Always a flight risk

Yes, we’ve been lolly-gagging in this general area of Ireland for what seems like ages. After complaining that we really hadn’t heard much in the way of local music, an old sailing friend swore that a July 12th demonstration, or march as they refer to it, was not to be missed, and to just think of it as a fun show. As it happens, there’s one scheduled not too far away in Ballinamallard. We can wait around for that.

Still, there’s always something to see in Ireland and, as anyone can see, our track at can only be described as drunken wanderings. Always a flight risk, apparently we Escapees really need goals and strict adult supervision. Nevertheless I thought I might have a word with you about what we’ve been up to while waiting for the parade in Ballinamallard, while still trying not to wander too far away.

We’d been waiting for the police to find the missing person who disappeared at Slieve League so the mountain would reopen and we could visit the cliffs, but it was more than a week before they found a body and declared it a homicide and by that time we had moved on.

After a brief stop to exchange an empty LPG tank with UK fittings for a rather pricy full tank we soldiered on and, while it wasn’t raining, we thought we’d get reacquainted with the megalithic world at Drumskinney Stone Circle.

The sheer number of stone circles, cairns, and alignments spread over these many acres begs the question, “Who did this, why did they do this, and what does all this mean?” It’s awfully quiet on the answer side of things.

With the resumption of the classic on again, off again light Irish rain, we took to Escape Velocity to enjoy a circuitous forest drive up to a stunning parkup high above Lough Swilly on the Urris Hills.

The following morning dawned sunny and still, only disturbed by 50 or so Audi enthusiasts, determined to shoehorn their cars into our small car park on top of the mountain. We went for a hike.

I’ve noticed aggressive speed bumps bolted all over many car parks in Ireland and I’m beginning to understand why. About the time we got back from our hike the Audis took turns leaving with a burn-out and a horn toot, just as mysteriously as they came. Nobody knows who they were or what they were doing there.

We decided on a change in altitude and Marce found a charming riverside parkup on Lower Lough Erne with a small dock, toilets, and — be still my heart — showers, with enough sunshine to get these photos.

Later those beautiful clouds you see contained plenty of rain and hail which chased us off our folding chairs on the dock, and had us sprinting for EV. Apparently our sailing weather prediction skills have atrophied.

We decided to keep things at or near sea level while working our way towards Ballinamallard. Not content with just a beautiful parkup with a river view, Marce found a place that included an unsolved mystery. I was concerned with the narrow access road that wound its way through dense trees and scrub along the shoreline.

Really it was little more than a path. Sure enough, at the end we found a tiny car park with one of the few trash receptacles in all of Ireland, filled to overflowing with beer cans. Not a good sign.

Taking a walk we noticed a small old rough concrete pier with a municipal looking number on a post right in front of it.

Turns out there are several dozen of the narrow 20 foot long piers with a small T at the end of each, equally spaced and numbered, all along the waterfront.

No one knows who they were, why they did this, or what it all means.

If it’s true that every rain drop that falls on you is a teardrop you’ll never have shed, we should be in good nick this morning for our drive to Ballinamallard.

We have to navigate all the way through town to get to our reasonably priced mid town parkup for the weekend. We found ourselves immediately diverted upon entering town but somehow stumbled back onto the road toward the parkup. No harm no foul, but I’ve never seen such a large empty and barren gravel lot that was supposed to be the rendezvous fall-in central party area for all the bands.

Told to park anywhere, I chose a spot near the front gate but when I realized they were setting up an outdoor beer bar and we’d be directly between the port-a-loo and the beer, we moved to the back of the empty lot. We weren’t born yesterday.

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Poised for Greatness

As we serpentined our way through Donegal suddenly there was trouble. Barriers blocked our way with the only explanation a small sign that read “traffic diverted.” Google said we were poised for greatness with just a few circuitous blocks to go before we reached the bottom of town where we expected to find a longish strip of a parkup on the River Eske . Just our luck and now this, but we persevered and stumbled back onto the intersection just as it joined the parkup entrance. The next problem was that the parkup was apparently all parked up, looking more like a used RV dealership than a public parking lot.

We slowly trundled through the blinding white sea of aluminum motor homes when just as I was searching for a plan B, I saw it. A small camper van had just vacated a last chance parking space, probably tired of walking so far into town. I admit that I had to jog Escape Velocity back and forth, sometimes making scant progress, sometimes not at all. It was incredibly tight in this lot filled with oversized vehicles, most of which were proud of their designated parking space.

