Tuesday, July 14
We started out our morning at 9:30 a.m. to begin the day by seeing the Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast. Unfortunately, the buildings were closed for the day (many people tend to take off the day after the Bank Holiday on July 13), so we walked around the grounds and Dr. Campbell gave us a brief overview on the history of the buildings.
The Parliament Buildings house the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is the legislative body for NI. It was established under the Belfast Agreement in 1998, also known as the Good Friday Agreement. The building was built in 1921 and officially opened on November 16, 1932.
We proceeded to drive into Belfast to see City Hall. We found that this building was also closed. It is a gorgeous building that first opened on August 1, 1906. It is located in the heart of Belfast City Centre in Donegall Square. We took some selfies like any good American (or Canadian) tourist would do and admired the architectural structure, gardens and location. Wow, that’s pretty neat! (Neature walks, anyone?).
We walked around Victoria Square Shopping Centre and decided that, before any purchases could be made, we needed to stop and eat some food. The majority of us had Ulster Frys, which is essentially a heart attack on a plate and the best thing you will ever eat in your life. That is not an exaggeration.
We then walked to Primark, which is the equivalent of a Marshall’s or T.J.Maxx back in the states. It was awesome! Now, I really like my shopping, but when I can find some steals & sales? Oh, that is when I love shopping. My momma taught me right!
After our shopping excursion, we drove to the Scarva “sham fight” in County Down. We arrived and found crowds of people, lots of food and the re-enactment of the victory of William III over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne (1690). The event is organized by The Royal Black Perceptory and begins with a mile procession through Scarva before the re-enactment begins.
Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, Millar Farr, spoke about the celebrations and the importance of the UK to remain as one.
“Just last year there was a concerted effort to break up this Nation through the Referendum held in Scotland under the guise that Independence would be good for that country. Nothing could have been further from the truth. The unity of the four countries which make up this United Kingdom has provided stability and strength, serving us well in a World where individual small countries struggle to remain viable or survive. Thankfully that attempt to break up this Nation failed and today we remain a United Kingdom. It is our hope it will remain so in the future because we are a family and families are at their strongest when they are together and this in turn brings benefits for all.”
After watching the re-enactment, we grabbed ice cream and decided to walk through the crowds of people and check out the various booths available before heading out.
We went to Armagh to see two cathedrals both named after St. Patrick, one Protestant and the other Roman Catholic. Both churches were beautiful magnificent architectural structures that could be seen on top of the high points in the town.
The awe of both churches was incredible and overwhelming. It is often in such beauty and magnificence that I am reminded of my insignificance and yet, I am also reminded that the Lord is so worthy of my praise & worship. I am not a number or “that girl”: I am known, fearfully and wonderfully made. In such grandeur, I recognize that I am one of many in the world and yet, I am loved by the One who knows every hair on my head, every thought, every feeling and every desire in my heart. In those few moments, looking up at the paintings, the pillars and the Cross, my heart soared with contentment in those few moments of perfect peace.
Our next stop was the historic Crown Liquor Saloon in Belfast across from the Europa Hotel. The stained glass windows and woodwork are breathtaking! We all grabbed drinks and sat around, talking about our final days in Northern Ireland, our favorite parts and our next steps when we get back home. It’s crazy how fast the past couple of weeks have flown by!
The Europa Hotel in Belfast is one with a mangled history. It has been the place of choice for presidents, journalists, Prime Ministers and celebrities. It is known as the most bombed hotel in Europe and one of Belfast’s tallest structures. It was damaged 33 times by IRA bombs between the years 1970 – 1994. The hotel opened in 1971 amidst the heightened difficulties and violence of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Although repeated bombings took place, it continued to stay open for guests and visitors, following its motto “we never close”.
We finished the evening by hosting #TacoTuesdaywithTim. We introduced Dr. & Mrs. Campbell to the finer things in life: Mexican burritos and margaritas! It was such a fun night, great conversation and loads of laughter! After ice cream & blackberries (again, the food is so good here! #allthefoods), we watched Dr. Campbell’s play, Moonlight & Magnolias. It was hilarious and surrounds the writing of the screenplay, Gone with the Wind. I may or may not have it downloaded on my computer, so I’m perfectly happy recreating a TimFest back at home for those interested! 😉
We were all exhausted after a long, fun day together and happily went to sleep before beginning the final days of our work placements in Northern Ireland.