Long weekend in Belfast

Who I am
Joel Fulleda

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

I spent a long weekend in Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, where I've always wanted to go since the Titanic museum opened and why? I'm a fan of Ireland, even if this part of the island belongs to the United Kingdom. I've only been to Belfast and took a trip to Giant's Causeway one day.

Here are the details regarding accommodation and air.
-Hotel: Premier Inn Alfred Street, 164 euros more? 33 for breakfast for 3 out of 4 mornings (9 pounds for continental breakfast and English breakfast, rich buffet and all good). Nice hotel and correct price. In hindsight though, it would have been better to book the Premier Inn in the cathedral district. close to pubs.
-Airplane: easyjet 87 euros from Geneva to Belfast International Airport, the one away from the city center. Return with a stopover in Luton. Booked 6 months before.

1 day

I arrive at Belfast International Airport an hour late. The captain tells us that it had snowed in the morning and the airport had been closed for a while. Actually, just before landing, looking out of the window, I realize that the green Northern Irish meadows are vaguely whitened, little thing eh, but just enough to block an airport. Among other things, to my pleasant surprise, after the snowfall,? the sun arrived, which accompanied me all afternoon, together with an unpleasant icy wind.
From the airport I took the bus 300a which for 11 pounds took me to the city? and bring me back? at the airport at the end of the holiday. The duration of the ride? was about 30 minutes, on a bus equipped with wi fi and usb sockets to recharge phones!
Arrived at the hotel, the receptionist informed me that the room was not ready, so? I immediately left to take a tour of the center, given the beautiful sun. I have been to the city hall, City hall, and I did the guided tour of about an hour, what? free. As soon as she entered there was a lot of confusion caused by a wedding: the ladies in elegant dresses and those hats that only the British dare to wear, whether it is to go to horse racing or to a wedding. Entering on the right c ?? a kind of reception and just say yes? L? for the tour and they give you a card with the start time of the tour.
Our guide showed us a couple of the halls of the town hall, including that of the council, which also saw the kings and queens pass by, and told us a little? how political life in Belfast works. Hanging on the corridor walls are portraits of the various mayors of the city, who once paid for themselves, today the community pays them. The particular thing? which are not official portraits, but everyone has decided to be portrayed as he pleased: the mayor with the small child, what was the one who did the marathon? made to paint in t-shirt, the other sitting on the bus? funny and very informal, definitely far from the style of the official photos of our house!
After the guided tour, did I go for a walk? without a destination for the city center, populated by locals all out to enjoy the sun and go shopping. The streets of the center are full of clothes and shoe shops, I admit that? come want me too. Have I ever seen any stores in the series? all for a euro ?, (in this case a pound), but I did not dare to enter, so as not to lead me into temptation and end up spending much more? of a euro in useless things?
I came up to the big blue fish (symbol of Belfast?) Which unfortunately was not kissed by the sun, due to a hideous skyscraper built right there? in front of him that gave him shade, did I walk a bit? along the river and then really randomly around the city hall and the shopping streets, until exhausted by the long day I went back to the hotel.
In the evening I went on the Belfast Pub crawl tour, which I had booked from home. I dined through them at McHugh's, next to the big fish. I thought I was already with the group of tourists, instead in reality? I was alone. Anyway, I ate a discounted fish & chips thanks to the pub crawl booking, so that's fine.
At 8 I met under the Albert Memorial Clock with the rest of the group and we started the pub crawl. We've been in order at: McHugh? S (yes, again), Bittles Bar, Whites Tavern, Henry? S and Kelly? S Cellars. In all the bars by buying the first drink, then you had another free one (a baileys, a whiskey or a shot). I did not understand at first, so? at McHugh? s I immediately asked the baileys, I think there was a quiproquo with the waiter, why? didn't make me pay for it! In the other pubs, instead, an English lady? pity why? I didn't drink (in the end I don't really like alcohol, nor can I drink like a sponge like the British?) and he offered me a drink, so I had a cider. Anyway, the Bittles? a small and very nice pub: the walls are covered with paintings that tell some salient moments of Northern Irish history and its protagonists. The Bittles? among other things, the only pub in Belfast where I found my favorite cider, Orchard Thieves. At Henry? S pub they played live Irish music, my favorite, and we were also lucky enough to attend a typical Irish ballet. Two blonde girls showed up with theirs? dancefloor? (as one of my American tour mates rightly put it), what? a wooden slab on which to dance, and they danced the space of a single song. I was hoping for more, but? it was nice anyway. In the other pubs there was normal live music, what we would call piano bars and that would do me enough pity, in Ireland, on the other hand, pubs have their own charm, and so do the piano bars!
The guy who accompanied us for the pub crawl quickly told us the history and characteristics of each one before entering, all obviously historic pubs in the city, in particular the most popular ones. ancient in terms of foundation and license to sell alcohol.
? it was definitely a pleasant evening, which I spent in the company of nice and interesting people, and? costing only 10 pounds, I can only recommend it.

