Tag Archives: Belfast

12 July 1958: The wedding beyond the marching

On 12 July 1958, the BBC for the first time “live” broadcast a massive Orange parade in Northern Ireland. About 25,000 men from 300 lodges participated in the five-mile march from Belfast to “The Field” at Finaghy, according to news reports.

That day, 60 summers ago, was “dull and wet” across the Six Counties as Orangemen marked the 268th anniversary of the Battle of Boyne. I didn’t see any reports of violence at these soggy, pre-Troubles marches in my quick search of the Irish Newspaper Archives.

But the date is important to me for something that happened in America. That Saturday morning, 3,400 miles from Belfast, Richard Holan and Lenore Diggin were married at St. Stephen Catholic Church in Pittsburgh.

The bride recalled that her mother, an emigrant of Ballylongford, Kerry, had raised an eyebrow about scheduling the wedding on the Orangemen’s day. Her father, also from Kerry, had died 17 years earlier.

The religious and political baggage of an historic date, however, seldom stop the nuptials of two people in love. And I’m glad of it. Happy 60th wedding anniversary, Mom & Dad.

Lenore & Rich, June 2018, just before their 60th anniversary.

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisted: Final thoughts

This is the last post in a blog serial that has explored aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. All of the hyperlinks below are to earlier posts in the series. All of the posts and other background material are available at the project landing page. Thanks for supporting #IUCRevisited.

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“I went to Ireland … to learn what I could of the social and economical conditions of the Irish people as affected by the revolutionary forces which are now at work in the country.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

I discovered the digital edition of Ireland Under Coercion several years ago while researching the 1888 Kerry murders of James Fitzmaurice and John Foran. The former was shot at dawn, 31 January 1888, at Lixnaw, as Hurlbert awoke in Dublin for his first full day in Ireland. He mentions the murder several times in the book. Foran was shot in late July, as the first edition of IUC was in production for its August 1888 release.

Period illustration of the murder of James Fitzmaurice, survived by his daughter Nora, which occurred in January 1888 as Hurlbert began his six-month travels in Ireland.

I was intrigued by the book from an American journalist traveling in Ireland during a flare up in the decade-long Land War. Hurlbert’s six-month reporting trip began shortly after the Times of London published its “Parnellism and Crime” series and ended just as a special judicial commission began hearings that largely disproved the newspaper’s allegations. He was in Ireland as the Vatican issued the Papal decree against boycotting and the rent-withholding Plan of Campaign. Tenant evictions continued on several large estates during this period. The rapidly growing number of nationalist newspapers that covered these events, Hurlbert asserted, did so less for domestic consumption than for foreign audiences. Across the Atlantic, the Irish in America played a significant role in their homeland politics as mass emigration continued from Ireland.

Like other journalists who wrote books about their visits to Ireland during this period, Hurlbert described the beauty of the landscape. He also detailed the sights of Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Kilkenny and smaller towns. Today, there is a romantic, late 19th century aura to his travels by rail and jaunting car. One of my favorite passages in the book:

“I pity the traveler of the future here, if he is never to know the delight of traversing these wild and picturesque wastes in such weather as we have had today, on a [jaunting] car, well-balanced by a single pleasant companion, drinking, as he goes, deep draughts of the Atlantic air.”

A rural road in Donegal. Photo by Rita Wilson/Donegal Film Office.

Hurlbert’s main focus was the big issues of the day: Home Rule, boycotting and moonlighting. He interviewed numerous people who shaped the period: Land League leader Michael Davitt; Chief Secretary for Ireland Arthur Balfour; Catholic clergy and tenant activists Father James McFadden of Donegal, Father Patrick White of Clare, and Father Daniel Keller of Cork; Ulster Protestant clergymen and unionist supporters Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna and Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, both in Belfast; physically-challenged Irish aristocrat Arthur MacMurrough Kavanagh; and the aging Fenian John O’Leary

To be sure, there are challenges to reading Hurlbert’s book. His conservative, pro-landlord, pro-unionist views frequently come across as smug, elitist and–history shows–wrong. He didn’t write the ugliest Irish stereotypes of the day, but they lurk between the lines. Many of his references to Irish and other world history, literature, and the law will be obscure to most modern readers.

