Europe Travel Itinerary, 1999-2000:
This itinerary is intended to capture the day-to-day activities and impressions of our trip.
Click on the asterisks * next to the day to go to that entry.
Tuesday, June 8, 1999; Belfast: *
Wednesday, June 9, 1999; Belfast: *
Thursday, June 10, 1999; Belfast: *
Friday, June 11, 1999; Belfast: *
Saturday, June 12, 1999; Newcastle: *
Sunday, June 13, 1999; Belfast and Newcastle: *
Monday, June 14, 1999; Belfast: *
Tuesday, June 15, 1999; Belfast: *
Wednesday, June 16, 1999; Belfast: *
Thursday, June 17, 1999; Belfast: *
Friday, June 18, 1999; Belfast: *
Saturday, June 19, 1999; Antrim Coast: *
Sunday, June 20, 1999; Corrymeela, Kinbane Castle and the Giants Causeway: *
Monday, June 21, 1999; Grianan of Aileagh and Derry: *
Tuesday, June 22, 1999; Derry: *
Monday, June 7, 1999; Ferry to Belfast:
We woke promptly at 8, had breakfast and drove to a post box. Then we got quite confused trying to find our ramp onto the ferry. We skipped the entrance we should have used because we saw a bunch of 7 foot high car barriers (we missed the lane for taller vehicles). So we drove onto the commercial entrance and lined up in front of an automated gate. It looked a little like the gates at toll booths where the barrier lifts and lowers. It appeared quite official, so we drove up to it. The gate lifted, so we drove on. But the second gate wouldnt lift. Turned out wed driven up onto a truck scale. Woops!
The security guard came over, and after taking down our license plate number, he directed us through the back ways of the complex, radioing ahead so the next guard in the chain would direct us on until we made it to the other side of the port. (Wed tried to drive on to the side of the ferry where traffic drive off).
On the ferry, Kathleen visited with the Australians while Henry slept. Afterwards, theres something magnetic about two camper vans, so we ended up (unplanned) driving to the city center together and getting trapped at the end of a one way street with no parking together. We eventually ended up in the same lot and walked about the shopping district together until about 3pm. Then we went our separate ways, while we seemed a natural fit we didnt really click to the max.
Belfast has changed since the last time Kathleen visited. Things which seem normal are so abnormal here: the police car clearly marked with Crimestoppers written on the side with a free phone number, city busses painted over with Pepsi adds, Jerry Adams of Shin Fein heard on the radio. We visited the Café Renoir, one of Kathleens old haunts where the owner remembered her from 1991 as "the one who asked for the wheaten bread recipe."
We were planning to spend the night at Ians house, one of the friends Kathleen made while she worked in Ireland. We kept trying to reach him by phone, every call was picked up by his voicemail at work. We managed to find our way to a landmark which Kathleen remembered as nearby to Ians house. It was the Giants Ring, one of the largest raised earth circles in Ireland. Typically prehistoric, nobody really knows what it was about. We had trouble figuring out what it was about in todays social circles. In the parking lot outside, a lot of cars would pull up, the drivers would look around and then drive off again. Most of the look-and-drive-away cars were driven by young, single males. Other cars which stayed included couples, but mostly single men. Sure enough, we decided (and later verified) that the Ring is notorious as a gay meeting place. But that reputation doesnt seem to scare off straight couples (not sure if it scares off straight, but single, men).
By luck we managed to find Ians house in Edenderry, where he sprang from behind a car and scared the bejeebers out of us. We parked on the sidewalk and stayed up till just after midnight catching up. We slept in a twin bed in Ians spare room.
Tuesday, June 8, 1999; Belfast:
When we awoke, Ian had gone to work. We had a leisurely day, devoted to sleeping (neither of us was feeling all that well yet), watching TV (especially cable news, as the settlement in Kosovo was working its way out), taking showers and eating.
We sent out a bunch of e-mails and began another face-lift of our website. We found another Travelogue site and copied the use of background and the use of a header block with the name of the site in it.
That evening we visited Nigel and Caroline and their two kids, Patrick and Sophia. We walked to a park with a couple of other neighborhood kids, Alex and Cara, aged 3 and 6. Nigel had just finished his final oral exams for medical school. He was waiting till Thursday to hear whether he passed or not. Stayed up late watching home videos of the old days when Kathleen hung out with the gang.
Wednesday, June 9, 1999; Belfast:
Again we spent most of our day inside, taking naps and slowly feeling better. We felt badly about missing the gorgeous weather.
When Ian returned from work, we went to the store and got ingredients for a stir-fry dinner. Picked up "Ads for Free" to find used bicycles. Made dinner together and stayed up till 1:30 talking.