2 day

The second day ? was that climatically more? cold and more? ugly of all. ? it rained practically all day, with particular intensity? in the moments when I was on the street of course. All accompanied by the wind, which never fails in Ireland, and what? always? pleasant? when you try to shelter from the rain with a parasol?
Anyway, I got up relatively late, fresh from the night out in the pubs, and had breakfast at the hotel: a good, hearty Irish breakfast.
First I went to St George's market, a covered market that packs a little? everything from vegetables to artists who sell their works to tourist stalls. This market? open on weekends, and on Saturday c ?? even live music, it seems. On Sunday when I was there I wasn't there. I took a stroll and looked at all the banquets, there were also very nice things, luckily I was able to restrain myself.
I had to procrastinate a little, why? at 14 pm the political tour I booked from home for 10 pounds with the Coiste association was waiting for me: 3 hours of walking in the Falls road area, where mainly Catholics live, thanks to which I hoped to understand more? on the Northern Irish conflict.
After leaving the market, I decided to go and see the cathedral and take a stroll. Particularly unhealthy idea in the rain, tant ?? that I arrived at the cathedral just before I got completely wet. The thing that most? hit me about the cathedral? that has a coil, that is? that kind of toothpick that c? also in Dublin. Does she have this needle sticking out of her roof and doing a little? impression, even if substantially? A work of art.
After waiting in the cathedral for the rain to stop, I went out and went to eat something in a club there. beside which is called Made in Belfast. From the outside it was very, very nice, but honestly the food didn't impress me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything exceptional either. I had a soup of the day (which wasn't even as hot as I hoped) and dessert, a rhubarb panna cotta with pepper shortbread (which is my favorite thing, and which I was hoping they would sell in supermarkets, but instead it is a recipe to redo at home).
After eating I headed to the Divis tower, the meeting place for the political tour, in the rain and the icy wind.
On the tour we were 3 pi? the guide, and fortunately, why? I don't think I could have borne being alone. We walked for 3 hours in the Falls road neighborhood and Jo, a former political prisoner, told us so many things? It's a pity that I didn't understand practically anything. ? it was terribly frustrating, I'm sure he told a lot of interesting things, and I wanted to understand a Catholic's version of the story better, but unfortunately he spoke with such an accent that it prevented me from understanding the simple meaning of the sentences. I picked up words here and there, but not enough for a 3 hour tour. Really a pity, in the end me? touched to rely on google and wikipedia to understand something more ?.
However, during the walk in the neighborhood I got to see cemeteries, altars and murals dedicated to the republican dead, as well as the very high wall, which still divides the Catholic neighborhood from the Protestant one. I must say that it is quite impressive to think that even today they have to be separated why? they can't stand each other.
After the tour Jo offered us a guinness in a bar, just in time before it started to snow / rain heavily. At which my tour companions called a taxi and I joined them to go back to the hotel to warm up a bit.
In summary, I recommend the political tour only to those who have such excellent English that they can also understand people who speak with a very narrow Irish accent, otherwise, as for me,? really useless.
For dinner I went to eat at the Yardbird, what? the restaurant of the Dirty Onion pub. Their specialty? ? chicken, so I took a quarter with fries (nothing special) and then a lime and chocolate cheese cake, really very good. After eating I went down to the pub where there was an evening of live Irish music, the reason I was there. and I ate at the restaurant upstairs. There were three musicians: a violin, flutes and a bagpipe and they played classic Irish music. ? it was very nice, also why? the location? particularly intimate, in particular thanks to the lit fire (given the climate it was really pleasant). Really a great atmosphere to listen to that kind of music, there weren't even so many people, I took a cider and sat at a table next to the musicians to enjoy the warmth and the beautiful music.

