'Being in Belfast!' : One day in Belfast
It's sometimes so difficult to shake the past off, ain't it?
Belfast was the focal point of the 'Troubles' - a series of violent events that took place between the Nationalists and the Unionists, in other terms Catholics and Protestants. I wasn't really aware of all the brutal details before I left. Truth be told, Politics does not interest me! Would knowing the history of Belfast, deter me from going?
A return ticket that cost £60 just egged me on!
Ignoring the weather, and the fact that the wind was shaking the Flybe flight we were on, like a feather, what caught my attention while landing was the lough.
Soundless waves and slowly advancing ships, ready to dock.
After getting refreshed, we stepped out to take a walk down Shankill Rd. I keep mentioning this to everyone I meet : The Irish are some of the warmest people I know and are aficionados of music.
A friendly conversation with the driver led us not to Shankhill road, but to Dee Street in the vicinity of Titanic quarters, 3 miles to the East of Shankhill Road. The Irishman was right when he stated that Shankhill is great in the evenings, less tourists, more time to explore at peace.
A few locals and numerous colorful murals dotted Dee Street. Using Wikipedia and Google as our guide, we started our walk at the Titanic mural - with Captain Smith looking upon the ill-fated liner.
There was no dearth of murals. In fact, every so often a few get added as well. I clicked pictures...a lot..and when I failed to get information on some really amazing murals, I realized information (or pictures) for all of the murals is not yet available on the internet. Some are attempting to document it...but it's still a long way off. You can find additional information here and here. After admiring the murals and the cranes Samson and Goliath that helped build the Titanic, for a good 2 hours or so, we then proceeded to Holohan's NI, a barge moored beside the river Lagan.
A hearty meal later, we set off to find for ourselves if Titanic fascinated others - as I have always been, since the release of the movie.
I remember being a part of the Scholastic book club in school and every fortnight you could purchase a new set of books from their updated catalog. The book titled Titanic - The long night tugged my heartstrings. 2 parallel love stories + adventure = a great captivating read for any 12 year old.
Returning back to the present, the Titanic museum that opened at the end of March 2012, to commemorate 100 years since Titanic was launched, somehow reminded me of a ship. Sun-rays gleamed off the exterior making the entire structure glow.
There are 9 galleries - that give you a glimpse into how Industrialization was at its peak in Belfast right through to how the wreck itself was discovered in the 1980's. Yes, there are patches of plans that were drawn up to design the Titanic, but no artifacts from the ship. The museum is more to do about taking a chronological journey through Edwardian Belfast, into the making of Titanic and getting a glimpse of the lives of the people that were a part of Titanic. It is also about the immense planning and construction that went into making one of the biggest ships in maritime history [the other being the Olympic, built by the same engineering company - Harland and Wolff].
Approximately, more than 10,00 people were employed when construction of the Titanic started. Special equipment (including the cranes Samson and Goliath) was utilized, docks were built - providing massive employment to the locals. This is exhibited through one of the galleries. We were taken through a simulated ride showcasing conditions the shipbuilders had to work in.
We passed through galleries that explained events that happened on the 2nd April 1912, when Titanic set sail from Belfast to Southampton, and the 14th and 15th when it set sail from Southampton to New York. Heart wrenching stories from survivors, rescued by Carpathia, including one from Molly 'unsinkable' Brown are put up and the experience finally ends with footage shown when Titanic was finally discovered. The broken chinaware with background music from the movie gave me goosebumps.
I believe the stories that I envisaged as a kid while I devoured books with Titanic as the theme, make the Titanic spellbinding. Minor incidents depicted in the movie [like the one where a lady puts her children to bed while the Titanic is sinking] stay with you even though there have been many major maritime disasters that have occurred after the Titanic.
It was time we visited Shankhill road and the 5 km long peace wall. Full of murals and messages of peace, we came across some of the last black cab tours doing the rounds. The driver (and guide) was encouraging them to scribble notes of peace on the wall. After doing so ourselves, we finally walked down Cathedral quarters to have a drink at the famous Duke of York pub.
The alley is charming! And all the tiny alleys that branch off the main one have murals too!
It was time to finally wrap the day up and what better way to do so than head to the Mourne Seafood Bar for the best fish I've had till date in the UK accompanied by oysters!
The locals that we met throughout the day kept insisting that Belfast had left the 'Troubles' behind and was safe! I didn't doubt it a bit! After all, every country does have it's fair share of issues, that does not mean we strike it off the list do we?
Go - for the culture, the people, the fresh seafood and if nothing else go to rub shoulders with the cast of Game of Thrones! After all the studio that contains the Iron Throne is in Titanic Quarters!
Places to visit in Belfast in a Day
- Try the Black Cab tours if you'd prefer to do it by cab rather than walk
- Holohan's is the best authentic Northern Irish restaurant in Belfast, even TripAdvisor approves! Do give it a try!
- The Mourne Seafood Bar requires reservations. Please do call before you plan to visit! Totally worth the extra effort!
- Tickets for the Titanic museum can be purchased here. The price is £17 for an adult and £7.25 for a child
- The high tea at The Merchant Hotel is a great way to spend the afternoon! The hotel itself has its share of history and the tea does not disappoint! Daily from 12 pm – 4.30 pm
- St. George's market is an amazing place to sample local produce and enjoy the vibes of the city on Friday, Saturday & Sunday
- Crumlin Road Gaol is a non-operational prison, and a great way to experience what life was like for those imprisoned in ‘The Crum’
- Ulster museum has a great collection of art & history. Free for visitors!
- For a list of all the other activities available in Belfast, please do take a look at my detailed itinerary.
Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Winterfell is near Belfast!
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