So hopefully you had a chance to view my first part on Monday of my 48 hours in Belfast. This is the second part, after the heavens had opened all Saturday night we woke to a beautiful morning in Belfast, with our tummies full from a lovely cooked breakfast we were picked up by our Black Cab Tour driver who would try to explain to us the troubles in Northern Ireland and rather un-nervoulgly took us to the heart of where the troubles lie in Belfast.
I thought long and hard about posting this as I am not sure who would read this and I don’t wish to cause offence so I want to explain why I have decided to post this. I firmly believe the best part of travel is that it allows us to gain knowledge and to really get to know a place is to know it for the good, bad and indifferent.
I remember almost every evening coming home from school and seeing on the news the bombings in Northern Ireland and to be honest that is about all I knew or remembered so to go to the heart of this was uncomfortable but I think necessary. This first photo shows the gates at the bottom of the picture that is dotted all about Belfast that separates Protestants and Catholics. I think for me the most worrying part was realising how close all of this is to the city centre. I should say that the troubles have simmered and there is a state of relative peace for about 30 years. Our driver was truthful in that he explained it isn’t completely peaceful and possibly won’t ever be but its 100% better than it has been.
As part of the tour the driver took us to the political murals of the Falls and the Shankill tell their own graphic story of what has been called “The Troubles” in Ireland’s recent history.
These murals were done by ex prisoners who had learned to paint and draw whilst in prison. These murals are indeed a work of art.
We were then taken to the infamous peace wall. This wall is something to be seen it apparently goes for 2 and a half miles and is 44 ft high. It has been visited by all kinds of famous people, we were told Bill Clinton, Rhianna, Justin Bieber if you would believe it have all visited and written something on this wall.
We were then taken to the exact opposite side of this wall on the Catholic side. You can see from the photo below they have special guarding on the tops of their houses to protect from things being thrown over.
I haven’t stopped thinking about this tour since that Sunday morning. For one thing to be there brings a different feeling, to realise that it is literally that wall that separates both areas is something that is unbelievable. We were told by our driver that even in times of ‘peace’ every single night the gates that separates these areas are closed at 7pm. And sometimes kept closed when they think there might be trouble. I don’t know how anyone can live this way but they clearly do. The driver more surprisingly says that as an explain of say the Berlin wall it came down because both sides wanted that but he didn’t believe this wall will ever come down as he didn’t think either side wanted it to. This tour was an hour and half and as you might imagine there was some very uncomfortable moments that I have chosen not to share out of respect. I would however throughly recommend this tour as I firmly believe knowledge is power and to know a place is to know it in the good light and the bad.
After the tour we were dropped off in the city centre (pretty much everything is walkable in Belfast) we were in great need of a coffee but rather surprisingly none of the shops in Belfast open until 1pm so we had a wee wonder around until the shop we really wanted to visit was open. I fell in love with Avoca on Arthur Street, what a treasure trove of lovely clothes, books, and goodies. After that we stumbled on Granny Annies where we decided to have some lunch out in the lovely sunshine. We had the best seafood chowder ever. This is such a quirky restaurant that makes it even better to have food outdoors. Try it you won’t be disappointed.
So after having a full couple of days we had an hour or two to spare before we were to head back to the airport. We decided to have a wee wonder around St George’s Market which was a lovely friendly market filled with food and drink and clothes and accessories. It’s a great atmosphere and worth visiting.
Taking everything into account Belfast was amazing, in so many ways it lived up to my expectations. It has certainly not wanted for its troubles but is thriving in a newer and more peaceful space that suits the city well. Be sure to pop Belfast on your to do list. You will be glad you did I know I was:-)
Posted by Poppytails.xx