We’ve come to the end of our trip.
We drove out to a set of cliffs called Slieve League. They are 6 times higher than the Cliffs of Moher but most people don’t get to see them because they are in the very far north of Donegal. We saw what was left a message spelled out in big white rocks. It said EIRE. It was there for WWII American and British pilots to use for navigation. The cliffs were formed from the sea wearing away the side of a mountain. The layers of stone that form the mountain are exposed for all to see it’s secret inner core.Paula and the boys hiked way up to the very top. I took the opportunity to just sit quietly and really be in the moment. Sometimes when I travel, I am so busy taking pictures and planning the next stop, I can easily forget to stop and really be there. I listened to the wind and the sea and the birds. I heard people speaking languages from all over the world. I felt the sun warming my skin. I concentrated on all those layers of stone that made up the mountains heart. It was good.
Later we met up with the family again at a cool place called Lusty Beg Island. Isn’t that a great name? I have no idea what it means but I am going to tell everyone that I just got back from Lusty Beg. We drove out to a deserted gravel lot in a quiet spot between two mountains. We left the cars behind and climbed aboard an old barge that pulled us along a cable stretched from the lake to the island. The front end of the barge suddenly flipped open onto the bank. We were in Ireland after all, so we headed for the bar. Cousin James bought Anthony his first Irish Coffee. Not all fancied up like at home. Just coffee and whiskey. Anthony fell in love with it.
Diner was so nice too. Twenty of the family came out. We shared our lives thru cell phone pictures and stories and smiles. Before we knew it, it was past 11pm. What no idea! The place had so many windows and it was only just twilight. How could it be past 11? We spent another half hour saying goodbyes and hugging. How can I feel such caring for people that I don’t even know that well? This was our 5th time over but how well do we really know each other? I love that it just doesn’t matter. We are family and they make us welcome. They are warm and kind. They make us feel so much like we belong. I can’t thank them enough.
After Donegal we drove even further north to the Giants Causeway. If you’re not familiar with it, the Giant’s Causeway is a geologic formation on the coast at the very top of Ireland. Somehow the conditions were just right to form huge of crystal like octagon pillars that rise out of the sea. They are so uniform, it’s hard to believe that are not man made. The last time I was there, there was a tiny shack to buy tickets and an old bus took you out there or back about every 30 minutes. When we got out there we had the place to ourselves. It was breathtaking. Everything has changed due to Game Of Thrones. There are two castles at the same location that they have used in filming GOT. Now there is a huge Visitor Centre, parking garage and buses that run every 10 minutes. When we got out there, the geologic formation was just COVERED with people. I was glad I got to show it to they boys but I guess I was lucky to have experienced it before it became such a commercial enterprise.
From the Giants Causeway we headed to the famous Carrick-a Rede Rope Bridge. There was no way I was going. Paula and her gang practically ran for the entrance. It is a 3/4 mile hike just to get out there/ the rope bridge hangs over a crevasse. Only eight people can cross at a time and it is 100 feet straight down. I decided it was a good time for a cup of tea. I found a cozy spot and enjoyed my tea and wifi. Ahhh. The Toomeys were gone about 45 minutes when a huge storm cloud exploded down on us. I mean it poured! Sheets of rain pummeled the area for about 30 min. Paula said the clouds burst just as she stepped onto the bridge. She told me she kept her eyes on her footing and just randomly snapped pics as she maneuvered her was across. So glad I didn’t go. I came to Ireland for closure not for a near death experience.
Then south to Derry. (Or Londonderry if you are so inclined) Cousin James met us there. He gave us his personal tour. He had the gang walk the Old City Walls and cross the pedestrian bridge that connects the two sides of the city. Loyalist (Presbyterian) and Republican (Catholic).
It was built as a gesture to connect the sides as one. We learned quickly that the “Troubles” here are not so much about religion as it is politics.
On south to Belfast. Belfast is a complicated place. I wanted the kids to really know that. To feel it in their souls. Violence produces violence. Always. The only way to win is to stop. Even then, it takes generations to lessen hatred and prejudice. You can apply this in our current world too. So many lives are wasted. More violence is never the answer.
There is a wall separating the Loyalists (loyal to England) and the Republicans (want Northern Ireland to be part of the rest of Ireland) sides of town. They call it the Freedom Wall. Houses close to the wall have wire fencing covering their black of their houses to protect them from rocks being thrown over. There is a huge gate in the wall is closed at night. The two sides are locked down and a curfew is enforced. This is our family history too.
I hired a company called Black Taxi tours. They drove us thru the city to see the murals that cover so much of Belfast . These are not official works approved by anyone. People just express themselves and their passion or opinion thru art. It is a sad and beautiful tradition.
We visited the Titanic Exhibit,which is a 5 story interactive museum that tells the story of ship building in Belfast along with the Titanic. I liked it, but the Black Taxi tour was emotionally moving in a different way. I would recommend it to anyone traveling to Belfast.
There is so much more I could say but I fear I would lose all my readers. I will just say that we had a trip of a lifetime. The family. The beauty of Ireland. The people we met along the way. I feel my burden has lifted.
My plan was to give daddy his last wish, that was to visit Ireland one more time. But instead something different happened that I know Daddy would have liked even more. Our family became even closer. The boys will always be bonded thru this adventure. The connection to our family in Ireland is even stronger. I think we passed that connection to our next generation. I know they all fell in love with Ireland and its people just like Daddy did. I think back now and maybe I wasn’t quite right about Daddy’s “last wish”. Now I think maybe it was to pass on that love of Ireland to his grandson Anthony and Paula’s boys that he loved so much. I really think that would have been his true last wish.
I think I got it done for you, Dad
Rest in Peace Daddy
You’re work here is done.
And I’m glad I got to help.