Derry, Belfast and the Orange Marches

I had four days off between my units in London and Milan, and I decided to go back to Dublin. There I met back up with Stephen McPhilemy, and we went up to Belfast for the Orange marches. In Northern Ireland, there’s what’s known as the marching season. It is where all the Protestants get together, bang drums and march down the street to commemorate a military victory hundreds of years ago (or intimidate the Catholics, depending how you look at it), and assert themselves as the best around, as Stephen explained to me on the train ride up. I had heard of the Troubles and seen the walls running through the neighborhoods in Derry and Belfast on my last visit, but during this visit the tension was palpable. When I told my dad where I was going that weekend, he said “you’ll see parents teaching their kids how to hate.” There was nothing happy about this long series of marching band after marching band that the northern Protestants claim will one day be a major tourist attraction.

 After the lengthy parade was over, we strolled down the route, empty beer cans and bottles lining the street. It looked as if this could have been the result of a week-long festival in what in reality took a single day. We continued down the street into a dangerously Protestant neighborhood called Sandy Row. Stephen explained there was a song with the line in it “…We’re from Sandy Row where the Catholics never dare to go…” It was a bit of a rush to feel like you were in the enemy’s home turf. Of course I never even dared think a subversive thought among a street full of skinheads and tattooed thugs looking for a fight. Shortly after we got back on the train, we heard about minor scuffles up in Belfast later that night. Witnessing the marches was something I wanted to do, and I’m glad I went, but it’s not something I’d ever go back to or really find uplifting at all. It was more one of those experiences one would call educational or parents would call character-building. 


Crystal Cascante, University of Florida

Happy Backpackers

I've been in Europe since the beginning of January and have traveled every weekend. This Easter Weekend was by far the best one. The hostel was perfect and super convenient, I made a ton of new friends, and our guides (Andy, Rhianne, and Elena) made sure we saw absolutely everything in the city. The meals included were all absolutely delicious, and Andy even brought snacks every once in a while to hold us over in between meals. We were given our Easter Mass tickets the night before and strategically planned to be in the front for mass. We followed Andy's suggestions and got to sit in the very front for Mass. The wait was worth it and so was every cent of the trip's cost. I barely spent any of my own money, just on transportation to and from the airport, gelato, and food on my last day there. I would 100% recommend this company to all of my friends!

Crystal Cascante, University of Florida ~ AIFS London, Spring 2016

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