A BIG history lesson

Trip Start Mar 23, 2007
Trip End Jul 01, 2007

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Flag of Ireland  ,
Monday, May 28, 2007

I concede that I haven't been overly diligent in updating my blog lately, but in my defense, I've had my hands full trying to stay employed and staying awake. To say the last fortnight has been a whirlwind of this, that and everything in between would be an understatement...but let me not lament my outstanding sociability of the last while and rather dive into what the feck I've actually been up ta! Grand.
So, my long lost American pal Megan heard about my little stint over in the Emerald Isle and decided to pop over and check the country out for herself! So while I got close and personal with my leather couch cushions and faux oak flooring, the AmeriCAN was off touring up a storm across Ireland! I caught up with her on her jaunt to the North (a one day Paddywagon tour up to Belfast, then across to Giants Causeway, Derry and back to Dublin) the day after she got back from a tour of the South. BTW, I must just quickly let you in on the voting frenzy that gripped the Republic a week or so ago. The pubs were packed with all the punters watching the results come up as they were counted and the atmosphere was almost like watching Pop Idols or something, with each person going mental after the winner of their county was announced. The Irish lads even had betting going on at the bookies on which party would be ruling the country - typical! As predicted, Bertie O'Hearn won another term in office for Fine Fael (nope, still dunno how to pronounce it) and the pubs went mental like they' just won the Eurovision Song contest or something (Ireland actually came stone last in that competition this year by the way - big national tragedy!) Anyway, I digress...
So Megs and I caught the bus up from Dublin to Belfast at 6am and then climbed aboard the Paddywagon and off we went along the Causeway coast. First stop was Carrick-a-Rede - a 1m wide rope bridge 30m above the see that connects the mainland to a little island that has been used to catch Salmon off of for centuries. I kinda forgot that they don't accept Euro in the North so we were kinda stranded with zero cash for the day, and more importantly were unable to pay the fee to cross the bridge. Damn. Out of shear rebellion, and because I'm an African and like to climb things, I decided to climb up one for the 'cliffs' overlooking the whole rope-bridge debacle - only to have a whistle blown at me by the nature guide person doing the o-so-important job of checking tickets for the bridge down below - I feckin hate northerners. So I had to climb down and sulk back to the bus - idjut. Got some cool picks tho.
Next stop was the Giants Causeway further along the coast - which we had to leg it down about a 2km road past ambling tourists to get to before it started raining. It really is an amazing place to see and we spent about an hour or so clambering over the gazillion year old rock formations in search of the perfect picture. Very cool area that is a must for any visitor to Ireland - especially if you're into rocks and stuff (no, not Pretoria natives, the actual rocks that you find in the ground). After a brisk walk back up to the bus, we headed on to Dunluce Castle on the way down to Derry. The cool thing about the castle, apart from the fact that a huge chunk of it fell into the ocean below in 1693 while the owner was having dinner in his dining hall (It took a whole bunch of his kitchen staff with it! Crazy), is that it was the seat of the MacDonnel family in the 16th and 17th centuries. The MacDonnel's were, along with the O'Neills, the most powerful families on the island at the time. We arrived in Derry and had walked around the city walls (built in 1614) that encircle the old medieval town. Derry was a hotspot during the troubles in the North and on 20 September 1972, during a peaceful march by 20000 residents, the occupying British forces killed 14 innocent bystanders. 108 bullets were fired into the crowd. No-one has yet been brought to trial for the murders. And that's where the U2 song, Sunday, Bloody Sunday gets its name. There are loads of murals around the town depicting various scenes from the Troubles - some nice, some not so nice. Our tour guide on the tour was full of stories and tales and was really good at the history of the area. Ireland is an amazing country with an amazing and incredibly sad history. The suffering and sadness that looms over it's mottled past is intriguing and harrowing at the same time. The British were absolute gob-sh1tes to the Irish, and even though our guys back home reckon they got a raw deal, the Irish had it way worse long before Africa 'suffered' the drawbacks of colonialism. A very poignant fact that remains clear throughout Irish history is the fact that they have always been a fiercely proud and strong nation - All the Irish have ever wanted is to be an independent nation with free reign in their own country. The history of the Ireland is absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend reading into it - it'll keep you going for years!
Sunday - Megs and I dragged ourselves outta bed and the off the floor respectively and headed off to Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) for a tour of the place. We went through even more Irish history and heard numerous stories of courage and sacrifice that has made Ireland the incredible country it is today. The jail was opened in 1797 and through it's history  housed a great deal of Irelands political heroes. 14 of the 15 executions of the rebels who took were responsible for the 1916 Easter Uprising (where the nationalists told the british empire ta feck off) - the one guy, James Connolly, was so badly injured that he had to be strapped to a chair to face the firing squad. Needless to say, each one of them are Irish heroes - every main street in every town is named after one of them! After some serious contemplation and deliberation of whether or not to renounce my british citizenship on account of them being absolute wangers, we headed down to the Guinness Storehouse for a schpeel about the whole process of how the black stuff is made. Megs, being the űber  competitive ameriCAN that she is, heckled the poor woman at the brew switch to make sure that she was gonna get her name up in lights and a brew of 250000 pints of Guinness with her number on them.  Sawheet! The whole tour ends up on the 9th floor of the storehouse in the Gravity Bar, where you collect your free pint and get to drink it with a 360 degree of Dublin from up high - pretty darn wicked! We then headed over to The Arlington Hotel for some 'traditional' irish pub grub and dancing. Yup, it was a huge tourist trap and it was doubtful of whether the dancers were even irish  (you need more than a bucket load of base and a few gallons of blush and eyeliner to hide Mother Russia!) It was good fun though and we got to see some "Riverdance" style foot-tapping, hopping and jigging for free! Megs headed back to big bad DC the next day, which kinda marked the end of my super-cool month of craziness and mad travel. It was awesome to see Meg again after such a long time, and cool to do copious amounts of "catch-up" over heaps of pints! I reckon we also shared the same sentiment about the next trip we have to do together - flying over to Hawaii to see Abi and hang out with her a bit! Yes Please!
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