We decided to take our cabbie’s advice and try the Hop On Hop Off tour of Belfast, just to get a sense of the overall city. If you have a good guide, it can be a very informative tour. Fortunately both of ours were, so we learned a lot, particularly about the city (and country’s) tumultuous history. One thing we discovered is that this is a city of murals. . You can’t drive too far without encountering at least one, often more, and many of which commemmorate the events and people that have shaped the past. Of course there are also glimpses of the iconic buildings and structures that Belfast has in abundance. The architecture here is very diverse and interesting. The only drawback to the HOHO tours is that there are so many places you’d like to stop and explore further, but time constraints don’t really allow for that.
We had decided that we would get off at the Titanic Belfast Experience and take that in. It is firstly a most impressive building in itself, with its metal panel cladding and unique shape - replicating the prow of a ship. Inside there are not just displays about the Titanic, but also about the history of the city of Belfast. The Titanic displays are extensive, from a huge model of the shipyard where the ship was built, to replicas of the staterooms, to a ride through the construction of the ship, to first-hand accounts from survivors. One aspect I found very interesting was the interactive space where you could see the artifacts that have been discovered on the ocean floor through the use of submersibles. It also includes stories of some of the people who were on the Titanic and who did not survive the incident. We were amazed that we had spent a full three hours there!
Back on the HOHO and the rest of the tour, ending up back at Queens University where we had started. We had intended to stop in to go through the Ulster Museum, but because it was closing in an hour, opted to walk through the Botanic Gardens instead. This is a beautifully lush green space in the middle of the city, with the Palm House, a collection of tropical plants, as well as an extensive rose garden.
Since we had foregone lunch to complete the Titanic experience, our tummies were a little rumbly, so we headed over to an area not far from our digs and found a cosy pub called “Ryan’s Bar” and stopped for a beer and a cider. Once we sat down, it was so comfy that we opted to just eat dinner there. Fish and chips and pork belly filled our empty stomachs quite nicely. A walk back to our flat followed by an evening of organizing our stuff and an episode of Designated Survivor. Our host, Ruairi, has kindly allowed us leave our suitcases here tomorrow so we can do some more exploring before we have to make our way over to the Ibis Hotel to join up with our tour group.