Title page from digitized edition of Ireland Under Coercion.

Hurlbert’s 19th century writing style, meandering prose often filled with personal asides and other tangents, is grammatically correct; yet can be cumbersome for 21st century readers who prefer shorter sentences. Too many of the journal-dated sections of the book lack smooth transitions between paragraphs and could have benefited from subheads. Near the end of the book, Hurlbert accommodated the eleventh-hour request from one of his hosts to protect sources by replacing their names or other identifying information with clusters of * * * * *. It’s an unacceptable contrivance for a piece of journalism.

I don’t doubt that Hurlbert’s grave concerns about the outcome of Irish agrarian agitation and nationalist movements were deeply influenced by his experiences of witnessing the terrible American Civil War. Neither do I disagree with the contemporary critics who charged that Ireland Under Coercion was the American expat’s barely-disguised bid to cozy up to the British establishment. The project apparently generated some late-career income for Hurlbert after what appears to have been a comfortable and enjoyable tour of Ireland. He would need it, as his private life was soon caught up in a public scandal.

There is certainly more material in the book than I have been able to explore in the 40 previous posts of this series. I expect to return to this project in the future. For now, however, I’m moving on to other work. Thanks again for supporting Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited. MH

Map of Ireland showing Hurlbert’s 1888 travels.

NOTES: Top quote from page 10 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American.  

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Beautiful Belfast

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

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“If Belfast were not the busiest and most thriving city in Ireland, it would still be well worth a visit for the picturesque charms of its situation and of the scenery which surrounds it.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert ended his six-month reporting trip to Ireland in Belfast. He admitted that his “flying visit” was solely “to take the touch of the atmosphere of the place” in order to write about Ulster’s unionist sympathizers. Many journalists, myself included, have made similar quick trips to Belfast to report on the deep cleaves of Irish political, religious and social history.

Queens College Belfast, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Hurlbert, the former New Yorker, described Belfast as “very well laid out … with broad avenues and spacious squares  … an essentially modern city.” He noted the city’s incorporation in 1613 under James I, but did not mention that earlier in 1888 it was granted city status by Queen Victoria. Since the late 18th century, he said, the city had grown “after an almost American fashion” to a population of more than 200,000, second largest in Ireland. He noted the waterfront city had filled surrounding marshlands to accommodate its expansion, similar to Boston’s Back Bay district.

“Few American cities which are its true contemporaries can be compared with Belfast in beauty,” Hurlbert wrote. He admired the “imposing” front facade and “graceful central tower” of Queens College; the Botanic Gardens, “much prettier and much better equipped” than public gardens in Boston or New York; the “whilom mansion” of the Marquis of Donegal “still called the Castle“;  and the Queens Bridge over the River Langan, “a conspicuous feature in the panorama  [with its] five great arches of hewn granite.”

Queen’s Bridge, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

Hurlbert also noted the Richardson and Co. warehouse; the Robinson and Cleaver store; and “the famous shipyards of the Woolfs (sic) on Queen’s Island.” In contrast to his observations about “the worst quarters of Dublin” at the beginning of the book, Hurlbert gushed:

The banks, the public offices, the clubs, the city library, the museum, the Presbyterian college, the principal churches, all of them modern, all of them bear witness to the public spirit and pride in their town of the good people of Belfast.

High Street in Belfast, circa 1888. Public Records Office of Northern Ireland.

NOTES: From pages 199, and 407-410 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Civil War

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Ireland Under Coercion, Revisited: Ulster booster

This is a work-in-progress blog serial about aspects of the 1888 book Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American, by journalist William Henry Hurlbert. Previous posts and other background material are available at the project landing page#IUCRevisited

***

“To dream of establishing the independence of Ireland against the will of Ulster appears to me to be little short of madness.”
–William Henry Hurlbert

Hurlbert concluded his travels in Ireland with a trip to Belfast. The late June visit on “the very eve of the battle month of the Boyne” confirmed his establishment sympathies as he reported on the thorniest problem of the “Irish Question” — the pro-union Protestants of Ulster.

