I awoke to the sound of the countryside. There were no cars zipping through; no sirens to be heard. There wasn’t a loud conversation held by other guests, or slamming doors from nearby apartments or rooms. We were awoken solely by the bright sun. Yes, the bright sun has followed us everywhere on this trip – quite contrary to typical climate patterns for the area. Despite having gotten to bed at an early hour I still didn’t feel rested. We were really looking forward to arriving at our next destination and “resetting.” We went downstairs to our breakfast. Prior to this point we had been provided Full Irish Breakfasts or something equivalent. On this particular morning we were provided cereals, toast, juice and coffee. Although I haven’t eaten cereal in ages, I couldn’t complain. Our exhausted states affected our appetite as well, and we both welcomed a lighter breakfast. The kitchen radio was playing BBC news. Having felt quite disconnected from current events, I enjoyed getting caught up. Justin finished his breakfast and went upstairs to shower while I stayed at the kitchen table looking out into the back yard, mountains in the background. Sarah came in and put some music on, and I assured her we had everything we needed – that I was just enjoying my coffee in the peacefulness. Sarah left me to my solitude and I began to listen to the music. Two songs concluded and I’d made the prediction that this music was that of her daughter’s who’d she’d raved about the entire evening prior. Sure enough, when she came back in to check on me, she mentioned it was her daughter’s EP she made with two Americans. I’m not sure if Sarah is running a B&B or a marketing agency for her daughter. Either way, the last song was a catchy tune and it stuck in my head for half the day. Hopefully Leila Jane finds success, with or without her mother’s help.
Packed (once more) and ready to hit the road (for the millionth time), we said our goodbyes to Sarah, her annoying pup and her friendly kitty.
Today’s drive would be a short one with only one brief stop off. No sooner did we get on the road and we were coming into Londonderry, also known as Derry. (London footed the bill for the construction of the city, so as a result required “London” to precede “Derry.” While Londonderry is still the official legal name, most people refer to it as Derry. We found our way into the city center and got prime parking on the street. Unfortunately, it was only good for an hour. We grabbed a tea, a toilet and some wifi (the trifecta) to more firmly plan the details of our visit and then moved the car to a carpark.
We left our car in the red Block A lot, Level 1A, West, Row 1. Should be easy to find, right? I took a picture of the sign so there would be no confusion where to return. We exited the garage to find the doors could not be used to enter from the outside. We assumed we’d have to enter from the front of the garage when we returned.
We started walking up a hill and as we crested the top we saw the famous wall that surrounds the city. Derry is the only Irish walled city whose walls are still completely intact. The history in Derry is fascinating, but there are a lot of details so I’ll distill it down for you. Derry wanted to keep the English and Scottish settlers out, so they built a wall. The wall had 4 main gates into the city, although 3 more were later added. The city came under siege many times throughout history. One of the key sieges was regarding a dispute over power. Derry played an important part in WWII as it was the first American naval base in Europe and gave the Allies a strategic location just before the United States entered the war.
On our walk around the city, we encountered several bastions, a cathedral, a small chapel and accompanying cemetery, and city hall with several cannons.
Derry has also been rocked with political unrest as a result of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. Catholics were the victims of discrimination under the Unionist government. The movement incurred a significant rise in violence in the 1960s, the latter of the decade which is considered the starting point for “The Troubles.”
On Sunday, January 30, 1972, there was a civil rights march that resulted in the murders of 14 unarmed civilians, with an additional 13 injured at the hand of British paratroopers. This event is known as Bloody Sunday – we’ve all heard the song. For decades the government covered it up and refused to take responsibility, but eventually, through the efforts of surviving family members who banded together to have their loved ones vindicated, the government finally accepted responsibility, but only placed the blame on one individual.
We had walked halfway around the city atop the wall before our detour down the hill to see the murals and monuments for the civil rights movement. We then came back up the same hill and took a quick break for lunch, finally resuming our wall walk around the city.
Having walked the 1.5 km around the city, we returned to the car park and walked all the way around the building until we reached the front entrance. Immediately in front of us was the pay kiosk. We paid for our parking and then looked for a stairwell to take us up to the appropriate level. We looked everywhere but couldn’t find one, so we just decided to walk the driving route. Around in circles (again) we went until we reached the red level. Directly in front of me was the sign I’d taken a picture of earlier, but our car wasn’t there. Justin insisted we had driven further before parking, so up another level we went… to the Green level. Completely confused, we walked back down to the red level and I pulled out my phone to compare the signs and make sure they were completely alike – and they were. Suddenly Justin found another level up that was still red, so we went that direction and alas, there was our little gal! I looked at the sign I’d taken a photo of earlier and it was exactly the same as the sign below. I don’t know how 2 different levels can be the same level, but it apparently makes sense to the British. We were just thrilled to have found our car rather than spending the day walking around aimlessly in the car park labyrinth.
Off to Belfast! We couldn’t get there fast enough. (See what I did there)? We had booked a full apartment to ourselves as we’d be spending three nights there, and were especially looking forward to doing our laundry with the included washer/dryer. Rarely have I been as excited to launder my clothes but 2 weeks out of a backpack creates some urgency.
Another quick little jaunt and we’d arrived to Belfast. Once exiting off the motorway, we missed several turns due to slightly complicated roads that look like sidewalks, and the need for quick lane changes and turns. Nonetheless, a few reroutes and we found the building our apartment was in, and a perfect parking spot. As it was 7:00pm on Saturday night, we only had to wait one hour before parking was free until 8:00am Monday morning. We took the risk of receiving a parking ticket and left it there. We like to live on the edge…
We gained access to the apartment and were extremely pleased! It was clean and well furnished. Everything was very nice, and the wifi and TV worked great! The apartment is located in St. Anne’s Square and inside a little plaza with several restaurants. Just outside our balcony was a beautiful view of St. Anne’s Cathedral.
We picked a little pizza place and got some food to take back up to the apartment. The plan for the night was to RELAX! Justin started a load of laundry and we sat on the couch eating and watching the Big Bang Theory. After about 2 hours we realized the laundry was still going. Justin studied the machine and concluded it was still washing… or perhaps it was drying… he couldn’t be sure. The laundry eventually stopped, and smelled/appeared clean and was mostly dry, so we think the clothes were effectively washed.
With clean clothes to wear and a busy day ahead of us, we went to bed good and ready to take on our next exhilarating road trip!