, sayings and song lyrics. and all the people who visit it write their name and a message around the sculpture, they wash it off every few months because it gets too full. next stop was a memorial garden on bombay st in a catholic neighbourhood. it was a street right on the edge of the wall and a street which the loyalists (udia) burnt completely to the ground in 1969. i found it a pretty disturbing place, there has a banner on the wall with photos of ira members who were killed and a plaque with the names of the people (army and civilians) who were killed just from that immediate area. the houses along the wall had cages on the back of the houses where the porch would usually go to protect them from anything coming over the wall. next we went to falls road where there were lots of catholic murals. we drove past the ira's family garden but didn't stop because the irish flag was raised which meant members and their families were there and they're not too fond of people taking photos there! and that was the end of that very interesting tour, it made me want to go out and buy a book about the whole "troubles" situation. we had another hour-ish free and i wanted to explore the city but the weather was so awful that we just went to the crown bar (famous old bar with booths and personal call bells) for a hearty irish lunch, so i'm gonna have to go back so i can see the happy side of belfast! then back on the bus, the guide judged the best dressed competition from the night before... alana won cause of her elaborate face painting and got a 1L bottle of northern irish whisky! we stopped at an old monastic settlement on the way back but we were happy to get back on the bus cause it was freezing! got back to dublin around 5:30 and said good bye to everyone after exchanging emails (so i know have free accommodation almost anywhere in australia!) i had so much fun that i booked a tour with the same company in scotland for next year!
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