“In this part of Ireland,” he wrote, “the fate of the island has been more than once settled by the arbitrament of arms; and if Parliamentary England throws up the sponge in the wrestle with the [Land] League, it is probably enough that the old story will come to be told over again here. … There are good reasons in the physical geography of the British Islands for this controlling interest of Ulster over the affairs of Ireland, which it seems to me a serious mistake to overlook. … [I]t is hard to see how, even with the consent of Ulster, the independence of Ireland could be maintained against the interest and the will of Scotland, as it is easy to see why Leinster, Munster, and Connaught have been so difficult of control and assimilation by England.”

Hurlbert stated his purpose for the trip was to interview “some of the representative men of this great Protestant stronghold.” He met a “kindly, intelligent Ulsterman” who worried that if England approved Home Rule for Ireland it would rob him and other others of their property rights and leave them “trampled underfoot by the most worthless vagabonds in our own island … [and] a war against the Protestants and all the decent people there are among the Catholics.”

Hanna

As mentioned in an earlier post about the Papal decree against the agrarian agitation, Hurlbert also visited Rev. Dr. “Roaring” Hugh Hanna, a Presbyterian clergyman and staunch unionist. “Like most Ulstermen I have met, he has a firm faith, not only in the power of the Protestant North to protect itself, but in its determination to protect itself against the consequences which the northern Protestants believe must inevitably follow any attempt to establish an Irish nationality. … He … firmly believes that an Irish Parliament in Dublin would now mean civil war in Ireland.”

Kane

Rev. Dr. Richard Rutledge Kane, the “Grand Master of the Orangemen in Belfast,” predicted the upcoming 12th of July demonstrations would be “on a greater scale and more imposing than ever.” He told Hurlbert that Northern Protestants “were never so determined as they are now not to tolerate anything remotely looking to the constitution of a separate and separatist Government in Dublin.”

These views foreshadowed the opposition to Home Rule efforts in 1893, 1914, and 1920, the last of which resulted in the partition of Northern Ireland. (Six counties remain tied to Great Britain, while three counties of the province of Ulster are part of the Republic of Ireland.) The threatened “civil war” never erupted along the North versus South front anticipated or implied by these comments, but instead manifested itself in the sectarian “troubles” of the last third of the 20th century.

The final passage of Hurlbert’s travel journal (followed by an Epilogue and Appendix) ended on this note of Ulster boosterism and bias toward the Protestant unionists over Catholic nationalists:

With such resources as its wealth and industry, better educated, better equipped, and holding a practically impregnable position in the North of Ireland, with Scotland and the sea at its back, Ulster is very much stronger relative to the rest of Ireland than La Vendée was relative to the rest of the French Republic in the last century. In a struggle for independence against the rest of Ireland it would have nothing to fear from the United States … [W]hile the chief contributions, so far, of America to Southern Ireland have been alms and agitation, the chief contribution of Scotland to Northern Ireland have been skilled agriculture and successful activity. It is surely not without meaning that the only steamers of Irish build which now traverse the Atlantic come from the dockyards, not of Galway nor of Cork, the natural gateways of Ireland to the west, but of Belfast, the natural gateway to the north.

This early 20th century anti-Home Rule postcard reflects the geography and the views expressed by Hurlbert and the unionists he interviewed in Belfast in 1888. The northwest and north central (upper left and middle protrusion) sections of Ulster shown in orange did not become part of Northern Ireland. From National Museums Northern Ireland collection.

NOTES: From pages 404-416 of Ireland Under Coercion: The Diary of an American

NEXT: Beautiful Belfast

Copyright 2018 by Mark Holan

Irish exports booming in the Republic, and the North

Ireland’s economy surged in the third quarter, as gross domestic product rose 10.5 percent from a year earlier, according to figures released 15 December. Exports rose 8.7 percent, while imports dropped 13 percent.

