We are again up with the sparrows, so much shopping to pack into our already full suitcases, packing for holidays would have to be one of the most difficult things ever #wingewinge. I always over pack and it’s even harder when considering both hot and cold weather. Anyhow ~ as we each push a knee into the top of the suitcase, the zip goes around and we manager to get it all squeezed in.. The zip is already starting to break, I can just see us making a dash for the plane and bang.. my case splits open!!
We roll our cases to West Brompton station with regular intervals in fear of a broken wheel or case due to the excess weight (that’s not just in the suitcases either). We board the train to Victoria station, swapping over to the Gatwick express and arriving promptly at the airport. Everything goes smoothly with our check in, thankfully easy jet didn’t give us too much hassle. We have a fair bit of time to kill here ~ surprising for us.
We sit at one of the restaurants for a relax and some wi fi. As we each order a beverage, the bar gives us a table number and it’s the number 18. My family will understand the importance of this as it’s the number Tom wore for most of his years playing football and was also his lucky number. This is our reminder that he is still with us.
We arrive in Belfast, to my mother’s home land of Northern Ireland. It feels pretty special to be here again. My mum’s brother, Shaun and his wife Bernie and their wee (everything young and small in Ireland is referred to as wee) boy Aidan are kindly waiting at the airport for us ~ it’s really lovely to see these guys again.
We are shown around the city of Belfast, it’s been about fifteen years since I was here last but everything still feels exactly the same. Our first stop is the Northern Ireland Assembly in Belfast, it wouldn’t be a trip to Northern Ireland for Anton if he didn’t visit parliament.
The Northern Ireland Assembly ~
We are just in time for a tour and I wonder whether Anton or wee Aidan is more interested in the tour, he is such an inquisitive little seven year old boy. The history and workings of this parliament were very interesting and even more so due to the battles and blood shed that this country has experienced. We are privileged to be a land of so much peace in Australia. As the tour draws to a close we move on from these perfectly manicured grounds and the luxurious building.
We stop off at the site where the Titanic was built, it was a lesson in history to learn the titanic was built in Belfast. This site is sure to be a tourist hot spot for Northern Ireland with the building built in the shape of the titanic ship. We walk the grounds and take a wonder inside for a pot of tea ~ certain this is to be our first of many pots of tea whilst in the land of the Shamrock.
The Titanic building in Belfast ~
On our way into the city centre, we drive through the Catholic and Protestant areas, which have been relatively peacefully since the 1998 agreement. It is evident theses communities still bare the scares from the years of division that can be seen through the prominent murals painted on countless walls, the memorials to patriots that lost their lives in conflict and the high wire fences segregating the communities. Some locals say peace will never be fully achieved until these barricades are taken down.
I recall my last visit when the British army flooded the streets to weed out the IRA, UDA and protect innocent lives. They were nowhere to be seen this visit thanks to the 98 agreement. We learnt about the times when conflict was at its peak, the front doors of the Catholics would be left unlocked in the event the IRA needed to escape. Members of the protestant community became part of the UDA as they fought against the IRA and targeted the Catholics. As we drive these streets we feel the sacrifices and bloodshed that had been spilt on the pavements. We sure are one very lucky country in Australia.
We make our way into Belfast centre for dinner. We waited a good hour to be seated at Cosmos and are dining here on recommendation from another cousin. It’s worth the wait; a similar concept to Smorgy’s but a million times better, the cuisine is derived from the sub continent and South East Asia and strangely, Italian food is also available. The food explained the long waits to get into this place, so yum, authentic and very fresh.
It’s time to head home ~ Shaun, Bernie and my four cousins gratefully host us. We have our own little quarter of their very large picturesque homestead. We enjoy copious pots of tea and a well over due chinwag. My cousin Mark, the eldest child of this family was about five when I last visited, he is now twenty two so there was lots to catch up on.
We feel right at home as we get to know our other cousins in person. Paul and Claire are in their final years of schooling and it’s evident these two are going to dominate their results, following in the footsteps of their older brother Mark. It’s an intelligent gene pool living in this household.
Wee Aidan is Anton’s new best friend and he has us sorted for an early game of soccer on the property grounds tomorrow morning. So on that note we best rest the legs for a big game.. Night X