Friday, September 22, 2017

Scotland and Northern Ireland 2017, Part twelve...

After our beer break, we got dressed up for dinner.  I put on an old black dress and wore a pretty red wool shawl.  I kind of regret wearing the shawl, because as we were enjoying champagne, somehow I had a brainfart and accidentally spilled some on my shawl.  Now I have a small stain that also got on Bill's jacket.  Nevertheless, we had a nice dinner.


A visible sunset as we left Belfast.


A self-portrait... searching for evidence of liver failure in my eyes.


This picture was taken right after the pilot disembarked the Hebridean Princess.  These guys are amazing.  They just walk off the ship as it's moving and jump onto their little vessels.  I wish I had gotten it on film because it was really gutsy.  I wondered if any of those guys ever missed and ended up in the water.



More fish for me...


And more meat for Bill.


I enjoy cheesecake.


Bill enjoys a cheese course.


Incidentally, if you ever want tea in your room, Hebridean has you covered.

After dinner, we went to bed early.  Or, at least I think that's what we did...  After you've been on the ship for awhile, the days start to run together.  I mostly hang out by myself with my dogs, so all the company was a little overwhelming.  But the nice thing about this trip was that most everyone was pleasant enough.  There weren't any obviously obnoxious people onboard.  On our previous cruise, we weren't so lucky and there was a woman onboard who demanded to be the center of attention the whole time.  I know I have my own obnoxious moments, but this lady had me beat by a mile.  What made it worse was that she was an American and seemed to resent that there were other Americans on the ship.  Anyway... we had a rather low key crowd this time and most people got along, at least on the surface.  That was a real blessing.


In the morning, I decided to have oatmeal with a wee dram of whisky.  If you have never tried this and you like scotch, this is a nice twist.


Bill had poached eggs with back bacon.  The chef also threw in some "streaky bacon", which I helped Bill eat.  

Saturday morning, we spent cruising southward to Carlingford, which is a border town in the Republic of Ireland.  To be honest, I'm not really sure why we went to this town.  It was probably the least popular of the stops.  I actually enjoyed our visit well enough for several reasons, but I heard more than a few people complaining about it.  I'll get to why in a minute.  I took the opportunity to blog that morning while other people read books or sat around and enjoyed the scenery... or maybe had a gin & tonic.


It was time for lunch and Bill had a cauliflower soup that came with cheese toast.  He said it was really comforting.  I don't like cauliflower much, so I skipped it.


I had duck confit for lunch, which came with a Thai salad with peanut dressing.  I probably would have liked the salad, except it was full of mushrooms.  Our waiter forgot my speech about how much I hate fungus.  Oh well.  I gave it to Bill, who enjoyed it.


Bill had a sandwich.  Love how they serve their sandwiches with no crusts.  It was like being back in kindergarten.


For dessert, I had Eton Mess.  I think on past cruises, it was made with raspberries, but this time it was made with strawberries, meringues, and berries.  It was very yummy!


Bill had bread pudding with chocolate ice cream, also very good and comforting as the weather turned wet.

After lunch, we all got on the bus and went to Carlingford.  It was raining and dreary, though a few local guides were hired to show us around the town.  The guide who spoke to us on the bus was an Irish guy named Dermott.  I noticed he spoke with a lot of "uhs and ums", which I found rather distracting.  However, despite all the "uhs and ums", what Dermott was telling us was interesting.  He told us he was born in Newry, Northern Ireland and grew up there, although he considered himself Irish.  This is an important revelation, given what happened next.

The bus let us off at the edge of town and we split into three groups.  Dermott was to take the people who didn't want to see as much.  Because I really needed to pee and didn't want to walk around in the wet weather, I chose his group, although Bill was wanting a longer walk.  I told Bill he could join another group, but he likes to stick with me.  So we followed Dermott around and he very excitedly told us about Carlingford.


Dermott started

Dermott started with this arch... and I was very glad I had an umbrella and Dermott explained the jail was in the arch and that people were routinely hanged there back in the day...


The entrance to the "jail".  I didn't venture inside because I had a feeling it has been used for something other than jailing people.  There was also a lot of trash in the cell.



More views of the town.  It was at this point that Dermott told us about the annual Leprechaun hunt that happens in Carlingford.  It is technically illegal to hunt Leprechauns in Ireland, except on one special day per year.  Have a look.  




The above three photos are of a house that belonged to a wealthy merchant.  Dermott explained that whoever owned the house, referred to as the "mint" in Carlingford, although no money was ever made there, was very rich.  



