Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Forty five years ago I picked up Leon Uris’ book “Trinity”. I read the first few pages and scanned a few more. I did not like the idea of an American writing about Ireland. Last month I ordered it from the library and was informed it had been sent to the archives but they did manage to obtain an old copy for me. What a history we had and I am truly disappointed to say that it is on-going.  OK so it is not all factual but it is a reasonable story.   

I have lived a long time out of Ulster but for a bit of devilment, I booked an appointment with my Irish doctor on the 12th July. He is from Ulster, so he knows a bit about a thing or two.  “Happy Twelfth” I greeted him but of course he had completed forgotten or more likely blocked it out of his mind. “I would love if both sides could celebrate together on the same day” he mused.  Some wish that I thought to myself. He really has been out here too long!   And sure enough, they were at it again as I am sure you have heard and I certainly do not want to write about it here.

Now I apologise as I am going to be a little bit of a school teacher here. Yeah, I am going to remind you of my last three articles in case you are in need of a reminder of what Ulster is like now compared with what it was like when you left it. Or what you can look forward to when you next visit it!

Apparently, Lonely Planet, (sorry which planet?) the world’s largest travel guide publisher, (believe it or not)  has placed Northern Ireland in its Top 10 European travel destinations for 2013. (I would love to know how they arrived at that conclusion!)

 “Scenic, historic and on the rise: Northern Ireland is ripe for exploration in 2013”, says editor Andy Murdock, whose piece also recommends the UK City of Culture, Derry~Londonderry, the new Titanic Belfast experience, as well as famous attractions such as the iconic Giant's Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.    (Well, if you read this column regulary, you would know all about these famous places!)


“The UK City of Culture for 2013, Derry~Londonderry  (Can’t we just call it Donder, 3 letters from both names or some such thing for short!) is undergoing a renaissance, with a year full of cultural events and a new 235m pedestrian Peace Bridge over the River Foyle designed to resemble a handshake between the traditionally Protestant and Catholic sides of the city. (No comment here but it sure sounds good!)  Derry~Londonderry is the only surviving walled city in Ireland and a walk around the walls is a must for any visitor,” the piece goes on to say. (Just do not fall off and duck if you here any suspicious noise.)


It adds: “Northern Ireland’s charms extend well beyond the cities (which, coincidentally, fans of Game of Thrones (oops, never heard of it. Is it like Robin Hood?) will know from the lush scenery used throughout the show). The Giant’s Causeway with its picturesque rambling hexagonal columns of basalt spilling into the sea, is connected by an unforgettable 16 km coastal walk along the Causeway Coast to the swaying Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (20 m long, only 1 m wide, bouncing 30 m above rocks and water) with cliffs, islands, beaches, ruins and seabirds along the way.”


The listing caps an incredible couple of years for Northern Ireland, which has received accolades and recommendations for its tourism offering in the travel and mainstream press around the world. (OK, will take your word for it!)

In June the picturesque lakelands of County Fermanagh hosted the ‘most peaceful and friendly ever’ G8 Summit placing the world spotlight on Northern Ireland once again. (Well I ask you, who was going to go to Enniskillen to protest anything!)

And this August the country is braced to welcome over 7,000 competitors and their friends and family to the World Police and Fire Games, as it stages the third largest multisport event in the world. (If you lived there you would know about police and fire …. well wouldn’t you?)

This year over 60 cruise ships – once an unthinkable proposition in Northern Ireland – will dock in Belfast harbour next to Titanic Belfast, which stands at the head of the slipways where the ship was launched and last year welcomed over 800,000 visitors (including yours truly) from 111 countries.  (Maybe Tony could send his boats there…….sorry I won’t joke about that.)

As the first ever UK City of Culture, Derry~Londonderry, the third largest city in Ireland, has also been labelled one of the hottest destinations of 2013 – number four in the world according to a separate top 10 Lonely Planet listing of top cities in the world to visit, and ahead of the likes of Beijing (over crowded) and Montreal (too cold).       (Now I am not sure with what reference HOTTEST means here but the word itself gives us plenty of scope. All I know it was NOT referring to the weather.)

The Editors Footnote was as follows:


In June Australian’s outshone European markets to become the third highest ranking international visitors to the Titanic Experience – after UK and USA!


I wonder how they derived that piece of info.    Maybe it was my accent but they never asked me where I came from!  
“Sure we know where you come from we lad.”   I quietly sneaked my Aussie passport back into my pocket where it belonged.

David MacConnell

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