Belfast, Northern Ireland

On my last day in Dublin, I took a day trip to Belfast. The city is only two or so hours away from Dublin. My tour group was very small, two couples, two single men, and the tour guide. It was an interesting experience. The day started off rainy and dreary. As the day went along, it was still dreary but the rain held off a bit and we were able to do some sightseeing.

Part of the tour was meeting someone from the north that had lived through the terrorism that gripped the North up until the peace accords in the 1990s. He took us around the parts of Northern Ireland where there was trouble all those years ago. Now there were political murals in many places. They reminded me of Greece, where I took some pictures of political murals. These murals, however, were very artistic and done very, very well.

We got to go through the wall that the British were building to section off parts of Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods. This wall was continuing to be built right up until the peace accords were signed. The gates to neighborhoods would be open at a certain time one day and closed the same time the next. There never seemed to be a rhyme or reason when the gates were open–or closed for that matter. Of course, people who lived there knew their way around the wall and could get into their neighborhoods by taking side streets and going around. We stopped across a section of the wall that cut though backyards of houses; where the road was once were part of those houses’ backyards. We were given markers to write on the wall, which many others had done before us. I only wrote “Peace!’ with my initials.

We also got to see the Northern Ireland Parliament Building. Parliament has not met for at least two years in the North, which does make one wonder. It is a beautiful building up on a high hill surrounded by a high fence and with no other buildings around it. It reminded me of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. but there are a lot of buildings around.

We were given some free time to wander around downtown Belfast. One of my fellow travelers was from New Zealand, so we hung out together. We had a late lunch then walked around town. The City Hall was a magnificent building made of marble. A huge statue of Queen Victoria stood in front of it. There was also a statue to the Boer War. We peeked inside and it was well-decorated. Then there was the Titanic Memorial at the side of City Hall. It was the one built right after the disaster and it recognized the loss of life that Belfast suffered. There’s a new memorial not too far away, on the City Hall grounds, that lists all those who were lost.

I was so excited. I GOT TO GO TO THE TITANIC MUSEUM! We spent two hours in the museum. The museum is built right on the Harland and Wolff shipyards. In front of the museum, marked by poles, are places where the Olympic and the Titanic sat while being built. Unfortunately, the museum itself was a bit of a letdown. I know the story of the sinking and the structure of British society at the time of the sinking, which is what much of the museum was trying to explain. The museum was packed, though, so it is a major tourist attraction, which is good for the city.

What really did thrill me was going on board the SS Nomadic, the last White Star Line ship in existence. It was a tender that took passengers out to the Titanic and other White Star ships. The ship later was a restaurant in France when it was “rediscovered” and was bought and brought back to Belfast, where it belongs. My ticket to the museum did not cover the cost of going aboard the Nomadic (the tour company did not pay the extra), so I had to pay. It was worth it. Although everything was restored, it was nice to see the accommodations for first class and third class passengers carried over even on the tenders. I did not want to leave, I enjoyed the ship so much.

The day ended, and we went back to Dublin. I left the next day for the United States. I really enjoyed my trip to Dublin and Belfast. I’d love to go back and visit someday.

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