Belfast & Derry/Londonderry

Day 22-27 of the Euro trip.

It’s a slow start again with the kids for the first morning in Belfast, Tanami has his own bed and has a great sleep, I duck down to the local shop to grab some ham, cheese and freshly baked rolls. Again it’s ham and cheese toasted rolls for brekky, quick and easy.

 

We catch the bus into the city easy enough, I’m not a huge user of public transport but it’s easy enough to get into the city with the bus stop literally around the corner and all busses going to the town centre. From here we catch a second bus, in the hope of finding our final destination… The Crumlin Road Gaol.

 

After what was about 15 minutes of being on the bus, I start to wonder if we haven’t missed our stop. I was told it was a bit over 5 minutes. I ask the bus driver who informs me that the stop was a long time back and we had missed it. He said we might as well stay on it and go around again. I’m thinking to myself as we are on the return loop, how the bloody hell did I miss that. Half an hour later and a lot longer walk than was initially required I realise how I had stuffed up.

 

I realised I had been looking out the window at this beautiful big building, so much potential, miss the gaol, which is directly opposite. Turns out it was the old courthouse!

 

Not to worry we have finally arrived. Walk up to the ticket office:

 

  • 2 adults please
  • Have you booked a tour?
  • No
  • You can’t actually just walk around, you need to pre book a tour.
    (Fuck me dead) I’m thinking to myself. I’ve been doing research for months for this trip, how did I balls this up?!?!

 

So tail between the legs and we are back off to the pad. We decide to get off a stop earlier and visit the Ulster Museum, at this stage the kids are restless. Ewelina and I go our separate ways again with a kid in hand each. 15-20 minutes later and we’ve had enough. The kids are driving us mad and have absolutely no interest in the museum. Travel with kids they said, what a great experience they said. Bull dust.

 

We head home and give the kids lunch and put them down. After an hour I head back to the museum, I’m not going to waste an opportunity like this with such a good museum practically on my doorstep. I’m there for an 1.5 hours before starting to get worried, I haven’t heard from Ewelina. I quickly rush back to the apartment, only to discover that the kids have literally only woken up about 10 minutes again, the craziness of the last few days had really worn the little buggers out!

 

By the time we get them ready, there’s no point in Ewelina going to the museum, so we go for another walk around our little neighbourhood looking for somewhere to print off a document that has been needed to be done for a few days. Internet cafes are few and far between, where you can’t print documents off, unlike they were 5-10 years where they were everywhere. Wifi has killed them.

 

Slow cooked pork for dinner goes down a treat that night, and it means we’ll have plenty for the following night when we go to Derry.

 

Friday there’s a big day planned, we want to get as much done as we can. We’ve booked tours of the gaol online, I’ll do the first shift, at 10, followed by Ewelina at 12. The tour goes approximately 1 hour and 15 mins. We do the change over, chill out a bit with the kids before I head back on the bus with the kids.

Car was packed before I headed off to the gaol, with the plan being I would take them back, and by the time I got back, drove to the gaol, Ewelina would be finished and we’d head t Derry.

 

By the time I get to the car, the kids have both fallen asleep in the pram. Load them into the car, without trying to disturb them too much and keep them asleep, manage to fit the pram in which is always an effort with a packed shit box of a car that we have.

 

Turn the key, bout to pull out of my park on a side street which is ridiculously busy. One of those streets where people can park both sides, but there’s only enough room for 1 car to drive down it at a time. But it’s definitely not a quiet street, with residents and people thinking they can use it as a short cut regularly. Added to this, there’s a lot of renovating of beautiful old buildings. Directly across from me is a job site. As I’m about to pull out, a bicycle rider rides past. He stops. He looks at me. He points to the front tyre. Looks at me. Sees my face with horror written all over it and gives an apologetic smile of ‘sorry I had to tell you, but someone had to’.
FAAAAARRRRRRRRRKKKKKKKKK. WHY ME!?!?!?!

 

Son of a bitch!!! I’m thinking to myself without waking to the kids and hitting the steering wheel.

 

I pull into the first driveway which is a business driveway thankfully. Pull all of the gear out of the car, without trying to wake the kids. Spare wheel is under the car, but I can’t find the part needed to get the spare wheel off. Why the F would they not just use the jack that takes the nuts off!?!?!

 

What am I going to do now?!?!!?

 

A bloke who works in the business comes out, he’s got an electric pump that means we can pump up they tyre and at least get somewhere to get it changed. We’ve had a bit of trouble with the 12V cigarette lighter charger. Not sure if it’s the cheap chargers we keep buying, the fuse or there’s rust in there which needs cleaning out. Long story short… The electric pump doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t the bastard, why would the battler get a break now.

 

½ a mile down the road I’ve been informed by the bloke with the pump, who looks at me suspiciously, with the kids sleeping, not having the right parts to change a tyre, and loaded up to the hilt in this shit box 2004 Citroen. Like some Aussie gypsy.

What seems like 3 miles later, driving at 15 miles an hour with the hazards on. I pump the tyre up.

I then make me way to a tyre place to get it changed. I text Ewelina saying give me a call when she’s finished. No need to alarm her, she’s hardly going to make the situation any better.

