Monday, 16 August 2010

The System of a...

When I left ye last, I was sitting blissfully in Paddy's Palace of Derry City. Which I must say was a fantastic place.

Not long after I finished writing the blog, we went to to get some Monopoly Money from the ATM and we hoped in on the BBQ they were having at the hostel. £5 in and eat as many burgers as you possibly can!... So we did...

Ronald Regan got a serious outing at this BBQ... we went around to every single person there and demanded that the "stouch the tatue!"

We were joined in the hostel that evening by a tour of Australian and New Zealandish peoples, so we latched on to a ready made social group and went nuts.

We were told the place to meet up in town, so we wandered with some folks to that particular place, where after we made an error in judgement (we sang fields of athenry....) and a few beverages (in that order ill have you know...). Some of us headed to see the bonfire.

The bonfire, I believe i mentioned it before consisted of uprights driven into the ground, around which the bottom three rows of palets (on their edge) where places and back filled with tyres. Ontop of this structure was placed more layers of tyres, until the whole thing was the size of a large three story house... And then they covered it with the Irish Tri-colour.

By the time we reached the as of yet unburnt wood pile, there was drummers out in the Loyalist camp and creating a fantastic Din. While we waited for the appointed hour, I had a reat chat with a PSNI officer and a Bald tattoed Unionist that the PSNI officer was VERY VERY nice to... after the chat (which, those of you how know me will now exactly what I talked to this guy about... religion and politics), he gave me his name and waited until i could pronounce it right before leaving. His parting instruction: give his name if I get in trouble in the Loyalist part of Derry. I believe him completley.The crowds were being whipped up into a frenzy, with additional drummers occasionally appearing and joining the caucofany.

At quarter to 12, the drummers made their move. They marched through the gate we were perched above and did a circuit of the walled city. The steely beat reverbated off desolate church and shop alike. Just as the clock was being to think about striking midnight they returned to the camp. Their return was celebrated by the petrol bombing of the bonfire.

The blaze was something to behold.

The flags vaporised instantly, polyester ascending to the heavens above. The heat and the light however were but a candle to 1000 suns of the bonfire once it colapsed.

A crack and a groan and the almighty structure could hold itself together no more. In slow motion it spewed itself out and down, showering residents with the fruit of their labours. We had to hid behind the ramparts to shield ourselves from the Unionist blaze of hate and pride.

Joe, a great chap who works with Paddy Wagon tours... check them out... advised me two things at this point. That we all leave before things really kick off, and that I keep my mouth shut with the accent I have on me.

So we did, and I tried.

On the journey back to the pub, we met a crowd of young fellas... who over heard me southerning it up and came up to us. I could only defend myself with the worst Australian Accent known to man "Nah mate, Australian..."

They were drunk, so I survived. Pub for one to recover, then back to the Hostel to sleep.

The North seems to be pretty damn entertaining... so far.

Next morning, day 13, we head to belfast. We picked the right day to be leavin Derry by the sounds of things. As we left there was police everywhere. 3 Armed officers on every street corner... Today was the day of the Apprentice Boys march. Trouble was expected.

We left and headed north east. First stop, the giants causeway, where we met with the Australian Tour group (they were going to the same hostel we were, along pretty much the same route). The giants causeway is pretty cool, but also pretty small.

From here we went to the Carrick a rede rope bridge, there they very kindly sponsored us entry. Both places you have to pay in, then walk about a mile and a half to the attraction...

The rope bridge was quite fun... exhilirating... its a damn long way down!!

From here we went south to Belfast city, where after a lot of driving around, we found the hostel. Paddy's Palace Belfast, who very kindly sponsored us the nights accomodation!

We had a quick kip and washed up, then hit the town to explore. We took in the Harland and Wolff Shipyard the sights of the town itself, the botanical garden and even took a bus to the Shankill Area... we didnt get off the bus... we just had a gawk...

