One year ago today, I hugged my new friend and gracious host Jill goodbye. It was a cloudy day in Northern Ireland, and our group headed for the city of Belfast, a place I had longed to visit. The clouds brought a drizzling rain, so when we stepped off the coach (aka bus), a dry place to eat lunch was first on the agenda. After only a short detour, we found AVOCA, the top of the list of shops recommended by Jill. Our small group was made up of seven young women, and as different as we were from each other, we all felt right at home. I knew from walking through both the retail shop and the café that this was no ordinary place of business; it had to have a great story. Lunch was delicious for everyone, whether hamburger or gourmet selection, and if I had had any more room in my suitcase, I would have left the shop with more than the small cookbook I purchased.
It was not until I got home and was able to research Avoca that I truly appreciated the entire experience. I think much of its charm comes with its age, especially for those of us who walk and drive very young streets most days. Afterall, Avoca’s history does predate the United States Declaration of Independence.
It may seem superficial that of all the places in Belfast, and in Northern Ireland for that matter, for me to write about, I have chosen a store. But you must know that, while this retail shop was not the most breathtaking or the most historically significant site of the trip, it did teach me something. The island on which we stood and the people that call it home have lived through generations of strife and turmoil. There are signs and scars all around. But that island is trying to heal, and for me, finding a family-owned company that has not only survived but thrived in the dawn of a new era proved that the island and its people are looking ahead with hope.
You should visit the Avoca website (and maybe someday the store) too.
As for the most breathtaking sites of the trip, the northern coast takes it. If (or should I say when) you make it to Northern Ireland, don’t miss Giant’s Causeway or the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Since they are worth a thousand words, I leave you with the views: