Let's Celebrate N. Ireland Independence Day

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Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Monday, July 13, 2009

On Sunday after church we set off to have some fun.  We went to the Exploris aquarium in Belfast.  The design of the aquarium allows kids (and us adults) to touch stingrays, hold star fish and many other sea creatures.  The kids even got to see the diver feed the fish right from his hand. The highlight for me was the medusa jellyfish they had in a circular tank you could watch from all sides.  They were hunting the small perch that were in the tank like a boa constrictor hunts a mouse.  Exploris also has an important role supporting Ireland.  They take in injured or abandoned baby seals and nurse them until they are ready to go back into the wild.  The youngest seal was 48 hours old.

We went up the coast to Portaferry to take a ferry (duh!) to the town of Downpatrick.  The ferry  ride was great and was the inspiration for some of our great pictures we took in N. Ireland. 

Downpatrick is the burial place of St. Patrick.  We visited his grave site and viewed the Cathederal of Ireland, a church built in his honor in the early 1700's.  Next we were off to One Inch Abbey.  I have no idea where the name came from but it was a fantastic place.  The abbey was in ruins but enough of the original structure was there to give you an idea of the complexity of the architecture and the proud monks that built it.  It sat near a large lake and you had a view of the Cathederal from the Abbey.

Brian introduced me to a great beer accidently.  Brian is a lager or a stout man.  I fell in love with ales, which are in between those two.  Since Brian had already bought some Guinness I decided to try some different.  I purchased a six pack of Smithwicks. (pronounced Smith-icks because evidently the Irish are too busy to pronounce all of their vowels or constantants)  Brian looked at me dubiously because evidently he didn't like the taste in the past.  But he succumbed to one when I poured mine and soon we exclaiming that was one great tasting beer.  Of course I fall in love with a beer that is not available in the States.  Just my luck.  In the next blog I will tell you how to pour a Guinness correctly so it isn't bitter.

Declare Your Independence

On Monday we ventured off to Larnes to see the July 12th parade.  Northern Ireland celebrates its independence from Ireland each year on this day.  (or the closest Monday).  I think it is funny that consider themselves independent even they are part of the United Kingdom.  Herbie, Brian's dad explained that N. Ireland has its own Parliment and acts much like an independent country rather than say Kansas does to the USA which is still limited to federal law.  Well the party begins 2 days before and continues on.  This may shock you but Irish folk drink a lot even when they are marching in their own independence parades.  The bands were a major highlight.  All of the towns and cities within a 50 miles radius come together for the parade.  My two favorites were the drum and fife bands and the bagpipe bands.  The videos don't do the music justice.

We finished a fun day with a trip to the Crosskeys Pub.  Everyone said I should visit a real authentic pub. Well I found it.  Crosskeys was built in 1742 and still has a thatch roof and reeks of irish tradition.  There could be no better setting for the best tasting Guiness I ever had.

NEXT:  The Harms' stormed an Irish Castle
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