Thursday, 10 May 2007

2002 - Trip to Ireland!

I was born and brought up in Northern Ireland. I had three aunts there, and one of them was dying. She and I had had a good relationship since my childhood and I wanted to see her before she died. I didn't expect Marie to go with me. Although she had been abroad before - to France by ferry - that was many years earlier when her agoraphobia was in its infancy. To go to Ireland meant a long car journey, followed by a ferry trip when we wouldn't be able to access the car, i.e. it would be using a form of public transport, a definite no-no for Marie.

To my surprise, one day she announced that she would be going with me.

First we went to the doctor. Marie asked him for tranquillizers and he obliged by prescribing her diazepam. She intended to use these as an
aid to reduce her anxiety before boarding the ferry.

Joseph really enjoyed the ferry trips
Thus, shortly afterwards, we (Marie, Joseph and I) drove to Stranraer in West Scotland and boarded the ferry to Larne in Northern Ireland. This wouldn't have been my chosen route, but it offered the shortest ferry trip - just 45 minutes. As we approached Stranraer, Marie's anxiety level got higher and higher, but after taking the diazepam, she coped very well with the ferry.

Marie at Dunservick Castle, Antrim Coast Road
Our trip went extremely well. Once in Ireland, Marie relaxed and enjoyed herself. Our first call was a surprise visit to Jenna in Belfast. We took Jenna to a job interview (she later found out that she had got the job!). Marie's anxiety about my relationship with Jenna was receding all the time, and things were almost back to normal. Next, we called on all three aunts and then went on the tourist trail. I was extremely pleased to show Marie around the land of my youth and we toured around the beautiful scenery of the Mourne Mountains, the Antrim Coast Road, the Giant's Causeway, the lovely lake scenery of Upper and Lower Lough Erne and the not-at-all beautiful but interesting sectarian wall murals and heavily fortified Police Stations of strife-torn Belfast.

Street murals in Belfast
We were lucky with the weather - having mostly bright weather with spells of sunshine. Typically, only one day out of three is bright in this part of the world.

Marie & Joseph at Donaghadee lighthouse on a windy day!
We were also lucky to have, in Joseph, the best behaved one year old passenger in the world. With his permanent smile and calm temperament, he was much admired wherever we went or stayed.

Antrim Coast Road

Marie's favourite part of the trip was the Antrim Coast Road. This offers a drive of about 60 miles of coastal scenery, most of it on a road only a few feet above sea level, culminating in the unique hexagonal basalt columns formed after the eruption of a volcano many thousands (millions?) of years ago and now popularly called The Giant's Causeway.

Marie felt so good at the end of our trip that she didn't take any diazepam on the return ferry to Scotland...and she talked about going back to Ireland for another holiday.

Here are some more photos we took of the Antrim Coast Road

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