27.02.2017 - 05.03.2017 10 °C
After a pleasant drive through countryside that reminded us very much of home we reached our destination of Portrush in Northern Ireland.
We had another lovely experience at Beaches B&B and were well looked after by Rhonda and her staff. It was out with the euros and metric measurements and in with the pounds and imperial ways.
We made one stop en route at the lovely walled city of Derry or Londonderry and enjoyed stretching our legs as we wandered around the wall. The names of the city and county of Derry or Londonderry are the subject of a naming dispute between Irish Nationalists and unionists. Generally, although not always, nationalists favour using the name Derry, and unionists using Londonderry.
Once we had devoured another full Irish breakfast we hit the road. Our first navigational challenge for the day was to find the area of Ballyagan where Denis's Great-grandfather Woods came from. The information is a bit on the 'sketchy' side however it seems that John Woods (Denis's Great-grandfather) emigrated from Ireland between 1860 and 1865.
The following is an extract from an email from Brian Woods, Denis's Uncle: John Woods, my grandfather, was one of nine children, of whom five died of tuberculosis between 1860 and 1865. The mother also died in that period. No wonder he emigrated!
From there we headed for the Giant's Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a geological wonder that has over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns. The Giant's Causeway is the result of intense volcanic and geological activity brought about by the cooling and shrinking of successive lava flows millions of years ago.
As well as the scientific explantation, the Giant's Causeway is steeped in myth and legend. Carved from the coast by the mighty giant, Finn McCool, there are many features that suggest it is a landscape that has been created by the actions of the giant Finn and all those he has come up against. The comprehensive audio guide, that describes both science and legend, cleverly allows you as the visitor to make up your own mind.
After a good two hours exploring this fabulous part of the coastline we motored on to the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge. On pulling up into the car park we had the loveliest surprise when a voice called out to us, "Is that you Denis?" It was a great surprise to bump into Laura Young a good family friend of Lorraine and John's who had also stayed at Waiake Street ('Packed to the Rafters') when we were in Auckland to meet Max! And, further to our surprise we discovered that she was on tour with Lorraine's brother, Mike, and sister, Denise! We talked about the fact that in all our time away we haven't had a surprise encounter such as this! It was a lovely meeting.
We carried on around the coast and then down to Belfast. We had booked a great loft apartment perched on a hill overlooking the city. We'd organised to meet Jim, Sarndra and Blair Cooper for a coffee the next morning and it was another lovely catch up with familiar faces! Jim and Sarndra were over for a wedding and enjoying a special catch up with Blair as well.
We then made our way into Belfast. We found ourselves pressed for time and so we did something that we haven't done before and bought tickets for the Hop-on Hop-off bus. This gave us a good look and informative commentary as we sat in comfort in the front seats on the top deck! The photos provide a description of this journey.
The Falls Road (from Irish túath na bhFál, meaning 'territory of the enclosures') is the main road through west Belfast, Northern Ireland, running from Divis Street in Belfast city centre to Andersonstown in the suburbs. Its name is synonymous with the republican community in the city, whilst the neighbouring Shankill Road is predominantly loyalist, separated from the Falls Road by peace lines. The road is usually referred to as the Falls Road, rather than as Falls Road.
Bobby Sands was leader of the 1981 hunger strike in which Irish republican prisoners protested against the removal of Special Category Status. Special category (or "political") status was de facto prisoner of war (POW) status, providing them with some of the privileges of POWs, such as those specified in the Geneva Convention. This meant prisoners did not have to wear prison uniforms or do prison work, were housed within their paramilitary factions, and were allowed extra visits and food parcels. His death and those of nine other hunger strikers were followed by a new surge of Provisional IRA recruitment and activity. International media coverage brought attention to the hunger strikers, and the Republican movement in general, attracting both praise and criticism
The peace lines or peace walls are a series of separation barriers in Northern Ireland that separate Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods. They have been built at urban interface areas in Belfast, Derry, Portadown and elsewhere. The stated purpose of the peace lines is to minimise inter-communal violence between Catholics (most of whom are nationalists who self-identify as Irish) and Protestants (most of whom are unionists who self-identify as British).
