Fun Friday: My First Excursion in Glasgow, Scotland, and Belfast Ireland
by: Debbie Waltz
Welcome Back, Readers~
In my last blog, I showed off some of my purchases from Cork, Ireland. But these weren’t my only purchases on the cruise. No way, José. Especially considering it’s almost like living between 2 street malls for about 2 weeks. Trust me, there’s something for everybody aboard. I was determined to find something special to commemorate my international travels. I’m your typical woman who has a fascination with jewelry; unlike most women, I have tiny wrists that don’t accommodate most bracelet sizes. Imagine my surprise when I came across a bracelet with an adjustable chain that can be tightened. Not to mention it matched one of my dresses almost perfectly.
Our first true excursion was taking a bus around Scotland to explore the “lochs”. In the morning, we met at our assigned location and were shuffled onto buses. Of course, ours had to be handicapped accessible.
I don’t personally know what any of the other tours were like, but our bus driver was definitely prepared; you could tell he’d done many excursions like this before and printed out maps of the route he was going to take.
For those who don’t know, a loch is simply another word for a lake. Personally, I was amazed because Scotland was so green. This is perhaps due to the amount of rainfall the country receives! It’s beautiful just realizing that God crafted each part of the country- knowing exactly what kind of climate it needs to flourish.
After a while, he stopped at this quaint little shopping area full of souvenirs and snacks related to Ireland. He allowed us to get off for about 30 minutes to stretch our legs. He also pointed out a map to those looking for picturesque scenes to take pictures of. Mom wanted to try it but was worried she wouldn’t get back in time. So my parents and I just refreshed ourselves with a bottle of Pepsi and a box of shortbread cookies shaped like Scottish dogs.
Along the route, we sang popular Scottish songs, and he pointed out. “The Tinkers’ Heart (also known as the Gypsies Wedding Heart). This rock formation is shaped like a heart and is said to have good luck. For that reason, a lot of Gypsies travel here to get married each year. He even pointed out a castle where some of “The Game of Thrones” was filmed. After seeing one side of Scotland, our bus boarded a boat to cross a body of water. I’m sorry I don’t quite remember how the bus driver described it, but it took us about 20 minutes to get to the other side.
As exciting as the “lochs” were, there’s only so much you can take before you get tired. After all, there are only so many lakes you can see before they all blend together. But Belfast, that’s another story…
Before I began highlighting our tour of Belfast, there’s one thing that still baffles me. Why did we jump from Scotland to Ireland and then back to Scotland again? The only thing I can figure out is that was the best way to extend a cruise a bit longer… It still baffles me, though.
Let me preface this next part by saying we expected the Belfast tour to be like all of the others- on a handicapped bus with a bunch of people we didn’t know. Little did we know we would have a bus all to ourselves with a personal tour guide and a bus driver. The tour guide, whose name started with a B (apologies for my memory) was a very chatty elderly woman who was very excited to give us a tour around Belfast and explain the basics of their government. Once she heard I wrote a blog, she was very eager to give me access to things I wouldn’t have otherwise.
So off we went. Our first stop was Parliament. While my parents stopped for a quick photo opportunity in front of Parliament. I had a friendly chat with our bus driver who said, Parliament was not in session right now because of economic issues and arguments between the different political parties. He said he hoped they would be back in session by Christmas.
Next, we were off to see our first real castle, which was handicapped-accessible. The castle is often rented out for wedding venues and different events. As all castles are, they are known for their high vaulted ceilings and huge windows. This one was no different.
Its outside views and manicured gardens are spectacular. With a wide range of colors, there’s something here for everyone. See?
Along with the lush gardens, there is a bit of a scavenger hunt feature. The castle grounds’ original creator had a bit of a fascination with cats. For that reason, he incorporated eight hidden cat attributes or figurines on the grounds itself. See if you can find one.
Then, it was off to Belfast City Hall. In general, the building has commemorated changes that have taken place as part of Ireland’s robust history- such as trying to close the chasm between the Catholics and Protestants, keeping up with the times allowing women to take on a more active leadership role.
One particular room pays homage to the building of the Titanic and its subsequent tragedy. Not only does the room display a true-to-size replica of the ship itself, and a replica of a flag they found beneath the sea near the Titanic. We also visited the Titanic Memorial itself, which has a statue to commemorate the tragedy and list the lives lost on that fateful voyage.
Outside of town, there is still a reminiscence of the deep history between the Protestants and the Catholics to make sure their voices are still being heard.
Next stop Inverness.. This is where the real fun begins. The next few days were full of uncertainty as to whether Dad would be well enough to join us in Paris. Yes, this is where Dad got sick