Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hopping on and off in Belfast

I don't usually do "Hop on, hop off" bus tours even though I advise others to do so.  However this fit into what I wanted to do my last day in Belfast.  Sadly it was a dull very rainy day but ah well...  The pass was for 48 hours but with just 24 hours remaining in Belfast before flying back to London I had to rush around and missed quite a bit. 

So let's carry on with my time in Belfast...when I wasn't on a black taxi tour or having the luck of the Irish with fabulous weather on the Antrim coast.

I stayed in an airbnb home in Cliftonville which was full to bursting but our host Mary was lovely.  I've said it before and I will say it again... I love staying with locals.

First stop...the Titanic exhibition... which was marvellous. Okay confession time...I went to see this after the Black Taxi tour but it was part of the Hop on/Hop off experience so I've included it in this post.   I've always been fascinated by the Titanic and this huge complex covers the "idea" of the Titanic right to where the bodies were buried and everything in between.  You even rode a cart through the air to show you how the monstrosity of a ship was built.  Amazing!   I spent quite a few hours here...In case you are wondering why Belfast?  It is a little known fact to some people but the Titanic was built here in the nearby ship yards. Fun fact:  on a personal note a member of my English family was involved in the creation of this fantastic exhibition.  But I'd still rave about it anyway!  The building is very eye catching. 




A cream and strawberry scone with tea in the cafe - a few seconds later crumbs everywhere and cream and powered sugar all over my face.  But oh it was so good....


Next up was

We then drove by the Northern Ireland Assembly Building although I didn't get off as at this point it was raining and to be honest it did look a bit grim.


I did get off at St George's Market however...it's a lovely market that sells handcrafts, a bit of tourist tat and great produce as well as having many food vendors.  I did buy some hand crafted chocolate..as a gift... and I had a delicious burger for lunch.





The present Market dates from the late 1800's and it's open Friday to Sunday.  Well worth a visit for this market fiend.



 This is Queens University; I walked through the entrance and out the back to the Botanical Gardens.



The Palm House, built in 1840.




I had to keep dodging rain showers during my visit; I am sure it is a vision on a sunny day.

I had to laugh at the following..


Back on the bus again and this time I got off at the Shanklin Road (Protestant area); the guide on the bus said "take care" now.  It was interesting to get a close up view rather than a drive by as I had done on the Black Taxi tour.  While on the Black taxi tour somehow it was okay to get out and look at the murals on the Falls road but not on the Shanklin Road? 


Disturbing....






I guess it's not hard to tell where their allegiance lies.  The Red poppy cross above marks the site of a bomb blast.

Back on the bus and a hop off in the pouring rain at the Crumlin Road Gaol (jail).  This prison was built between 1843 and 1845 and was closed in 1996.   Within its walls it has housed everyone from hardened criminals to poor working class people who simply had to steal in order to survive.  Obviously the most famous "guests" were from The Troubles such as Bobby Sands, Ian Paisley and Michael Stone.  I took a tour of the facility which was interesting but of course very disturbing as well.  I will spare you pictures of the room where prisoners were executed.





Above is the tunnel from the jail to the (now closed) courthouse opposite - an underground tunnel for the prisoner's safety.  Or could it have been to shield them from the inclement weather?  (NOT) We also went outside to see the unmarked graves of prisoners who were executed here - in the pouring rain.  Rather a grim place but I am glad I visited.

Due to thinking I had missed the last hop on/hop off bus (it sailed by me a few minutes later) I walked back into town in the rain..sigh... of course the sun soon came out and I got a last look at the beautiful Belfast City Hall and the Titanic memorial...

The beautiful City Hall stands proud as a centre point of the downtown area - conveniently right across from Belfast's wonderful Tourist information centre. (which has some lovely touristy things to buy) I found the tourist centre very helpful - I can't say that about all tourist information centres I have visited.  This one was great.
This memorial in the grounds of City Hall lists everyone who died in the Titanic disaster......


Last but not least a quick look at the Europa hotel - the most bombed hotel in Europe as Journalists stayed here during The Troubles and bombing this hotel was bound to get more press coverage.  Their motto?  "We never close".


And a glass of wine and meal at the famous Crown Bar...



I wish I could have taken one inside the bar as it was beautiful but it was very crowded and did not feel comfortable taking photos.

So we come to the end of a busy day in Belfast.  I am so happy I got to visit this city - it is some place I never thought I would get to see.  Would I go back?  Probably  not.  One visit was enough for me as I got to see everything I wanted to see.  I think a trip to Belfast is worth it just to take the Black Taxi tour, visit the Titanic exhibit and take a day tour up to the Giants Causeway.   

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