Spent the last night in Horley near London Gatwick Airport. Found a quaint place called the Masslink Guest House for 40 pound and enjoyed a bed, coffe, tea, and breakfast instead of an airport chair. I also ventured up the road and ended up at a pub called The Tavern. I had a few ciders and their home brewed beer and was feeling great. Drinks are cheap in Horley! I headed to my flight with Easyjet. They only allow one bag to be carried on, unless you are a Plus member or pay to have an exit row seat. It is $1 cheaper to have an exit row seat than to check the bag when you book online. I however had already checked in online so had to pay the $15.99 to check my larger bag. Just a pro-tip for you readers. I arrived at Belfast International Airport, strangely similar to Allegheny County Airport. So, the wifi was extremely hard to access because it wanted you to input a UK postal code on the login screen but the airport postal code wasn’t accepted. I asked two different people for their phones to call my friend through Facebook because I wanted him to know I was there and then again because I couldn’t find him outside. After roaming the entire parking lot and calling him again it was determined he was at the other airport. Which became even funnier because I did not know there was another airport and I had described the one I was at, Belfast International, as the small airport. It was in fact the larger of the two! Regardless, Tony made it to me and I was extremely happy to see him.
We had met two years ago in California and bonded over a trip to a strip club and Huntingdon Beach. Great guy and we hit it off extremely well. He is in the Legion and met me here during his permission to show me around. Today he did not disappoint. After stopping by his parent’s house to settle things we got in the car for a whirlwind tour. Tony knows a whole lot about the troubles. A time in Irish history where there were armed conflicts between the Protestants (Loyalists) and Catholics (Republicans). It was essentially a civil war with the Loyalists wanting to remain a part of Britain and ultimately lead to the occupation of North Ireland by British soldiers. The aftermath of the troubles is still extremely prevalent in the architecture in Belfast. There are walls on either sides of road ways that help to block the view and access between Loyalist and Republican neighborhoods and many of these walls have gates that still close at night. Many murals dot each neighborhood that show support for their given paramilitary organization the IRA (Republican) and the UVF (Loyalist). Police stations look like fortresses, you cannot see inside them because the walls were built so high to block any RPG’s from being fired over them. It was and still somewhat resembles a war zone. Loyalist neighborhoods paint their sidewalk curbs the colors of Britain. Where neighborhoods intersect are called “Interfaces”. Many Interfaces now have commercial shopping built on the borders to encourage both sides to interact in a meaningful and positive way.
After having such an eye opening showing of Belfast and chatting with Tony about the legion a bit. We made our way out to find burritos, stopped for desert at his favorite place called Café Maud and he slapped my cake by accident while taking off his jacket! We ended the evening seeing the new movie No Stone Unturned. It was about a massacre in Loughinisland during the Ireland vs Italy qualifier game for the World Cup. The documentary was quite eye opening and I recognized many places that I had seen today that Tony had taken me too.
I wonder had he not pointed all this out if I would have noticed how militarized and blockaded the city was?
Tony made breakfast today! He did an awesome job on the bagels. As well as everything else. We had a slow start this morning, well I had a slow start this morning. I finished my laundry and was wrapping up some stuff as he got back from the gym and made us breakfast. We get on really well. I was more solo today than anything. He had to go visit his aunt so he dropped me off at the Irish Republican History Museum so that I could watch some documentaries on the Troubles and get some footage of the place. The museum was founded by an Eileen Hickey who had been a prisoner and wanted to use this as a place to educate future generations. Unfortunately, Eileen died a year before the museum opened due to cancer. The museum was tucked away and somewhat small as far as museums go but was packed with loads of goodies. It featured a full prison cell mock-up, memorial to women killed during the troubles, small dioramas of prison camps, mannequins in different uniforms, weapons used, books of art works, painted Irish Burin drums, as well as a full library dedicated and free for people to use to learn about the Republican movement. I spent 2 hours there and the owner was extremely friendly although we did not interact very much, he gave me a DVD on the troubles to take home with me. It became quite busy as it got closer to closing time. The museum is free and open to the public Tuesdays-Saturday 1000-1400. It is voluntary and runs strictly off donations.
Afterwards, I wanted a beer. I walked into town and let Tony know to meet me at the bar called Kellys Cellar. His favorite bar, although he does not drink. I was having a Guinness when a man, Keith, started chatting with me. Keith was with his wife, George (?) on holiday in Belfast. They were extremely interesting, they have been coming to Belfast on holiday for decades, even throughout the Troubles. They had many stories to tell, some serious and some very funny! After that the day was pretty much wrapped up. I jawed with Tony and his mum and we are turning in early to go catch the sunrise tomorrow!
