Sunday, November 12, 2006

Traveling through Northern Ireland...briskly!

My wife and I traveled up to Moville in Donegal on Thursday. We were bringing an aunt up to a funeral of a cousin's husband. It was a tough days driving up and down - ten and a half hours in the car - not helped by an hour each way on the M50 as we hit it at morning and evening rush hours.

Anyway, we went through Northern Ireland to get to Moville via Derry. I'm used to traveling in NI since I was very young as my Mum's family are from Derry. However in recent years I'm beginning to notice it's often easier to live with Continental Europe than these six counties on our island. Here are some niggles from Thursday's trip....

1. We decided to eat in Donegal before we returned via NI. I couldn't cope with having to deal with Sterling after spending the last four years using Euros at home and in trips to to much further places like Portugal, Spain, France and Italy.

2. The roads in NI are still marked in mph, which is weird having just got adjusted to kph both in the Republic and in the continent. Given that there is no noticeable border point to/from NI you have to start thinking what units the speed signs are in at border areas.

3. The Republic actually in general now has better roads than NI. I remember when it was the opposite.

4. As well as not eating in NI I wasn't tempted to buy petrol either - it seemed to work out at an average of around 1.50 Euro per litre!!

5. Our mobiles phones roamed into Orange and Vodafone respectively in NI - strange as we are both O2 and O2 claim to be one rate for the island. I suppose we could have stopped the car and forced the phones onto O2, but we were in a hurry and we couldn't be bothered.

So it was a case of - let's get through NI briskly - don't eat or spend sterling, don't buy petrol, don't use the phone, be careful on the narrow main roads and interpret where mph signs begin and end.

I'd feel a lot neater in NI if the UK would become more committed Europeans.


Hilary Mhic Shuibhne said...

I recently visited N. Ireland with four friends.
It was my first real visit up north though I had been in Belfast once, for just two nights, twenty years ago. The weather was beautiful and we really enjoyed the scenery on the coast of Antrim etc. quite breathtaking. When we were admiring the scenery on one stop, we got into conversation with some friendly local people and mentioned that we were en route to Derry for the weekend, we were quickly reminded that “it is called LondonDerry up here” . It was a lighthearted exchange I’m glad to say and they were very nice giving us all sorts of anecdotal information about area and the beautiful views etc..
I thought Derry seemed like a southern town in the 70’s, a bit depressed really. The center of the city is lovely, architecturally, but its difficult to find a good restaurant or even coffee shop, compared to the choices we have nowadays in Galway, Limerick and Cork, both in the city centres and in the suburbs. In addition the smoking in the bars and restaurants drove me nuts, I just cant stand it. I’d love to see that city getting some investment and moving forward with the rest of the country. But is there any commitment to economic development up there from the UK government?
We stayed in a B+B just outside Derry where on the first night one of our group overheard the owner of the establishment being asked by our newly arrived Taxi driver “Who have ya got staying tonight?” and his answer was “A bunch of Freestaters”. We were a bit surprised by that, but apparently should not have been.

John of Dublin said...

Hi Hilary. Good observations.

I actually like Derry City - lovely shaped setting on the impressive Foyle river and hilly on both banks. My mother was from there and I spent many happy holidays there with aunts and an uncle and cousins. Yea - calling it Londonderry or Derry is one of the signs of "which foot you kick with" as they say up there!