Having returned to Dubai for a couple of weeks I then flew back to London and then down to Maidstone with E. and the kids for just under a week where we caught up with Dad and the rest of the family and spent some time down on the coast (including our usual trip to Hastings) as well as putting on our annual BBQ which apart from a brief shower passed without a hitch (and allowed us to catch up with R. A, S. K and A, C and etc.) and involved substantial amounts of food and drink.
We then travelled down to Bristol to E's parents - they have settled into the new house (now been there over a year!) and the development is close to completion. We had a couple of days around Bristol and then flew from Bristol Airport with the kids to Belfast for a short trip to N. Ireland for P. and L's wedding (friends from HK days). It was an early flight so after picking up the car we had time to see the Titanic exhibition which was excellent - and included a recreation of the shipyard which you travelled through on a gondola and the inside of the Titanic as well as a description of everything else that was being done at the Harland and Wolff ship yard. After a brief diversion around some of the estates of Belfast following a wrong turn including a brief flirtation with an area near the Falls Road (perhaps not as problematic as it might have been a few years ago...)we headed in the afternoon to Armagh where the wedding was being held. Armagh was surprisingly small (like a lot of the famous towns and villages whose names we recognised from the news reports from the 70s and 80s) and A. and I popped out to the local shopping centre for some swimmers as the Hotel had a pool. We were really impressed by how well presented and generally clean and tidy the various towns and villages looked - it gave a real impression of money have been spent (a good example was Portadown rail way station which looked brand new) although it was marching season so the large numbers of Union flags fluttering in the breeze and hung from buildings certainly made the vista very colourful. The Armagh Hotel was very well appointed - nice big rooms and V. A and I enjoyed our swim and the evening meal in the bar.
The following day we went to P.+ L's wedding in a little village church a few miles outside Armagh and then on to the reception in a marquee in P's family farm - a really lovely event with family and friends and great food, wine and views over the very green landscape (no rain, and fireworks at the end).
The following day we drove down to the coast and stayed in a 5* B&B in the countryside close to the Giant's Causeway. Despite the pouring rain in the morning, we went to the rope bridge which was close to the B&B the following morning and V and I braved the walk over it - in fact by the time we got onto the island, the sun was out and the views over to Scotland and along the coast were terrific and the water was unusually clear. The Giant's Causeway was also very good - the kids particularly enjoying playing on the giant's discarded "boot" (a sort of boot shaped rock) and it was very interesting to read about the hotels and businesses that grew up around this attraction at the turn of the century.
The following day we made our way back to Belfast for our flight back to Bristol stopping off at one of the Loughs just outside and having a walk around it (and listening to a brass band entertaining the crowds). Then it was back to Bristol. Stand by for Part 3