Thursday, June 10, 1999; Belfast:
Called around the Belfast area for used bicycles. Went to check on one but missed the fellow. Drove to Larne to find a second bike. While the paper ad had said £20, the fellow asked for £22. We were in such a hurry to catch a movie back in Belfast and it took us so long to find the guys place, we paid the extra money, knowing hed asked for it because hed correctly read our state of mind. We laughed about it on the way back to Belfast.
Saw Elizabeth at the Queens University Theatre. We were one of two couples in the second to last showing of the movie. We loved it and thought to ourselves that we were probably among the very last to see it in the theatres anywhere. (This was a second run theatre in Ireland. Unless it releases even later in Australia/New Zealand, this was probably its last gasp.)
We met Blair (another of Kathleens old gang) to go see a bluegrass band in Belfast that night. Blair drove us into town and parked a block from the bar. He parked in the middle of the roadway on hashed lines which defined a sort of turning land. He was concerned that the street might be closed off after a certain hour, so he walked off to find a police officer. He found him (wearing a firearm this is Belfast) giving directions to someone else on how to find a particular pub. The guy asked the patrol mans name, and he responded: "Bond."
"Like the spy?" Kathleen asked.
"Yes," said patrol man Bond. "but not as sexy," His blue eyes and round face beamed the most extraordinary affection for a man of the law.
Blair pointed up the street. "I parked my car just there," he explained.
Kathleen interjected, "illegally, of course."
"Do you think it will be OK?" Blair asked.
"Wherere you going?" asked Mr. Bond.
"To the Kitchen Bar," answered Blair.
"Ah," said Bond. "Good place that. You should have no problems. Its after six and theres no constables up that way."
"Thanks," Blair smiled and we all walked away.
Amazing, I thought. Not only was he as friendly as anyone could be, but he basically gave us a green light on an illegitimate parking situation he couldnt even see!
The bluegrass band sang their songs with a southern twang and explained them in-between with a broad Belfast accent. The bar offered free soup between sets. We stayed until the last song at 10:30, and drove home in twilight.
Friday, June 11, 1999; Belfast:
Spent another day doing small errands which added up to a full day. Got developing supplies, groceries and made another attempt (unsuccessful) to purchase the used bike.
Ian left for the weekend after lunch from work. He was visiting his girlfriend Caroline in Dublin she was flying in from Brussels where she works.
Turned in around 10:30, trying to get an early start on sleep for the next day.
Saturday, June 12, 1999; Newcastle:
Finally managed to catch the man with the £15 mountain bike. Bought the bike (with one flat tire) and sped off to catch Eileen (another friend of Kathleens, one of the people shed cared for when she volunteered in Belfast in 91). Drove her and her husband Gary and their two children Melissa (6) and Gary Jr. (3) to Newcastle.
Newcastle is sort of the Nags Head of Northern Ireland. A mile long beach stretches about a football field wide underneath the Mourne Mountains. Its entire length is backed by a row of Amusements: establishments which might typically combine video games, slot machines, and bumper cars under a single roof. This was kid paradise.
We stayed from about 11am until 4pm when we drove back through bumper-to-bumper weekend returning traffic which must be the same everywhere in the world (slow moving and hateful).
Henry had started feeling worse again, as if his cold was going to re-assert itself. We stayed in at Ians and watched a video titled Local Hero.
Sunday, June 13, 1999; Belfast and Newcastle:
Slept in and piddled with the web-page content and developing film all morning.
Drove back to Newcastle in the afternoon to visit the Colgans (a family Kathleen met at a summer festival for peace and reconciliation back in 91). They were quite delightful. We met Ann and John, the parents, and three of the children: Joanne, Mary-Louise, and Owen. The oldest is already a doctor at 25 and the youngest will be a doctor by the time he's 23. Their system here really streamlines the years it takes to be a doctor by starting the 'pre-meds' in high school. Turns out all four kids are becoming doctors. They love it and use it as a ticket to travel all over the world (both for work-related holidays and for job placements).
We realized we were getting anxious to get going, but that our visitation schedule would keep us engaged in Belfast till Thursday. At least we decided it would give Henry time to get completely over his cold. His symptoms had begun to suffer a relapse.
Monday, June 14, 1999; Belfast:
Slept in and developed film. Took Ian's laundry to his mother's (so she could iron it for him J ) at 11 and visited with her until about 1:30. Then we drove around Belfast taking a few pictures and retrieving Kathleen's purse from Ann Colgan (she drives 40 minutes each day from Newcastle to Belfast).
