Wednesday, August 15, 2007

the land of little green men, part five

day five: in which i meet my sister's future husband, and after which, mama will undoubtedly get a frantic phone call.

after several mornings in a row of rolling out of bed before 7am to get packed, stuff myself full of food, and get all my worldly possessions on the bus by 8:30, i was thrilled to finally sleep in. in fact, i was so thrilled that i passed on breakfast, which allowed me to catch at least an extra half hour of sleep.

when the spirit finally moved me (and by "spirit", i mean mama, who was clearly highly caffienated at the time), i pried open my eyelids, threw on some clothes, and we headed down to the coach for our walking tour of derry.

i have pages upon pages in my journal of tidbits and trivia about derry, mostly gleaned from our tour guide, ronan mcnamara. i will spare you the bulk of it, but here are five interesting tidbits:

tidbit #1: there are approximately 104,000 inhabitants of derry, which lies near the border of northern ireland and the republic of ireland. according to ronan, roughly 74% are catholic, 24% are protestant, and there's one buddhist. (that'd be ronan.)

tidbit #2: bogside, just outside the western wall, is full of murals depicting scenes from the struggle between the catholics and protestants in the 1970s and 1980s, a time referred to as "the troubles". glenfarda park, located in bogside, commemorates january 30, 1972- bloody sunday- when 13 people were killed and 14 injured by police during a civil rights march protesting the imprisonment of citizens without a fair trial. ("sunday, bloody sunday" by U2 also commemorates the event.)

tidbit #3: one of the men killed on bloody sunday, john duddy, has a brother who named one of his sons in his honor. this younger john duddy is a boxer in america. interestingly enough, the local paper ran an article on the boxer the day we tooled around derry.

tidbit #4: the walls of derry were built between 1613 and 1618, and there were four original gates. of those four, bishop's gate, built in 1789, is the oldest. in the 1800s, three new gates were added, making a total of seven that one can walk both across and through today. the walls of derry measure 1 mile in circumference.

tidbit #5: at the end of the bridge over the river foyle, which runs through derry, there is a sculpture called "hands across the divide". this sculpture is designed so that the two figures can be moved closer and closer together as the city comes closer to achieving a lasting peace.

after our walking tour ended, mama and i continued walking along the remainder of the mile-long walls, stopping to take pictures every 50 feet or so (anyone who's travelled with me knows how photo-happy i can get). i'm afraid mama was a little nervous about snapping this one, since i was on the edge of the wall, roughly 30 or 40 feet from the grass outside the wall:

after finishing our mile, we cut through the center of the city, then exited the walled portion of the city near guild hall, a stone's throw from the public bathrooms at the bus station. i was treated to the relative luxury of a commode with both a seat and toilet paper, while mama hovered while reading about all the people "jennifer" (or was it "jessica"? i didn't get a picture) loved.

lunch was eaten on the hoof, and i tried out a tuna deluxe sandwich (tuna, mayo, bell pepper, and green onion) and ham and cheese potato crisps (still not my favorite, thought they were edible.)

we returned to the hotel for a short break, then set out on our tour of the inishowen peninsula.

the peninsula is part of country donegal. when ireland was divided in the early 1900s, only six of the nine counties in the ulster region of ireland were included in northern ireland, due to their protestant majorities. county donegal was one of the three counties left behind.

our first stop on the peninsula was at the GrianĂ¡n of Aileach, an ancient fort that's been traced back to the druids. i wound up lagging behind the rest of the group, as i had to change rolls in my pentax. i wound up walking through the gates with a local guy named jonnie. he and i chatted during the short walk up to the fort, and he set up his laptop while i took pictures of the panorama. (you can see three counties from the walls of the fort, including county tyrone, from where my great grandfather's family hailed.)

before leaving the fort, i asked jonnie if he'd mind posing with the gnomes, as we'd conversed about them a few minutes earlier. he said he wanted a picture with me, and a few of the gnomes snuck in.

post-picture, i acquired jonnie's email address and promised to email him a copy of the photo. conversation ensued, and while i won't bore you with the details (you'll have to wait for the book, i guess), at one point he asked if i had a sister who was looking for an irish husband.

so, sibling......

we drove up to malin head, the most northern point in ireland. on the way, we passed a town (i didn't catch the name) with a police station that's only open from 6-7pm monday through friday.

yes, you read that right. sadly, my photo of the sign listing their hours was both blurry and poorly aimed. i'll try to get a better shot at it next time.

dinner was a buffet back at the hotel. many in our tour group opted for the optional evening excursion, which was dinner and a medieval show at a local castle, but a few of us decided we'd rather pay $30 for the hotel buffet than over twice as much for the medieval show. the buffet was very good, and i wound up positively stuffed. (my chocolate cravings got the best of me, i'm afraid, and i wound up making an uncharacteristically large number of visits to the dessert bar.)

after dinner, i headed back to our room, while mama stopped for a guinness nightcap at the bar. around 9:45, we were startled by a piercing sound, as were many of our tourmates, judging from the large number of folks standing in the hotel hallway in their nightclothes. we later found out that one of the members of our group had a temperamental hairdryer in their room. (hairdryers were provided in every hotel room we stayed in.) it seems that, while using the hairdryer, it emitted a puff of smoke, at which point he shut it off and decided that dripping dry was preferable to setting anything on fire. several minutes later, the fire alarm went off.

it's nice to know that if the building had actually been in flames, we would have been notified...eventually.

in the next electrifying passage: baked potato + smoked salmon = bliss, review of the facilities at yeats' resting place, and mama nearly gets lost


bricotrout said...

very nice pics and 'yea!!' for the lone buddhist!

duff said...

thanks, bricotrout. :) glad you found time to stop by.

just some dude said...

Damn, I forgot how cute you are! ;-)