This past Tuesday Julie and I traveled from Dublin to Belfast via train in a little more than two hours. We basically had one full day to check the city out before heading to the Odyssey Arena to see Pearl Jam and Ben Harper. Our original plans were to head up north and see the Giant’s Causeway and tour the Bushmills Distillery but after figuring out that would take about 6 hours we passed on it. The hotel was able to arrange a ‘Black Cab‘ tour that took us through the more interesting parts of the city.
The Black Cub tour basically takes you through both neighborhoods in Belfast where most of the events of the ‘Troubles‘ took place. Our driver would point out what each mural was for, where a bombing took place and the headquarters of the IRA/UVF. It was intense. Five minutes into the drive we had to go through a police checkpoint. We drove down Shankill Road which is the heart of the Loyalist neighborhood and where a man was shot dead in broad daylight last month. We drove around both sides of the Peace Wall. The driver advised us not to take pictures on the Catholic side but we were able to get out and walk around the Protestant side. The driver kept pointing out how things were getting better; for example the new courthouse downtown is made of glass.
The Crown Bar
Once we first got into town and walked around a little bit we headed over to the Crown Bar which was about half a block from our hotel. The bar is supposed to be the oldest in Belfast. The inside has a bunch of small rooms/booths and half the place is lit with gas lamps, supposedly all the stained glass is what was leftover from the Titanic’s sister ship the Britannic, I’m not sure I buy that.
The rest of Belfast:
While at the Crown Bar we learned that our hotel was next to the Europa Hotel which happens to be the most bombed hotel in Europe. During our cab tour we also got to see the docks where the Titanic was built. Our driver said the ship was built by the Irish and was fine when it left Ireland, the problem of course was that it was captained by an Englishmen.
Over all Belfast was great. The best hotel of our entire trip.