A Giant Named Fin & a Ship Called Titanic (Ireland Day #6)

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Day 6 had a bit of an earlier start, though it was justifiable as we were headed to arguably my favorite place we would see on the entire trip: Giant’s Causeway. On the drive over, we of course played the day song, and I of course fell asleep at one point, then as we drew closer, Tim went into the legend of Giant’s Causeway, which essentially went something like this:

Once upon a time there was an Irish giant named Fin MacCool who was challenged to a duel by Scottish giant Benandonner. When Fin agreed, he built a causeway (or bridge) from Ireland to Scotland so that the two could meet up and go all Connor McGregor on each other. As the duel drew closer however, Fin became afraid as he realized how much bigger Benandonner was. So, when old Benny came across for the fight, Fin had his wife disguise him as a baby. Then, when Benandonner saw him, he was like, “holy sh*t, if that’s the size of Fin Mac’s baby, I don’t even wanna know how big he is!” So he ran back to Scotland, destroying the causeway in the process. The End.

Now, over time it has been proven that the causeway was formed by a volcanic eruption, but I greatly prefer the story to dusty old science. That being said, when we came around the hill to finally see it, it was hard for me to look at it and render any part of it as “destroyed.”

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Around 1:00 we returned to the coach to head for Belfast where our first stop was the Titanic museum. It was a suitable next stop, as my mind was already blown by Giant’s Causeway, leaving it wide open to absorb more wonder, and fortunately, the Titanic museum more than sufficed in providing just that.

Starting with early-penciled sketches of the massive ship, the museum took you through the long process of building it, decorating it, testing it and then ultimately launching it, which as we all know didn’t go too well. But being so immersed in the history of the boat, without primarily focusing on the tragic crash was incredible. It actually gave me more of an appreciation for the tragedy than I had before, as I saw all the work that had gone in and all the pride the city had in the finished product. In one of the last rooms, there was a series of displays that showed printed versions of the distress calls sent out by the captain after they hit the iceberg. There was such desperation in his words, I can’t imagine the hopelessness he, as well as so many others felt that night.

From the museum, we loaded back on to the coach, this time with an extra member: Dee, our city tour guide for the afternoon. She grabbed hold of the mic, sent Tim to the back of the bus, and took us around Belfast which, like Derry/Londonderry, has a history of violence, much of which is still present in the minds of those today.

Just as the two opposing sides exist in Derry/Londonderry, so do they in Belfast, some still so completely in disagreement that they live in gated neighborhoods, separated by “The Peace Wall.” When we reached this part of the city, Dee asked Rob to pull over, allowing us to jump out and not only look at the wall, but sign it. I walked down a little ways, reading different messages and trying to find a good spot for mine, and when I finally found a small patch of white I wrote the first thing that came to mind:

“I urge you to please notice when you are happy. – Kurt Vonnegut”

I’ve used this quote in a previous blog as it really resonates with me, but when I thought of it in the presence of the wall it felt much heavier. As I removed the cap of the marker I hesitated for a second, wondering briefly if the quote was appropriate to write, but then I thought of Ronan and the story he told about his son. And for me, that’s what I wanted to quote represent: notice when you are happy, notice when there is peace, because that gives hope a chance to grow.

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That night we were on our own for dinner but were set to meet the group at a few bars later, so after we showered Natalee and I met up with a few of our Australian friends and made our way into the city. It should be noted that this particular day was the 4th of July and, knowing what an important day this is in America, our friends were avidly encouraging us to choose what we wanted to eat. We were throwing out ideas and talking about what our normal traditions were back home, when all of a sudden a man on the sidewalk grabbed onto my arm and stopped me. Coming from LA, where road rage and distrust of one another is pretty much instilled in your blood, I glared at this man and then at his hand, the message of which he quickly picked up on and let me go. After doing so, he immediately dove into a fast paced rant about something, none of which I could even remotely understand, leading me to believe he was speaking Gaelic, and causing me to reply, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak Gaelic.” He then nodded, explaining in barely distinguishable English that it didn’t matter, as it was not what he wanted to talk to me about. He made a motion at his neck and then pointed at mine and I looked down, “My scarf?” I asked. In honor of Independence Day I had worn an American flag scarf, which apparently is the reason he stopped me in the first place. As it turned out, he just wanted to have a chat about Wimbledon, and was curious if I thought Serena Williams would take it home this year. (Spoiler alert: she did.) I replied with a shrug and a smile, which mostly meant, “I don’t follow tennis,” but also said, “Yeah Serena probably will, she’s amazing.” The man then thanked us profusely for being so nice and kissed each of us on the cheek, including our friend Calvin, who seemed a little less enthused than the rest of us.

When we made into the city, being the good Southern Californians we are, we ultimately decided on Mexican food—meaning the first dinner sans potatoes!—and then walked to meet the group at a bar called The Duke of York. From there we walked to The Dirty Onion, a bar built within the oldest building in Belfast, where we took this fabulous, all American (except for the peek-a-boo Irish guy in the corner) picture to commemorate the 4th of July:

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From there we moved to a third bar called The Spaniard, which, while small, had a good atmosphere. The walls were covered in old pictures and trinkets, including a review in a newspaper that described the bar as follows:

My only gripe is that the bar is a little dark for my liking, but then again if you’re hiding from the world or entangled in a clandestine love affair it’s probably just perfect.

So if you ever find yourself involved a clandestine love affair, you know where to go.

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