I thought I’d take an orientation walk around the lot, eventually running into an explanation for the crowds and traffic. Welcome to the Donegal Summer FunFest, read a large poster at the entrance to the car park. Live music, vender carts, Celtic classic car meet, special savings at the pubs, even, my personal favorite, face painting were some of the fun filled activities listed, while this vaguely Nordic looking dude points menacingly at Main Street Donegal.

We took his suggestion and headed up towards this charming hamlet.

Dodging the obligatory Irish rain shower or two, we located the stage in the center of town where a fun band called The Tumbling Paddies were knocking out what we’ve found to be a strange worldwide phenomenon, John Denver’s “Country Roads.” Seriously, we’ve heard energetic renditions of this sing-along ditty from Zanzibar to Kathmandu, Thailand to Tasmania and beyond. We’re no longer surprised, we just wait for it.

Back at Escape Velocity we found her inadvertently taking part in a Morgan auto show.

We couldn’t leave Donegal without a tour through the ruins of Donegal Abby which is conveniently located at the end of our parkup.

Turns out the parkup at the end of Donegal was actually centrally located.

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Look but don’t touch

I’ve often felt that the Irish road system was like a hierarchical circulatory system without any evidence of an aorta, a bare minimum of arteries, a fair number of veins, and RV drivers have to fend for themselves on the capillaries. Today we capillaried our way to the Malin Beg headlands, Ireland’s most northernly point, where we were assured to expect a semi level parkup with stunning views, sunny beaches, pleasant hikes, and as a bonus, a Napoleonic era signal tower.

In the US there’s almost always a town in every state that bills itself as “Upside down world” where up feels like down or a ball rolls uphill and everything is magnetic. This parkup was so tilted — or maybe it was the lay of the land surrounding it — that was so discombobulated that it was quite disorienting and every time one of us spotted what looked like a level looking space we’d drive over, park only to find it 4 or 5 degrees off level.

We have an iPhone with an app that gives what we’d thought was an accurate digital readout when left on the floor of the van. I’m beginning to wonder if it works at all. As I’ve said before, we’ve become quite adroit at spotting the most level space in a given lot, but this place has us considering agonizing reappraisals of our skill level. Honestly, we tried them all and even with the help of ramps we were living at a 2.5° deficit. At a 2° tilt things like refrigeration doesn’t seem to work as well in Escape Velocity.

Regardless we’re here for the night but first a hike to the old signal tower was in the offing so it was boots, poles, and due to the wind speed, caps.

There was nothing posted that would help guide us to a trail to the tower. Truth be told we never made it out to the headlands either.

We passed by an awesome flight of stairs that led hundreds of feet down to the beautiful beach below but with respect to rule #3 we are not going to swim in ice cold water, especially in this wind, we can see it very well from up here, thank you, and that’s a lot of steps.

We followed fences through a grassy sheep poop infused path till we came upon this sign .

Now we know that 90 something percent of the time this is not connected to anything electrical but, just the same… Still, this is a beautiful place even though it seems you can’t get out to the headlands. You can still photograph it, you just can’t touch it

Tomorrow we have a serious mountain pass to cross and a waterfall to check out on our way to Donegal. By the way, for you mystery buffs, Slieve League is still closed. No body found yet.

We’ve an old Irish city to navigate to find a parkup. It’s sometimes chock-a-block with campers. Wish us luck.

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The mountain is closed!

We’ve been watching the weather and timing our progress because we want to visit what most travel sites consider the #1 destination in County Donegal: Slieve League (Sliabh Liag), a nearly 2000’ (600m) mountain that forms some of the highest sea cliffs in Europe, much higher than the more visited Cliffs of Moher.

Slieve League in the distance

There are two approaches to the cliffs, a rough and rocky hike that sometimes traverses knife-edge ridges, and a less challenging but still steep walk after a nail biter drive up the other side of the mountain. Either one ends in a dramatic view of the sea cliffs, so there’s little point in going if the weather promises wind and rain. For you armchair thrillseekers, search for “Slieve League Pilgrim’s Path” on Google Maps and choose Street View and you can virtually hike the trail. Hats off to the energetic person who wore the 360° street view camera rig so less adventurous folks can share the experience.

The day after next looked like the best we can hope for, some sunshine but still a little too windy to feel comfortable doing the longer cliffside hike. We settled on an early assault to the mid-mountain car park, then the hike up the rest of the way before the weather turns foul again. I found us an abandoned harbour parkup nearby where we can spend the night and be within a few miles of the mountain.

