Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If we had blogs in 1998, I’d be hunted by Scottish trolls

Edinburgh. Oh, and I get to be in Belfast for the Easter peace agreement and am unaware of its significance. The latest from my study abroad journal way back when.

As always, spelling, grammatical, factual, and emotional errors have been preserved from the original journal. Today’s comments are in red.

9 Avril 1998

Bus writing leads to shaky chicken scratch.

This week has not begun the way I thought things would go. I took the 6:08am from Differdange, took the 6:56am to Bruxelles, and the 11:01am Eurostar to London. LONDON. I still cannot believe I was there. I fell in love with the city, moreso than I ever thought I would. I will definitely return someday. And I have, multiple times, most recently in March 2011. I’m not in love with the city. And Heathrow is probably the worst airport on the planet. I basically just saw the sights. London. I was there. Wow. I met Steph & Ryan at Waterloo with a McCoy Palm sign. We got to Victoria, found the coach station, ate at Victoria, went back to the coach station, and took a horrible overnight bus to Edinburgh. Sleep was lacking, necks were hurting, and I spilled Coke on Steph’s shoes.

We arrived in Edinburgh without accommodation, big mistake, for it has changed our plans totally. We were turned away from the High Street Hostel but found beds at the Edinburgh Backpacker’s Hostel. (Beds ok, showers scalding) We had to wait until noon to get beds, so we set our stuff down and walked the Royal Mile. Being not yet 7am, we had plenty of time to kill while we froze in the cold air of Scotland, so we bought baps at one place, hot chocolate at another, saw Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s Scottish residence, then hiked back up to Edinburgh Castle, where we spent £6 but it was pretty cool. They still use it.

Well, anyway, at noon, we went back to the hostel and slept till 6:30. It was a much needed rest, & I could feel a difference. We went to a pub to eat dinner. (I’m now staring out at snow covered mountains sprinkled with sun. It’s really incredible…) I had fish & chips & a pint of the black stuff. Ryan had hagas. Steph had a baked potato. She’s so picky it’s annoying. Dinner was great. Then we went and saw live folk music. We walked into Dirty Old Town. I had another pint. It was better than the first. The two guys called themselves Skiltron and were part of a bigger band called the Prodigals. There was a guitarist who sang like Garth Brooks, and an awesome violinist. We watched them for a few hours and then went & crashed. Despite the nap, I felt it was a productive day. Steph felt otherwise, I’m sure. But this is a vacation. No need to kill ourselves. Today was stress overhaul day. To relax is nice. Today we woke up without a place to stay. Nowhere in Scotland. So we’re heading for the Emerald Isle. It’s been hectic. We’re staying in Belfast, at least, that’s the plan. The bus ride has been beautiful, but Scotland just feels like fake Ireland. I don’t like it so much. It’s lacking something, maybe spirit. It’s probably been killed by being labled British. Shh…don’t tell the Scots I ever said that! Or the Brits! Ha. Really dumb comment.

12 April 1998 EASTER

Arrived in Belfast about 1am, stayed in Queen’s University dorm rooms. Each of us had our own room, which was strange. The Stena line ferry took 3½ hours – we thought it was 1½. We got two pints of free Guinness. I felt kinda sick at one point. So did Ryan. He didn’t even finish the 2nd pint. Fears were finally laid to rest when we found a place to sleep. With morning arrived Bizarro World. Belfast. We walked around the main shopping district for an hour, then left.

13 April 1998

Belfast was creepy, come to think of it. The people seemed Irish in appearance, but their manner was quite different. It was as if they were prepared for something evil lurking around the corner. They were cautious, tense, and reserved. Apparently it didn’t occur to me that a major peace agreement had been signed that day and that yeah, things were going to be a little weird. I did pick up a Belfast paper that had a copy of the peace agreement in it. I still have it. I should frame it, because it’s a beautiful thing they did in Ireland, finding peace and all.  It was an uneasiness, a place that told you to get out before dark set in. We saw a rally at the unionist headquarters. I heard on the radio that there were nationalist demonstrations yesterday. The whole thing is very bizarre. I can’t wait to read more about it.

I have neglected something very important here – that we went to a restaurant that was like an American sports bar to eat, and there was something on the menu which I ordered that was called the Cincinnati Reds, which was just spaghetti with some bad tomato sauce. Thank god I remember this very important detail of being in Belfast on the day of the peace treaty signing.

When we were leaving Belfast central, we saw the peace line, a wall built between Shankill & the Falls, the unionist & nationalist neighborhoods; I don’t know which is which. Barbed wire covered every wall, every fence, and graffitti was something to be taken seriously. Wonder how long the agreement will last.

We crossed the border without any passport checking. Dublin was alive and well. Cold, with snow on the mountain tops and hail from its skies, Dublin did not fail to charm. We arrived at Connelly Station & walked forever to the Avalon House. I was embarrassed as I took a wrong turn. Duh. I was so worried about getting it wrong that I did. Oh well. We set our stuff down and headed out to eat. First we stopped for groceries, assuming everything would be closed Easter Sunday. Wrong. Tropicana Pure Premium. Ok, this is about the millionth time I’ve mentioned this orange juice, so I’ll explain. Orange juice in Europe, at least at the time, was sour. I’m talking about northwestern Europe. I’m sure down in the Mediterranean area, especially in Spain, you can find freshly squeezed OJ everywhere. But Luxembourg is not Mediterranean Europe, so any time I found the Tropicana, I bought it. Bad Ass Café is too expensive. Bewley’s café sucks. Elephant Castle too long of a wait. Salmon at an Italian place. Salmon good, too much lemon juice. Dry potatoes & carrots & broccoli. Not worth £10. I left my camera; Ryan left his wallet. We were fortunate to retrieve both. Scary moment. Then we went to Gohgerty’s. Too full. So wee went to Fitzsimon’s, and the St. Paddy’s band was there, so we stayed. Crowded, but good. Not fun, really, but still good.

Slept not enough, caught the 9:10 to Galway (not Gal Way as Steph says). Found a hostel (The Galway Hostel). Nice people. Walked around the shops. Some open. Ate at the Cobblestone Café. Ham salad sandwich. Walked along the coast. Beautiful. Listened to Bad while looking out over the water.

I failed to grasp the significance of being in Belfast the day their lasting peace was brokered. We're really blinded by youth, aren't we?

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