It is a proven fact that both of us will fall sick at least once throughout the course of a cycling trip.
For Jess, her time was now. As she woke up to the sound of rain, she was painfully aware that everything in her body hurt and she needed some medication, fast. But what we both craved more than anything was sleep. So after a lovely breakfast by Pat, we crawled back upstairs and hung out for a bit, relaxing and talking about how we wanted to spend our first rest day.
First up was a walk through town to the nearest pharmacy, where we stocked up on the strongest over-the-counter pills money could buy. Jess walked over to the till to pay up, where an amusing exchange then occurred:
Cashier: "Do you happen to have two pence?"
Jess: "I think so...ah yes! Here's two cents."
Neil: "PENCE, not cents! God, Americans. You can't take them anywhere."
Entire store: "Oh ho ho ho."
We then decided to wander around for a bit to pass the time until our tour of the Bogside. Derry is small enough that you can comfortably walk around its winding streets and sharp hills in a day.
It was raining softly as we came across the Guildhall Square, and everyone looked tired. There are reminders of Derry's tumultuous history everywhere. And even though people have worked hard to move past it and look ahead to the future, what happened here is inescapable. You can feel it in the air.
After nipping into a diner for a quick lunch of toasties and beef stew, we made our way to the Museum of Free Derry, where our tour was to originate from. It's in temporary premises right now as they refurbish their usual home, so Jess gave them a call to find out where we should go.
"He said Shipkey Street, but that's not on the map"
"That's because it's Shipquay Street"
"But that's a stupid way to pronounce that word!"
"Mutter mutter Americans grumble grumble"
At the entrance of the museum, we were welcomed by the curator, who gave us a short introduction. He was the younger brother of one of the victims of Bloody Sunday, and you could tell that this place held a great deal of significance for him. The museum was a mausoleum of sorts, filled with personal effects of the victims that were either taken from the bodies directly or donated by their families. Regardless of whatever perspective you subscribed to, the overwhelming feeling as you walked through the exhibit was one of loss. So many of the people who died were too young.
At two o'clock, we walked back to the museum entrance and met up with the rest of our tour group. Our guide was a self-proclaimed "former political prisoner" (read: IRA member) who took an immediate interest in the fact that Neil was "a local boy".
"I'm sure you already know all the crack about here", he said grinning.
"Not as much as I should. There's always something to learn", Neil responded guardedly.
This wasn't the first time people here had wanted to know more about Neil's history. For the most part, the inquiries were completely harmless curiosity from people interested in what this guy from their tiny country was doing cycling around it on a tandem. Our guide was nothing but cordial and polite to us during the tour. But growing up in Northern Ireland had also taught Neil that you never really know who you're talking to, and whilst that person might be innocent enough, the people they surround themselves with may not be so kind. It was just easier to keep your guard up, keep your head down, and not associate with anything if you could help it.
The story began at William Street, and for the next hour, our guide led us through points of importance for the Bogside residents, almost all of whom identify as Irish Nationalist or Republican. The stories we heard and the murals we saw highlighted the struggles which had befallen this population. There's always multiple sides to any tale, and this tour was very much a local's perspective which it would be hard to get elsewhere.
After the tour concluded at the Bloody Sunday Memorial, we took a walk back into the centre of town for a wee break and game of cards at the Central Bar. In the corner was the obligatory unruly drunk, remarkable only in that he was three sheets to the wind at 4PM on a Wednesday. He was harassing a blonde-haired woman sitting at the counter, convinced she reminded him of somebody. We could see the cogs in his addled brain turning as he figured out her doppelgänger. "Yer woman... Singer... Country... Kenny Rogers... DOLLY PARTON!".
Minutes later he realised just how drunk he was and threw himself out of the bar before the handful of other punters had the chance to take exception to his continued presence.
This entire interlude reminded us how different environments sound when you understand the language natively. In Berlin, unless we're really concentrating and trying to listen, most of the conversations around us float in the air like white noise, and our ears just tune it out. Once you re-enter a place where you speak the native language, it's as if the volume is turned back up to 11, and it can be exhausting.
We were headed across the river for our last meal in Derry, when a woman came over to Jess and started talking to her like they were long lost friends. In her feverish haze, it took a moment before she realised that it was the cashier from the pharmacy this morning, who had remembered her specifically due to the "Americans. Can't take them anywhere" comment. Laughs were had, and the cashier wished us well for the rest of the journey. Moments like these are what stand out to us the most, and it was a lovely reminder of how kind people are here.
Onwards to the Walled City Brewery, which prided itself on providing food and drinks that were purely from Derry or the surrounding areas in Northern Ireland. They had a nice selection of tapas and pricey craft beers, with a lovely view of the Peace Bridge and city on the other side. It was a relaxing way to end our two days here, and we again went to bed early, filled with anticipation over what our trip to Omagh in the morning might look like.