We turned off the usual 1-1/2 lane road onto a narrower single lane leading down towards the water. As we approached our turnoff we could see that the entrance to the harbor was completely blocked by an enormous piece of road equipment. Closer still we saw the entire intersection blocked by a paver, a compactor, and a couple of dump trucks. My heart sank. I wanted so much to spend the night on the old wharf and I had no plan B.

The machines were idle but as we approached — there was nowhere to turn around — a couple of road workers appeared and I jumped out of the van to meet them. They told me they were resurfacing that bit of road and would be done in a few hours. I told them we wanted to get down to the concrete wharf to spend the night. In unison they all turned to look down at the abandoned harbour.

“You want to spend the night there?” one of them asked, incredulous.

“Sure,” I said. “Why? Isn’t it safe?” I was wondering if they knew something about the tidal range or upcoming weather.

“I don’t know,” our informant said skeptically. “There was a murder here last night.”

I chuckled nervously, thinking they were pulling my leg, or more likely, that I had misunderstood the strong accent.

“No really!” he said, and they all pitched in. Apparently someone died at Slieve League, but to be honest, I couldn’t be sure if it was a murder or if someone had jumped or fallen off the cliffs. Eventually they all agreed that we would be perfectly safe down on the wharf overnight and they guided Jack into a small space next to their gravel pile while they maneuvered the giant paving machine away from the entrance to the old harbour so we could squeeze by. They warned us we’d be boxed in until they finished their work but that was ok with us. We got settled and by dinner time we were alone in this quiet corner of Donegal with a view of our goal tomorrow.

I spent a few minutes online trying to find the story the road crew shared and found a brief mention on a news radio website, and a press release from the police asking the public to report if they’d seen anything suspicious. Apparently the authorities didn’t know if they were dealing with a murder or just a missing person. There was no body.

It was windy and rainy overnight but we were mostly sheltered by the steep hill beside us, and our only concern was whether the rising tide would sweep over the rocks in front of us. It didn’t and the next morning brought a little sunshine and blue skies, as we’d hoped.

We always seek out these old harbours and would love to have stayed longer but we want to take advantage of the good weather and knock Slieve League off the list. We topped up our water tank with a tap on the dock and headed toward the mountain.

Just as we turned onto the mountain road we were stopped by this sign. There was no roadblock, no police standing guard. Just the sign. We pulled over to reassess and I popped online for answers. As I looked for local news sources we watched a half dozen or so vehicles skirt the sign and continue up the road only to return a few minutes later, presumably turned back by the Garda.

Online news sources were limited to a few sentences, most just copying the initial press release from the Garda. I figured the police didn’t want to alarm the public so I resorted to social media where I found all kinds of info about suspects arrested then released, a house in a nearby town searched, a blood spattered car, an anonymous phone tip, and the ongoing hunt for a body.

While this kind of news barely breaks the surface in America, it’s completely unheard of here and most of the lurid details I found on social media weren’t reported in the news. This is an area largely dependent on tourism and nobody wants to frighten away the visitors.

Until they either find the missing person or a body, the mountain will remain closed. We figure it’ll be a day, maybe two, so we rejiggered our tentative route, and plan to circle back when the dust has settled. We are nothing if not flexible. And we hope for a good outcome to the search.

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Now for something completely different

We knew that finding a place to park at the touristy Narin beach might be chancy but sometimes you just have to try. When I spotted a car leaving the next to last spot in a long row of parked cars I went for it, somehow squeezing Escape Velocity straight in. What would it be if you didn’t even try? You can’t plan for luck like that, you just stick out your racket and something good might happen. It was far from level and extricating EV out of here will not be fun but I decided to worry about that later. In the meantime the broad expanse of beach in front of us was truly beautiful.

It’s on a scale of beaches in Australia except this strand is filled with shivering Irish families covered up under their expensive Dry Robes, instead of lobster-red nearly naked Aussies baking in the sun. Suffice it to say it’s on the blustery, nippy side here in the Emerald Isle but they’re determined to have fun amidst the general beach brouhaha, and they really do.

The racket coming from the little cafe, across the narrow lane right behind us was shouting “party” but on further inspection was quietly found to have linen tablecloth prices, a strange juxtaposition for a beach vendor. You can drop a lot of coin for a burger and chips here at Narin beach.

It turns out we are going to have to wait until 3:30pm for low tide. What happens at low tide you ask? That’s when the water recedes down to the level where you can wade across Greebarra Bay to Inishkeel Island which features ancient monastery ruins, giving you something to wade to, so to speak.

