North to South
Ever since we have had the car it has rained at least part of the day - today was no exception. It was raining fairly heavily even before we set off for Londonderry. We passed through quite a few small villages which had English flags handing from every light pole down the main street and all the paving stones along the gutter had been painted red, white and blue. I don't pretend to understand the problems in Ireland but this seemed a bit over the top.
Derry was educational, to say the least. I have read a little about Irish history and the 'Troubles' but seeing the suburbs and the streets of Bogside made it all very real. Although there is officially a ceasefire, there is still a tension in the air. I felt perfectly safe as a tourist but the many murals around the Catholic area remind us that the conflict is far from over. We explored the Bloody Sunday museum and watched a very informative 45 minute video which gave us a brief overview on how Ireland became so divided.
We continued to head south and stopped off at the Belleek pottery factory just on 5:30. Belleek make fine white china, the most impressive pieces being fine woven baskets. My aunt is in possession of one of these baskets brought back to Australia in 1918 by her father after WWI. We only had twenty minutes to explore before they closed the factory but they had a very good display of pieces from over a hundred years ago.
Immediately after leaving Belleek, we crossed a bridge and found ourselves in the Republic of Ireland. No border, no signs, no fanfare - the only way we knew we had 'crossed over' was the speed signs were now in kilometres and the road signs were in Gaelic as well as English.
We drove further south as the sun was setting over the Atlantic Ocean. We pulled off the main highway and into a small town called Knock but there seemed to be a rather large evangelist meeting at the Knock shrine so we drove on further to Claremorris. We found a nice B&B and walked into town to a very typical Irish pub for a very nice meal. The only thing missing was the Irish music and a pint of Guinness.