Belfast

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Belfast Castle and Gardens

Today we got a delightful and informative tour of Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Its amazing and such a hopeful thing that this city is now a major tourist destination.  During much of my lifetime, mention of Belfast conjured up images of bombings and the deaths of so many innocent civilians caught in the crossfire of the ethnic and religious conflict.  Almost 2000 civilians were killed during the period of the ‘70s and 80’s called “the Troubles.”  At that time Belfast was considered one of the most dangerous cities in the world.  Today, thanks to many peacemaking initiatives, it is considered one of the safest.

Interestingly, the “peace wall” that was constructed to separate the Catholic and Protestant sections of the city has become a major tourist stop.

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William Wallace, AKA Braveheart

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William Wallace is the great folk hero of the Scots, and considered the liberator of the Country. His image is everywhere throughout Scotland. The movie only helped to cement that reputation. This guy was an enthusiastic impersonator, but he was no Mel Gibson.

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Edinburgh

Today I toured Edinburgh Castle and the city.  The castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, from virtually any vantage point.

 

This picture was taken from the overlook on one of the busiest streets in the city across Princes Street Garden, sort of like Central Park in NYC.

Edinburgh Castle has been a part of Scotland’s storied past since the 11th century.  It was a crucial stronghold during Scotland’s War for Independence.

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Celebrity Reflection

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This is a day at sea as we’re headed up and over Great Britain to the west coast of Scotland. My cruise ship is the Celebrity Reflection, which carries 3046 people. That is no where near the 5535 occupancy of the Symphony of the Seas, the largest in the world, but still impressive.

So we are traversing the North Sea as I type this.  With a reputation for perpetual rough conditions, today the North Sea seems bent on maintaining its  stormy reputation.  Just trying to walk down the corridors is a formidable challenge.  I’m sticking to my bunk today.  Being horizontal seems to keep the seasickness at bay.

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Inverness – Cawdor Castle

Today’s tour took us across the Scottish highlands on our way to Cawdor Castle, built in the 15th century.  The scenery alone made the tour worthwhile, with vistas of lush green meadows with grazing sheep, against a backdrop of cloud covered mountains.

Cawdor Castle is most famous because of its literary connection to Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth.” In the play Macbeth was declared “Thane (protector) of Cawdor” by the three witches that visited him. The extra notoriety given to the castle because of the Macbeth reference is unwelcome, at least it is to one of the recent Earls that owned the castle. Because of all the tourists, he once remarked, “I wish Shakespeare had never written that damned play.”

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The castle was beautiful, but what I really enjoyed was exploring the immense, magnificent formal gardens surrounding the castle.

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Inverness

Today is my first taste of Scotland with an excursion to Inverness. Will be passing by Loch Ness to do a bit of monster hunting. 😆

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Canterbury

Today for a shore excursion I chose to visit the Canterbury Cathedral.

96B9AB1A-B62F-4C01-BFA7-39888202689DThis is the home diocese of the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Church of England (Episcopal Church), built in AD 1070.

I knew this, thats’s why I chose to visit here.  What I didn’t know was that this Cathedral is the third most popular pilgrimage site in Christianity, after Jerusalem and Rome.  Why?  Because of the famous murder of Thomas Becket in 1170.  Thomas, who as Archbishop at that time, was brutally slayed while in prayer at the altar of the Cathedral – had his head cut off by four knights under orders of King Henry II.  Politics apparently were ugly back then, also. 😆

Anyway, following the murder many miracles reportedly occurred in the area and pilgrims began to flock there.

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