Most conversation that day went something like, “Is it low enough?” “Not yet, Marce.” I’d seen a couple of people get bowled over in the swirling frigid current so I saw no reason to push it. The water level seemed to drop at a glacial pace all day until suddenly it looked like the beginning of the wading window was at hand. The receding tide exposed so much more sandy beach that now it was quite a hike just to get to the water.

As we entered the bay, we could immediately feel the cold current tugging at our legs.

Small waves that wrap around Inishkeel Island from the left and the right meet in the middle of the sandy bar creating a standing wave.

Gaining ground we negotiated some rocks hidden by seaweed and pressed on to a sandy cove where a handsome sloop was anchored.

At the end of the beach, high on a bluff overlooking the cove, we could see the ancient ruins of St. Connell church and St. Mary’s church, built in the 13th century.

There really wasn’t a path so you just have to force your way up through the overgrown weeds.

For a change we knew who they were and what they were doing there.

It certainly is picturesque.

The breeze is really freshening and the tide is swiftly swirling in, so we have a change of plans and quickly make our way down to the crossing bar.

Tide’s rising

We may have left it a little too long because the current is stronger and up to our knees this time.

The tide may be rising but it’s still a long walk up the beach to Escape Velocity.

Spent but happy describes this sunset.

Marce was in need of some quiet time away from the beach hub-bub which we found in spades the next day at the Ballyiriston parkup.

There were some nice walking trails through the hills. EV is up there somewhere.

Peace to you all.

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Did the Flintstones live here?

The Donegal coastline is ragged and rugged and there’s a calendar-worthy lighthouse on nearly every headland. The one at Fanad Head looked like a winner with a car park that can accommodate larger vehicles, but we discovered when we got there that to get any closer to the lighthouse — in fact to get on the grounds at all, even for a photo — would cost what we consider a hefty entrance fee. “It’s worth it!” the clerk in the gift shop told us. We passed.

There’s a photo op around every bend along the coastal road they call the Wild Atlantic Way, and while neither of us is a beach person we do like to be near the sea. In this corner of Donegal we notice the color palette has changed to more muted blues and greens, reminding us of tropical places, except for the brisk air temperature.

Old harbors are some of our favorite places to stay overnight, the closer to water the better. After finding that our chosen spot is now posted “Strictly No Overnight” we made our way to another quiet outpost on Carnboy, an old pier that doesn’t look much used by boats but seems popular with the caravan and motorhome set.

Jack wrangled Escape Velocity up off the road to a grassy knoll just wide enough to accommodate us and where we had an elevated view of the boat strand and the sea beyond.

Again we were struck by the pale watercolor hues. The rocks are also different from what we’ve seen, more rounded, worn down, older looking. Between the rocks and the muted colors I’m reminded of the town of Bedrock in the 1960s animated TV series The Flintstones, and even now I refer to this spot as “that Barney Rubble place.”

We had fun clambering over the rocks, taking photos, imagining what kind of boats might have come here and from where. We were intrigued by the sign advising to prevent exotic diseases from entering Ireland by disposing of kitchen waste properly. This is normally a bio security function at an official port of entry, but there are no officials nearby and I couldn’t hazard a guess as to the nearest foreign port.

We thought maybe we could walk to the little island at low tide the next day but by morning the wind had kicked up and we decided to move on to a more sheltered spot. I know I say this about many of our parkups but this one really is one of my favorites so far. It was like living in a beautiful watercolor painting.

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The Gap of Mamore

Escape Velocity had been laboring up this twisty, switchbacked, one-lane mountain road for some time now, but just when I began to think we’ve reached the summit it only revealed an even steeper rise.

Rounding a tight switchback — I really don’t know how high up the mountain we were — a viewpoint sign flashed in front of me and I reflexively turned in. Clinging to the mountainside was a tiny parkup with about as magnificent a view as I’ve ever seen. It truly took my breath away. I switched off EV and we just sat there, mesmerized.

We leveled the van with ramps, turned off the engine, turned on the LPG and called it home.

We had miles to go to get to our intended destination but we thought maybe we could linger awhile. As the light played across the hills in an ever changing palette I said, “I’m just not ready to leave this place.”

I took a stroll and stumbled onto an old story that took place right where I was standing. It seems the folks in Urris, which is the little village towards the sea, had a still in just about every back yard where they distilled an incredibly potent, potato-based spirit called Poitin.

