So it’s been a while, but I wanted to continue sharing this wonderful trip that I took with my daughter… so many happy experiences to look back on for us.
If you want to see all Ireland posts or start at the beginning, click the image:
One interesting part of our trip was that while the moms stayed together in one house, the girls stayed in several groups in different homes, and most days two or three of them performed at one venue, while at the same time two or three performed at others. This meant, we (moms) were not able to see all of the performances (yes, I wanted to split myself in two, so I could be everywhere at once!).
All the Schools
We did, however, get a good taste for what the school system in Northern Ireland is like, as we visited 10 different schools during our two and a half week trip. The schools are small and so lovely with what seemed like such loving staff at each one. We were able to take tea and visit a bit with staff at each school we went to.
I loved the bits of artwork on the grounds of the little day school above for playing games. Such fun and creativity!
We loved getting to see our girls interact with the students and staff in each school, and of course the artist in me was taken with all the children’s artwork we saw at each place! Since ballet is not a “thing” there, the children were always fascinated by the dancing. In every place we went the children were very well-behaved and attentive.
The photo above shows the girls relaxing before a performance at a Catholic school, which (since we were a group of Protestants) we were thrilled to be asked into. It was an amazing thing to witness, in this Northern Ireland town very close to the border and in which “The Troubles” (if you are not familiar with what that is you can read more by clicking here) had caused such turmoil for so long.
What a blessing that in nearly every school our girls were allowed to work with the children to teach them some of the ballet basics. It was a wonderful experience for them because they were allowed to communicate their testimonies and to take different leadership roles in the various ministry opportunities they had.
They were in different schools each weekday morning of our trip, and immediately afterward we were all whisked away in our minibus to view different historical and cultural locations throughout Northern Ireland. I must say, there were some incredible sights to see!!
On our second day in Northern Ireland, after the girls had performed in the schools, we were taken to an amazingly intact ancient medieval castle, Carrickfergus. You can see the beautiful exterior in the photo below.
Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman Irish castle which sits on the north shore of Belfast Lough in County Antrim. It is an ancient, enduring fortress, giving credence to its name Fergus, which means “strong man.”
There is a lovely view of the town (note steeple and rooftops above) and an amazing view of Belfast Lough (below) from over the sides of the top of the castle, and it’s clear why this would have been a prime location for a fortress where they could see and disarm any enemy ships coming into the harbor.
And lest you think shamrocks are not really all over Ireland, you can see below that they even grow in the cracks of ancient castle walls!!
From the immages below, you can see how the castle developed through the years,, with the inner “Keep” built first and then the battlements and fortress built around it later.
This (below) was the lowest level of the castle where foods were kept cold and things necessary for the running of the castle were stored.
The second level of the Keep (below) was where the kitchen servants worked and dined.
On the next level you would find the banquet hall, with beautiful tapestries and plenty of room for the castle’s inhabitants to take meals together.
Apparently, salt was a prized possession in medieval times, as this golden bowl, called the Nef, was set on the center of the table and filled with salt as a demonstration of wealth.
The top level of the Keep was my very favorite… exactly what you would imagine a medieval castle to be like.
The room, as shown in the photo below, was massive. The windows let in some light, but it was still very dark even in the middle of the day. Thank goodness for flash cameras and Photoshop!
Life-size Snakes & Ladders game… a beautifully woven rug!
And life-size CHESS BOARD… the king came up about mid-thigh on me.
And below is the chainmail worn under a suit of armor, both the head and the garment. There were also chainmail gloves to be worn under the gauntlets.
Here is the view from the top…
I learned so much on our visit and had to pinch myself that I was standing amidst history nearly a thousand years old. It was just amazing! I hope you have enjoyed the tour and my trip down memory lane.