Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Six Day Northern Tour

So, here I am at the end of another week trying to marshall my thoughts and think how to encapsulate the last week in the two hours that I have before I have to run to catch my next coach. I know that there's a lot of stories that I'll miss out and come back to tell later as I remember them.

Let's see, the first three days I'll kind of tell in a jumble. Really, we only did enough to fill two days. We did a lot of driving and deliberate backtracking and did everything out of any kind of geographical logicality which meant that we effectively wasted enough time driving to fill a day. This was a shame and something of an annoyance to us, especially since it meant we drove all the way up to Derry, spent a night there, drove all the way back to Belfast & slept there, then drove back up to Derry and spent another night in the same place. We'd have far preferred to spend two consecutive nights in the same place and thus save ourselves some bruises from lugging bags around! *g* Our first night in Derry I ended up in the attic room at the very top of a very tall building! It was a lovely room but I looked at my suitcase and just left it at the bottom of the stairs. Joe sent me round to collect money for pizza & punch and I pointed out to the boys that since I'd just hiked up the stairs to ensure they got dinner it would be ever so lovely of one of the strapping lads to bring my suitcase up for me :P Adam promptly volunteered and Craig and Craig, being a well trained husband, went and got it for me. God bless the dear boy!

Craig, or Gherkin as he's better known, and Nicole were gorgeous. They're newlyweds on their honeymoon but have been together for about four years. They'd just spent about forty days on Contiki and now were stuck not with private rooms but bunk beds. They handled it pretty well though. They'd keep spatting and spent a few nights in different rooms. Nicole was so funny. She'd tell us that she wasn't talking to him and then realize that he had their shampoo or their wallet and she caved pretty soon anyway. They both had suitcases and he ended up carrying both up all the stairs no matter where we stayed. We were impressed!

So, what's next (damn but we have so many expressions of Joe's committed to heart. He was our tour driver and by last night Adam was taking the mickey and imitating him while we nearly pissed ourselves laughing at the bar. 'Right then', 'what's next', 'fair play to yer', 'check out the serenity' and a few other phrases)... anyway, the northern tour.

It's much more politically and historically orientated than the south. You do get a rundown of the history in the south, see the famine walls etc... but it really gets brought to you in the North - especially recent history.

Day 1 we made our way north and stopped in Drogheda to see the preserved head of St. Oliver Plunkett (executed 1681) in St. Peters Cathedral. He was a Protestant but wanted to have equal opportunity education to Protestants and Catholics alike. The local community loved him. The British State hated him. The oppressed masses are far easier to control when they know little. So they accused him of treason. The jury declared him innocent. They threw him in prison anyway and several years later had a handpicked jury that was willing to convinct him of treason to the crown. He was hung, drawn and quartered. He was cut into five parts. A part was sent to each corner of the UK and his head was sent home as a warning. They put it, whole & intact, into the church. They say that it is still perfectly preserved and the Catholic Church declared him a saint. Unfortunately, this had to be the first cathedral that I've seen anywhere in the UK that had it's doors locked & barred. Once we'd found out the story we were all eager to see it and gutted to find that the church was unexplainedly closed.

'What's in that field driver?'

[Reminder to self to write up the little old lady story or else I'll forget the whole story that the joke relates to]

Driving, fields, etc...


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