Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Our Lifestyle Adventures: Being Surprised by Belfast

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Being Surprised by Belfast

the Titanic Museum on the site where the Titanic was built in Belgast, Northern Ireland
William Street for Bill
We foolishly thought we would be covering nine countries on this European Swing until the political science professor on the Enrichment Voyage said Belfast is not part of Ireland! It is a city in Northern Ireland which is a part of Great Britain, like England, Scotland, and Wales are. And that the United Kingdom is comprised of Great Britain whose capital is London and Ireland whose capital is Dublin! 

my own yellow gazebo at Victoria Square
The name Belfast comes from the Irish, Béal Feirste meaning "mouth of the sandbanks". It is the administrative capital of Northern Ireland and one of the largest cities in the UK in terms of population (579,276) as a metropolitan area. We had a very exciting presentation of Belfast architecture by the charming professor and were surprised, after studying the map that was given us at the Tourist Information Centre at the shuttle bus stop, that they were all within walking distance!

elegant City Hall
The elegant 1906 City Hall just across was the inspiration to Durban, South Africa’s own City Hall, almost an exact replica built four years later. It was the former site of the White Linen Hall, Belfast having been a leading player in the linen industry of the time. After getting a good shot, we walked north to the Albert Memorial Clock, Belfast’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Belfast's Leaning Tower
The Clock Tower was designed by Barre who won an 1865 competition for a memorial to Queen Victoria's late Prince Consort, Prince Albert. The second-placer, archrival Lanyon secretly got the prize money until a public outcry corrected the anomaly. Constructed between 1865 and 1869, it stands 113 feet tall. But, as a result of being built on wooden piles on marshy, reclaimed land around the River Farset, the top of the tower leans four feet off the perpendicular.

Just another block from the tower is the 10-meter long Big Fish, a printed ceramic mosaic sculpture by John Kindness constructed in 1999 at the Donegall Quay near the Lagan Lookout and Custom House. It tells of the history of Northern Ireland on its tiles. Then a long walk or one short bus ride away is the Titanic Belfast. We took the bus, of course!

the Big Fish that carries the history of Belfast
Titanic Belfast is a monument to Belfast's maritime heritage (it was one of the major shipbuilders of its time) on the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard in the city's Titanic Quarter. It was where the Titanic was built. The clever design of the monument is reminiscent of both the ship and the iceberg that caused it to sink. The Museum tells the stories of the ill-fated RMS Titanic, which sank on her maiden voyage in 1912 and her sister ships RMS Olympic and HMHS Britannic.

the little alley under a building
Then we took the bus back to the same station and traced our steps to the Belfast Cathedral. On the way there, we found a William Street for Bill and my very own yellow gazebo in Victoria Square. A street we were directed to, named Pottinger's Entry, didn't at all look like a street!

St Anne's Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral, serves two separate dioceses yet being the seat of neither. Thus, technically it is not a cathedral which is supposed to be the seat of a bishop. Its architecture is also unusual since the front, sides and back are of different type, not having been built at the same time.

beautiful, haunting graffiti/mural
As we took a walk back to the Grand Opera House just past the bus stop on the opposite direction, we found different kinds of graffiti displaying the angst of the people, especially during “the Troubles” or the time of deep division. No wonder Irish pubs abound. We went to the most famous, the Crown Bar, near the Opera House on the other side of the street. 

Grand Opera House in Belfast
It has been refurbished to a high standard in 1885 as an outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace. The exterior has polychromatic tiles and the interior features a red granite topped bar of an altar style. There are also ten booths, or snugs, built for the more reserved customers of the Victorian era. And, that is where we found seats with fellow voyagers of the MV Explorer. We all even had a second round at another famous pub beside it, the Robinson’s. Just across this pub is the Europa, Europe’s most bombed hotel.

inside a snug at the Crown Bar, for reserved customers in the Victorian era
our second pub, Robinson's
We couldn’t have survived a third round for we all needed to hurry on to the bus stop if we were to make the on board time of the ship and sail with it an hour after to Southampton, England!


  1. Looks like Belfast was fun --- even if it was northern Ireland.


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