Tag Archives: Ruby Princess

May 14: Belfast

May 14: Belfast

I decided to take it easy today. Mom stayed on the ship, while I took the free tourist shuttle to the city centre and took a tour around the city. Our first stop was the “Titanic Zone” which includes a museum, and several other attractions. The museum is a beautiful building. At each corner is a section that looks like the prow of the ship and is the same size as the Titanic. There is also an area the shows one of the places where the Titanic was in dry dock. Close to the museum is the Titanic Film Studio.  This is where they film Game of Thrones.

Titanic Museum
Titanic Museum

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The building for the Parliament of Northern Ireland is quite impressive and is surrounded by massive gardens. The roads leading to the building are lined with decorative lanterns that have a gold moose on them to commemorate that these were a gift from Canada.

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Gift from Canada
The lights at the Parliament were a gift from Canada

We also drove through the areas that were the heart of the “Troubles”. The guide pointed out the gates that would be closed at night to separate the areas, as well as the massive barriers – now called “peace walls” that were erected to deflect various types of explosives. We drove past the murals, starting with the ones in the Shankill area (Protestant) and finishing in the Falls Road area (Catholic) with the mural to Bobby Sands. For whatever reason, this are still feels like there is a very uneasy truce and that it would not take much for this to get out of hand very quickly.  Or maybe it is just some of the things I remember from talking to people who lived in these neighborhoods during the height of the Troubles. I would not want to walk alone.

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I spent the rest of my time in Belfast walking around the pedestrian area in the city center and at the Belfast City Hall. This is also quite an impressive building.

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Linen is still an important export of Belfast – and I picked up a couple of pieces that I thought were nice.

Eventually, I made my way back to the ship for some lunch and a massage. Tough day, indeed!

Finally found my mom and shared some of my thoughts of Belfast with her. Then, we headed to dinner. Tonight’s dinner: Crab cake appetizer, spicy corn chowder soup, sirloin steak with onion strings and a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge sauce. (I was told I could not lick the bowl – some people just take away all your fun!) Again, we had some lovely dinner guests – including another librarian!

After dinner (which seems to take a really long time), I wandered a bit looking for a bar that had something going on – again – and gave up the fight. I seem to be just not “in sync” with how this ship works. I guess I miss my Celebrity martini bar and Latin music!

May 13 Cobh, Ireland

May 13: Cobh, Ireland

Why should anyone know anything about the port of Cobh, Ireland? Well, it is one of the largest and deepest natural ports in Europe. Second, two famous ships sailed into infamy from here – the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1915 and the last port of call for the Titanic was Cobh. Then there is also a little thing called the Irish migration. Most of the Irish immigrants left Ireland to places around the world from the port of Cobh. Cobh is also a short train ride to Cork and the gateway to Blarney Castle.

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My mom and I did not visit any of these places. We went, instead, on a tour to Lismore, the Vee and Cashal. Our tour guide was a charming woman named Olivia. As we drove through the countryside, she shared stories and information about the countryside as we drove from Cobh to our first stop.

Lismore is a charming town, the highlight is the Lismore Castle. It is also the winner of the “Tidy Town” award. Yes, it was very “neat.” The castle is stunning (even though you can only see it from the outside) and there is a St. Carthages Cathedral (who also has a sacred well – I have no idea who St. Carthages is…). There were also come public gardens that had interesting decorations, such as a carving of a cauldron with a salmon leaping from if that was at the base of a statue of St. Padraig – he may have thought he chased the snakes out of Ireland by bringing Christianity to the island, however snakes – or the Old Beliefs have a way of burrowing deep within a people’s psyche.

Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle

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After Lismore, we drove through the Irish countryside, and headed though a place known as the Vee. It is named that because, in the distance, the place between the two mountains looks like a vee. We were a little too early to see the ground blanketed with wild rhododendrons, but the buds were on the branches, so I can imagine what it will look like once they all bloom – a “sea” of pink blossoms! We also passed many herds of cattle, horses and sheep (a couple of the sheep even blocked the road a bit, so we experienced an Irish traffic jam).

Our next stop was the town of Cashal which sits at the base of the Rock of Cashal. There is a visitors’ centre and this is where we have a bit of lunch – soup, backed chicken with mashed potatoes and sliced carrots and sherry trifle. Of course, there was Guinness (which tastes completely different from what we get in North America).

Rock of Cashal
Rock of Cashal

The walk to the top of the Rock of Cashal was very steep, so mom decided to hang out at the gift centre while I worked of lunch by walking up the hill.

