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Published: June 25th 2019
By the time I get home after a trip and try to piece together all my writings into a somewhat cohesive order, the dates when I wrote about a place do not usually match up with when we did whatever the experience was, but that is the way it goes when a trip is good and we are busy; there usually is not much down time each day to write. So I focus on the highlights, and what I remember most about a place, people, or a country. My travel blog does not even come close to listing nearly everything we do, but that is not its purpose. Instead it offers readers a view of how I see the country I'm currently in, a glimpse into my thoughts and feelings about places and people, plus some extraordinary experiences or adventures that occured or that I was a part of or made happen somehow.
On Tuesday morning, the 28th of May, we visited the exceptional and quite emotional Titanic Belfast Visitor Center. We all know what happened with the Titanic, but to see what the ship actually looked like, to hear survivor's stories, to read what people did in their last moments was very moving. This is a beautiful museum. One begins at the top, and winds downward through exhibits, including riding in a little car that takes people through the belly of the ship, seeing what the furnaces looked like and how hard the men worked in the stifling heat below decks. Similar to visiting concentration camps or any place where mass killings have taken place, things that were recovered afterwards are exhibited: pieces of clothing, pages of books, children's toys, a shoe, photographs; these are displayed making the fact of the disaster more real, more human. It is difficult to walk through this museum and not be affected by these displays, by the evidence of all the vibrant lives that were lost. Afterwards, needing to breathe fresh air, I walked outside in the cold wind to see the Titanic slip, looking back at this stunning building that looked to me to be scales of a school of fish, perhaps the last thing drowning people saw as they went under the cold water. Others in our group more benignly suggested they were ocean waves; you might have a different opinion when you see it.
But where we went later that morning helped to wash away the feelings of sadness lingering after visiting the Titanic Visitor Center; we travelled to the Giant's Causeway, an incredibly beautiful natural landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Londonderry. In Maine over the years we've enjoyed something similar, but on a much reduced scale: Seawall Campground is a part of Acadia National Park, where we and our children frequently clambered over the natural granite seawall and rough large stones and rocks hewn ashore by the wild Atlantic Ocean. But here at the Giant's Causeway, not only are there over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns reaching up into the sky, looking very much like tall organ pipes, plus smaller rocks to scamper over, here the whole grand area is a monumental and breathtaking place of immense beauty. Created by volcanic eruptions sixty million years ago, the Giant's Causeway is listed as one of the best natural wonders in the UK. The ocean, the lovely loose rocky shoreline, the unworldly basalt columns, the natural hexagonal rock stepping stones (which, upon careful scrutinization, are put together like a honeycomb, appearing to all be cut from the same mold, also with nature as the creator), and the sun shining down on us from a blue sky, being in this place was a piece of heaven. On this gorgeous morning people of all ages were everywhere, climbing over the rocks, taking selfies or photos of their children and friends, sitting and looking out at the waves, climbing the hills, but that did not diminish this amazing land and seascape, so far my most favorite place in all of Ireland. I followed the intermediate blue trail for awhile, but wanted to explore other trails too, so I wandered over the sometimes slippery, mostly hexagonal rocks to climb up to walk between natural walls of stone, to emerge and find a calmer area that meandered beside the ocean, with higher green hills beyond and the rocky coast in-between. Meeting up with others in our group, too soon it was time to head back, to meet our bus and continue on to other places, other adventures.
We were lucky to have been there that sunny morning; being that we were in Ireland, by afternoon it was raining again. It would have been a very different experience to have visited the Giant's Causeway in the rain and fog, most likely not even being able to see its glorious beauty through a heavy cloud cover, and certainly not having or taking a chance to climb over the slippery wet rocks. Our group's timing here, at least, was perfect.
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