It's been over five weeks since we returned from our month in Ireland and moved into our new home in Connecticut. In other words, it's taken me five weeks to post the photos from our fourth - and final - week of travel. There's plenty of good reasons I put off this final post: I've been busy settling into a new home, new city, new church family. I think I've also procrastinated because the final post marks a sort of end to the whole dream come true. Not really, of course. Brian and I will always have our shared memories of the beauty and joy of Ireland. We keep saying to each other at random moments, "Remember that time we went to Ireland and stayed for a month?"
Yes, honey, I remember.
We were sitting out with our oldest son on our deck last week, talking about our transition from Texas to Connecticut, from old job to new job, from full house to empty nest. We told him the transition's been far easier than we anticipated, which naturally brought us again to thank him for the gift of Ireland. "There's no way to quantify the value of that trip, Drew" Brian told him between cigar puffs.
And it's true. Which leads me to thank you all again, dear friends and family. Thank you for giving from your valuable resources to such a small cause as a second honeymoon for Brian and me. All we can tell you is thank you, and trust God our good Father will multiply blessing back to you for the care of His kingdom.
Here's some pictures of the poignant places we spent our final week in Ireland/Northern Ireland:
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
One of Ireland's top tourist locations during the height of tourist season. Still worth the trip. Especially if your family loves and quotes The Princess Bride as much as mine (as in, the Cliffs of Insanity!). The Cliffs of Moher stretch 5 miles (8 kilometres) up the Wild Atlantic Way on the western coast of Ireland. The tallest cliff stands 702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. And people walk and sit and dangle off the edge like it's nothing. Apparently Ireland is not overly concerned about liability. Although they did post a photo on Instagram of a landslide that happened THE DAY AFTER we visited with a mild warning about walking the unofficial pathways (which were so crowded, we'd assumed they were official).
Belfast, Northern Ireland
We wanted to spend some time learning a bit more about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In Belfast we bought a 48-hour pass for the double-decker bus tour which was the perfect way to see the major sites of the city, and to select a few places to stop and explore a bit more. To be honest, Belfast depressed me. I understand that there is a great renewal happening there, and that the people are generally optimistic about the current peace efforts. Maybe it's because we arrived shortly after the contentious Brexit vote,which seemed to be stirring up some old anger. Maybe it's because we were there just days before the annual Orangefest which has become violent, at times. It could just be that I've never actually be in a city that is divided by a giant, ugly wall to separate people groups who historically hate each other. When we walked by the wall, we saw the murals attempting to turn the site into a message of peace, but I couldn't get over the ugly monstrosity of the fence. And I realized that even though I've always hated the rhetoric of "building a wall" to keep certain people out of our own country, I still imagined that wall as something regal. In truth, walls are ugly and cheap. It was a blight I felt viscerally in my gut. The murals and memorials seem to receive more care than the homes and shops and streets. On the other hand, we visited an Anglican church on Sunday morning and loved being able to worship with them in their historic church building just up the road from Queen's University. We ate lunch at the thriving St. George's market, and toured the booths full of homemade food, art and vintage books. We listened to live music and selected the most delicious array of meat, cheese, olives and bread to take to Londonderry for our supper. I will keep praying for Belfast, and am grateful for its resilience and work for peace. May it be so.
Londonderry, Northern Ireland
I could have spent a lot more time in this city. Alternately, Brian's response was more like mine in Belfast. When we walked the Catholic Bogside neighborhood, studying the murals and praying at the Bloody Sunday memorial, his spirit was troubled. We were there the day before the Twelfth (Orangeman's Day) and could feel tension in the air like lightning static. We literally prayer walked our way through that neighborhood, asking the God of peace to let his kingdom come and his will be done in Northern Ireland as it is in heaven. Certainly there has been a good decade of peace or so, but the homes still obviously feel impoverished and divided. The handwritten signs for the IRA in response to Brexit were especially chilling. If you ever get a chance, visit this place. The history is fresh enough to give us a visual of what happens when political and religious ideals get confused with each other.
Coastal Causeway Route
(aka, our drive from Londonderry to Annalong, Northern Ireland)
We cut ourselves a bit short in the our allotted time to tour Northern Ireland, and tried to make up for it with some drive-by tourism. We plotted a route from Derry to Annalong via the Antrim Coast, past the infamous Giant's Causeway and Dunluce Castle. We did stop alongside the road for a quick hike around an unidentified ruin. Then we dipped inland to see the Dark Hedges (newly famous because of Game of Thrones), and Slemish Mountain (where it's believed that St. Patrick herded sheep as a young slave).
Annalong, Northern Ireland
We spent our last couple of days at the most wonderful Airbnb about an hour north of Dublin. Our original intention was to leave early enough to spend a full day in Dublin touring a bunch of great Dublin sites. What actually happened is that we were so comfortable in our garage apartment just across a walking lane from the Irish Sea that we stayed every last possible moment. We plan to come back to Ireland as often as possible, and will make sure Dublin gets its due the next time around.