Tour and Walkabout
Belfast Travel Blog› entry 3 of 5 › view all entries
We all awaoke around 8am, and those that wanted breakfast got it in the restaurant bit of the hotel.
As part of the very rough plan, i did intend for us all to do the open top bus tour and a guy had been handing out leaflets outside the hotel when we had arrived the previous day. Only thing now was to find where it left from. We walked into City Hall and took a few day time snaps and then headed down one of the streets. Just past Belfast City Post Office the tour bus was sitting and we went over. It was just after 10am and they guy said the next tour left at 11-15, so we bought our tickets for that. Seemed a bit pricey, but was to prove well worth it. Were advised to be back between 10-50 and 11 if we wanted to get seats on the top deck.
Went for a look about the surrounding area to pass the time,ending up going down to the Albert Memorial Clock and then down to the river and The Big Fish and Customs House. Made our way back to the bus and got seats upstairs. Looked like it was going to be quiet,but then all of a sudden filled up,with the top deck full and most of the lower deck as well. guide introduced himself as Pat, and gave us a few bits of information about tha area around us before we set off. He described the Albert Memorial Clock as Belfast's Leaning Tower as it tilts some 4ft to the right, as we were looking down towards it, which we hadn't even noticed but is very obvious once it's pointed out.
Pat was great throughout the tour, and very funny, and the bus was soon heading across the river to The Odyssey Arena and to the Titanic Dry Dock.
Just as we hit the dual carriageway it started raining, and with the wind and the bus moving it became really cold. Bus went into grounds at Stormont, after a cursory security check, and up and round the statue of Edward Carson, seen as the 'father' of Northern ireland. As I said pat was really good and passed on a lot of information, a lot of which I will use in this blog ;) , like the fact that Carson actually got to unveil his own statue, as it was erected a couple of years before he died.
As part of the preamble to the tour, and with a reflection of the sensitivity still in Belfast, areas would simply be descibed as Republican or Loyalist.
The first thing you come to here is the Divis Yower, a high rise block, and were told that all through the troubles the British Army commandeered the top three floors and had a watch tower and listeng station there, and despite many attempts to drive them out they remained there until the army withdrew from the streets in 2007.
Drove round and through the gate on Lanark Way. I was surprised when Pat said that this was the only gate that remained open all the time, all other gates on the fence are closed at 6pm, and even this one was under 24/7 police CCTV surveilance and that it was closed as well at times of heightened tension. I thought those days were past now :(.
Drove down through The Shankill, and seemed to me many more murals here, with a lot more paramilitary themes.
Since I was being a responsible parent, I did something I wouldn't normally and went for lunch in a Subway. With that out of the way and just after 2pm, decided we would go down to the cathedral and have a look inside it. Some odd art works in the square at the side of the cathedral, but the cathedral itself was nice inside. Also houses the chapel of the Royal Irish Regiment, and the tomb of Edward Carson, the only person to be buried in it.
With no great plan to follow, thought we would then walk back up to the Crumlin Road Court and Prison. They are on opposite sides of the road, but now disused, and were apparently connected by a tunnel, and is where the term being sent down comes from,according to Pat the fountain of all my knowledge, as prisoners would be taken down through the tunnel to the gaol. During The Troubles the court here would sit without a jury, because of concerns over intimidation and impartiality, and that nearly 25,000 people were dealt with in it.
Having seen that we say two churches in the distance and decided to head for them to check them out. Were nice enough but not particularly worth the effort. We were now way up the hill and decided to turn back and walk down through The Shankill.
Went back to hotel for a bit, and daughter Googled a few places to eat, before deciding she liked the sound of Little Italy on Amelia Street just behing The Crown. I was happy enough to go along with it as it wasn't far, but when we got there it was a take-away only, so we went into the square behing it, found a place called Olio, which after checking the prices on the menu first ;), we went in and had dinner. Food was nice,as was the layout of the place, but service left a bit to be desired.
Finished off and returned to the hotel, and did the same as the previous night though the kids spent more time up in the room as they had discovered one of the RTE channels that had a load of comedy programmes on it. Ended up past midnight before we all went to bed.