Apr 27, 2009

In the afternoon, after a phone briefing with the stranded members of our little group, we made a decision to go on with our plan, especially since we were booked in Derry. Dominik and I got on a bus in Belfast and after 2 1/2 hours of an uneventful ride we found ourselves in Derry.

Northern Ireland is simply beautiful. The green colour of the hills and pastures and valleys is absolutely wonderful and totally unique. And I'm talking only about what I saw from the bus. I can't imagine what the more amazing parts of Northern Ireland look like, such as the Antrim Coast, for instance. My greatest wish was to see it, together with the Giant Causeway and I deeply hope I'll have a chance to do it some time in the future.

In Derry we stayed at Serendipity House B&B, or actually, its sister B&B, the Angel House, just across the street from Serendipity. Paul and Charlotte welcomed us warmly, especially after sharing with them what an ordeal the rest of the party were going through. Anyway, we quickly left the guesthouse, in order to look around Derry, a walled city of the north, that became famous, at least to me, for an incident on January 30, 1972, known as Bloody Sunday, when 13 unarmed civilians were killed by the British soldiers.

Inside the walls, which have never been breached, hence its nickname the Maiden City, there lies a cute little city centre, with the Diamond War Memorial on the main square.


Apr 22, 2009

In the meantime, the two of us arrived in Belfast by bus and with the help of a really friendly couple we found our Holiday Inn on Ormeau Avenue. In the morning, after a huge Irish breakfast, which is actually the same as English breakfast, we headed for Falls and Shankill Roads, which was supposed to be an easy stroll, but it took us quite a long time on the empty streets of the Belfast suburbs, which didn't make us comfortable at all. There were not many sightseers in this part of town, and those who were there, were on a 'Black Taxi' tour. I believe it's the best thing to do if you want to learn more about this troubled neighbourhoods of Belfast, because the cabbies are the locals who know a lot about the area.

I had printed a map with the exact route to see all the murals in both the Catholic and the Protestant area, together with the so called Peace Line on a road in between. Unfortunately, the map was somewhere in London with Zoran, so I asked at the nearby newsagent's about the way. I just couldn't believe my ears when the newsagent and a customer suggested I shouldn't go there because it wasn't safe, since the people on that side were not as friendly as they were. We went in spite of it, but felt ill at ease all the time - for no apparent reason but prejudice. It's a country still troubled so much by its past. I feel so sorry for them. We didn't see the Peace Line because we just couldn't find it anywhere. But never mind, we always keep something for next time.

The way back to the centre was an easy and a peaceful one. The centre of Belfast is a different story, or at least it seemed to be more cosmopolitan, unprejudiced, open, modern, and oh so full of shoppers - my kind of people and I felt like I was home.

Another really wonderful thing that will always remind me of Belfast was the friendliness and helpfulness of a Holiday Inn receptionist. I didn't know whether I was going to Derry or to Dublin, whether I was going to rent a car in Belfast, Derry or Dublin, if at all, I had so many questions about so many other things concerning our stay in Ireland, but he patiently and kindly answered all of them, made a thousand phone calls, let me use the hotel phone for my private calls without any charge, all with witty remarks to keep me going. And I don't even know his name!

Leprechauns - continued

Apr 19, 2009

Their luggage arrived on the 10:00 p.m.flight and so they dozed off in those not really comfortable airport chairs at Terminal 2. At 5 a.m. they took the Tube to Euston Station, only to find out that all the trains to the West Coast were cancelled, because of a fatality on the main line. Can you imagine? Someone decided to commit a suicide that morning on that line! Odd, isn't it?

Anyway, they were instructed to go to Marlborough Street Station and get on the Birmingham train for which their tickets would be valid. However, upon arriving at this station they were told there was an error in their computer system so they couldn't accept their train tickets and if they wanted to go to Holyhead, they would have to pay 100 pounds, which was three times more than what they paid for Euston - Dublin, train and ferry included! So they headed back to Euston Station, hoping the trains would start running sooner or later. It was rather later than sooner, and it was not the train to Holyhead, but to Liverpool that brought them closer to Dublin, i.e. to Crewe where they had to change trains for Chester, where they would change for Holyhead, where they would board the ferry. Way too complicated.

Suddenly, it dawned on Zoran that they would be three minutes late for the ferry, and as soon as he got off the train in Crewe he headed for the Information Counter where he was told that it had already been taken care of, because they were not the only passengers for Dublin. How relieved they were!

But only for a moment! Because all of a sudden the 14.21 train on the monitor changed first to delayed and then to cancelled! They were sheerly devastated. It was then when someone dropped a hint of giving up, which was rejected with contempt by the others. Clearly aware of the fact that nothing, absolutely nothing went the way they wanted, and that everything that could go wrong went wrong, they started to make fun of it and laugh at themselves and their misery. Laughter is always the best remedy and it helped them to go on with their adventure.

Eventually they boarded the 2:30 ferry and fell asleep the moment they hit the soft armchair cushions on Deck 9. They crossed the Irish Sea in 3 1/2 hours and arrived in Dublin after a 48-hour long journey during which they had used all the major means of transport!

Was it because of the Leprechauns?!?

Apr 18, 2009

Not in my wildest dreams would I be able to imagine what an ordeal was awaiting us on this trip to Ireland. Still, I'd go through it again since everything turned out fine in the end. We all came back home safe and sound, and that's what matters.

When the lady at the Lufthansa counter for the flight to Dublin said that there was absolutely no chance to board the morning flight, I wasn't disappointed at all, since I knew there were two more flights that day. After four hours, a feeling of uneasiness rose within me as we were told there were only six available seats and 11 people on the waiting list before us! In the end, we managed to get two seats, so again, it was quickly decided that Dominik and I were going to Dublin. Again, a quick and crazy exchange of passports, tickets, hotel reservations, cell phone chargers, suitcases, sterlings and euros. And yet again, I wasn't prepared for the split up, I still blame myself for not having a spare bag with the bare essentials for those staying behind. It was a replay of Atlanta, with me taking everything, leaving Zoran and Mislav with nothing but a comb, a hairbrush, a mascara, an eyeshadow compact with applicator and cleaning pads - the absolute necessities for two guys! I even took Zoran's high blood pressure pills with me.

Anyway, the two of us arrived safely in Dublin, took a bus to Belfast,checked in at the hotel and we pretty much did what we had planned. Actually, we took all the luck from the rest of our party, who were later told they didn't have to wait for the third flight since it was overbooked and they would stand absolutely no chance to board it. However, Zoran had a contingency plan: fly to Manchester and take the train to Holyhead, Wales and the ferry to Dublin. Unfortunately, this flight was fully booked, too. Which was no problem for Zoran, who had a plan B - fly to London and yes, after hauling and tugging about exchanging air tickets, after leaving the laptop with the immigration officers and proving that it was his, they managed to arrive in London in time to be taken to Euston Station by taxi and to get on the train to Holyhead. But alas, Sanja and Mladen's suitcases were lost somewhere on the way, so they had to wait for another flight from Frankfurt.
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