With only 24 hours to spend in Belfast, we headed out of Portrush.
We checked into our hostel, which had grown bigger and better in the last couple years. And once again, I was recognised for a stay from two years ago. Considering I am a fairly quiet guest, this surprises me!
With such a brief time, we decided a highlight tour was the best way to begin. We grabbed discounted tickets for the Hop On Hop Off bus, grabbed seats on the top deck outside, and we were off. I have been to Belfast a few times, and seen a few things, but usually my time here is spent visiting friends, so sights are not the top priority. This bus trip took us to many places I hadn’t seen, and was a far better guide than I would have been.
Northern Ireland’s Parliament Buildings (aka Stormont), home to the NI Assembly and the NI Executive.
By the time we arrived back at the beginning, things were getting ready to close. We headed into City Hall for a quick look (at the interior and at the wedding waiting to take place), and then a quick walk through the city.
The Crown Liquor Saloon is an old, established bar in Belfast, with a beautiful interior. When in town, I try to visit it, as the ambience is always good. We had planned on having a quick drink, then heading for dinner. Instead, as often happens, we met some fun local and visiting people and ended up spending the evening talking about Belfast andNorthern Ireland, about travel and music, about books and memories…Belfast never disappoints!
The next morning we grabbed one of the Black Taxi tours. Taking us up the Falls and Shankill Roads and around the town, it was a good synopsis of history during the Troubles. If your time is limited in Belfast(as ours was), they are good. But, if you have more time, as I have in the past,search out a walking tour, as I have done. Walking these roads is a much different sense of both past and present.
These murals are from both Loyalist and Republican walls, some from the sixties to nineties before the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. And some are since that time – of the continuing struggles in each neighbourhood, of identifying with international groups, and of peace, an end to conflict.
During the Troubles, walls and high wire fences were built between neighbourhoods in conflict in places in Northern Ireland, including between the Shankill and Falls Roads in Belfast. The wall still exists, and the gates still close in the evenings between these areas. However, as more people begin seeking long peace, the peace walls are being decorated with images and words of hope, of moving forward…