Saturday, February 05, 2005

Well, what a hectic week off that was.

Firstly we had a leisurely drive through mid and north Wales, for our visit to Snowdonia. The views became increasing more beautiful the further north we travelled. We had an overnight stay in a lovely, if slightly ramshackle B&B in Betws-Y - Coed, before driving around the mountains the next day.

The scenery was spectacular, heightened if anything by the amazing weather fluctuations. One minute rain, then fog, the next bright sunshine, then somehow all three at the same time - leading to bizarre changes in the views as we drove along the narrow and winding roads.

Wednesday saw us staying in Bristol for the day, zipping around in tourist style using our bus pass to hop on and off any bus which took our fancy.

Then on Thursday it was an early start in preparation for our flying visit to Belfast. Given the history of recent years, it's hardly surprising that Belfast has a strange feel to it. Whilst I'm sure huge strides have been made in the past 10 years, the centre of town it somewhat lacking in character. Although it has to be said that The Crown pub is absolutely fantastic, as is City Hall. We took a bus ride around the sights of Belfast which inevitably includes the Shankill and Falls Road area's. The level of division in those communities are still shocking, let's hope that the peace process can run it's full course and that people never have to live in conditions like that again. Some famous words from Johnny Rotten kept ringing through my head as drove round the more desolate parts of town "A cheap holiday in other peoples misery". Whilst things are looking up for the people at the moment it looks as though many of them still have a long way to go before they can live in a situation which most of us in the rest of the UK (or Ireland) would consider normal.

Everyone we spoke to was delightful, friendly and went out of their way to be helpful. I wish them all well for the future.

On Friday we spent our 18th wedding anniversary by having a rather decadent lunch in the luxurious surroundings of the Royal Hotel in Bristol. The meal cost twice as much as our trip to Belfast, it was a chance to put on our glad rags and live the high live for a few hours, and very nice it was too.


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