Today was a day of cultural experiences for the students. We started the morning with a drive to the little village of Belleek, which sits right on the border with the Republic of Ireland. In fact, the road that we traveled actually went over the border twice and then back into Northern Ireland. Generally, there are no signs announcing that you have crossed the border, just a change of speed limit signs from mph to kph.
Our first stop of the day was at the Belleek Pottery factory. This factory was located at his spot to take advantage of the raw materials necessary for making first ceramics and then fine Parian China. Belleek is known throughout the world for its unique china. Each piece is handmade and painted. Each flower is made petal by petal. Each woven basket is pieced together strand by strand. Apprenticeships last a minimum of two years and may be as long as five years. The way that they make the china today is the same way that they made it 150 years ago. The students were fascinated by the process and some of you will see some fine pieces at home after the trip.
After our tour, we walked through the village if Belleek and then ended up at the Black Cat Cove - a local pub/restaurant. One of the things about Northern Ireland is that there really are not many restaurants as we know them in the states. Most of the good food is actually found at the pubs. We visited this pub on our last visit, got to know the owner and were able to set up a menu for today in advance that would include more traditional Irish fare, including fish and chips and Irish stew. We also arranged for there to be traditional Irish music and even were treated to some Irish dancing too! Of course, pubs can be enjoyed just fine without a local draft of beer.
Needless to say, we left the pub stuffed full and then headed back to our cottages. Our late afternoon was for doing laundry, walks on the forest paths, exploring for fossils and enjoying the sunshine we have been blessed with today. Tomorrow we pack up early and head for our next destination more in the center of Northern Ireland.