The Rock of Cashal has a long history. This was the seat of the Kings of Munster, and the place where Brian Boru was crown the King of Munster. It eventually was given to the Catholic Church. Most of the buildings that are part of this legacy: The Cormac Chapel is the oldest and best preserved Romanesque-style building in Ireland and has some interesting touches. I liked the frescos that has a blue colour made from lapis lazuli (the only place they could have gotten this pigment in the 11the century was Afghanistan). There are many heads that decorated several of the arches. Each one is different and included ten that would said to depict enemies of the bishop that built this chapel.

Next there is the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a Gothic building that was built not only for worship, but for defense with a secret path that could be used to defend the building. Unfortunately, this did not prevent Oliver Cromwell’s followers to massacre the congregation and set fire to the building. (Note: one of the side altars has a carving of St. Catherine).

Next to the cathedral is a square building that was the bishop’s residence. By the time the cathedral was built, the bishops were not only religious leaders but also secular ones. While this residence was strong and could be defended against people, a huge windstorm blew a huge chunk of masonry from the building. No one has seen any need to replace it.

The next building is a round tower. There are several round towers in Ireland.  One of the purposes of these buildings was to house bell that should warn people. With a view that overlooked the surrounding area, it is easy to see how a tower with bells could be a great way to warn people of any type of trouble.

The last building is the only one that has been finished. It was built to house boys who were learning to be members of the choir for the cathedral.

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After visiting the Rock, we headed back to the ship, making it with only ten minutes to spare before we were scheduled to leave.

Once back, mom and I had trouble using our key cards to get back into our stateroom. So, we had to take care of some business – fix the cards, get my internet connection setup, and find a replacement watch for my mom (hers died). We decided to opt out of a long, more formal dining experience and at more sensibly at the buffet (as mom says “she ate too many vegetables!”). We then took in one of the production shows before I sent her to bed and I went I search of the perfect margarita. While I found it, I did not find my perfect bar, bartender, or wait staff. I will have to try again tomorrow.

May 12 Guernsey

May 12

St. Peter’s Port, Guernsey.

This is a quaint port and easy to get around. We used ship tenders to go from the ship to shore (one of them actual “died” – I was not on it when it “died”, but I did get a sense that something was wrong with this tender)!

I had arranged for my mom to take a taxi around the island with another couple from New Mexico, Barb and Rich. We met at the Vines bar in the Piazza and headed to the tenders. Once onshore, they were picked up by their driver and I headed for a walk along the main Esplanade heading to Castle Coronet.

Tenders
Tenders
Chapel on Guernsey
Chapel on Guernsey

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The castle has a long history – from the 1300s to German Occupation in World War II and the liberation. There is a canon that is fired every day at noon. The fort itself is quite interesting – with surprises around each corner. The best part, at least in my opinion, were the little gardens. Each one sectioned off and neatly planted with vegetables or herbs. One garden even had little cannons – this had been an active fort.

The weather was mostly sunny – but there some rain, mostly in the form of a few sprinkles and at least one heavy downfall. I was able to duck into a tea room until it passed.

Of course, I picked at a Guernsey apron to add to my collection. I have a feeling that my friend Mary is going to try to “borrow” it. It has a Guernsey cow on it. I also got some quick WI-FI at the Information Centre to send a message that “all was well.” I hope to get my internet running on the ship shortly – just so much to do this time.

Getting back to the ship was fun. The tender I was on had an engine failure in one of the engines, which made it difficult to maneuver. While I did leap from the tender to the ship, it was considered unstable and was then taken out of the rotation for ferrying people across from the ship to the port and back again.  I also heard that there was at least one couple that were late getting back to the ship, so we were late leaving. I really did not know what was going on, I was taking a meditative rest in the thermal spa!

At 3, there was an event for all the members of our cruise critic roll call. It was nice to meet in person the people I’ve been following online since I booked this trip.  This is how I met Barb and Rich, the people who included my mom on the tour of Guernsey.  I also met several people from Canada – Whitby, Colberg, Ottawa, and Timmins, just to name a few.

Dinner was a formal night. Waiting in line, we met a man from Vancouver Island who was a former manager at CIBC. Our dinner companions were from Pennsylvania and Australia. I had duck comfit, French onion soup, grilled lamb and a peanut butter & chocolate cheesecake with an Oreo crust.

By the time we finished dinner, it was after 10 PM and we thought it would be good to call it a night.  Tomorrow would be another early day.