I haven’t driven in four weeks, but it’s been 18 months since I’ve driven in the UK. 18 blissful months of not having to convert my speedometer from miles to kilometres in my head, to navigating one way streets in the centre of towns, and not having to find a car park in the middle of the city without having to resort to parking on double yellow lines 🙂 .
A visit to the Ulster Museum had me circling the same streets, partially lost and partially trying to find a car park for twenty minutes. ‘Mum, I recognise this street!’ Master BG said as I trawled up University Street for the third time. Which was the problem- town planners who decided that a museum right next door to Queen’s University in Belfast obviously didn’t have visitors who drive in their minds. Given that both have been around since well before the invention of cars…
It was over 10 years since we had visited the Ulster Museum and it had changed dramatically. Arranged into zones of History, Nature and Art (the museum has a significant art collection) over 3 floors, each zone offers an interactive area for children to play and learn. The History Zone’s area was excellent, with children’s games from long ago, a dress up box that Miss BG dove into with glee, and a computer game based upon treasure retrieved from a Spanish Armada ship that washed up off the coast of Ireland in the 16th century that Master BG played and pronounced as excellent.
Even Master BG got into dress up box. ‘Are you my mummy?’ He asked wearing this mask. *
Other expeditions proved to be less fraught, at least driving wise. Driving to the Ulster Folk Museum wasn’t so bad- it was a straight run and there was a car park at the end. The Folk Museum is best described as Belfast’s Sovereign Hill with authentic houses (relocated from villages and parts of Belfast as they were being redeveloped), and no gold. There is a little town and a rural section which allowed you to meander down country lanes, see donkeys and poke your nose into little cottages.
There was also a lovely lolly shop with a very nice man who gave us a couple of sweet samples and threw a couple more in for us.
While the kids enjoyed the car, for the sheer fact they didn’t have to walk everywhere, I was not so enamored. Trying to concentrate on unfamiliar roads, trying to go from A to B, while the kids are giggling, bickering or trying to tell me something important is not restful. Peopletravelling in a confined space can be fraught with tension, and getting on each other’s nerves. The pleasure of train travel or going on a bus is that someone else is doing the hard work for you. Car travel is not a holiday for me, but an extension of the everyday.
*Doctor Who reference. You really had to be there…