Everyone was happy with this state of affairs until it was outlawed in 1760. The distillers simply took to the hills where a lookout could spot police or revenuer from miles away on the only road up.

You can just imagine tiny fires dancing all night, far off up on the mountain, thumbing their noses at the authorities. In protest of the fines levied for having stills, the community blocked the pass with huge rocks. This held for three years until the British swooped in and that was that. Today poitin is still made in Urris and many people swear it’s the strongest spirit made. Note to self: further research required.

We stayed two nights at the overlook but to get to the Grianán of Aileach, a mountain-top fort built in the 9th century, first you’ve got to summit this crazy Gap of Mamore and we could see the steepest section is right in front of us.

We still had to climb all the way up Greenan Mountain.

The nearly perfectly round stone fort is built on the bones of a prehistoric fort and has a commanding and beautiful view of Lough Foyle and Inch Island to the north.

Awesome fun fact that Yours Truly dug up just for you Escapees: This fort, or at least its ancient location is one of only five in Ireland mentioned by Ptolemy on his map of the known world.

With the return of the Irish rain we headed down the mountain toward a beach and managed to stumble into another strange story. We had a very beachy parkup with lots of extra family fun, but the thing that intrigued us was an interesting bronze sculpture of multiple figures with upraised jazz hands. Well, let it never be said that we Escapees ignored something like that, dare I say art?

Walking up to the large sculpture we found that it was in fact two sculptures in some strange relationship to each other.

It’s titled “Flight of the Earls” but it didn’t mean much to us at the time. Well it turns out its significance can not be overstated, so bearing in mind that I am not an accredited historian and half the time I’m just making this stuff up, I’m going to give it a go.

It seems that after defeat at the battle of Kinsale in 1601, Hugh Roe O’Donnell and 90 or so of his closest buddy Earls and their families, finding themselves quite diminished in power and authority, decamped and traveled to Spain with the expectation that King Phillip lll might help them reinvade Ireland. Of course they had no idea that in 1598 Spain had gone bankrupt, you know, belly up, come-a-cropper, insolvent, chapter 11, pooched the dog, so it was never in the cards. Suffice to say it didn’t go well. Of course this signaled the end of the old Gaelic order due to the vacuum left by the ancient aristocracy of Ulster going into permanent exile, clearing the way for the Plantation of Ulster and troubles for centuries thereafter.

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North to the South

Our mechanic needed the van overnight to do the service and repairs so we booked a night in a nearby cottage where we took long hot showers, did four loads of wash, and spent most of the day watching old movies on TV. It was a nice break from the van, and there was even a clothesline in the garden where I could dry the laundry in the sunshine.

John did a first rate job replacing the worn parts that were flagged in our MOT inspection, plus did a full service. He also gave us tons of tips on places to go in Donegal. He warned us with a wry smile that we’ll love it so much we won’t want to leave.

County Donegal is an interesting place. It’s part of the province of Ulster, most of which constitutes Northern Ireland, but since partition it’s also the northernmost county of the Republic of Ireland, or “the South,” as they say here. Partition cut the county off from Derry, its traditional economic and administrative hub, and geographically it’s also almost completely cut off from the rest of the Republic. It’s remote, wild and rugged. Their motto is “Up here, it’s different.”

The border between the North and the South, though it’s nearly invisible, reminds me a bit of the Iron Curtain that once divided Germany along idealogical lines. When I lived in Berlin it was inconceivable to me that Germany would ever be reunited yet less than five years after I left the Berlin Wall was torn down with sledge hammers and a groundswell of frustration. I know the two situations are completely different but I often wonder if there will ever be a united Ireland.

We’re eager to start exploring, and as usual, have no planned itinerary. We’re continuing our counterclockwise coastal approach, which seems to be working for us so far. Our daily decisions rest as much on the need for food or fuel and where we can stop overnight as what we want to see. And of course, we usually gravitate toward the water.

It’s funny that we never even heard of Martello towers until we visited our first one in Hoy last year and now we check out any that we see on the map. We just add them to the list of things that attract our attention along with megalithic sites, castles, old harbors, wood fired pizza, and any café with eggs Benedict on the menu.

We made our way slowly up the west coast of Lough Foyle then turned northwest to Culdaff Beach and one of the most scenic little libraries we’ve ever come across.

This memorial plaque was on a bench overlooking the sea. My Morse code is a bit rusty but eventually I made it out. “Don’t piss in the bidet Darling x”

Good advice.

