Being a gal who doesn’t plan last minute trips…I’m glad I have friends who do! I’ve found that my international chums are the type that take risks and love adventure. At least four of the girls have gone sky-diving! “Wow,” I said, “I’m afraid of heights, so I guess I won’t be doing that anytime soon.” The common response: “Oh, I was too, but I did it anyway.” No excuses for me, I guess.
Anyway, this trip was tame compared to sky-diving. The plans began two days in advance, not too last minute. And it was only to Belfast, a 1.5 hour bus ride from Derry, so I was game. I would travel with Marc, Alina, Klara and Bianca (all Germans) and Krystyn (my Canadian friend). I enjoyed being the only American, for once!
Friday morning dawned, clear, cool and sunny (as “usual”). Generally, long bus rides are dull. However, reading a thrilling Hercule Poirot mystery while traveling through rolling green hills and pastureland was actually quite a delight.
After arriving in Belfast, we went to Victoria Square – a large mall with an amazing lookout dome. From that high point, we could see all the main Belfast attractions and read a small bit of history about them. (Just as a side note, it’s quite interesting how many streets, sights and centres are named after Queen Victoria. I live off of Victoria Rd, Derry has a Victoria Market, Belfast a Victoria Square, Queen’s Island and Queen’s University, etc.)
From there, we headed to the city hall for a tour. This ornate building is majestic and rich with history. Belfast has always been a hub for ship-building and is most renowned for being the birthplace of the Titanic. Located in the city centre, the hall was a priority target for airstrikes during WWII and did indeed take a direct hit to one of its wings. Thankfully, many of the stained glass windows had been removed prior to the bombing, and after the destroyed portion was rebuilt, the windows were re-installed.
The tour of the building was excellent, and I even got to sit in the Mayor’s chair! 🙂
Afterwards, we walked through the city and headed to St. George’s Market, the location of a neat bazaar. Entering the building, we saw a maze of vendors, selling all sorts of colorful wares. There was a fishmonger (we smelled this long before reaching the building), bakers, farmers, antique sellers – you name it. We could have browsed for hours!
Finally, we headed down the Titanic trail. In the distance, we could see “Samson” and “Goliath,” the two cranes which supported the huge ship during its construction. Although the Titanic museum was a bit pricey, we’d heard that it was well worth the money. We weren’t disappointed! The museum begins with an extensive history of Belfast as a ship-building and linen-processing centre and weaves (did you catch that?) this background into the story of the Titanic.
Throughout the museum, you can see full-scale representations of first, second and third class accommodation, get a virtual tour of the ship, read the stories of passengers and much, much more. I love learning interesting facts, and if you do too, this is the place to go! Here’s a mind-boggling tidbit – there were no linen washing facilities on the ship, so enough napkins, tablecloths, etc. for the whole journey had to be stocked on board! Also, if you’ve seen Titanic, you’ll find that the actors who played the ship’s architect and captain look remarkably like their real life counterparts.
It was a fabulous experience, complete with a ride! Have you ever heard of a ride in a museum? I certainly hadn’t before yesterday. It’s intended to provide an immersive, sensory experience of the ship-building process. You actually get in a little booth (like a roller-coaster) and are suspended from the ceiling as you travel around the “shipyard”! Overall, I’d heartily recommend a visit if you’re in Belfast. It was well worth the £10 (student discount price).
At the end of the day, I took a walk to see Queen’s University before heading back to the bus.
It was an amazing trip, and I’m glad to say that I’ll be back to the city soon. My friend, Kelsa, goes to Queen’s, so hopefully we’ll have a reunion in the coming months. Until then, I’ll be sure to recount more adventures!