3 day

Monday? I decided to take a risk and go to the Giant? s causeway, why? according to the weather it was the only day more? or less decent.
I could have done one of the many organized tours, but in the end I decided to go there on my own and that's it. In March c ?? a direct bus that stops right at the Causeway starting from Belfast at 9am and arriving at 30am: Goldine express bus 11 (always Translink, the company that manages transport in Northern Ireland). There is ?? then one for the return at 05pm. Alternatively, you can? anyway go by train to Coleraine and then from there? take a bus. As for the ticket, when I arrived at the airport the first day I bought the iLink card for zone 221 for 14 pounds:? a day pass that allows you to travel unlimited for one day on all Northern Irish vehicles in the chosen area. I have found more simple than buying individual tickets, also why? I was undecided on which means to take to get to and from and the train to Coleraine alone costs about 45 pounds.
Arrived at the Causeway on time I decided not to go directly downstairs. to the stones but I did a part of the coastal walk that corresponds to the yellow path. I don't know how far I honestly got, I just know that at some point I went back why? the sun, which had miraculously kissed me that morning, was leaving and I didn't want to risk the rain in the middle of a cliff.
The walk ? was very beautiful, especially why? there was absolutely no one. I was alone, and I was able to enjoy the cliffs all to myself and I was able to take all the photos I wanted. Really fantastic, if I think about last summer at the Cliffs of Moher and the quantity? of people there? I have no doubt that in the height of summer the Causeways are also packed, but in the middle? March? it was really nice. Back then I went down the 162 steps and a part of the path that leads to the stones. Most people came up, why? they took the blue path that leads directly to the stones and then continued. Considering how much? steep the staircase and in part also the path, I would like to advise you to do like me, that is? first walk on the cliffs and then go down, what? less tiring.
There were obviously a lot of people at the stones, but still manageable. The weather ? conspicuously worse, the sky is? covered and sometimes there were waves that made an impression. There was a guy from the National Trust busy keeping people from venturing too close to the waves and whistling at those closer. far away. Porello, what a thankless task in bad weather.
The causeways are very beautiful, the path on the cliff really deserves to be traveled far and wide and the stones themselves? they are a very small portion altogether, but they deserve to be seen. If I have to for? make a decision, I admit that I liked the Cliffs of Moher better.
At 14:45 pm I managed to catch the bus back directly to Belfast. I chose not to go to Carrick's rope bridge in Rede, why? the weather was not good and a guy on the pub crawl told me it was closed the day before due to bad weather, so I didn't want to risk it. If you decide to take an organized tour, that suspension bridge? included in the tour, along with several other things, which, although interesting, led me to decide to do the trip on my own, why? I thought it was all too concentrated in one day. Also I would like to reiterate that the walk to the Causeway? entirely free, which doesn't seem like it if you look at the National Trust website, which talks about 9 pounds or already? of l? entrance. In reality? you pay that money if you want to go to the visitor center, otherwise just head to the cliff. I was afraid I would have to pay for maybe going to the bathroom at the visitor center, but really? c ?? a clean and decent bathroom right next to the hotel and visitor center. So don't be fooled, you only pay for the visitor center, not the giant's path.
In the evening I went to eat at Manny? S fish & chips, a place that only makes fried food in front of a church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes in the center. Then I left for the Dirty Onion for the usual Irish music session, as in the other pubs (I also went to Henry? S and Kelly? S) at 8 pm there was still nothing.
Traditional Irish music is not played every night in pubs. There? always live music, but the traditional one? especially on weekends, apart from the Dirty Onion.
Tonight I had a hot cider and playing there was a bagpipe, a violin and a guy who sang a song, the rest of the time he was there. with the musicians and when they weren't playing he chatted with them.
I forgot to mention that at the Dirty Onion dogs are welcome, two evenings out of three listening to Irish music there were also some cute little dogs, who together with their owners occupied the sofas in front of the fire. Also tonight? it was all very nice: fire, cider, Irish music and nothing more.

