Belfast Blast: 48 Hours in Belfast, Northern Ireland

titanic

Belfast is a historically diverse and eclectic city. It’s historically one of the biggest shipbuilding behemoths of Europe, home of the shipyards that built the Titanic, the most tragic and beautifully engineered ships of a bygone era. Belfast has had it’s political upheavals, but now is a blossoming, burgeoning city with a huge tourist industry. And food and entertainment to match. It’s hard to choose a place to eat or drink, there are so many choices.

My decision to visit this amazing gem on the north of the island of Ireland was influenced by history and great beauty, and a fangirl urge. I wanted to see where the Titanic was built and experience some of the natural wonders of Northern Ireland I had seen in books and in one of my favorite television productions, Game of Thrones®. So after my tempestuous visit to Galway, I headed to the northern country for a 48 hour period of history and a locations tour of the countryside where filming took place. What an adventure.

Titanic Museum and SS Nomadic

I got of the train and settled in quick. It was a clear, puffy clouded day with long daylight hours of summer. I had only 48 hours in this town and had to get in as much legwork and sites as I possibly could. I hopped a taxi to the Titanic Museum on the shipyard docks to check out this architectural wonder and museum exhibit center. The building alone is worth a tour and crowns the historical docs that have built many a sea faring vessel. Going through the exhibit halls in and interactive affair and when you get to the bottom level, you have a great treat with an exhibit that mimics the seafloor and you, standing on it. There are exhibits of rooms on the Titanic and narratives of passengers and people who worked on the monstrous ship that should never have  sunk. The engineering of the vessel was the most forward of it’s day, but it was not match for the iceberg it met. It’s a great museum for all ages and don’t forget to visit the SS Nomadic which is part of the tour. It’s a bit of a hike to the shipyards part of the exhibit, but worth it to see the drydocking works, the sheer size of the dock Titanic was housed in while building will amaze you and give you a sense of the size of the massive ship. Added bonus, you walk past the Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is produced and filmed. If you are traveling this Fall, you may get lucky and see actors going in and out for final season.

highstreetThe Neighborhoods

All cities have neighborhoods, some great places and some not so good. Throw in some politics a traveler may not be aware of and you can get in some trouble. Belfast has come a ways from the Troubles, but remnants are still there. If you are touring around the city walking or in a cab, you will note neighborhoods and areas with flags of identity, with areas where religion and politics go hand in hand. You should always do some research about where you go, and not just the older history, for history is being made every day.

I had a great conversation with a Scotsman on the way back to Glasgow on the plane. He had just marched in one of the Summer Marches with this extended family and friends. Most of the convo was about spending time with family and friends and participating. Nothing to do with the politics. Belfast has changed  a lot in the last 30 years and will continue to do so. It’s filled with warm people and smiles, pride of place, and cultural growth. A place well worth visiting.

Everyone I met and everywhere I went I was met with kindness. But I didn’t ask questions and always waited for someone to bring up anything. However, since I am a big street art fan, and one of the things I was most keen on this tour was mural walks. I started on one in the city, then found I had better think about that a bit, as the murals are very extensive, politics and religion laden in this city. But what street art isn’t a commentary on the times? There are a huge amount of murals. There are political and community ones. If you plan on doing the while walk, plan for several hours. The neighborhoods where people are still very aligned with religion, staying with the UK, becoming independent, or unifying with Ireland are there. I toured the areas I could manage to get to in the short time I had and met with, briefly, a fiercely proud people going about their day or evening activities.

What I have to say is that I saw a lovely city with people living and thriving just like any other, and while the past will not be forgotten, I felt that people were truly just living in this great city. I would say that you just have to be mindful as in any city, that you are not living there, you are a visitor. Just love thy neighbor, even if they are yours for five minutes. The city has much beauty about it. I stayed near the Queen’s University, a great foodie area with a few guesthouses with easy access to transportation. A great walking area and that I did.

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Game of Thrones® Tour

I have to admit that this particular tour was the one big blast that I absolutely had to have for my time in Ireland. Having been a fan of the series since day one, when I found out tours to various sites used in filming were being included in a tour, I had to book.