She calls me asking where I’ve parked. I inform her there’s been a slight change of plans.

Tyre changed, and coffee from the great café next door we are on our way to the distillery that has the oldest grant in Ireland. She’s impressed with how I’ve handled it all and so it’ll be me doing the tour.

 

Get there and it’s the last tour, 4 O’clock. By this stage, the kids are going proper mad, they haven’t had a run around the entire day. I’m out of there as soon as the tour guide says ‘follow me this way’. No looking back for me.

 

Finish the tour and get the 2 free tastes of whiskey from the distillery. See Ewelina in the same bar, chasing after kids, but not stressed out. Pretty happy even. I’m suspicious. Turns out she’s been given 5 free sample tokens!!! AND 4 free sample bottles. If I knew that was going to happen I would have been more than willing to sway, but unfortunately I’, always the driver.

 

The drive to Derry is a further hour or so. And I’ve got one chirpy parrot in the passenger seat. Like doesn’t stop chirping for the whole trip, which is entertaining, at least she’s happy.

 

Get to Derry and our accom for the night. Beautiful pad and it’s a shame we can’t make the most of it and fully appreciate it for longer.

 

Next day we do a general walking tour of Derry. I take Tanami whilst Ori sleeps. Ewelina does the majority of the listening and thoroughly enjoys it. As that tour is nearing to an end I tell her there’s another tour that I desperately want to do. This is of the ‘Bogside’, infamous in the era of ‘the Troubles’ in Northern Ireland from the 60’s to the 90’s and my tour guide has a very close connection with it all. Tanami wakes up and it’s Ori’s turn to sleep in the pram, perfect planning and almost perfect timing!

 

Lunch is had at an Irish pub. We’ve definitely earned a bought lunch. We do a walk across the ‘peace bridge’ before we load up the car and make our way to our friends place who lives about half an hour outside of Belfast, a place called Ballynahinch, which is very much in the countryside. It’s a beautiful little village, very quiet, which is what we need and our friends family is great with the kids, so we don’t feel as though we are walking on egg shells every time the kids pick up something. They also have plenty of toys for the kids to play with, such a blessing and we are so thankful and grateful. Their home has a really ‘homey home’ feel which makes us feel very comfortable and at ease as well.

 

SUNDAY

We head back into Belfast city, me being the battler that I am have left a decent whack of money at our apartment that we had stayed in before. 2 birds one stone, and as we look at life on the brighter side, it means Ewelina can go to Ulster Museum to get a bit more of a run down on ‘the Troubles’, which I really wanted her to do, as it gives you a much better understanding of why there is the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. After there we head to St George’s market, a beautiful undercover market with good quality nick knacks as well as fresh food, market/stall food, and a live band. We spend a good few hours there before heading home.

 

I’ve got to go back into town to meet a mate who I met whilst playing in Italy and have a beer with him and watching the local team play their big game in the European competition in France. I’ve checked the schedule, game starts at 4:15. Busses run on the hour on the half past, and take 40 minutes to get where I need to go. Just as I’m about to make my way to the bus I check on google maps how it’s going, only to realise that was the schedule up until 2:30. Next bus after that? 4:10… Me dead. That means 4:50 into town.

 

Right, stuff that I’m driving. 30 minutes later, I’m in there walking into the pub. 13-10 the score. 13-10?!?! I take a double look. Far out. Game was 4:15 local time!!! French time!!! #battler.

 

Watch the game there, have a good few points reminiscing with my mate before heading to another pub across the road. Few more beers and a whiskey or 2 and we wrap it up at 9:30.

 

Monday and I’m stinging a bit. Don’t know why but I didn’t have dinner last night. Things is, to make it worse, my car is in town. We’ve booked the famous ‘black cab’ tour of Belfast for midday. So now we have to catch a cab, to get to the cab, all because I read the schedule wrong!!!

 

The black cab tour is special. I did that on a Waratahs development tour back in 2006, and I reckon it is top 3 of the things I have ever done on my travels. Our driver drives past a pub and points to it.

 

  • See that pub there, a bomb went off in it and killed 6 Catholics. My dad was in there when it went off. He was furious as he didn’t even get to taste his first pint that day. He had 11 surgeries and 14 months later he finally got out of hospital.

 

 

Unbelievable! He’s a one eyed Catholic, so I take everything with a grain of salt that he says, but you’re going to expect that when his family has been through what he has.

 

Finish the tour, pick up the car and take everyone back out to the village. Only there for an hour before I have to head back into Belfast, I’m catching up with the Ulster Director of Rugby, which pretty much means he’s head coach and head of rugby. He was the defence coach when I was at the Waratahs. Haven’t seen him since 2009 and it’s great to catch up with him, talk about how things are going and reminisce. He’s been in the Irish system since 2008, 10 years living and working over there. Probably there for an hour and half before it’s time to head back and spend a bit more time just chatting to our friends family, as we haven’t seen them a great deal which is a shame as we enjoy their company…

Bed was later than it should have been with a solid trip the following day but oh well. Next stop Galway.

 

Note, this hasn’t been proofread.

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