It was storming when we wokeup to go to the sunrise this morning, unfortunately. I was excited for it but didn’t want to waste the trip since it wouldn’t have been a decent view. I went back to bed and wokeup when Tony got back from the gym. He made his mom, him and me breakfast. It was the poached eggs, bacon, and Belfast bread at affordable prices (BAP) as well as tea. Belfast Bap is legendary and essentially a large spherical loaf of bread. Tony could not poach eggs to save his life. Thank goodness his mom was there, she poached them well! It was extremely gracious of her to open her home to me for the few days I was there. I greatly appreciated it. We were really cutting it close to making my 11 A.M. bus so our goodbyes were rushed but I hope to host Tony and maybe even his mom in Pittsburgh sometime soon! I caught my bus to Dublin and immediately made my way to the hostel, Abigails Hostel, and got my game plan together. I spent the afternoon walking to the Glasnevin Cemetery and the National Botanical Garden. The amount of large headstones was quite astounding and the cemetery was quite well maincured until you got deeper into it. The garden was impeccable though. There were multiple outdoor areas and 2 large green houses. They offer tours and education for people who want to learn about the different plants. I was on a speed run since I was getting there an hour before they closed. I stopped by Kung Fu Chinese buffet, which was not bad at all, and the Beer House on my way back to the city center, which had loads of Irish craft beers.
I made contact with my hostel roommates and then headed to the Temple Bar. As soon as I got inside these ladies pulled me aside like they knew me, which I knew they didn’t but they were super nice and we ended up talking the rest of their time there. The one girl Anna gave me a list of things to see in Estonia. When they left they invited me with them but I declined. It was girl’s night and one drunk Irish guy had already been harassing us! Wonderful group of ladies and I hope they enjoyed the rest of their night. I moved on to Merchants Arch for live music and waited for Marie from the hostel to come. While I was enjoying the cider and music a lady from Canada came up and chatted with me about ATV and Spare Change. She had been asking everyone at the bar where they were from. Super friendly lady from Alberta! I hope she is reading this in the future, sorry I did not get your name!
Once Marie arrived we moved to the back and chatted about loads of different things. She is a last year student in Germany. Quiet yet very friendly and contributed well to the conversation, I talk a lot too so…. She lives in Essen, which means food in German. We ended up having quite a bit in common. We each play the same nerdy card games and what not. She works part time with mentally ill patients which I thought was pretty cool since she is studying social work. I was also surprised to learn that she was a fan of American Football! For all you Oakland Raider fans out there, Marie is your girl! She then explained how the league system worked for German Football (soccer). You have local, city, regional, and national teams. I thought it was very cool and encouraged competition because teams can move up or down in which league they play. It is a huge deal in Germany if your team moves down a league! I’m all wrapped up now and headed to bed for a long day of adventure tomorrow.
Today was great! The tour to the Cliffs of Moher was quite amazing! We stopped at a small service station on the way called Barack Obama Plaza because President Obama had stopped here years ago since he had traced his heritage to that small village area. We made it to the cliffs around 12:45 with a little over an hour to explore. They are very strict about staying on the correct side of the barrier until you are out of visitor center limits. Then you have the choice of walking along the cliff or an electric fence! Plenty of room for people to walk side by side but still kind of harrowing if it’s busy! Everyone on the tour was around my age and super friendly. I met two fellow Pennsylvanians named Molly and Bobby. They are both here on a month off after graduating from College. We did a quick interview about their time and they asked me about how Sparechange works and how I got involved. Great people to chat with!
The tour continued into a small town called Dullin, which is the templte for a village in the game Folklore. I had a quasi-Thanks Giving day meal there and a nice pint of beer before we continued on to a natural rock formation, castle, and eventually back to Dublin. Once I got back to Dublin I headed for the National Leprechaun Museum for their Darkland 18+ tour. IT WAS AMAZING. Offered on Friday and Saturday nights at 19:30 or 20:30. YOU NEED TO GO. The host was hilarious and the stories were riveting. We moved through multiple themed and interactive rooms, magic tunnels, etc. We even got a chance to climb and sit on massive pieces of furniture. I also got to chat with a couple from Helsinki whom gave me a massive list of things to do since I am headed there tomorrow. All around an amazing day and finished the night chatting with all my hostel mates whom are all headed out tomorrow as well.
Full video: stay tuned