Monday, June 22, 2009

And ... Back to Reality

It is hard to believe that a week has gone by since we've been home. Back to reality (dishes, laundry, meals, etc.) and life again with 2 teenagers. Our trip away now seems like something we did in the distant past. We have wonderful memories of this excursion and I hope we have the opportunity to travel together again. Life has a way of rushing by and we tend to put those special moments to the side and leave them for a more convenient time. I believe we need to grab these moments as quickly as they show up and cherish the time we get to spend with the people we love the most. As life returns to "normal" I tend to reflect more on why God has so blessed me so much and what the next year will hold. Time is so precious and we cannot recapture what we waste. May I have the wisdom and courage to move forward and into what God has planned.  

Monday, June 15, 2009

Revival in Belfast and C.S.Lewis and a Quick Look at Dublin

We are going to try and pack the last two days of our UK trip into this blog, so this will be the last one you have to read. We travel home tomorrow and will be leaving here at 5 am (1 am Nova Scotia time). Yesterday, being Sunday we decided to attend the Christian Fellowship Church in the East side of the city.  This is the home church of Robin Mark, the leader of the group which made the Revival in Belfast CDs. We hired a taxi to get us there as it looked like about a 5 mile walk and the potential for going astray could make it 10! Although Robin Mark only leads worship about 6 times per year, Pastor Paul Reid told us, he was there yesterday. The church was very much alive and the music was awesome; we especially appreciated the celtic flute, which lends the music a yearning quality. This service was in stark contrast to the high kirk we experienced last Sunday in Edinburgh, especially when you consider the flag waving.

The church is tucked behind the Ulster Unionist Association.

Christian Fellowship Church

In the afternoon we were booked on a tour entitled "In the Footsteps of C.S.Lewis". The tour was supposed to be 2 hours long but ended up being three, due to the fullness of the guide's knowledge and his unwillingness to let us go until he shared it all with us. Lewis was born and raised in Belfast and we saw  the houses where his parents and grandparents lived and worked. It was very interesting to see the images that influenced Lewis as a child, that play a pivotal role in the Narnia series. We can now experience these books with fresh insights. A few images will illustrate this.

The rather posh house that C.S. Lewis moved to when he was about 4. Interestingly, a rather large wardrobe was delivered to the house and wouldn't fit in, so his grandfather had to take it apart. Lewis would have heard much discussion about this wardrobe.

As a boy, Lewis would walk to a nearby private school.  As he walked up a curved, tree-lined driveway, he encountered this lamp-post, an image which signaled the dividing point between two worlds.

Lewis' mother was the daughter of the rector of St. Mark's Church and this is the door to the rectory.  Lewis' parents and grandparents were members of this church and Lewis would have been brought to the rectory as a boy. At face level was a doorknob.

The doorknob.

This bronze statue "The Searcher", created by Irish sculptor Ross Wilson, stands outside a community library, showing Lewis' character Digory Kirke trying to decide whether to enter the wardrobe. On the back of the wardrobe is a copy of a letter from C.S. Lewis to a young girl explaining the overall meaning of each Narnia books.
We arrived at our Dublin hotel at 9:30 pm and then went out for pizza. On Monday, we caught a bus down to the city centre (we are in an airport hotel) and had a day of exploring this city of 2 million people, which was full of people and buses, somewhat like London. It being a Monday, most of the museums and galleries were closed, so we were spared the viewing of more ancient history!! (Sorry, Kim!). We did do a quick bus tour of the city and then we went on foot for a couple of hours and took photos. 

There were some interesting stores in Dublin.

This bronze was of Molly Malone a.k.a. "the tart with the cart".

Which way to turn? Perhaps it's time to come home!

The ha'penny bridge across the River Liffey, a Dublin landmark. A century ago, the bridge toll was a ha'penny.

Some typical Dublin buildings; a close-up of the taller building follows. 

The Clarence Hotel, owned by the band U2, is where Bono and the boys hang out when spending a weekend in Dublin. The locals call it Bono's B&B, a name he doesn't appreciate. It is a very expensive hotel.

We give no promotion of this product, but one of the main tourist stops (after Guinness) is the old Jameson Whisky Distillery. Note the spelling; no relation to us Jamiesons. 

Each city seems to have constructed something to celebrate the millennium.

In Dublin it was this 390 foot tall Spire of Dublin, a.k.a. "The Rod to God".  Makes a great lightning rod!

So, thank you to all who have faithfully followed us on our UK trip. It has been a blast and we will be happy to share more pictures (to those who have the patience), when we get home.
Looking forward to seeing everyone again and being back on Canadian soil where a cheeseburger happy meal doesn't cost $7.00!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Excellent Tour

Our day began with another full Irish breakfast, but I am getting rather tired of scrambled eggs. However, it does fill us up for the morning and we only need a light lunch. We had booked a coach tour to the Giant's Causeway, so I will let the photos tell you the story of our day. Hope you enjoy these (especially Barb)!

Carrickfergus Castle, our first stop. One of the finest examples of a Norman castle built in the 1100's.

William of Orange statue outside the Carrickfergus Castle.

Taken from the bus window - note the checkerboard farm land - lots of green.

Carnlough, Ireland, one of our pit stops right along the coast.

Another photo of Carnlough, a beautiful coastal village.  

One of the many glens (Glen Dunn) we viewed as we traveled up the Antrim Coast. At several points from the coast, we could see the Mull of Kintyre (Scotland) to the northeast.  