We rested at Ian's until Kathleen went out to pick up Alan Close, another friend from her days as a volunteer. We walked to Shaw's Bridge from Ian's along the tow path and then had dinner. Kathleen took Alan to the bus in the city center and returned by 10:30.
Tuesday, June 15, 1999; Belfast:
Kathleen developed more film. We took more pictures of the Belfast area.
Saw Eileen and her family for dinner (cooked by her husband Gary). Then visited with Joyce (a women with whose family Kathleen had stayed while she worked at Greenhill Camp in Newcastle) until time for bed.
Wednesday, June 16, 1999; Belfast:
Kathleen printed contact sheets at Belfast Exposed on King Street in Belfast city center. Meanwhile Henry did computer homework (bills and business letters). In the evening we visited Alans home in Bangor (driving the Outer Loop north to A2). In the later evening we met Nigel at his home. He was having his roof replaced it was the first time it was replaced in the houses 100 year history. Nigel was lamenting how the Scottish Gray Slate just doesnt last. Hes putting on reclaimed Bangor Blues (slate) from Wales.
Thursday, June 17, 1999; Belfast:
Toured some Nationalist neighborhoods with Eileen. Met some girls in her mothers neighborhood who played Camogie, an Irish game played with sticks and balls somewhat similar to lacrosse. Then we visited for an hour and a half with Eamon Maguire whos a master bodhran maker, wood sculpter and painter. He made Kathleen a new tipper from Irocca wood in front of our eyes on his lathe.
Then met Ian and toured some of East and North Belfast. Saw the house hes hoping to purchase. Ended up at Robert Stuarts Spirit Grocers (Ians favorite local pub.)
Henry stayed up until 3am working on the Belfast page.
Friday, June 18, 1999; Belfast:
Woke up to the news wed been waiting for, but it wasnt good. Kathleen was not awarded the Fulbright grant to take photographs in Romania. She had been named an alternate, but the prospects for seeing any money or recognition from that quarter seem very slim.
We were in mourning all morning. This makes us feel completely on our own and makes manifest once again how difficult it is to succeed as generators of artistic intellectual property.
We worked through the morning packing up. Once again the perniciousness of stuff is amazing. Though we feel we hardly have anything, getting all our toothbrushes and toiletry bags and backpacks and books and oh my goodness together and packed back into the van took well over an hour. We finished the Belfast and Sectarian Northern Ireland pages which were quite the challenge. Even with many local friends to draw from and native command of the English language, we find the Troubles difficult to comprehend, let alone explain.
But finally by half past five we had completed our upload of the website and were on our way to the grocery store for a final stocking up before heading on into Ireland as proper travelers. We had dinner in the parking lot, filled up on petrol and water and got on the road by quarter to ten. Listened to news of the settlement of Russian troops and plans to partially forgive third world debt as we drove north on the M2 to the A8 and finally the A2 coast road at Larne.
Even in the late twilight of quarter to eleven we could see the coast is beautiful. We got as far as Ballygalley where we found a custom made parking lot with stone walls overlooking the North Sea. Light houses twinkled their reassurance from the horizon as a brown and orange snail picked his way along the cracks in the wall. We pulled over, cleaned our dishes and went to sleep at 11:30.
Saturday, June 19, 1999; Antrim Coast:
Woke up at about 9:30 and hung around the van in Ballygally till almost 1pm getting readjusted to the chores. Cleaned our fruit, printed some model release forms and organized our groceries.
The weather was a miserable combination of mist, rain, gusts and cold. We drove the Antrim coast road (A2) and took the scenic route but felt quite unlucky to be doing it when visibility was so poor. We paused for a nap at Cushendun, then decided to forsake the Antrim Glens and drive straight through to Ballycastle.
Found a lovely neighborhood to the west of Ballycastle, and parked on a dead end street. But we were scared off by a farmer who came out and stared at us with wide, unblinking eyes. His ginger colored nose hairs were as long and prolific as Hitlers moustache and he told us wed better not park on the street or "someone might run into you."
We didnt ask any questions and drove back into town where we parked in a public lot across from the last B&B in town. We made ourselves a tofu, vegetable and black-bean sauce stir fry. The weather improved enough to let us have a wee walk to the harbor and the Marine Hotel. We used the bathrooms and noticed the two phone booths outside (newer all glass style) had been completely smashed. The hotel receptionist said it had happened just the night before.
Read until just after 11pm and turned in for the night. Set the computer to backing up while we slept.
Sunday, June 20, 1999; Corrymeela, Kinbane Castle and the Giants Causeway:
Managed to get back to sleep after waking up at 4:30. Finally woke for breakfast at 9am. Made the 3 mile walk to Corrymeela along the shore. Passed a gorgeous golf course wrapped around a 14th century ruined abbey.