“The figures suggest the nation’s economy is in resilient shape as Brexit looms — Ireland is the most vulnerable economy to the departure of the U.K. from the bloc,” Bloomberg reported. “As well as exports, consumer spending continued to grow, rising 2.7 percent from the year-earlier period.”

Republic of Ireland exports to the U.S. totaled $33.4 billion in 2016, and were heavy in the bio-medical and tech sectors. The figure does not include Northern Ireland, where exports also are surging and the U.S. is the province’s largest market outside Europe. Northern exports include livestock, machinery and manufactured goods.

In 1913, a year before the start of World War I and nearly a decade before the island’s partition, about 90 percent of Irish exports to America were shipped out of Belfast. The data below comes from United States Foreign Policy and Ireland: From Empire to Independence, 1913-1929, by Bernadette Whelan. It is based on U.S. consul records held the National Archive and Records Administration in College Park, Maryland.

CITY                                                  1913 EXPORT TOTAL

Belfast                                     $16,104,287 (linens)

Dublin                                       $ 1,460,357 (spirits, hides, oatmeal)

Limerick                                    $   161,458

Galway                                      $   134,413

Londonderry                            $   121,158

Queenstown (Cork)                 $    117,502

Belfast linen factory in the early 20th century.

Titanic Belfast named world’s top tourist attraction

Titanic Belfast, the museum dedicated to the ill-fated liner and city’s maritime heritage, is the world’s leading tourist attraction for 2016. The honor was announced 2 December by World Travel Awards, a travel tourism and hospitality industry marketing effort.

The Northern Ireland attraction is located on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard, in the city’s Titanic Quarter, where the RMS Titanic and other ships were built. Titanic Belfast has attracted more than three million visitors since opening in 2012, the centennial of the disaster.

“The Titanic story captures hearts and minds throughout the world and at Titanic Belfast, this is no exception,” Tim Husbands, Titanic Belfast’s chief executive, said in a release. “Our interpretation of the story and ability to engage with visitors on many different levels has been fundamental in winning this award.”

I spent several hours at Titanic Belfast in July. It is a well-designed blend of traditional museum elements and modern, interactive features and amenities. I highly recommend a visit to the attraction, and to the city.

This is the first time any attraction on the island of Ireland has won in the 23-year history of the World Travel Awards, dubbed the Tourism Oscars. The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin was among eight global finalists.

The view from inside Titanic Belfast look out across the dry dock where the ship was launched in 1912.

The view from inside Titanic Belfast looking across the dry dock area where the ship was launched in 1912.

From the waterfront look back across the dry dock at the museum, which is designed to evoke the Titanic.

Looking back across the dry dock to the museum, which is designed to evoke the Titanic.

Belfast boyhood and beyond

Shaun Kelly, global chief operating officer for KPMG International, was born in 1959 and grew up in the Catholic Falls Road section of Belfast during the worst of the Troubles. One of his uncles was shot and killed by the British Army, which mistakenly believed he was holding a gun. Kelly said he didn’t meet a Protestant until he was 19.

“You didn’t realize what you were going through,” he said during a 25 October Irish Network-DC event. “It’s really only when you look back” that the turmoil of the period can be put in perspective.

Shaun Kelly, left, interviewed by journalist Fionnuala Sweeney at Irish Network-DC event 25 October.

Shaun Kelly, left, interviewed by Irish journalist Fionnuala Sweeney.

Kelly attended University College Dublin with the help of a British government scholarship Ironically, it allowed him to continue playing Gaelic football, though he acknowledged being much smaller than the lads from Cork and Kerry. 

“Dublin in the late 1970s was not quite third world, but it was still developing,” Kelly said. “The cars and roads were not as good as in Northern Ireland.”

Kelly qualified as an accountant in Ireland and joined KPMG in 1980, soon relocating to the firm’s San Francisco office. His tenure included a return to Belfast during an upsurge of violence in the 1990s. At the time, KPMG managed the Europa Hotel, known as the most bombed hotel in Europe.  

After one of those bombings, Kelly said he discussed the possibility of shuttering the operation with hotel staff. They would hear none of it. “The IRA didn’t close this hotel, some short accountant is not going to close it,” Kelly quoted one of the workers saying to him.

