Monday, June 10, 2013

UK Adventure: Day 13 Belfast, Northern Ireland

I can start to get a feel for the cities I liked by the amount of photos I took while I was in them, and I have a lot of photos of Belfast.
We had a blast in this city. Lots to do, lots to see. I can`t say enough good things about the place. The people were super friendly, we were stopped numerous times by locals to ask if we needed help, or where we were from, or some just wanted to talk. They would always end the conversation with, "Welcome to Ireland, I hope you have a wonderful time."
Seriously, this happened, not once, but numerous times.

I'm going to break up our day in blocks of time so you can see how a typical day on the road goes for us.

8:00 am. English style breakfast at the hotel
9:00 am. Booked Black Taxi cab tour of Belfast with the hotel receptionist.
9:30 am. Black Taxi Tour, a guided tour through Belfast, that stops at the wall that separates Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods, and takes you through the gates and into the neighbourhoods while giving you a brief history of the Troubles in Norther Ireland.
First up, The Europa Hotel, which holds the dubious record of being the hotel blown up the most by the IRA.

The gates in the distance, that close at dusk and lock everyone into their respective neighbourhoods, until sunrise the nest day. Apparently there is a yellow light that starts to flash on top of the gates a few minutes before they shut for the night.

Murals painted on the wall of the struggles during the times of Trouble. (Civil unrest). All these mural depict events from the past and as far as I could tell, none refer to anything current.

Standard police vehicles in this part of town.

Sinn Fein offices, the political wing of the IRA.

The mural on the side of their building.

A typical neighbourhood on the British/Protestant side.

Getting ready for a huge bonfire for some sort of independence day celebration in July. Judging by the wooden skids they are stock piling its going to be one hell of a fire. Apparently all the houses that face the fire have to have their windows boarded over so that they don't explode from the heat generated from the flames.

The wall that separates the two neighbourhoods. Apparently as our Guide Ian, was telling us, one weekend a bunch of Americans graffiti artist showed up and made a weekend out of it and spray painted the wall to make it look a little prettier.Then as quickly as they showed up, they left. Ian, not a fan of graffiti, doesn't think it looks any prettier.

11:00 am. Cab drops us off at the hotel and we set out on foot to explore the city. Made it to the outdoor festival at city hall. 3 kms.

Went to the top of the Dome in Victoria Shopping Centre for a panoramic view of the city.

12:00 pm, Took a walk to the other side of town. About 3 kms.

The Orange Order headquarters, a Protestant fraternal organization.

1:30 pm. Walked to the Crumlin Road Gaol. A working prison from 1845 to 1996 and at one time had a wing for IRA militants and another for Protestant militants and another for regular prisoners.

The underground passage from the jail under Crumlin road, to the former court house on the other side.

The Governor's office, or in Canadian terms, the Wardens office.

Sitting in the Warden's chair.

The cell blocks.

Death row.

The walkway from the death row bathroom to the hangman's noose, hidden by a book shelf on rollers. This door is hidden from the prisoner on death row until the very last minute. This was creepy as hell.

Standing on the trap door.

The view of the trap door from below with the trap door sprung.

The waiting coffin.

The courtyard.

The unmarked graves of all the prisoners put to death on death row, a strip of grass at the back of the yard by the fence.

More heavy police armour.

2:30 pm. Walked back to city hall for the afternoon tour. About 3 kms. 

3:30 pm. Tour of Belfast City Hall.

Council chambers.

Sitting in the Lord-Mayor`s seat.

Councilors ready room, a place where they wait and snack, before entering the council chambers.

Interesting fact: Sinn Fien, the political arm of the IRA has the most seats on Belfast city council.

4:30 pm. Walked over to the Titanic Docks and Pier before the museum closed at 5:00 pm. About 4 kms.

A British frigate in port. I`ve always heard to never mess with British Navy. Now I know why.

Titanic Dock and Pier.

This is the area where the Titanics hull was put together before being floated to the dry dock and completed.

5:15 pm. We were in luck, the Titanic Pump house was closing at 5:30 pm but the dry dock would remain open was a self guided tour and we could take our time looking around.
Checking out the Pump House, which was used to empty the dry dock of water and then fill it up again when the work was complete.

Titanic dry docks, where all the interior work was completed, from the engines to the staterooms and everything that was required to make the ship sea worthy.

The iron gate which held the water at bay.

Down in the dry dock itself.

My wife showing us how its done.

She calls this ``Chains from the Titanic``

6:30 pm. Back to the center of the city. 4 kms
7:30 pm. Dinner.
8:30 pm. Back to the hotel. 3 kms 
So that`s 20 kms walked on our day out and with a fairly early night, but all the same a typical day on the road with us ...

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