Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Four Weeks Of Travel

Ring of Kerry, Republic of Ireland

It is almost four weeks since we have left Vancouver. Dublin seems a lifetime ago! Our first travelling companion left us after our Republic of Ireland tour and we have been joined in London by my daughter. 

This vacation has been all about touring the countries of our ancestors. During other post-retirement vacations, I have had a base (usually in Paris) where I could leave the bulk of my belongings. This year, we have used bus, train and domestic airlines to travel around The Republic, up to Belfast, north to Shetland and finally to London.  

the Burren, Republic of Ireland

We have been grateful for the assistance of strangers at every turn. Whether it be with an offer of help with a heavy bag,  of advice about directions in an unfamiliar town or of  a seat on the Tube, local 
people have come to the rescue.

The Giants' Causeway, Bushmills
Sometimes, when things are really going wrong.....we were locked out of our flat (tricky door)
or the owner has failed to appear at our booking (no mobile phone), I have knocked on stranger's doors. Certainly, not something that I would do at home!

We are spending a week in London and I appreciate the slower pace.  I have confirmed that I am a woman who enjoys reading signs on buildings, wandering through residential streets,  and gazing into windows of shops. I don't need a destination or an agenda for each day. 

These graves in St. Pancras' churchyard  were moved to make way for the railway .

Do you remember Louise Bates Ames? She was a founder of the Gesell Institute of Child Development and she chronicled child development from 2 until 9 years of age.
During the 1970's, when my daughter was young, I read each of her books and I marvelled at the
accuracy of her observations. I wonder that, at a time when so much of the population is ageing,
that there is so little written about the later years.

During this trip, I have experienced more physical discomfort in my knee and hip. Stairs, escalators
and long corridors are part of independent travel. My travelling buddy will attest to the fact that I have probably developed sleep apnea as I make a symphony of sounds and no sound at night.
I try to eat my largest meal earlier in the day and I am more aware of wine consumption. As I get older, I am less tolerant. I'm not fond of crowds and I have always been prone to falling so I don't
like to be jostled. I am becoming my grandmother and my mother. Who would have guessed

Home in Camden
Today, we will visit the Covent Garden, Soho and West End areas of London. We're attending a matinée at the Apollo Theatre and will have a light supper before returning to our Victorian house in Camden.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Belfast Days

Women's Voices Matter quilt on Shankill Road
My maternal grandmother came to Canada from County Antrim before World War One. There was only one Ireland then and this part of my family were Presbyterians of Ulster Scottish stock. I never studied much about Irish history in school but I am old enough to remember hearing about The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Last Sunday, I visited Belfast where I attended Fitzroy Presbyterian Church. I have not  attended
a Presbyterian church before but I expected the stiff and stern ways of 100 years ago when my grandma left. Not so! The service was casual and upbeat with two vocalists and a fiddle. Most of the 
2 hour (yes, 2 full hours) service was about the church's sponsorship of a village in Uganda. 

This young man is a hero to some people in the Protestant housing area.

In the afternoon, we took the Black Cab Tour of Belfast to learn about The Troubles. William, our driver and guide, has been showing visitors the murals and the Peace Wall since 1999. He was an
objective, pro-peace narrator. We were unable to discern to which group he belonged. He later confided that his background was Protestant but that, when he was a boy, his grandmother had threatened to kill him herself if he got involved with the paramilitary groups.

We started at Shankill Road where William of Orange and Oliver Cromwell were heroes for their oppression of the Catholic Irish. Even after the Peace Accord, young men still fight for old and irrelevant causes.

Then we visited Falls Road where the Catholic heroes are depicted.
Apparently, the gates between the Protestant and Catholic neighbourhoods are still closed at night at several points. On Falls Road, in the Catholic neighbourhood, we saw murals depicting those who had been imprisoned or killed for their beliefs.
outside of Belfast through the bus window

Ireland is a beautiful green country. During our 2 and a half weeks, we have met so many friendly and helpful people in both The Republic and in Northern Ireland. There is a piece of public art on Shankill Road that says: Remember, Respect, Resolve. Ironically, or not, it is behind an iron fence.
Two seats are located inside the fence but no one can sit on them. It is difficult to give up our old ways of thinking and to learn acceptance and forgiveness.

Monday, September 5, 2016


famine statues in Dublin
According to the 2011 census, more than 4.5 million Canadians report Irish ancestry. The figure is probably higher because Catholic Irish orphans from the coffin ships who arrived at Grosse Ile, our Canadian version of Ellis Island, were adopted into French-Canadian families. My own great-grandmother, believed to be French-Canadian, reported her ancestry on the 1911 census as French/Irish.

Many Irish came to Canada

My friends and I represent counties Cork, Limerick, Mayo, Armagh and Antrim and our ancestors were Church of Ireland, Catholic, and Presbyterian. They all left Ireland before Independence and Partition.  We'll never know all the reasons for leaving Ireland but we can assume that they were looking for a new start.

Daughter and I met Annie Moore last year at Ellis Island. There is a statue in Cobh as well.
She was the first immigrant through Ellis Island.

Ireland is a beautiful country. There are so many shades of green in the landscape.  I love the small towns where you can walk in the street and hear music coming out of almost every door. Yesterday, we went to the Burren, a rocky landscape where 70% of Ireland's botanical species bloom and to the famous Cliffs of Moher where we looked down on the Atlantic Ocean.

My friends went off to eat and drink this evening while I stayed in the hotel to read and write. I'm definitely in need of quiet time to process my experiences and to share them with my friends and family. One more night in Ennis and we're off to Galway! 

Dublin Town

the long room (library) at Trinity College
My friends and I booked student accommodation at Trinity College in Dublin. I would highly recommend this for anyone travelling on a budget. We each had a bedroom and we shared a bathroom with shower, a sitting area and a large kitchen. The wifi was free and we discovered the adjacent cafeteria where an Irish breakfast could be had for 5 euros.

Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature. We visited the Book of Kells, the Long Room Library,
The Writers' Museum and the National Library of Ireland. Plaques about the city honour James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Arthur Clark among others. It seemed to me that there were bookshops on almost every block in Dublin.

in the park next to Saint Patrick's Cathedral

I was surprised how inexpensive food has been in our first week. After eating a hearty (for me) breakfast (5 euros), we usually only need one other meal during the day. Seafood is delicious and relatively inexpensive. I do not usually favour hearty stews or pies because heavy meals make me sleepy.

The Irish people are so friendly and helpful. Every time that we look a little bit lost, someone appeared to provide the necessary information.

Our pace is too fast for me. I miss the easy days of wandering the streets. I am reading The Irish Country Doctor which is set in Country Down not far from where my grandmother was born. In a few days, we will be crossing into Northern Ireland.