I think I was more interested in the pubs...


At this point, things started taking a bit of a turn.  Dermott was telling us Thomas D'Arcy McGee, a Catholic Irishman who had vowed that if he ever betrayed his country, he should "die like a dog".  He hated British rule, so he worked to overthrow the British rule so that Ireland could be independent.  McGee later went to the United States and Canada and became wealthy.  Later, he was assassinated. 

To be honest, I wasn't paying very close attention to Dermott, because the weather had gotten worse.  However, some of the elderly Brits in the group were listening and apparently getting a bit agitated.  Dermott made it clear that he had Nationalist leanings.




We walked around some more and checked out this old castle ruin...


Then we went into a small museum that was recently opened.  While we were in the museum, one of the other passengers took Dermott to task because he said he wanted to see Ireland reunited.


I stared at this exhibit as the atmosphere got a little bit more heated.  Dermott was unfortunately bull baited into a political confrontation.

For Bill and me, it was an interesting spectacle, not unlike some of the controversy surrounding the North and the South in the United States.  But, as we had no dog in the fight, we were free to simply observe without getting upset.  We could tell some of the Britons were offended by Dermott's comments about how he wanted to see Ireland reunited.  I was interested in what he was saying, since he grew up when there was an actual physical barrier between Northern Ireland and the Republic.  Dermott's ten year old son, who happened to be getting fish and chips while we were on our tour, waved to us.  Dermott explained how he had to describe to his boy how, when he was a young man, he had to go through police checkpoints to get to Ireland from his home in the north.  He said guards actually took the wheels off his car and took out seats to check for bombs and the like.

To be honest, I totally understood Dermott's viewpoints.  If I were Irish, I would probably feel much the same way he does.  However, it was kind of clear that some of the British folks in our group were getting irritated by his comments and wanted to be rid of him.



As we were leaving the museum, one passenger said to me that she had felt like walking out.  As someone who isn't British, I didn't have the same feelings.  But I could see that quite a few people were upset.


Next it was time for coffee and cake.  We went into another tea room, where they were playing country music from the 60s and 70s.  I had to laugh when I heard the "Ballad of Jed Clampitt".  I posted about it on Facebook because it cracked me up.  I had to laugh even harder when a Facebook friend, who doesn't know me offline, tried to explain to me where country music comes from.  He doesn't know I am myself a musician and a fan of a broad array of musical styles.  But thanks anyway, dude.  The above lemon cake was delicious, but we were a bit rushed in eating it (actually, lemon was just one of several choices, but it was a good one.)

Then Bill probably annoyed people because Dermott, who was still talking as we were waiting for cake and tea, had started talking about Irish folk tales he'd heard from his father.  Bill, who is a fan of Irish literature and studied it in college, piped up with more information which turned out to be superior to what the guide was telling us.  I have a feeling people would have been more willing to listen to Dermott had he not offended them, though Bill was enjoying talking to him about Irish folklore.  Later, a couple of passengers congratulated Bill on his knowledge.  I think they were being sincere, although it was probably because Dermott had annoyed a lot of them.

Then Dermott said he didn't like huge cruise ships and he thought perhaps the really big ones pump oxygen into the casinos to keep people awake and gambling.  Apparently, this is a practice in Las Vegas, although I have never been to Vegas and probably wouldn't gamble if I did go there.  I have only been on one large cruise ship and it was my observation that the place was full of cigarette smoke, not oxygen.  He did say he'd live on Hebridean Princess.  I can't say I blame him.  Aside from being a tour guide, Dermott is also a sound engineer.  Incidentally, Snopes says the oxygen pumping claim is false.


This was where we had tea, cake, and fractious discussion... while music from the 60s and 70s played.  It's probably a nice place to spend an evening.

We got back on the boat, greeted by David and lots of little shooters of rum punch.  It was just enough time to get cleaned up and ready for dinner.  Damn, I ate a lot on this cruise...



I actually really enjoyed this starter, which was a breaded, deep fried, poached egg with asparagus and Hollandaise sauce and some kind of jelly I can't identify at the moment.


Bill had a tart made of smoked trout, I think...


This was supposed to be lobster bisque and it was good, though it was missing cream.  


I had Dover sole with cream sauce and vegetables.


Bill had chicken with mushroom sauce.


Then a slice of pie for Bill...


And a delicious lemon pudding with an almond cookie for me.  They used another word other than pudding, but it escapes me at the moment.  It was kind of like mousse, only not as light.

Part thirteen!

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