Thursday, September 4, 2008

Up The North

This past weekend we went up to Northern Ireland. Or if you want to sound like a real Irishman you would say, we went "up da north". And literally, the signs will say "THE NORTH"

Ireland should win a prize for their seamless incorporation of colloquialism into their gubernatorial infrastructure. Maybe their prize could be a compass since they think that north, west and south are all to the left, er, RIGHT. p.s. for those of you who don't know, the cool kids are calling the right the left these days.. just fyi.

Real quick background is Ireland used to be under British rule and for many, many, many years this was a source of contention. One day almost 100 years ago, Ireland and England agreed to a compromise. England would relinquish control over 26 of the 32 counties. This became the Republic of Ireland and this is where we live. The 6 remaining counties are still a part of the United Kingdom, under British rule and are known collectively as "Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland and the Republic are two distinct and separate countries, with different laws, a different government and different currency. Not everyone in Northern Ireland was happy to still be governed by England and hence you had "the troubles". The IRA, famed for their use of bombings and violence, represented some of those who believed that all of Ireland should be free. In the last years, the IRA has disbanded and those who still want to fight for independence agreed to terrorize via politics instead of guns and bombs through the Anti-British political party of Sinn Fein.

We have a friend in Randalstown, outside of Belfast and we stayed with him. I like to go up there from time to time because our friend Jimmy makes me look like little Susie Homemaker. He makes me look downright domestic. Don't worry, he wont read this. He lost his computer in the newspaper, candy wrapper and beer can avalanche of '06.

On Monday we met up with our friend Jim and drove along the Antrim coast (the north part of the north). This has to be the most beautiful part of all of Ireland.

This was our second time in this area and being the exciting bastards that we are, we stopped at the same three sites as the last time we were here. I can say with authority that ruins don't change much from year to year. First on our tour was Dunluce Castle. The walls and windows seen here are from the 16th century but some of what still stands has been dated to as far back at the 14th century. This was the home of the MacDonnells, made earls by James I.

This castle was built right on the edge of a cliff. So close that one night during a dinner party, the kitchen and staff quarters fell off into the ocean.

All that remains of the kitchen wall. Apparently the lady of the house was a royal P.I.A. and she was never happy living there cause she didn't like the sound of the ocean so having half her house staff plunge to their deaths was a good way to convince her husband it was time to move inland.

Random views of the remains and views of the cliffs to either side.

Forgive the horrific picture layouts.

Our next stop was the Giant's Causeway. One of the best known attractions in N.Ireland, the legendary giant Finn McCool built the causeway in order to reach Scotland to fight his enemy giant, Benandonner.

The Giant's Causeway has to be the #1 most anti-climactic, disappointing visions ever to have been laid upon by human eyes. You hear the tale of these stones that the ancients just knew could never have been created by nature thus sparked stories of giants and legendary battles that filled in the spots that practical knowledge could not explain.... You envision a towering expanse of basaltic rock stretching out across the ocean, promising to meet its counterpart on the far shores of wee Scotland.... You dream of the bedtime stories you will tell your children and see the spark of admiration in their eye when you tell them that you, their parent, stood on the very rocks... Then you ascend the crest of the hill that lies between you and greatness and see this...

I circled "the causeway" so you wouldn't miss it. One should never have to circle greatness.

As it turns out, the causeway's magic can only be appreciated close-up. just like the mona lisa. and Tom Thumb.

You can see why the ancient people couldn't believe that this was simply a natural occurrence. The stones are actually basalt lava stones from a volcanic eruption that occurred in Pangaea. There is a corresponding outcropping of these rocks in Scotland on the coast of the island Staffa at a place called Fingal's Cave. The pointus terminalis of the causeway, if you'll allow me to get my latin on.

Now is the part of the program I like to call, "Things you'd have missed if I didn't point them out"





On our drive back down to Randalstown, we saw the most amazing rainbow. I shrieked like a lunatic and made Manus pull off to the side of the road so I could take some pictures. Even with crossing to the far side of the street, climbing the stairs and entering some stranger's back bedroom, I still couldn't capture the whole thing in one shot. Why did we have to say goodbye to panoramic cameras?

You can see it is actually a double rainbow and you could see both ends. Kristy, I was thinking of you and your mom and dad the whole time. (love ya! - see you soon!!)


Jared said...

Dang National Geographic! That was quite an informative and entertaining entry. You need to stop writing for free. Forget the nursing gig. All you need is a laptop and a topic to get rich.

Nice pics too. Although would it have killed you to photoshop in a leprachaun or two? Or perhaps Kermit the Frog sitting on a log with a banjo singing Rainbow Connection. Great stuff.

Clodagh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Orflaith said...

Can I just point out that Sinn Fein was set up in 1905 and is not a new political party.

Leslie said...

perhaps your reward for such an informative and smart sounding post should also be a compass as you seem to believe that not just one but all of those signs were pointing to the left. is that different over there too??

Kristy Hajimihalis said...

Aww, Dad was totally smiling down on you guys! Love it, absolutely love it.