Wednesday, June 22--Armagh to Belfast

Navan Centre & fort; Downpatrick; St Patrick Centre; St Patrick's Cathedral

Ibis Belfast City Centre

Black VW Passat sedan



I went over to the Navan Centre and fort before leaving the Armagh area. I thought the Centre was very well done, including the audio-visual show, and worth the price of admission. I met a couple of the living history players, a woman and a younger male who pretended to be her son, and they took me over to the recreation of an Iron Age round house.

It is possible to bypass the Centre and make your own way over to the fort itself, but when I had followed the path from the Centre over to the small road at the base of the hill where the fort is I noticed that people had to park on the curb alongside a very narrow road where they must have had to drive past to find somewhere to do a u-turn to come back down and park in the direction in which they wanted to travel when they left, while my car was in the very nice car park at the Centre not far away.

I had decided not to wait the half an hour until a guide from the Centre would take a party over to the fort but wandered on over myself. At first, however, I went around the wrong corner and wound up back in front of the Centre I had just left. One of the staff inside told me I needed to turn right instead of left, and so I did. It was a very pleasant walk over to the base of the hill below the fort, and then a rather steep unimproved path up to the top of the hill where nothing remains of the fort itself, just the beautiful grounds and the amazing views from up top. I saw no other people there except two women who had been getting out of their car with a small dog when I got to the bottom of the hill and who went up when I did.

I decided not to even go by Portadown, where the parents of my friend and favorite harper from the Florida Renaissance Festival, Kathleen Finnegan-Blackshear's were from but headed directly on over to Downpatrick instead. Downpatrick is another lovely town, and I really enjoyed what I saw of it. I had a lovely lunch at a nice restaurant on the main street first, then went into the St Patrick Centre, which is also beautifully done and uses a wide mix of materials to tell the story of Patrick's life and his significance. From there I walked up the hill to the beautiful cathedral which I got to just before they were closing for the day, shortly before 4 PM, but had time for a wander around and to take pictures.

I left Downpatrick for Belfast, getting here about 6.

The drives yesterday, from Armagh to Downpatrick and then from there to Belfast, were mostly cross country but this time I didn't have to drive on any single-lane or only theoretically two-lane roads, just real two-lane roads and occasionally two-lanes in both directions. I drove over and around lots of hills and every now and then through some very beautiful and scenic small towns perched on the sides of the hills.

Finding Belfast and the hotel weren't difficult; although I had to use Google Maps on my Irish smart phone to find the Navan Centre, it actually listed the fort itself. And it found Downpatrick and then my hotel here in Belfast as well. When I got here, though, I decided the traffic downtown is so bad I'd just leave my car parked until I left.

The problem was when I got to my hotel, the Ibis Belfast City Centre. It was actually easy to find, especially since I had seen a picture of it on the hotel's website. I drove around it a couple of times looking for a sign for parking or even an entrance. I got so frustrated that I just parked on the street in the next block, possibly illegally, while I went back to the hotel, found the entrance, and went into reception. The hotel doesn't have its own parking, or even anywhere designated as a loading/unloading area near reception but only comps parking at the huge pay lot across the street. I had to leave my car where it was while I made two trips to bring all the bags I thought I'd need for the next two nights into the reception area, take two trips to take my things upstairs to my room on the 6th floor, and go back down and move my car into the pay lot.

By this time on a Wednesday evening a lot of places in the area were closing down or already closed. I went into the upstairs restaurant area of a nice pub up the street but they had already closed although there was no sign with hours anywhere near the open door downstairs I had come in. I wound up having an OK burger in the small upstairs café of the pub directly across the street from the hotel.

I unpacked a bit, stretched out to read, and that was it. I woke up around 11 PM just long enough to undress and finally send Michael & Tim a text message letting them know I had safely arrived and went back to bed and sleep.

The Ibis City Centre hotel is a pretty nice, fairly modern hotel. There's a small restaurant/lounge/pub down on the ground floor. My room looks more like a single room in a modern, semi-high end dorm rather than a hotel although it's quite comfortable and cozy and has a nice desk where I have my laptop set up and am typing these notes. Most interesting is the whole bath area, which is basically a small self-contained pod set into a corner with a nice sink, a toilet, and a decent-sized shower with OK water pressure.

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