The weather had improved to that standard cycle of half-hour sun & fifteen minute of rain which weve come to expect as normal Ireland weather. The coast showed off its green water driving in frothy foam against the black-gray stones. Corrymeela overlooks the Causeway Coast and from there we can see directly north Rathlin Island and to the east mountains of Scotland topped with misty clouds. Corrymeela is a non-denominational Christian center for peace and reconciliation. The atmosphere has absorbed years of peace seminars. A feeling of calm emanates from the rocks of the Crei, a unique building which serves as their center of worship. It has a magical property that one can hear clearly words spoken in a whisper on the other side of the room.
We drove on the coastal road towards the Rope Bridge outside Ballycastle. It was closed so we decided not to walk out to see it seeing as we couldnt walk across.
Made our way further along the coast looking for the Giants Causeway. We saw a sign for a wee castle called Kinbane and decided to have a look. It turned out to be one of the most peaceful and beautiful sights wed seen since the Jervaulx Abbey. It was just the sort of thing our Fulbright-rejected spirits needed. The sky was beautiful and the wind whipped past us leeching away our earthly concerns. Henry found his knees were starting to give him quite a bit of trouble and it took him twice as long as Kathleen to hobbled down the stairs to the castle (it was a drop of about 150 feet).
Onward we went into the changing weather. Blue sky gave way to gray spitting clouds. Parked in the visitor center for Giants Causeway and hiked down to the shoreline where the exotic rocks are found. Celtic legends say that the giant Finn McCool built a bridge to Scotland to challenge his rival across the sea. But when his rival showed up, he was much bigger than Finn expected. So McCool dressed up as a baby and had his wife rock him in the cradle. When the rival saw how big the son was, he fled in terror of the father, smashing the bridge as he went to prevent pursuit. (Other stories of Finn McCool make him out to be a cross between Paul Bunion and Huckleberry Finn. Finn?)
We finished the day by arriving in Derry and stayed at the house of Kathleens friend Patty. Also met one of his friends, Glen, who runs aid to children in Romania and who knows people we know. Small world.
We stayed up quite late visiting with Patty and continuing to get off regular sleep patterns.
Monday, June 21, 1999; Grianan of Aileagh and Derry:
Woke up late and decided to search out a pagan experience for summer solstice. We saw Grianan of Aileagh, a circle fort, on our map just over the border into the Republic. With forty minutes to go before midday we suited up and drove off.
On the way we discovered the border crossing between the two countries has been leveled to the ground. Only a concrete pad with uneven edges stands where army troops used to check everyones cars for explosives.
The fort sits on the top of a hill with magnificent views of five counties and the north Atlantic. The wind was brutally strong and pounded against our bodies. The site is reported to have been used by humans since 2,000BC, and the structure was believed to be originally built in 500BC. Its a perfect circle of stones about 77 ft in diameter and 17 feet tall. It was impressively reconstructed in 1870. We werent sure what was original and what was reconstruction, though there was supposed to be a black line telling one which was which.
We returned to Derry and drove around the city. We had lunch, nap and computer time back at Pattys. In the evening he made us a lovely dinner of lentils, cauliflower and potatoes. Then we joined two of his friends (Paul and Stu) and went to the Clarendon Bar for "Table Quiz." We were terrible. Kathleen and I were no help to our Irish friends who had to try and carry the night. (Trivia isnt our strong suit, and British/Irish trivia is even harder.)
Patty continued to visit with us until 1 in the morning. Kathleen went to bed around 1:30 and Henry stayed up till 3am working on a story submission, e-mail and watching sci-fi on TV.
Tuesday, June 22, 1999; Derry:
Woke up later than the day before. Kathleen visited with Patty who went to work late. By noon we went walking into Derry. The weather was once again rainy and cold. We toured the crafts village and made several purchases of cards, books, toothpaste and lunch. Unfortunately there wasnt much street life to enjoy as the weather was miserable for all. We went to the show The Fifth Province which was an audio-visual exploration of Derry and Celtic History. A lot of money was spent on this production and it was original is several respects (the time ship actually moved and gave us a pretty entertaining experience) but much of the content seemed weak: too much material covered without a strong theme.
Walked on the walls of Derry far enough to see Columbs Cathedral (named for Saint Columbus who was exiled from Donegal and lived out the rest of his life in the 6th century on the tiny island of Iona.)
Walked back to Pattys by 5pm and made Quesadilla dinner for him which he had never had. (He loved it.) Stayed inside reading, working on computer and trying to resist the pull of the Sony Playstation or the VCR.
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