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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
               Tuesday, August 13 2002 

Journal of our vacation journey - 4

En route with sons Mike, 28, and Kevin, 26;
continuing from Friday, August 9 entry

Friday, August 9, Belfast: Our drive from Dublin to Belfast took the whole morning, much of it being circling both Dublin and Belfast to find our way out first, then our way in to the guest house in Belfast Mike and I had stayed in a year earlier. We were eventually successful, finding the Malone Guest House just south of the Queen's University campus on Malone Road. We hadn't been able to make contact with the B&B in advance, and found it under construction, a great deal of remodeling underway. Our greeter said it would be better if we'd return later and our rooms would be ready. We could, she said, have a family room with a double bed and a twin bed for £60 or a room with twin beds and another room for a single bed for £75. Mike opted for the latter to avoid having to sleep with his brother and I offered to pay the difference on Kevin's behalf, as he is on the strictest budget on the trip, having just bought a diamond to present his fiance on the eve of our departure.

The great news was that the remodeling had the guest house, which we considered the best of the places we'd stayed in the year before, even better now. Except for the televisions in the room (which lack remote controls), everything now speaks of a first-class hotel, both rooms having ensuite baths and the house even having added a "lift" from the previous year, when we had to carry our bags upstairs. Everything else in the rooms is new, and there's even a trouser press and hair dryer provided. And the price is comparable to what we've been paying for hostel rooms where a fourth roommate has been assigned part of the time and the possibility existed for all our stays, and to use a restroom in the hall in both places. We knew we were bargaining for that kind of accommodation and thus had no room to complain, but now we certainly have room for rejoicing! Belfast is a great city in some ways, though lacking the pulsing life of Dublin and London, but still lots of activity and youthful population, but is not the tourist magnet the others are, probably mainly because of "the troubles" in Northern Ireland. Our guest house has only one other room full of guests tonight as I'm writing, a Friday, when it would be almost impossible to find anywhere to stay so late in either of the previous cities.

While waiting to check in, we had lunch at "The Other Place," a campusy relatively low-priced restaurant next to the campus with a good menu that Mike and I found on our previous visit. Mike had fish and chips, Kevin a club sandwich, and I had the full Irish breakfast which we knew from previous experience is better in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK or Ireland. We were all satisfied with our choices.

Then we drove down just over 20 miles northeast to Downpatrick, the town—now a small city—famous for being the first place St. Patrick ministered in after arriving in Ireland as a missionary in the fourth century after having been a slave shepherd boy in the nearby hills for six years. St. Patrick's remains are allegedly buried at the now-Church of Ireland (Anglican) cathedral that is on the site of his original mission church and also holds the remains of St. Bridgit, the co-patron saint, with Patrick, of Ireland, and St. Columba (also known as Columcille) the apostle to Scotland from Ireland a century after Patrick lived and worked. There we toured the St. Patrick Center which has excellent audio-visual presentations on Patrick's confession of his faith, his history, and his influence on Ireland and in the wider world, capped with a 20-minute Imax-format film that tours Ireland in the course of describing the impact of the saint on the divided island. It was excellent and I found it very moving.

Saturday, August 10, Belfast: This was the best day yet both in terms of weather (at least for the first half) and new sights to see. We began the day by motoring down southeast of Belfast 10 miles to Newtownards, the head of Strangford Lough. Strangford is from Viking (Norse) words meaning "strong" or treacherous fjord. The entrance from the Irish sea to the inlet has some of the strongest currents in Ireland.

Nevertheless, this is where Patrick's kidnappers brought him (in the fourth century) to land to go inland a few miles for six years of slavery as a shepherd living in the fields and hillside caves. It is also the waterway entry from Britain to Ireland used by Patrick as a bishop returning to Ireland after getting a call by way of a vision similar that received by St. Paul to go on to Macedonia and Europe on one of his missionary journeys. Some experts say Patrick was the first true missionary in church history after the first generation that included Paul, Peter, Thomas, and the other apostles and their companions. Also, as a one-time slave, he was possibly the first major leader of a whole ethnic group to oppose slavery.

Strabo Tower, Northern IrelandI wanted to find a good point along Strangford Lough for a good picture to be able to say "this is where Patrick entered Ireland." As we approached Newtownards, we saw an imposing tower on a hill that obviously had a commanding view of the Lough (lake) even though we at our sea-level perspective couldn't yet glimpse the water. We also saw signs mentioning a Strabo Country Park. As we drove on beyond town we spotted a side road leading up to the tower and the park together! We'd culled all the tourist literature pieces and had seen no references to it, so this was truly serendipitous. And by then the skies were mainly blue for the first time since arriving in London six days earlier. So we got some of our best pictures of the trip.

Then it was back to Belfast and on west/northwest to Omagh, the only sizeable town of County Tyrone, which I had learned the past year was the origin county of my great-g-g grandmother Kennedy (nee Devin) who came to Pennsylvania circa 1825 and married our "patriarch Isaac's" son Johnson Kennedy. Not only had we traced this, a few miles north of Omagh at Mountjoy is a special park dedicated to Irish-American immigration, donated by the Mellons (of Mellon Bank, Gulf Oil, Carnegie-Mellon etc.), who emigrated Ireland from this village. And there is located the premiere family history facility in Ireland, at least for American Irish. But alas, it was Saturday and it turned out the library is open only Monday through Friday.

Sign in Irish-American heritage park in Mountjoy, Northern Ireland.

However, the accompanying museum, which is reminiscent of Bedford Village with an additional two or three "wings" added, was one of the best I've ever toured. I'm hoping to do a whole travel feature for the Home Page on "Pennsylvania in Ireland/Ireland in Pennsylvania" to show it off when I get time to develop it.

We got an early dinner of fish and chips takeaway in the town of Omagh, a very quaint very Irish/old country-looking large town. Though it was Saturday night when we arrived back to our first-class B&B, things were quiet on the streets so we retired early to work on our trip journals.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Things my mother taught me (series)

My mother taught me how to solve PHYSICS PROBLEMS
—"If I yelled because I saw a meteor coming toward you,would you listen then?"

Sent by Mike Harrison

Thought for today

To wear your heart on your sleeve isn't a very good plan; you should wear it inside, where it functions best.

Margaret Thatcher

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