His global travels and experiences with his native city have convinced him that economic development helps reduce violence by creating opportunities on both side of the sectarian divide. He acknowledged that Brexit will challenges both sides of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

“That border makes no sense from a business perspective,” he said. “There is much more to be gained from an open economy.”

Here’s a more lengthy profile of Kelly from the October/November 2015 issue of Irish America.   

Belfast newspapers: Nationalist, centrist and unionist

One of the delights of my recent trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland, was encountering the offices of three daily newspapers within a few blocks of the city center. Some history of each paper is linked below, plus more here on media in Northern Ireland. The papers are:

The Irish News, which supports the nationalist cause …

File_000 (35)

…the generally centrist Belfast Telegraph, and …

File_000 (37)

… the unionist Belfast News Letter.

File_000 (38)

Guest post: questions about Brexit’s impact on Ireland

Less than two months ago, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent. Northern Ireland voters wanted to “Remain” in the EU by 56 percent to 44 percent. So far, most questions about the impact of the UK’s decision on the island of Ireland are unanswered.

A Question Lingers on the Irish Border: What’s Next?,” The New York Times reported 6 August:

Four decades of European integration have helped Ireland not only escape the shadow of Britain, but also improve relations with London and work with the British for peace in Northern Ireland. Now the question is whether Britain’s departure from the bloc will drive a wedge between them.

The Washington Post headline two days later: “The Brexit Wildcard? Ireland.

What will happen to the Irish isle, north and south, is one of the biggest wild cards of the Brexit vote. … What will happen to trade and travel is unknown — and there are even bigger questions being asked about unification of the island.

The Irish Times is devoting a special section to its ongoing Brexit coverage.

Timothy Plum has been traveling to both sides of the Irish border for more than 20 years on business, academic and personal reasons. Listen to him talk about “Conflict identity and school achievement in secondary education in Northern Ireland” in this 6 June podcast with Drive 105 radio host Eileen Walsh in Derry. Tim just returned to Washington, D.C. after spending a month in Belfast. He filed the guest post below the map. MH

northern_ireland_map.jpg (1200×961)

By TIM PLUM

Britain’s decision to leave the European Union was announced in the airplane cabin as my wife and I landed in Dublin in June. I was beginning a month of graduate work at Queens University, Belfast.

My first thought: How can this happen? My next thought: We’re on the ground in Ireland at a very historic moment for the island.

Reactions to the referendum ranged from outrage and quiet reservation to acceptance and joy. Perhaps nothing should surprise us in a year that has seen Donald Trump win the U.S. Republican Party nomination.

But the people we met were genuinely stunned by the Brexit vote. They soon grew more bewildered as PM David Cameron resigned and left the mess for someone else to clean up.

The outrage was most pronounced among the students, professors and staff at QUB. They could not believe the “stupidity” (their word, not mine) of the conservatives in London who managed to scare people into voting “Leave,” then quickly exited the political stage themselves. Boris Johnson and Neil Farage were among those who abandoned the ship when the country needed their help.

We also heard quiet reservation from wait staff, hotel workers and bar patrons. Some of the later group insisted to my wife that Brexit might work, and that we should support Trump.

I personally know two people in Derry who voted “Leave” and supported the outcome. Their reasoning was simple: economics in the EU are a mess and perhaps standing alone will bring more prosperity.

I raised the possibility of renewed border controls and stiff tariffs that EU nations promise to put on UK goods. But I could not persuade them to change their views, even as Theresa May became PM and appointed Johnson as Foreign Secretary.

So I guess we will have to see what happens once May files the Article 50 to begin the process of untangling the relationship between the UK and the EU.

As they wait for those details to emerge, Queens students are worried about scholarship funding, and people all over Northern Ireland are concerned about the end of EU support that has helped the peace process.

It seems most people on the island, especially in the Republic, do not want Brexit to result in a united Ireland, even as many people in the north begin filing for Irish passports.

