That Beyonce song has been in my head all morning, as I, for the first time, drove on the left side of the road, in a car with the steering wheel on the right side. I am still alive.
Last night in Belfast I wandered the Botanic Gardens next to Queen’s university. They aren’t large, but they are lovely. There is a great lawn, where I sat for awhile to finish the book on the 1981 Hunger Strike. It was really peaceful until a few kids (well, teens) showed up to play, very loudly. I quickly left and discovered the rose garden, which again, was not overdone or huge, but simple and effective. I looped through it for a good 20 minutes, just looking at each different variety, and got some really great photos. There was a couple with three tiny terriers on the outside of the garden – every time I looped by, the dogs went NUTS and starting chasing me and barking. But they were the size of hamsters, so it was kind of hilarious.
This morning I picked up my VW Golf and managed to get all the way from Belfast to Derry without getting lost, and without crashing. I even found the B&B where I’m staying, AND a parking spot in a non-limited zone without getting lost. It was marvelous. The B&B is really cute, and the bathrooms are en suite – a term I don’t hear often in the US, since I think in most places I’ve stayed every room has a bathroom. Anyway, it’s a nice surprise at a B&B to have my very own toilet and shower. The owner is nice and gave me a map and outlined places I should see, and even recommended places to get dinner tonight and listen to music.
It’s a beautiful, sunny day (about 22 C, which is mid 70s F, I think), and I set right out to see Rossville Road, where the Bloody Sunday murders took place. By saying “murders” (and referring to Derry, and not Londonderry – lots of the signs here had the London part painted over), I’m identifying with the republicans. I went over to the road and visited the newly-opened Free Derry Civil Rights museum. I believe it is run by family members of the 13 who died on January 30, 1972, or at least I believe that now, as after I paid the fee, the gentleman told me about what I would be seeing, and ended by letting me know he is the brother of Michael Kelly, one of the 13 who was killed that day (he was only 17). That made it even more real.
Throughout the museum are placards explaining the history of the Bogside, an area where the Catholics were forced to live, and the gerrymandering of districts that resulted in the loyalists being very over-represented in the government. The Civil Rights movement for Catholics here gained steam around the same time as the US Civil Right movement, and it was pretty violent. The museum had a great interactive section with audio and video, including images of protest posters, overhead film of the march that day, and songs written about it. Equally disturbing is the fact that they have the “soundtrack” playing throughout the museum. It’s a compilation of the sounds of that day – people screaming, gun shots, people yelling. It was really overwhelming. Also, my timing is interesting – the results of the new Bloody Sunday commission (the first one was a joke) are due soon, and there have been some controversial comments in the news about it.
After that I was a bit drained, so I went out to see the murals in the area (I’ve taken so many pictures between here and Belfast of murals alone that I might have to do a separate book of just them). I then walked the city walls (it’s the last walled city in Ireland), got lunch at a cafe and finally stamped the last of the postcards (friends in Seattle and San Francisco – they are on their way!). I’m off to explore more of the city now. Tomorrow I’ll drive along the coast to Giant’s Causeway and the rope bridge (which I KNOW my dad would hate, given my memory of a similar bridge in Vancouver, Canada), then back down to Belfast. Friday I go back to Dublin to see Vanessa again, and we’re going out to a party that evening, which will be a great way to end the trip.
I have had so much fun. I know it’s not over yet, but I am getting more reflective about this. Traveling alone these past couple of days has been interesting – I’m so glad I had Allegra and John and Richard and Vanessa the first ten days or so, but I’ve also enjoyed having time to myself. I think I’ll come back to NYC refreshed and ready to enjoy the summer. I’m not bummed it’s ending – I’m just so thankful that it happened at all!