August 24th – Happy Birthday, Brighid! We’re In Belfast :-)

My little girl is 17 years old today!  I can’t believe it’s here so quickly, and at the same time, I cannot wait for her to no longer be a teenager!  I keep hearing it gets better.  Now’s good for me.

We arrived early this morning in Belfast, and we have a great trip planned.  We are going to be boarding a bus for a tour of the Antrim coast, then we stop at the Glenariff tea and gift shop for tea and scones.  This will be our first real Irish scone treat!

The coast of Northern Ireland is so beautiful!  I don’t think any of the scenery we’ve seen so far has been so gorgeous.  We ride along the coast, and while we are gazing out the right side of the bus at the cool, clear water, we are passing these adorable little homes and villages on the left side. The only thing better than the actual trip to Glenariff tea shop is the shop itself.  Beautiful, lush, green rolling hills surround the shop, and a small museum sits on the property as well.  We head in and find tables, and we get in line for our tea and scones.  Piping hot tea, with all the cream and sugar you could want, is served – although you could choose a different beverage for the children.  And accompanying the delicious tea are warm from the oven scones in  your choice of raisin or cherry.  We took two of each, and an extra cherry, and they were light, mildly sweet, delicious.  Well worth the trip up here.

We arrive back at the ship not too long after, and Jim offers to take Granuaile back to the cabin for a nap if I want to go into Belfast.  Eilis and Brighid decide to come with me, and we hop on the complimentary shuttle that goes from the port to the city.  Once off the bus, we are told that this is not the normal pick-up/drop-off location, and we’ll have to go over a few blocks to find the actual location.  As someone who needs a road map to get from the shower to the bedroom, this worries me.  We decide anyway to head back a few blocks to a shop we saw selling Belfast linens and other Irish gifts.  On the way, however, we find out why we could not be dropped off in the typical location.  It’s marching season in Belfast!!

If my father were not cremated and in the tiny little mailbox he now permanently calls home, he would have been rolling over in his grave to see me whip out my camera as throngs of Orangemen came marching down the main street in the city of Belfast.  Dressed mostly in suits with bowler hats, waving flags and wearing medals and ribbons, I couldn’t help but enjoy the parade.  Forgive me, my Irish Catholic brothers and sisters, but this was a sight to behold!  And the little boys – nothing more darling!  Yeah, I know, they probably had dreams of growing up and blowing up Catholic families with pipe bombs and molotov cocktails, but we’re striving for peace, even in Belfast, and maybe this really is just a historical commemoration.  We’re all entitled to celebrate our history.

After taking our time to select a few souvenirs from the shop, we decide, since it’s raining, to head back to the bus.  Just outside the bus stop, though, is the mall, and we figure we’ll just take a peek inside.  Guess what the Belfast mall has?  What every good mall should have – a Starbucks!  We go get in line, and we meet the most adorable kid.  He applauds my drink order, because he likes a challenge, and then we talk about my camera.  He is heading to America and has recently bought himself a camera just like mine.  I want to take him home.  He is Irish, gay, adorable, and definitely small enough to sneak into my suitcase. 

We get our drinks, and head out to the bus.  We are back on the ship in no time, and Eilis goes to the kids’ club for a short while before we have to get ready for dinner.  It’s Smart Casual again tonight, so no one has to really get “dressed”, but we do all shower and clean up before we go and eat.

Mom and Russ have ordered a special birthday dessert for Brighid, and our waiter has a set of pipes!  He belts out Happy Birthday, and the people around all clap for her.  I still can’t believe she’s 17.  And we’re in Belfast.  How cool is that?