We woke up with the intent to do a lot of activities, and we accomplished all of them. Yay! Breakfast at the hostel was your typical cereal and toast. We found a cute small cafe to get coffee from called the French Village Cafe and Bakery on Botanic Ave. I got an apple cinnamon muffin for takeaway later.
The first adventure was a Black Taxi Tour. Our driver, Walter, picked us up outside the hostel. The first few sentences with his extremely rough Irish accent had me concerned I wouldn’t understand 80% of what he said. But, turns out it was easy to pick up on. Chelsea and I were the only one on this tour (£15pp), flying solo was slightly more expensive. Walter took us absolutely everywhere. The 90 minute tour spent a lot of time explaining the turmoil between the Catholics and the Protestants (or as Walter said, the British and Irish… because that’s how most of the people living in Northern Ireland view it). There are Irish flags and British flags flying on their perspective sides. We drove along the “peace wall” that divided the two sides of the city. Chelsea and I discussed later on in the evening, how can a wall, 9 meters tall… separating two conflicting groups, be called a ‘peace wall’? Walter stopped at one part and gave us markers to sign our names. We noticed a Steve Jobs graffiti mark nearby.
There were murals protesting many conflicts, political thoughts, people in jail, hunger strikes, everything. A few that showed up quite often were the idea to free Marian Price and memorials about Bobby Sands, the first man to die while on a hunger strike whom was in jail for 14 years because a gun was found in his car… yikes.
Walter said the worst year for Belfast was 1972 when 1,370 bombs exploded and around 470 people died.
He was a wealth of knowledge and pulled the taxi over every now again for us to jump out and snap pics. He kindly dropped us off on the northeast side of the city. This was time and money well spent. To hear firsthand experience while viewing the actual locations was better than any travel book could offer.
Our next adventure was the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience called Titanic Belfast. This is a six-story, six month old, unbelievably awesome exhibit. Student admission is £9.50 and well worth the price. The level of interaction and digital multimedia was amazing – it was truly built to cater to our generation. Halfway into the exhibit was a gondola-style ride that took you thru a day in the life of a shipyard worker (recap: 63 hour workweeks, below minimum wage, paid by the number of rivets completed, death by falling into water/being hit by falling materials from above).
The extensive, real dialogue used by way of telegram was typed out on the walls from the moment Titanic hit an iceberg to when the power went out and there was no more communication. The air became somber amongst the exhibit viewers. I’ve never learned about the Titanic beyond the 21st century movie with Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. There were replicas of the different first class, second class, third class state room on the Titanic. Examples of linens, flatware and carpet. They really detailed every bit of the ship itself as well as the passengers. Impressive.
One small part of the first floor had the actual outfits worn by those actors from the movie, on loan from Century Fox. And last week, the director James Cameron had flown out to view the exhibit. After about 2 hours, our brains were filled up with information.
We walked 20 minutes to the Victoria Square Shopping Centre. The only Apple Store in all of Ireland was located there. We just had to request a tour since we’re so close.
Lunch, in the mall, took place at wagamama, a chic noodle bar. I had the ebi raisukaree. Coconut and lime curry with grilled chicken, peppers, pickled ginger, yum!
The mall was a beautiful covered yet open-air multilevel facility. Many restaurants, a theatre, tons of shops that we explored. Six floors up at the tip top is a 360 degree dome that showcases a rewarding view of Belfast.
We walked towards the hostel and on the way, stopped at The Crown for a Guinness. During the taxi tour, Walter mentioned it was worth visiting. The Crown was packed with both locals and tourists. A small bar with wood ceiling treatment, gold fixtures, and small booths for being separated from the masses at the bar. We shared a small booth with a handful of locals and truly enjoyed all of our conversations. The Guinness was £3.75 and after one, we both counted the pounds and pence that we had left…. not much. We had to head out after we each had a brew.
Continuing in the direction of the hostel, we stop and buy a cheap bottle of red wine to split (£4.99) and Chelsea picked up some pizza for dinner. Back at the hostel, we drink wine out of hostel mugs while eatin some grub (me: leftover wagamama). Our conversation ranged everywhere from religion to love to travel to life and death and I realized, as I have before… I’m so very blessed to have a friend like Chelsea.
It’s not where you are, but who you’re with, that make experiences memorable,