I’ve been to Ireland many times, but never to the North.
Growing up in the sixties and seventies, Northern Ireland meant one thing – trouble. The Troubles. And though you know that statistically the chances of encountering any trouble is low, it wasn’t a place I’d ever thought of visiting. Too dangerous, maybe. Not over-fond of Brits, even those like me with Irish roots – more likely. It wasn’t the fear of the bomb going off, more the thought of the door being slammed in my face that bothered me.
But all that has changed now.
So on a stormy Sunday in May we left Dublin where the Queen’s imminent invasion had led to road closures and buildings being cordoned off, and headed for the border.
We figured that Warrenpoint, “a traditional seaside resort… with a colourful esplanade” according to the guidebook would be worth a try. Situated on a Lough and in the Sterling rather than Euro Zone, it would make a good place to break our journey, take some photos and grab a bite of lunch.
We arrived just after, and just before, a rainstorm and the cloud hung low on the Mourne mountains on the other side of the lough, pierced by sun that bathed the buildings in white light. It was beautiful despite the boarded up windows of recession casualties. We headed to the shore, wandered around and took some photos.
It turns out that despite the change of currency and government when travelling from South to North, there’s no border – not even a sign to welcome you (or tell you to feck off for that matter). There is no real way of telling that you’ve switched from the Republic to the Monarchy unless you stop off somewhere and spend some cash.
We ate an unglamorous lunch but tasty in a sandwich bar, like you do when you’re travelling and need a quick bite.
And though the accents changed along with the currency, just like everywhere else we went in Ireland, the welcome stayed the same.