Monday, April 10, 2006

Belfast With Denise

Our trip to Northern Ireland was wonderful! Whether it's just because we're Oteros or not, our Irish "family" sure know how to treat their guests. We arrived on Thursday night at City of Derry airport. Wow! The airstrip materialized out of the water (which made us passengers a bit nervous), and when the plane reached the end of the strip, it did a 180 degree turn and taxied all the way back to get to the terminal! William picked us up and we arrived in Coleraine to meet the three children before they were off to bed. The Guinness tastes so smooth there!

The pictures below were taken on Friday, the day we spent with Denise in Belfast. We had a terrific whirlwind tour of the city that was the birthplace of the Titanic, and we sat back and took it all in as Denise worked her magic to get us in to places we shouldn't have been.

Here are Danny and William doing what they do best-making coffee.

Judy and William were able to relax for a bit. Anyone with kids knows how hard it is to find time.

Before leaving for Belfast Denise had some tea and caught up with news from Judy.

Judy and William have a beautiful home in Coleraine, pictured here. Oh, and there's the lovely couple waiting at the door!

Our first stop in Belfast was at St. Ann Church (Church of Ireland). We loved the pink-hued brick on the interior. There were some spectacular windows as well.

This picture is looking down the nave of the church.

Here is a shot from behind the altar looking down the nave towards the front of the church.

Behind the altar are windows showing the Virtues. This is the window of 'Joy.'

This mosaic ceiling depicting the Creation sits over the baptismal font. Notice the hand of God directing all at the top of the design.

We then made our way to St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

This triptych, a painting of St. Patrick, Our Lady, and St. Bridget, by Sir John Lavery, was absolutely beautiful. Apparently there was a fire in the church some years ago and this painting was saved only because it was behind this glass case!

This is a sample of the windows in St. Patrick's Church.

The altar is pictured here. Notice that every statue and icon is covered in purple (for Holy Week).

St. Peter's Catholic Cathedral, pictured here, is located near the Lower Falls Road (the center of much of the "troubles" in years past).

Here is the facade of the Cathedral.

The inside of the Cathedral was the brightest and most colorful we've seen. Melon gold, baby blue and mauve were the dominant colors.

Even the organ, shown here, was bright and ornate.

Here is another view , showing a close-up of the decorations on the pillars.

Just look at this baptismal font! It was beautiful and bright, like the rest of the Cathedral.

Next, Denise brought us to Belfast City Hall. Since we were exactly 27 minutes late for the last tour of the day, Denise found someone she knew who was kind enough to arrange for a private tour for us.

Here's a side view. It's a very imposing building.

The interior of the dome is beautifully decorated.

Here is another view of the dome. We loved the colors.

This is the main banquet hall. Since City Hall is owned by the residents of Belfast, there is no charge for them to use these meeting rooms. Some New Year's Eve balls, among other celebrations, have been held here.

Of course, we had to take a picture of Denise at her house.

Near her house is the steep Rocky Road hill from which we got some great views of the entire city of Belfast. Even in the windy drizzle, it was beautiful.

Here's another view of the city from Rocky Road.

In this picture of the city you can see the shipyards (the yellow cranes) where the Titanic was built nearly 100 years ago.

At Stormont House, Denise was willing to give the guard 'anything' just to allow us to drive up the driveway. He just let us through.

Stormont is where the Northern Ireland legislative assembly is set to meet (when it is restored).

Here's another view of Stormont.

Anyone who has followed news of the 'troubles' in Northerm Ireland knows about the famous partisan murals around Belfast, especially along the Falls Road. Below are several pictures of these murals. They are painted on the road-side of private homes, typically. Now that tensions are much reduced, they still remind us about the disturbing history of this land.

In earlier days, Belfast was best know for shipbuilding. Now, the shipbuilding business is dried up and the yards are being developed for other uses, like the newly opened Odyssey hockey stadium.

We drove past the Harland and Wolff Shipyard.

Here is a close-up view of the cranes. Eventually this area will be redeveloped. Even though the shipyard is primarily idle, there was a security guard at the gate preventing us from taking photos of the facility.

Back in the center of town, we ducked into the two oldest pubs in Belfast, The Crown, pictured below, and Robinson's.

We arrived in Ballymena just in time to visit Fr. Brendan's and Fr. Patsy's graves before evening First Friday Mass. When Brendan died, Patsy took the liberty of writing just about everything his brother had ever done on his tombstone! Requiescant in pacem.

We ended the day at Chez Killough, center of the universe, to pay a visit to Margaret and every one else who could be assembled to greet the Yanks. We saw Ann, Patricia, Collette, Kieran & Siobhan, Denise, Judy, Fionula, and Margaret, and quite a few of the 40 grandchildren. Everyone's looking great!


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