4 day

Last day in town? dedicated to museums.
In the morning I left for the Divis Tower to go to the republican museum, always hoping to understand something more? on the Northern Irish conflict.
Since then I had to go to the Titanic, which is on the opposite side of the republican museum, I decided to buy a day ticket for the Metro and Glider buses (buses, but different from the usual double decks, they seem more than trams) for only 4 pounds. . I bought it at the bus stop. Interesting detail, that day I took the bus 3 times and twice I? the ticket was checked by the controllers, equipped with a camera on the chest.
Before the museum I made a detour again to the separation wall between Catholics and Protestants. ? really high, and there are gates that the girl with whom I did the political tour told me that they are closed in the evening and open in the morning. Really disturbing. In 2019 Belfast? in appearance a city? modern and cosmopolitan, actually? for? ? still a city? wound and these peace walls are nothing more than a huge unhealed scar.
The republican museum? a room of about thirty square meters in which there is? inside of everything: mannequins in British police uniforms, photos, prison relics, weapons? are there any explanatory signs that have allowed me to retrace a bit? the story of the troubles. How many innocent people? died for nothing, how many activists died from a hunger strike why? had they simply not given him the status of political prisoners? in short, they were not good years, many people have suffered and many still suffer today on this piece of British Ireland. The museum ? free and deserves a visit, even if personally I found it a bit? chaotic. The history of Northern Ireland I did not know, or rather I only knew that there was the IRA, that is? of terrorists, who planted bombs and killed people. In reality? the thing ? much more? complicated and the good ones are not on one side.
After the museum I took the glider back and arrived at the Titanic neighborhood. I spent a couple of hours visiting the museum, what? was the number one reason for my trip to Belfast. Admission costs £ 18,50, excluding audio guide. I did not take it, and a little? I regret it, but in reality? when I bought the ticket I didn't think about it and I realized it too late.
The museum ? very beautiful, it tells the whole story of the Titanic, from construction to disaster, all inserted in the historical context of the city? Belfast and its history. In one part? planned a path on a train as if it were in Disney, the one in which it tells of the construction of the keel and me? remained impressed the insertion of the rivets, which I do not remember anymore? how many millions there were, all hand-crafted by pairs of workers.
With the Titanic ticket you can also access the visit of the Nomadic, which is right there? in front of. This ship? it was the sole survivor of the White Star fleet and was used as a tender to mainly carry first class passengers to the Titanic from the port of Cherbourg, which was not deep enough for an ocean liner of that size. ? it was nice to get on board, and discover something more? on the history of the Titanic. The ship for a long time after World War II? renamed Ingenieur Minard and used on the banks of the Seine as a cabaret bistro, before returning home to Belfast relatively recently!
After the Titanic I stayed in the neighborhood and went to the HMS Caroline, a surviving warship from the battles of Jutland. The ticket costs 13,50 and this time the audio guide? included. Visit ? it was really beautiful and very interesting, I recommend it to all lovers of the genre. After the visit, an icy and tremendously strong wind had picked up, so I went back to the hotel to drink the usual tea to warm up.
In the evening I went to eat at Thirsty Goat and then again at Dirty Onion. Tuesday? evening c ?? a free lesson of bodhran, the Irish drum. Was I a little bit? intimidated, but in the end there was a nice heterogeneous group and so I took courage and added myself, there were also some Italians! ? was cool, they provided us with drums and the guy gave us some? of bases and we have for cos? say played for two hours. I highly recommend it for those who want to experience a bit? different from the usual and above all not for tourists, why? c? were there some habitu? lessons! Mi? made me want to learn to play it, exactly as I would like to learn to play the violin and the tin whistle!
After the lesson I went back to the hotel, unfortunately no traditional music, why? I had the alarm at 4 to go home. My dreams that night were to the rhythm of the bodhran!

Belfast? a beautiful city that is worth a visit. Sar? that it was March, but I found it less packed with the millions of tourists who flock to Dublin and the rest of Ireland, which I? liked it very much. The pubs were by no means full, which is rare in the center of Dublin, and I never had the feeling that everything was made for tourists, on the contrary, the pubs were mainly locals.
The atmosphere? the magical Irish one, even if I still perceived a British touch, which I can't explain, but what is it? and he feels respect for the Republic.
Anyway, I recommend anyone to visit Belfast and Northern Ireland, why? ? a land rich in history and charm and I think it is also important to know the reasons for a conflict that has bloodied Europe until a few years ago and which risks re-exploding with Brexit, why? to hear about my guide Jo, mutual intolerance? far from gone.
Ireland enters you and never leaves you, so? also Belfast, which in 4 days made me feel at home and pampered me to the sound of cider, music and rain, which, however annoying,? an integral part of Irish charm.

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