I couldn’t go to Belfast and not say anything about ‘the troubles’.
I embarked on a degree course as a mature student at age 30 in 1992 at N.L.U North London University.! I studied Humanities and my subjects were Irish & French studies.
After a year I dropped the French and switched to English. A fantastic course that absorbed me for years and I’m forever grateful for having that opportunity. I studied for 3 month at Galway University and delighted in the chance to do so. It was always challenging but worth it. For my dissertation (10,000 words) I chose to write about the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland. I started with good intentions but felt lost and overwhelmed – in too deep. Although I was sympathetic to the Nationalist cause, I had to be objective. I got through it but strangely I had never visited Belfast before now.
On this journey we took a guided tour round Belfast the coach led us through the Shankhill Road , there we’re union jack flags everywhere, as well as Unionist murals at every turn. In such a tiny area almost a 100 peace walls exist,heavy gates and even an old prison .
The commentator relayed the tales of the troubles. The whole area felt claustrophobic oppressive and very sad, although I’d studied it many years ago and thought I knew about the area,there was nothing like seeing it so close, it felt extremly intense and I fought to hold back the tears but couldn’t it was just awful.
Almost 3,000 lives lost there. Strangely enough after I returned from Belfast I was browsing online and came across an article in the Guardian recently titled.
“will Belfast ever have a Berlin Wall moment and tear down its peace walls’?
The following day we took a coach tour to The Giant’s Causeway somewhat hungover after a night out in Belfast’s many bars
The old vessel above is just outside on the river front of the area which is now called The Titanic Quarter. Seeing the Titanic experience really brought home how grand a city Belfast once was and the exhibiton was full of visual experiences illustrating the Titanic experience from the building of the ship to the impact on the economy in Belfast. It was thrilling, grand and ultimately tragic.
The whole city was booming from employment at Belfast shipyards as well as the massive econmic rise from the linen industry; the Titanic was massive for Belfast. Part of the tour you actually get into a car similiar to going on a ghost train,it takes you deep down to the bottom of the recreated ship where you can see where the boiler makers and all of the crew worked, in the extremly dark. Emerging from there there are further displays of the ship, different floors show it from different levels and angles video and audio recordings, give you a sense of the dizzy heights the richest millionaires would have felt floating 1st class on this magnificent ship, and the depths of the toil workers endured day and night to build this ship.
After the Titanic experience we visited St Georges 19th century indoor Market which was packed with stalls, too many food stalls and live music. We had a browse bought a couple of items, then walked back to the Botanic Quarter to pick up our luggage.
We had our farewell drink and lunch at The Woodworkers, a new bar with the best craft beers on six rotating taps. A wide selection of beers a very relaxed atmosphere, and decent music.
Previous to this we had found an Egyption cafe in the same area close to the University, I loved the fact that we were given warm hospitality a really lovely lunch which was well needed after a cold morning and afternoon sight seeing.
Since being back I have joined up with a new walking group
More about that next episode.