We like to alternate a parkup at sea level with a higher elevation view, which also gives Jack the opportunity to pretend he’s driving a Porsche over the twisty mountain roads.

Then it’s back down to sea level and a peaceful night along Trawbreaga Bay.

Our good weather gave out along with our supplies and after stocking up at a local supermarket we took shelter in a cozy café for eggs Benny.

We spent the afternoon working off the calories hiking through a charming community park. We’ve both noticed how kid-oriented and family friendly Ireland is. There are playgrounds everywhere, public toy bins at the beaches, and this park even has little play houses at each picnic site complete with a table and chairs.

We ducked back to Derry for a day to retrieve an order from Amazon and while we were there we took care of something we both take very seriously — voter registration. Because we live outside the country we need to submit paperwork each year in order to receive our ballots. In a bit of a clumsy analog-digital mashup, we have to print the forms, fill them out and sign, then scan and email them back. Now that I’m a member at Libraries NI it was easy for us to duck in to the Derry branch and use a public computer to print the forms.

It was story hour behind me, and I did my work while listening to the same nursery songs my kindergarten teacher mother sang to us when we were little. Some things never change.

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Circles within circles

We haven’t seen much in the way of megalithic sites since we shipped Escape Velocity and ourselves off in the ferry to Ireland. So when we found ourselves near an almost mysterious plain, filled with an overlapping series of circles we said, “That’ll do.” Then again, I suppose they’ve all been mysterious.

We found the official parkup to be a nondescript level lot out in the middle of nowhere. We had some dinner and while washing up I noticed soft golden light filtering down in rays angling out of the sky, what I call the Holy Ghost. Golden hour is always good for photography. We hopped out and hiked toward the fields.

Of course no one knows why these fields were considered such an apex of interest. Three pairs of circles plus a bonus seventh well peppered with dragon teeth, stone alignments, 12 cairns, some of them containing cremated human remains, all in these fields. It’s an incredible concentration of thought, energy, and organization.

Dragon teeth

The info plaque said the fields were originally partially covered in hardwood trees with cultivated open areas. Peat began to encroach and eventually covered the site from the first millennium BC onwards. The site remained lost until it was discovered in the early 1900s during peat cutting. Archaeological excavation started around 1945. Like most of these sites, no one knows who they were or what they were doing there.

Meanwhile we’ve managed to wander a good distance from John’s repair shop but our van parts have arrived so we’re off to set Escape Velocity right.

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Across the great divide

Derry/Londonderry is a walled city and also a divided city. We know there are tours with strong political commentary but we chose to take a short walking tour of the city walls that we hoped would be neutral. As outsiders everywhere we go we often ask people we meet if they like their government, and it’s always interesting to hear how the grassroots perspective compares to what we read in the international press.

Northern Ireland is different. We learned right way that 25 years of negotiated peace has not dimmed the ancient conflict that still simmers just below the surface. I was having a friendly chat with the parking warden where we overnighted and casually asked if she’s originally from Derry. She stiffened, nearly imperceptibly, and said, “Yes, but I’m from Waterside,” letting me know she’s Protestant and I knew I should have said Londonderry, not Derry. It can be a linguistic minefield.

From atop the city walls we could see the high fence surrounding the last remaining Protestant enclave in the majority Catholic west bank of the city, where the curbs and streetlight poles are painted in the colors of the Union Jack and there’s no doubt which side they’re on.

The day after our city wall tour we walked to Bogside, the Catholic neighborhood that was the locus of the beginning of the Troubles, from the Battle of Bogside in 1969 to Bloody Sunday in 1972. Here the streetlight poles are painted in the colors of the Irish flag.

Walking along Rossville Street had a cumulative sobering effect and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of the partisan fervor seeps into the consciousness of the children who live here. As much as I understand intellectually the nature of the political dispute, I’m at a loss to fully comprehend the depth of the hatred and distrust of each side for the other, framed as it is in sectarian terms. The five-part documentary series Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland (available on PBS or BBC iPlayer) captures the complexity and sometimes futility of the conflict, and the lingering after effects on those who were directly or indirectly caught up. It’s at once a vivid retelling of events and a thoughtful reflection on the fragile truce of today.

We turned to walk up William Street where a historical photo shows what happened on this spot fifty years ago, and more recent graffiti reminds us that the struggle for human rights isn’t over.

We walked up toward the walled city and back to Escape Velocity parked along the river, the dividing line between ideologies and for us, we hope, neutral territory.

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