It rained and rained and rained on the first day of our vacation. But we had known to expect it to be raining and cold some of the days and so we had told ourselves before this trip: the rain was not going to hamper our holiday!
Belfast or not, everyone we had talked to had said that it was an unusual time of the year. In fact we had been told earlier that it had been nice and sunny the day before we arrived! Rain or no rain, the weather that welcomed us as soon as we stepped off the plane was a great change from where we just came. Hot and dusty. Certainly, there was no dust here.
So. The heavy rain foiled our plans to walk around the city, to the Titanic Experience and later during our Black Cab Tour of Belfast’ murals at the Shankill and the Falls. We took a taxi to the Titanic Experience and back to the hotel and I think that expedition hardly burned our amazing breakfast of eggs and Irish soda bread.
Wet and windy as it was, we enjoyed our Titanic Experience. In fact we were glad to be indoors at the exhibition centre on a day like this. The exhibition marking the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy was very well organised and at times it felt like we were at a theme park doing one of the rides. We certainly learned a lot about the history of Belfast. More than just about the Titanic. In fact we hadn’t even known that the Titanic had been built here until hubby started researching things to do in Belfast!
The political murals of the Falls and the Shankill tell their own graphic story of what has been called “The Troubles” in Ireland’s recent history. It was interesting to hear the stories shared by our black cab driver cum tour guide, Brian.
Brian was very knowledgeable and friendly. In fact everyone we met in Belfast – Ricky, our concierge at the hotel and his colleague, Colin Hamilton who drove us to the Titanic Experience earlier – were all friendly!
It rained and rained and Brian started the tour telling us the history of the “The Troubles” while driving but we could hardly hear him because of the rumble of the taxi engine made worse by the glass partition between us and him. Poor Brian. He told us that the switch for the intercom, which he would normally use during a tour, had been broken by a passenger just the night before. He soon solved the problem by getting out at every stop, jumping into the back with us and telling us his stories there. He was very accommodating making stops for us to take photos of the murals and also obliged taking photos of the two of us whenever we wanted them. It would have been much more informative and interesting I guess, had we been able to walk around the murals with him but with the rain…well, this was fine.
The infamous “Peace Lines” or “Peace Walls”, which were built to keep Nationalists and Loyalists separate and in the process divided the communities, reminded us of the Berlin Wall or what was left of it, as well as the Lennon Wall which we saw in Prague.
We ended our day in Belfast walking in the rain looking for a place to have dinner. After walking almost 1 1/2 kilometres we ended up in the first place we stopped at – the Thai Village. I was skeptical at first but the outcome was a surprise for both of us. The food was good! For Belfast. It was better than we expected and we had a good fill. The Tom yam warmed our tummies and was really welcome in this cold weather.
So that was Belfast. It was short and sweet. We learnt a lot and certainly there were many things we didn’t know about it. Tomorrow we leave and begin our journey towards the Republic of Ireland. Next stop: the Giants Causeway then on to Galway.
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