Using Viator.com, I booked with the Irish Tour Tickets company for their Game of Thrones Tour with a guide, Adrian, who has been an extra on the series and knows in depth trivia and information about sites used. We went to several locations including Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede bridge, two places I have wanted to see for many years. The tour was packed with fun, behind the scenes information and a great understanding of what it takes to get some of these sites ready for filming. Oh, and you better bone up on your GOT facts, because Adrian has a mean bus quiz for points on the last leg of the trip, with prizes. If you are an enthusiast and fan of the series, don’t miss this fun tour. Adrian has a lot of fun tidbits from BTS and will give you insight on what it is like to be an extra on such a big show.

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Birthplace of a Shadow Assassin

Warning: as with all tours, you should dress for travel, but especially on this tour. Wear trainers or hiking boots, no dress shoes or sandals. This is a very physical, climbing around, adults only tour.

As part of this tour you will see the Dark Hedges, a long, spooky line of trees between fields. People have been coming to see the feature for years now, and the trees are sadly at the end of their life. Two trees came down in a storm recently and the wood was used to create a series of doors dedicated to the Game of Thrones series Westeros locations. You can download the maps to tour for Game of Thrones Doors and seek them out while you tour the north of Ireland.

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The Dark Hedges

Reality check: Yes, many of the Northern Ireland Game of Thrones® locations, with a few exceptions, are really car parking areas during summer months. Tourism is so invasive that they are having to build and reconsider tourist attraction areas in the north. The spaces are built up for the shoot then cleaned up. Exception, there is one secret place we went by where there are guards that deny access year round. Winterfell perhaps?

Bring cash for other tours. Each tour usually has an additional attraction that is part of their route, and you will need to pay other fees.

On this tour you will see where scenes were filmed and two additional sites:

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Giants Causeway

After the 10 hour tour, I was fatigued and dead hungry. I wandered downtown Belfast a bit and was concerned about getting to a kitchen that was still open, on Sundays sidewalks still roll up on the island, and pub and other kitchens will only be open so late. I found a great Japanese fusion restaurant called Zen, a huge cavernous place with great food. Filled up so much it was a hard walk back to the B&B.

The Game of Thrones® Doors story and self guided tour

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/ireland-on-screen/game-of-thrones/destinations/northern-ireland/county-antrim/articles/doors/

http://visitbelfast.com/things-to-do/theme/game-of-thrones

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast — Leya

causeway2

causeway1

Unfinished Business Part 1: Cairngaver — Hike Cycle Ireland

Each of my two most recent hikes brought a sense of closure, as both involved a hill that had defeated me on a previous visit. These were Cairngaver, a lowly transmitter-topped hill near Belfast, and the much more famous Slieve League in County Donegal, home to some of Europe’s highest sea cliffs. Top image: Looking beyond the town […]

via Unfinished Business Part 1: Cairngaver — Hike Cycle Ireland

A Peaceful Walk in Belfast — Leya

Murals in Northern Ireland, are strong symbols and depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions. There is peace now, but 1968-1998, “the troubles” between working class protestants and catholics were very severe. I remember hearing and reading of them as a young girl. The IRA bombings made black headlines in our papers. […]

via A Peaceful Walk in Belfast — Leya

Saturday Musings: Belfast Walks and Foodie Havens

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Belfast spring is picking up nicely. There have been some lucky weather days of late, almost California climes. That means sunbathing in the parks and the hunt for food. Not to mention the lovely walks getting there. Get your suncream on. Take that vitamin D.

Morning Start

Coffee and tea, breakfast goodies sound the thing. Belfastians are chomping on the bit and out in it today. Did you take some Vitamin D this am? What are some of the best places for a great breakfast in this town? Harlem has the atmosphere for me. No matter what town I travel to, a breckie place like this just makes me want to slide into the booth and salivate. Gluten free offerings, too.

However, if you are on the move and want to just get out in the fine weather, the Market Stalls and pop-ups in St. Georges’ look to be the treat for eating and hanging about. Great shops to look in when done as well.

Afternoon of Dreams

Now, how about those walks? Great entertainment and healthy for families as well. Just walking the neighborhoods is great fun, but combine that with a park walk and you get it all in. Self Guided Belfast tours are listed here, and you can use some City walks apps as well, check your Android or Apple Apps for travel apps featuring Belfast. Do not forget the Belfast Art Walks, many of the tours and paths intersect so you can fill your day, but don’t forget to nap on a green somewhere, bring a blanket or rug. And just like in any city you visit this spring, shop the farmer’s markets for your picnic fare.

Are you out and about in Belfast today? Let us know your finds. Fill your Instagram account today.