Unfortunatley for you guys... the camera ran out of juice while we wandered around the city, so theres only a few photos!

We went back to the Palace, and made ready to go out. We didnt spend too long on the town.. jst went down to the Crown for one. The crown is opposite, what im told is the most bombed hotel in the world...The Europa... which Bill Clinton always stays in when he is over... they even names the penthouse after him.

The next day... day 14. Down. after two good days, we were not ready for Down. We had no accomodation sorted for the first time on the trip and we were slightly nervous about this.

We journeyed south to DownPatrick and visited the grave of the greenfella... Downs only tourist attraction aside from the road to Dublin.

We headed to Newcastle, where we knew there was a hostel. We were told to go away and come back at 5. So we headed to Newry, had a look around. Did you know that Newry expects NO tourists on a Sunday? The place was shut up tighter than the government about the date of the Waterford By-election. In this day and age, you might expect that there would be some facilities for tourists on a Sunday... Nope. Not impressed by Down so far.

We managed to kill a couple of hours in down (how we dont know... we must have slipped into a coma) And we journeyed back to Newcastle. We took a wrong turn and end up on downs other tourist attraction... They were some blissful few precious minutes.

By the time we got to newcastle the place was buzzing. Think Tramore when the temperature goes a half degree above freezing but multiply it by a gazillion.

We fought our depressed way through the crowds (not only were in Down, but we stopped off in a pub to watch a bit of the Waterford game... not a good move)

The lovely ladies in the tourist office found us a nice camping place (hostel was full to the gills with not wanting to know) we could go to for the night. We had had no luck finding one ourselves.

We eventually found it... Road signs in (so far) the entirity of northern Ireland are a luxury. No wonder GPS yokes are so popular in the UK.

Tent pitched, food got, fire light, settled in with the Guitar and a vew suitable blues songs.

The one redeeming feature was that the weather that evening was absolutley beautiful. Hadnt seen a sky that clear since Inis Mor... it was fantastic.

Next morning, after we had packed up and hit the road, we headed through Newry to Armagh City.

Down claimed its last toll on us as we left...

We had pulled over to take a picture beside the Welcome to Armagh sign, and as per usual, I had set up the timer on my camera and had positioned it on the roof of the car.

While we waited for the snap to take, a passing convoy of love from Down whipped up enough hate filled Down wind to knock the camera from its perch and send it crashing to the hate filled Down ground. Bob the builder couldnt even fix it now.

We used James' camera which Ironically he had found that morning, and pushed on.

The Downer clung to us as we travelled.

Rolled into Armagh and parked, found a tourist office (was open) and found the hostel. We unfortunatley could check in as the reception wasnt open until 5, so we headed out to the Navan centre on the outskirts of town.

This fantastic little spot very kindly sponsored us entry, and we had a look around the self guided tour, where there was a lot of information about the Ulster Cycle, Chucullain and many other aspects of ancient Irish Folklore and how it applied to the Mound which is the whole point of the centre.

After the self guided tour there was a movie and then we wandered to the period dwelling they had set up. It was a brilliant, yet fantastic experience. We arrived late, so we didnt know what was going on at first. The three ladies of the house (wattle and daub over a wicker structure and a thatched roof) were in character. They gave us the history as if they were part of it and it was immersive, we were asked how many cattle we owned.. what are trades were the whole shabang!

By the time we had finished all that the reception in the hostel was open again, so we returned and checked in. The Armagh City Hostel is deffinatley a place I would come to again, its more like a Hotel than a Hostel.

We got some dinner, watching a GAA match from the windows and now we have settled in to enjoy the remains of the day.

What will tomorrow bring? who knows!

What I do know, is that tomorrow is Day 16, Monaghan: the half way mark. We have done nearly 1500 miles in the car so far, and over those 1500 miles so have seen so many different sides to Ireland that we never knew existed, we will never be able to look at it the same way again... for the better!

We are on the up and up again. The future is bright... the future wont be Orange for much longer ;)


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