Going to Ireland? Some tips and links

I just returned from two wonderful weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland. Several family members, friends and other social media contacts have expressed an interest in traveling there, or already have plans to visit. I know that not everyone shares my interest in Irish history, but here are some notes and links from my trip to incorporate into your own itinerary, as you see fit. Enjoy!

DUBLIN

  • The National Archives of Ireland and National Library of Ireland have excellent resources, online and onsite. You’ll have to get an easy-to-obtain readers ticket in each place to view material in person. You’ll want to visit the library’s impressive main reading room, whether you are doing research or not.
  • This year is the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. The effort to break from Britain failed at the time, but inspired the successful war of independence (which also created partition) a few years later. No visit to Dublin is complete without stopping at the General Post Office, or GPO, the epicenter of the 1916 revolt. The 1818 building, where you still buy stamps and conduct other business, now also offers an “immersive exhibition and visitor attraction.”
  • Some of the most important people in Irish history are buried at Glasnevin Cemetery, which offers walking tours and also has a fine permanent exhibit. Highly recommended. Photos from my earlier post.
  • EPIC Ireland, which opened in May, bills itself as “Dublin’s dramatic new interactive visitor experience that showcases the unique global journey of the Irish people.” It’s located in old shipping storehouses next to the River Liffey. A modern mall filled with restaurants and shops shares space in the chq Building.
  • See the famous Book of Kells and tour Trinity College Dublin.
  • Ireland has a strong theater tradition. I saw “The Wake” at the Abbey Theatre. IrishTheatre.ie lists venues and shows on both sides of the border.
The GPO in Dublin.

The GPO in Dublin.

BELFAST

  • Titanic Belfast. Would you visit Washington without going to the Smithsonian? Paris without a stop at the Louvre? Titanic Belfast is a modern museum experience (it inspired EPIC Ireland) about the ill-fated liner and the city that built it in the early 20th century.
  • Several companies offer “black taxi tours” of West Belfast, a once dangerous “no go” zone during the worst violence of the Troubles. The area remains divided into Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, but is safe for these daytime guided tours, which help the local economy. Just don’t shout “God Bless the Pope” in the loyalist Shankill Road, or “God Bless King Billy” in the nationalist Falls Road. Photos from my earlier post.
  • Take a free tour of the stunning Belfast City Hall, at the city center.
  • Visit the campus of Queens University and enjoy shops and restaurants of the surrounding neighborhood.
View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the "Titanic' was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

View of the former Harland & Wolff dry docks where the “Titanic’ was built and launched in 1912 from inside the Titanic Belfast museum.

THE “KINGDOM OF KERRY” & WEST OF IRELAND

  • There are many things to see and do on the rugged west side of the island, “the back of beyond.” Consider driving some (or all) of the Wild Atlantic Way, a 1,600-mile coastal route stretching between Cork in the south and Derry in Northern Ireland.
  • Shameless promotion here for County Kerry, home of my maternal grandmother and grandfather.
View of the coast at County Kerry from along the "Wild Atlantic Way."

View of the coast at County Kerry from along the “Wild Atlantic Way.”

Here are a few other tips and suggestions:

  • Major U.S. voice and data providers offer service for the island of Ireland. My iPhone switched to an Irish carrier before I reached my baggage at the Dublin airport; clicked to a U.K. telecom while on the train to Belfast; then back to the Republic provider on my return to the 26 counties.
  • Data service in the West of Ireland is spotty, so be prepared to use a paper map and ask for directions rather then relying on Google Maps. Besides, you’re in Ireland! Do you really want to be looking at your screen all the time?
  • That said, don’t forget to bring a power adapter/converter to recharge your phone and other electronics. Outlets are different than in the U.S.
  • Be prepared to drive from the right side of the vehicle on the left side of the road. Just remember that as the driver you should be toward the center of the road, passenger on the outside, same as in the U.S. You will pay a premium to drive a car rented in the Republic in Northern Ireland.
  • Transit and taxi service is excellent in Dublin and Belfast. You don’t need a car in either city. You will if you want to explore the rest of the country.
  • Let your bank and credit card company know that you’re traveling overseas. Grab hard currency from an ATM as needed. Easy!