Places

Harlem Bistro on Bedford Street

http://harlembelfast.co.uk

Best Breakfasts in Belfast

http://www.belfastlive.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/18-brilliant-breakfasts-in-belfast-8547716

Self Guided Tour

http://visitbelfast.com/home/search-keywords/Self-guided%20tours/151

Free Useful Apps Ireland

http://www.ireland.com/en-us/what-is-available/articles/apps-for-ireland/

Mural Tours

https://www.virtualbelfastmuraltour.com/map-of-belfast-murals.htm

Best Parks in Belfast

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/telebest/activity-leisure/tele-recommends-northern-irelands-best-public-parks-30344585.html

Eat Belfast Guide

http://visitbelfast.com/assets/gallery/generic/FINALVBEatBelfastGuide.pdf

Farmer’s Markets Belfast

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/telebest/food-drink/tele-recommends-northern-irelands-best-farmers-markets-30402148.html

Other Posts

Street Art Glasgow Interview

Art Walks: Spring in the UK and Ireland


Photo © 2012 William Murphy

 

Travel Dates or Solo: Any Travel Bloggers Out There Want a Meet Up?

Sitting in a cafe in the PDX, listening to Reggae on an Easter afternoon, I ponder the traveling adventure I am about to embark on in two months. I often find traveling alone has it’s drawbacks. One is that you sometimes try to share out what a great experience you are having with some fellow traveler nearby and they give you the glare, the what are you doing disturbing my vay cay thing. Really sad. Then there are the ones that if you even say “Good Morning” to want to glom onto you and vampire your day. It’s one extreme to another sometimes. I usually hang in public with myself, people watch and probably smirk too much to myself. It’s amazing how much complaining some will do while on vacation. Rooms suck, food sucks, whatever. Usually they are ‘Mericans and a few pensioners from the UK really had me in stitches last trip. Travel is a work. Seriously, getting to any destination is going to take effort, and with the luck I have had, rail strikes and whatnot, it will be again. The trick is to just let it go as part of the adventure. Don’t get me wrong, I drip of sarcasm most days and can outdo many a person on that front. I just try so hard to not do it when traveling because I have just waited too long to get back at it, why waste the time? But there is some fun in commiseration if done right. So maybe meeting up intentionally with a group is the ticket.

So, if you are stuck on your own traveling, or by choice, but would still like to maybe meet fellow enthusiasts and just talk about fabulous experiences, try to arrange a meet up in a city you plan to visit. But how? There are plenty of web resources out there. If you have used one not listed her, let me know and I will add it to the list.

2017 Trip July 19 to August 5

Glasgow

Dublin

Galway: Arts Fest, are you going?

Belfast

Skye

Inverness

Edinburgh: Aug 5-8 Fringe Festival, are you going? 70th Anniversary

Trip Together

https://www.triptogether.com

Website offers a travel meeting/dating like arrangement thing. You can arrange to either meet or start travels together with other people. Granted, in looking at this site I see an awful lot of good looking women and would caution that some may be using this as a pure hook up situation. Hope that’s not the case, but if that’s what you want, hey.

Go Girl Guides

http://gogirlguides.com/

Women travelers meet ups, and travel tips. They are expanding to having travel groups meet in various cities so you can meet others planning to travel, maybe find some compatible people to travel with.

Solo Traveler World

https://solotravelerworld.com/

Website dedicated to the solo traveler and many great articles or travel. You are alone, but not alone here.

Meet Up

https://www.meetup.com

It’s worldwide and many people create groups. Each city has it’s own flavors, but most have a travel meetup group or a few. Contact a bit ahead of time and see if they are still meeting and get on the list if it’s a day you may be in that city. Everyone has an adventure to share.

Note: Always proceed with caution on any site where meeting strangers may happen. Sadly there are some real toads out there, to downright villains. Sadly I have read of travelers getting harmed in their travels, so just be cautious. Look at reviews on the site if they have them, see if there have been any complaints. Good luck.

Belfast Foodie Fest

I had the opportunity to dine at Souls with the owners, new friends and family to celebrate the birthday of the owners son. Once again excellent surroundings, fantastic service, delicious and well presented food and plenty of it. For starters I had the meat antipasti consisting of home made spiced bread, Parma ham, tapenade, olives and […]

via Another excellent meal at Souls — Belfast Food Man’s Blog