Saturday, July 4, 2015
On Saturday, I arrived at 4:30 a.m. in Dublin, Ireland. Somehow, my flight was an hour early (how is that possible for an international flight?!). I grabbed some tea, walked around the airport to stay awake, although delirious from lack of sleep by that point. The struggle is real, ya’ll.
By 9 a.m., a few more ambassadors had arrived and by 10:30 a.m. almost all were present (one of the ambassadors had a delayed flight due to a strike) and headed out to get to Northern Ireland. Our director bought us tea & coffee before our long drive and we all sat, sleep-deprived, happy and in a delirious state as we sipped at our hot drinks, learning about each other, Northern Ireland and our placements.
The drive to our place of stay was amazing. I had to pinch myself a few times to remind myself that I was actually in Ireland… and to stay awake.*
*I may or may not sleep with my mouth opened when utterly exhausted in the car. Sorry to all who have to witness such a sight!
We arrived at our quaint cottage and unpacked, showered and rested. We had a couple of hours to ourselves before going to pick up the final arrival of one of the ambassadors and to take a short tour of Bangor together.
When everyone was altogether, we went and picked up the most amazing fish and chips (seriously, to die for!) and all sat and enjoyed a meal together.
We had about two hours before we left for Belfast for the evening to see the Tall Ships 2015 Tour.
A couple of fun facts about Belfast, Ireland:
- Birthplace of C.S. Lewis.
- Location of design & construction of the RMS Titanic.
- Game of Thrones is filmed at Titanic Studios.
We arrived at Titanic Quarter and saw the building where the RMS Titanic was designed. It will soon be renovated into a hotel. I know where I will be staying when I come back to Ireland! The museum of the RMS Titanic is next door in the shape of an iceberg.**
**As some of you might know, I am a history fanatic. My dream job is what Nicholas Cage’s character does in National Treasure. At the age of 6, I remember watching a documentary on the RMS Titanic and watching, wild-eyed, about the furniture, treasures, staircases, etc. that had been uncovered. So, seeing these historical places in Belfast is a dream come true for this treasure-hunting wannabe!
Back to reality…
The Tall Ships were incredible. Titanic Quarter was filled with people of all ages who had come to admire the ships and come together for a fun evening out. We walked around, checked out the artisan markets, and took in the sights and smells of Belfast. The evening finished with fireworks, which was a sweet reminder of home & Independence Day.
We got back to our place around midnight due to traffic in Belfast, but it was so worthwhile! We all slept quite well after such a busy day!
Sunday, July 5, 2015
The morning began early for us and we left for Downpatrick, Ireland around 8:45 a.m. We had to be at the St. Patrick Centre for a tour with another group that our director was leading.
The St. Patrick Centre is dedicated to the education of individuals about St. Patrick. (The driving out of snakes is a metaphor, ya’ll!). The centre also strives to connect and collaborate a variety of individuals regardless of culture, religion and beliefs to come together to learn about each other and St. Patrick.
The St. Patrick Centre is beautiful! The building is very welcoming in color, layout and design. We walked through the entrance and gift shop on the first floor of the centre before going into the exhibition.
The exhibition is worth a trip to Ireland! The amount of information about St. Patrick is laid out quite tastefully and provides visual information to learn more about the saint to understand the background and history of his relationship with Ireland.
After going through the exhibition, we enjoyed coffee & tea in the cafe, Daisie’s Cafe…, which was charming & a treat on a gorgeous Sunday morning! We toured the grounds behind the center and learned about the various vegetation and flowers growing on the well-kept grounds.
We joined the other travel group and our director gave us an overview of St. Patrick’s history before leading us to the gravesite of St. Patrick & St. Brigid.
This was incredible! The celtic people have been coming to his gravesite for over 1,500 years. 1,500 YEARS! How amazing is that?? His gravesite is placed on the highest hill in Downpatrick, near trees & water. The Celtic people worshipped by water because they believed that their ancestors were in the water and it was a way to be close to loved ones that had passed on.
We then toured the Church of Ireland’s Down Cathedral. It is a magnificent church with beautiful stained glass windows and high ceilings. Freshly painted, it offers a light and airy feeling for a place of worship and community.
Our next stop was Saul Church and Slieve Patrick. Both are symbolisms of the necessity for faiths to come together to work towards peace in order to break away the hatred and misunderstandings of thousands of years of history and wars. There was a recreation of Our Lady of Lourdes visiting St. Bernadette and an altar available for services, inclusive to all faiths in Northern Ireland.
Our final stop was Inch Abbey. For you Game of Thrones fans, this is where the red wedding was filmed. (I have no idea what that means, but I figure it’s an important piece of information that I should share.) The structure was astounding to see amidst the greenery and views.
Bridget’s adventures in Belfast
I took the train to go to Derriaghy for Mass on Sunday evening. As I was on the train, I found out that the Mass time was not available at the specific church, so I got off at Belfast Central to check out my other two options that I had quickly found (shoutout to David for some quick research on his end, too!). The fellows at the information desk didn’t know where the churches were exactly, so they circled the map and told me to verify it with the security guard. The security guard directed me to a location in the opposite direction that the info fellows had circled for me, so I went with what he had given me. I checked the first church and it was all locked up. Wrong place! I then proceeded to go in the direction of what I thought would lead me to St. Patrick’s Church per the help of the security guard.
Nope! Wrong location. Keep in mind the name of the street is used multiple times. I.e. Street, Place, Road, Pass, etc. I had multiple options to choose from when I realized that this was most definitely the wrong area of the city.
I looked at the map again where the information fellows had circled and decided to try that place instead. David had texted me a similar image, so I had a second reference and felt better about this option. After going through the emotions of prideful, fearful, cocky and content, I was able to locate St. Patrick’s Church on the opposite end of the city. About an hour and a half of walking and 20 minutes late, I attended Mass in a stunning Cathedral! The Irish accents prayerfully rose to the highest points, nooks & crannies of the Cathedral in a joyful lilt. It was quite beautiful and worth the entirety of emotions and sore feet.
I proceeded to walk back to the train station and was picked up in Bangor West by the director and ambassadors.***
***Huge shout out to everyone who had to pick me up later than expected and were so kind, loving and helpful!
We went to a beautiful pub about 10 minutes from the station and I enjoyed a Mangers Cider. MUCH needed after the past 3 hours wandering around and trying my best not to look like a daft tourist in Belfast.
After a fun night out, we all came back to relax, write, and unwind from a busy, eventful & fun day together!