Three parts: to the Stranraer then Cairnryan, to Belfast , then meeting up with Maeve
In the morning, my host insisted that she take me to the train station as she was taking her girl to school. I remember being so happy to be away from her and so glad to see the man at the train station to help me. We had to walk half a block away to go over the bridge and back down to the other side to avoid the stairs. Actually I think it was he who told me I was missed at Dalmuir. I like thinking that there was a conversation about me between Dalmuir and Ardrossan. We had a nice chat while waiting for the train. Pretty sure he was the one that told me that I wanted a cab from Stranraer where the train went to and Carnryan where the Ferry leaves from, instead of waiting for the bus.
This is the thing. For some reason with all of the wonderful transportation from one remote place to another, the timing of connections is way off. In fact the locations of connections is off. To the point that one tends to think it is deliberate. For example the ferry used to leave from Stranraer, A lovely Harbor town but was moved away to a sort of nowhere place of Carnryan. And there’s only 3 buses that travel between them and those are not coordinated with the train times. And on the other end the ferry goes into Larne, a place a bit North of Belfast and the next train into the city was an hour after – the last one mind. So I was on my way to Stranraer and quite happy about it – Had not yet learned to be chuffed – that would not come until Late summer.
The train ride down was interesting and mostly pretty with some industry but nothing so majestic as north of Glasgow. And the station I arrived into was the standard issue of cute, the surroundings were industrial seaside and the helpers were the usual friendly and charming. They sorted me with a taxi service and said the best thing was to hang out in Stranraer rather than Cairnryan then get the taxi to the Ferry depot.
So in Stranraer I got to have a good meal in a proper establishment with the usual huge selection of sweets. Then a little sight see since this castly building was right across the street in the middle of the town. It was the Castle of Saint John, built in 1500 as a Laird house, then for government troops during the “Killing Times”, then a prison, now a tourist site. I waited for the taxi in the little park next to it.
The ferry depot was a big high ceiling place with many tables and a few vending machines and I forget the very important sporting event on the TV. There were lots of depot police which made me nervous and it was like going through airport security which I hadn’t expected. That’s because to me there was no difference between going back and forth between Skye and the mainland and going back and forth between Scotland and Northern Ireland. But there is. Anyway, a wait then a bus ride right to the inside of the ferry then an elevator to the special travel suite – for only a few pounds more! – with a stewar waiting for me with my name on the list.
Here I must give a Thank you to my fellow MS Turtle member Janet who was a travel agent and travels a great deal now. She said go for anything that makes it easier, the better seat etc. take a cab and have a few less beers. Anyway I was glad to travel with comfy couches and seats and newspapers and free coffee and tea and snacks. So the trip to Ireland was uneventful except that in that rainy mist I could see Ireland in the distance. Really – Ireland its own self – I know these folks divide it up into bits, and a few of my ancestors come from several different bits I was told, of them but to me it’s one big Island of Irishness and I was going there.
So of course with all that excitement and reverie was a tad damped by the empty, except for me, Larne Depot where I had to wait almost an hour for the last train to Belfast. Going direct to Belfast is an option but some scheduly, financial thing made me choose Larne. Plus this way I got to see a bit of a sense of the area outside Belfast.
Anyway The train ride into Belfast was pretty engaging including British Flags at half mast. I thought that Mandela had finally died (that was the bad TV in Ft William – every two minutes there was breaking news that Mandela was on his deathbed). Turns out that’s not the case – more on this later. I could see this is quite the beautiful city. Then into the Great Victoria Station and right there was Maeve! Boy was I glad to see her. Straight away she took me across to The Crown – one of the oldest pubs in Belfast – lots of wood mosaics and glass and little partitioned places called snugs of benches around one tables Well worth a look at the photos: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/crown-bar/.
So I met Maeve through our tree hugging work in Wilkinsburg – I’m on the Shade Tree Committee and Maeve was with a special program to come to the states and worked here with Tree Vitalize and Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and had the hard job of knocking on doors and asking people if they wanted trees. Most didn’t. In fact here it can be like knocking on doors and asking if you want a rat in in your yard. Now she works with the Royal Society of the Protection of Birds. So we got to share our snug initially with some jerky guys from Yorkish area building a highway and removing Bird Habitat. I insulted them by thinking they had an Australian accent. I wish I had done it on purpose. That was the last time I tried to guess accents. (I hope)
Then she took me to where she lodges in the Lower Ormeau neighborhood with a wonderfully fun woman named Caroline. I got to see have my own bed in my own room and shower in a private clean bathroom. It was so wonderful. We took a walk to the end of the street to look at the River Lagan. Beautiful pedestrian ways on both sides of the river. I was so happy to be there in that really beautiful city.