Loughareama (the vanishing lake). This lake fills up after heavy rain and then within an hour vanishes. There is an interesting legend that goes along with this picture. There was a man who lived in the area whose wife had passed away and he remarried her sister. Apparently the new wife disliked the children and placed a curse on them and they turned into swans. To this day on the 1st day of October there are hundreds of swans that return to this lake and then leave, almost as if they are paying their respects to these children. I don't tell this as well as the tour guide with the Irish lilt and the blarney.

Sheep Island where supposedly sheep are pastured in the summer, but we are skeptical about this - not too sure how they would get there!

Carrick-a-rede, which is a rope bridge about 100 ft. above the sea to get to an island. You can see it to the left of the photo if you use your imagination. 
Carrick-a-rede again. You may be able to see the rope bridge a little better here. We actually didn't go down to the bridge - it cost 4 pounds and we were getting hungry, so we just stopped along the walk and had a snack.

This was a beautiful white sand beach along the way. There was thunder in the distance but it only started to rain as we were boarding the bus to return to Belfast. 

Bushmills - home of an ancient distillery first licensed in 1608.  A bottle could be had for a mere 70 pounds. We kept our money in our pockets.

Beside the distillery were some cattle which were black on each end and white around the middle.  The are known as 'Guinness' cattle but I don't think that is the official breed name.

Dunluce Castle 

An alpine plant (Sedum) growing on the cliffs.

Giant's Causeway from the top of the cliff.

Sitting on the Giant's Causeway.

The place was crawling with tourists, supposedly as many per year as Buckingham Palace. One source listed the top three natural attractions worldwide as Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, and Giant's Causeway.  I am certain there should be many more places between two and three.

A top view of some stones.

We climbed up the hard but more scenic way...
... involving about 160 stairs.

The Giant's cow was spotted below (although it looked more like a dinosaur).

A final, pastoral image taken with our backs to the cliff.

We agreed that this was a fine tour experiencing some of Northern Irelands finest scenery.
We have a more literary tour booked for tomorrow.  Details later. Goodnight.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Belfast - A City Divided

Our day was like a sandwich with two beautiful gardens as bread and "The Troubles" as the filling. We had booked a Black Cab tour of the recent history of Belfast but before that we strolled through the botanical garden of Queens University which is only 5 minutes from our lodging. 
 The rose garden of the Queens U. gardens, not yet at its peak.

The Black Cab tour was of the Falls Road and Shankill Road districts, two parallel streets, two religions.  This is where the fighting between the IRA and the Loyalists largely took place. There is a high wall built between the neighborhoods (the peace wall!) and the murals on the wall have become something of a tourist attraction.

The very high peace wall along Shankill Street. 

  On the Catholic side, Brendan Hughes who initiated the hunger strike.

The back of a house which abuts the wall with a cage (not a greenhouse) to protect it from petrol bombs which were thrown over.
This mural compares Israel and Palestine with Shankill and Falls.

Laurel adding our names to the peace wall.

We have many more mural pictures but will spare you.  The tour was an eye-opener but could have been better if our driver/guide had a cab manufactured within the last 30 years.  It was very noisy so at times it was hard to hear (and interpret the dialect) and everytime he went around a corner, his door would fly open so he would keep his window down and his arm hanging out trying to control it.

Andrew wanted to go to Mount Stewart which is a National Trust Property some distance away from the city. It is considered one of the finest gardens in the UK and the home of the 88 year old Marquess of Londonderry. How to get there?  We walked to the tourist information centre who instructed us to go to a specific bus terminal from which a bus would leave at 12:20. We had little time and about 12.70 sterling in cash so wanted to stop at a cash machine along the way. Somehow, we managed to take a meandering route to the terminal and got there just as they were announcing the bus at about 12:17.  We assumed  (incorrectly) there would be a cash machine at the terminal.  The ticket wicket was closed so bus tickets had to be purchased in cash from the driver. With faint hope, we asked the bus driver the fee for two return tickets to Mount Stewart, and he said 12.40, so we paid and hoped that the gardens would accept VISA!
They did, although it took several minutes to get the card to work.  

The gardens and house tour were fabulous!  The climate is very mild and they have many south american species of trees.  The former owners were quite remarkable in their impact on British history, but I won't go into that.  The property and house were built with money inherited from the Governor of Bombay who got rich through the East India Company back in the 1700s. 

Laurel thinking of making an offer on the place.

Part of the formal garden.  The garden has lots of statuary.

The lake with the family burial ground on the hill top behind.  The burial ground, Tir N'an Og in gaelic, means "the land of the ever young".

A harp topiary.
The other side of the house. A nice flat lawn for a game of croquet and perhaps some cucumber sandwiches!

Now we had to catch a bus back to Belfast so we waited at the appointed spot our driver told us, along side the road across from the gate.  We were led to believe that a bus (#10) would come along near the hour so we arrived at a couple of minutes to 4:00.  At about 4:10 a #10 bus whizzed by as we were waving to get his attention.  He didn't even slow down!.  So we had visions of hitch-hiking back to Belfast. We crossed the street to confer with some locals who were watching the whole affair while waiting for a bus in the opposite direction.  They showed us the proper way to flag down a bus and suggested that the one that just passed may have been out of service.  So back across the road we went hoping that we wouldn't have to wait an hour for the next scheduled bus, which might not stop anyway.  But after only another 10 or 15 minutes, another bus approached and we successfully got it to stop.

A really big fish by the Custom House along side of the River Lagan, in Belfast.

Looking down the Lagan toward the dockyards, near where the Titanic was built.

To celebrate the days adventures, Laurel ordered a Benedict Angus Burger for supper!