Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)
Chris' Previous Journal
Belfast is famous for its shipbuilding, linen industry and rope-making. In fact, the Titanic was built here. During the early 20th century, Belfast was home to the largest and most productive shipyard in the world - Harland and Wolff. At one time, they employed 35,000 workers.
During World War II, Belfast was heavily bombed and in one raid in 1941, over a thousand people were killed and tens of thousands left homeless by the German bombers.
We took advantage of the complimentary shuttle service from the pier into the city centre, where we then boarded the Hop On/Hop Off tour bus so we could see the city highlights and learn more about some of the historical events that have occurred throughout the years.
The weather today was typical of Belfast and Northern Ireland - the sun would shine, then a few minutes later, rain. Once again, the temperatures were cool (for us) with a high of only 55°. We were prepared however, with rain jackets, umbrellas, sweaters and scarves. I'm sure to some people we looked like we were on an Arctic adventure. Obviously, it was a very bad hair day.
Within the confines of the city, there are walls and Peace Lines that segregate the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. We traveled past the largest Peace Wall, which is constructed of iron and steel, and topped with a metal netting. It stands approximately 40 feet high. The wall was decorated with murals, or according to our guide, street art. In Rome we call it graffiti, even if the work is exceptional.
Belfast has had its share of conflicts between the Roman Catholic (republicans) and Protestant (unionists) populations. Our tour guide was quick to point out (and repeated it often) that the conflicts are not religious in nature, but are political.
So, the question is: if the strife and conflicts are totally political in nature, why are the neighborhoods separated by religious beliefs and the conflicting groups referred to by their religions?
You may recall the Bloody Friday event in 1972, that killed nine people caused by bombings in the city centre. Sad to say, but from 1969 until 2001, over 1,500 people have been killed in political violence in Belfast.
However, the point to remember is that Belfast, like most European cities, is safe to visit, and in fact, the tourism industry is exploding, with record levels of visitors. We would certainly return and stay for a longer period of time.
Belfast is divided into quarters - the Cathedral, Queen's, Titanic and Gaeltacht. The Cathedral Quarter is near the waterfront and the Church of Ireland Cathedral, St. Anne's, is here.
In the Queen's Quarter, which is near the city centre area, there is the Queen's College, numerous cafes, coffee bars and restaurants. City Hall and the shopping district downtown are easily accessible.
The Titanic Quarter obviously refers to the waterfront area and the old shipbuilding yards. It is currently undergoing a £7 billion ($11 million) renovation.
The Gaeltacht Quarter is in West Belfast and is more Celtic in the origin of its residents and businesses.
As part of our tour, we also visited the Stormont Estate east of the city centre. The grounds and buildings house the offices of Northern Ireland's main government. The whole area is absolutely beautiful. I certainly wouldn't mind going to work in such pleasing surroundings.
After leaving the bus, which at times was quite a damp ride, we decided it was way past lunch time. We had spotted a restaurant earlier near city hall, but we were several blocks away and it began to pour. We found a great little pub - the Basement Pub - and yes, it was down several stairs in a basement. It was wonderful -- warm and cozy, friendly staff and good food. We really didn't want to leave.
In spite of a late day departure, we decided we were ready to head back to the ship, dry off and get a bit of work completed.
For dinner, we went to the Pinnacle Grill - the signature restaurant of the cruise line. Absolutely outstanding food and service.
I ordered the seafood skewer and the presentation was quite the show - our server brought a table over with a tall cone-shaped cover over a dish. Under the cover, was the skewer, which he then poured cognac over and lit on fire.
The "show" obviously got other diners' attention, as I noticed a few of them ordering the same dish. John and I also like the Pinnacle because the portions are manageable: we're a) not over eating and b) wasting a ton of food.
For more information and photos of Belfast, check out the Belfast photos page.
We're sailing to Glasgow for our first stop in Scotland. We're looking forward to the day as neither of us have visited Glasgow.
More info about Scotland
Northern Europe Trip Page... (including photos)Note that there are two trip maps, as this journey include two (back-to-back) 12 day cruises. The map of Norway is found below the UK map.