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Primarily situated in the stairwell of Parliament's other wing
hangs a battle flag from the U.S. Civil War. Our tour spent about
twenty minutes by the flag, discussing its history, how it made its
way to Ireland, and about Bill Clinton's failed satirical attempt to
bring it back to the U.S. during his visit to the Irish Parliament.
Then, unprompted, our tour guide began a ten-minute rant about
the current U.S. President, prompting Ken to turn to me and
say, "guess we're not in America anymore." 4 We were the only
Americans on the tour; the guide was looking at us while he was
talking, and we just smiled. The tour continued.
Following the tour, even though we were operating on no
sleep for around thirty-six hours, Ken and I decided to get drinks5
and wait for the evening's locally important rugby game between
Ireland and Wales. For the entirety of the day, it was difficult to
run into someone who didn't ask us, as tourists, if we were going
to the game. Try as we might, we were asleep by seven6, but I
discovered from the Irish Times, at the door the next morning, that
it may have been a good game to miss, as Wales delivered a solid
defeat to Ireland.
We started our second day rested and on the train to Belfast.
If you are ever traveling between Dublin and Belfast, rail is a quick
and inexpensive way to get between the two cities. We had three
primary goals in Belfast: 1) Check out the historic Europa Hotel
where we were staying and see if we could have the elder bartender
in the Hotel's BBC Documentary serve us a drink, 2) take a
Black Cab tour of the murals and history of Belfast, and 3) visit a
modernly-notorious Belfast bar we had read about in the news.
We started with the Black Cab tour. The Tour's called a Black
Cab tour because the tour consists of a cab driver driving you
from one Belfast location to another with the insight of a local.
The tours do not seem to be formally organized, but it appears
that individual cab drivers offer to give these tours and then the
concierge can hook you up with cabbies that provide them.7 Our
cabbie was weathered; he was perfect. While the trip's photo
points of interest were a highlight, I think the favorite part of the
Tour for Ken and I was talking with our cab driver and getting his
insight on Belfast's past and present. From what Ken and I could
tell, as is usually the case, both sides of the political spectrum had/
have bad actors; our cabbie was Catholic, so we mostly heard the
Catholic perspective during our tour.
If our cab driver is to be believed, The Troubles aren't really
over. To this day, a large checkpoint separates the Catholic and
Protestant sections and the gates close every evening. In addition,
there are murals set up around the City where those killed are
Ken is a Major in the Air Force, so the scene was even more interesting for him.
This is where I first noticed that around 1/3 of the presumptively local beer drinkers were drinking Coors Light.
For the record, Ken chickened out before I did.
I have no clue whether this is accurate.
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