The Shankill Road (from Irish: Seanchill, meaning "old church") is one of the main roads leading through west Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. It runs through the working-class, predominantly loyalist, area known as the Shankill.
We finished off the afternoon at the beautiful historic Crown Liquor Saloon. This bar is just across the road from the Europa Hotel which It is known as the "most bombed hotel in Europe" and the "most bombed hotel in the world" after having suffered 36 bomb attacks during the Troubles.
Friday morning was another wet one and once Lupi was loaded we started our journey to our final destination of Dublin (The Land of 'Pope' and Glory). We were excited about an opportunity to catch up with our friend Brent Pope, 'Popey', in his home town.
We started the journey by making our way to Armagh where the Deacon family had come from. Gill, Denis's mother, is a Deacon.
It was back across the border and down for a quick visit to the site of The Battle of Boyne. When it comes to family feuds, this was quite extreme! One of the fascinating stories we heard about this battle between William of Orange and James II (William's cousin and his wife's father) in July 1690 was that the only sign that distinguished the troops was the colour of the sprig they wore in their wide brimmed hats. Hence, the saying, "Hang on to your hat!" Lose that sprig and you could literally be stabbed or shot in the back by someone from your own side!
We motored on to Dublin taking a drive through the busy city centre on our way to our good friend Brent Pope's (Popey's) home. It was fantastic to be greeted by that familiar face and warm smile at the door of his lovely home! Popey was the MC at a function that night and so after a catch up and chat for a couple of hours he departed and we settled in for a quiet night.
Denis played rugby with Popey while at Lincoln College and for Otago together. Lynelle went to school with him in Ashburton. He played a few seasons for St Marys in Dublin at the tail end of his rugby days and ended up staying. He has become some what of a 'celebrity' in Ireland after many years as a Rugby Analyst on Irish television and radio.
We hope you don't mind Popey but Denis pulled this 'tit bit' from wikipedia!
Brent has worked for RTÉ Sport for over 15 years and has also appeared in many crossover programmes such as The Restaurant, The Den, The Afternoon Show, The Hook and Popey Roadshow, The Late Late Show, The Saturday Night Show, and various Travel programmes. Brent also starred as a singer in Charity You're A Star in 2007. In 2012 he learned and played the clarinet for RTÉ reality music show Instrumental. In 2012 he released a best selling autobiography entitled Brent Pope- If you really knew me". Brent was listed at no 4 in a recent poll for Ireland's hottest male television stars, and in 2012/13 he was nominated as one of Ireland's best dressed men. in 2013 Brent launched his own fashion label called POPE and is in over 30 retail stores in Ireland.
He is also the curator of a popular art gallery for mental health artists called The Outside in Art Gallery, and has a movie script entitled Coming out to play listed with a major movie production company.
He is a regular feature on RTÉ Radio, Newstalk 106 and Murray Deaker in New Zealand and is a regular after dinner speaker. Brent is involved in several mental health charities, and is an ambassador for St Patricks Hospital Walk in My Shoes, Cycle Against suicide, and RTÉ's people of the year among many others. This year Brent will release his own clothing brand called POPE.
Both the shirts and the shoes are now available!
Good on you Popey; you are an inspiration!
The next morning we enjoyed a lovely walk around Popey's local area and out to the coast at Blackrock.
That afternoon was a real treat as we joined Popey and many of his St Mary's Rugby Club mates to watch the local derby against the neighbouring Terenure side. There was a great crowd, an atmosphere of good competitive spirit, a good display of club rugby skill, and most importantly, St Mary's came away with the win! The club rooms were bulging after the game and once we had mingled, we headed into the city.
As we entered the first bar it became very apparent how well liked, respected and known our good friend Popey is! We only made it in through the rotating door and he was swamped by a family group asking if he would mind a photo with their mothers (twins) celebrating their 80th birthday! Popey willingly obliged and then went on to do so on several more occasions! We often ended up playing photographer and had lots of laughs throughout the night!
Our obvious 'maturity' shone through and we were home at a very respectable hour. It made for an easy rising for the ferry sailing the next morning.
Much to Lynelle's delight the ocean was calm and the sailing quick!
Although brief, our journey around Ireland was fantastic. The sights, scenery and stories were amazing, the history fascinating and the people warm, welcoming and friendly.
The Woodsies xx