From KwaZulu-Natal to Bangor
With the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, tourism in the UK faces a massive year. The Magazine asked non-British-born people to describe the part of the UK that sums up a more unusual aspect of British life. Here, South African businessman Glynn Orchin celebrates his adopted home of Bangor, Northern Ireland.
Love letters to UK places
Penned by those born abroad
I remember, as a child, the day we moved to Northern Ireland. We arrived on a dark winter's evening and stepped off the plane to be struck by a bracing chill and a flurry of soft white snow.
This was a new experience and very different to the summery climate of the South Africa we had just left behind. I was also amazed at how the houses were smaller, often joined together and almost always two storeys high.
In South Africa our home, like many, was a large bungalow with a swimming pool and a large almost tropical garden with fantastic views over the "valley of a thousand hills".
Now, faced with cold conditions, we were in Northern Ireland living in a two-storey, semi-detached house with oil-fired central heating. I quickly realised that the sun would no longer be our daily source of heat and my days of playing barefoot in the garden, watching the monkeys and swimming in the pool were over.
Fortunately, the occurrence of snow and ice in Northern Ireland is fairly infrequent, probably due to the fact that rain is the usual form of precipitation. However, sometimes in the summer months the clouds will part and rays of golden sunshine will dance across the countryside.
Glynn Orchin is a restaurateur and author of a book on traditional and modern South African cuisine. He retains strong links to his former home.
On these precious days, I will often take a walk along the coast, starting at the small, picturesque village of Crawfordsburn, which boasts a popular sandy beach and country park.
As I walk along the coastal path with the waves gently lapping against the shoreline and warm sunlight reflecting back into the blue sky, I could almost be anywhere in the world.
In the distance, I am greeted by the sight of an impressive marina, a family fun-park with a ride-on miniature railway, elevated three-storey terraced houses and uninterrupted views towards the Irish Sea.
Your favourite place
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It could almost be a Mediterranean haven that I'm looking at, but it's not - it's the seaside town of Bangor.
It is one of the largest towns and has been voted, by the people of Northern Ireland, the most desirable place to live. Having lived in Bangor for many years, I can wholeheartedly agree and have come to really appreciate everything it has to offer.
I am privileged to work in the heart of Bangor with unrivalled views over the marina, surrounding coastline and Belfast Lough out to the Irish Sea. The marina is the second largest in Ireland and accentuates the seaside "feel" of the town, especially when a breeze whistles through the masts.
Over recent years the marina and joining Eisenhower pier has been host to The Queen, traditional tall ships, maritime festivals and international visitors landing from cruise ships that anchor in Belfast Lough.
Beyond there, the town has much to offer with scenic coastal paths, sandy beaches, a castle on the hill, secluded walled gardens and striking church spires. As a town it is full of charm, character and friendly people, not to mention numerous South Africans who have all chosen Bangor as their home.
Outside Bangor, only a short distance away, is the vibrant cosmopolitan city of Belfast, where the legendary Titanic was built. Further afield leads you to ancient castle ruins, lakes, quaint villages, mountains and of course the traditional Irish pubs - tin whistles and fiddles included. This combination of in-town beauty with easy access to the rest of Northern Ireland is why I am grateful to live in Bangor.
Along the outskirts of Bangor you are surrounded by gentle rolling countryside bursting with luscious shades of green. The grass never withers with the seasons, which is why Ireland as a whole is often referred to as the Emerald Isle - it certainly does have 40 shades of green.
The vibrancy of the green is amazingly contrasted in the autumn with an array of rich yellow and golden brown leaves. I do have to admit that although I enjoy nothing more than a warm summer's day, walking through the country park on a crisp autumn morning surrounded by a sea of rustling golden brown leaves is certainly a pleasure.
Life in Bangor is certainly different to that of South Africa, and in many ways the two cannot be compared. They lie thousands of miles apart and are vastly different in size - in fact Northern Ireland is small enough to fit into the Kruger National Park.
Although Northern Ireland is very different from South Africa, I do have to admit that every now and again it does surprise me with something that invokes memories of South Africa.
The other day I came across a little thatched cottage, and the whitewashed walls instantly drew my mind to the Dutch colonial buildings in Cape Town while the thick thatching rekindled memories of the traditional Zulu huts in Phezulu Safari Park in my home town of Hillcrest.
Perhaps one day Bangor will experience the blissful temperatures and sunny climate of South Africa. Then it would be perfect.
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