Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Good Craic in Belfast

When I found out Scott's next work assignment was in Northern Ireland I was ecstatic.  I have many friends who have traveled this wonderful country and was excited to see if for myself.  We are only here for two weeks and Scott will be working mostly so we planned on spending one weekend in Belfast and the other weekend in Dublin.  What I didn't know about Northern Ireland is the temperate climate.  It has been in the mid to low 50's since we arrived and rains off and on everyday. 

We are staying at the Fitzwilliam Hotel that is centrally located in the heart of the city next to the Opera House.  Most of the sites are located in the city center so you can walk to pretty much everything.  

The first performance at the Grand Opera House was December 23, 1895 with burlesque shows, comedies and melodramas.  The opera house has extensive history with all the civil unrest that has transpired in Northern Ireland.  In 1969 the city center was a "no-go" area at night so they had to close down and sell the Opera House.  In 1972 the building was purchased by the Ulster Architectural Society and between 1974 - 1980 it went under extensive restoration.  In the 80's it flourished again until 1991 and 1993 when the property suffered extensive damage from two car bombs that were intended for the Europa Hotel next door.  Now the Grand Opera House is fully restored and back to having musicals, comedies and concerts. 
The beautiful building across the street from our hotel is the Presbyterian Church of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is the largest Protestant denomination in Northern Ireland.  
The Belfast City Hall is a grand structure that dominates the city center.  It was built between 1898 and 1906 and since then has been replicated by the city hall in Durbin, South Africa and resembles St. Peter's Cathedral in London.  In the garden, you will find memorials to the Titanic and past wars.
Inside city hall.
In the City Hall garden is a new dedicated Titanic Memorial.
Also located in the grounds of City Hall is the Belfast Cenotaph.  It is about 30 feet high and dedicated to all those who sacrificed their lives in the First World War 1914 - 1918.
Korean War Memorial also in the grounds of City Hall.
 Shopping, shopping and more shopping!  There is no shortage of stores in Belfast.  One of the main shopping areas is located on Donegall Square  and continues to Victoria Street with Victoria Square mall.
A neat little bar called Bittles Bar behind the Victoria Square mall.
Built in 1720, Kelly's Cellars is the oldest pub in Belfast.  
Oysters, mussels, seafood chowder and so much more!  A fantastic seafood restaurant next to Kelly's Cellars.   
 Oyster Rockefeller
Snow crab claws
 Seafood chowder
The Albert Clock is Belfast's very own leaning tower.  It was constructed in 1867 in honor of Queen Victoria's departed husband Albert.  It is not as dramatic as the famous Tower in Pisa but does lean south.  The locals say, 'Old Albert not only has the time, he also has the inclination.'
Located in the Cathedral Quarter, St. Anne's Cathedral, also known as Belfast Cathedral, started construction in 1899 and completed in 1904.  The Cathedral also held a memorial service shortly after the tragic sinking of the Titanic and several members of Thomas Andrew's family attended.  Thomas was a naval architect in charge of the plans for Titanic and was on board when he and the other 1,516 died in the disaster.
Belfast Waterfront Hall is a multifaceted venue for arts and entertainment.  
Located in Stormont, outside of the city, is the Parliament buildings for Northern Ireland.
 There are a lot of Irish pubs in the city but nothing as famous as the Crown Bar Liquor Saloon.  Luck for us it was located across the street from our hotel so it was easy to stop in for a pint or two on our way home from touring the city.  The pub has also been known as the most beautiful bar in the world.  The interior is decorated with mosaic tiles, carved ceilings and  is the only bar lit with gas lamps.  The main dining room is located on the 2nd floor but on the main level there are ten snugs to offer exclusive privacy for you and your friends.
Unless you have been living under a rock in the past few weeks, you know this year is the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic sinking.  Belfast is the birthplace of the Titanic and on March 31st, the Titanic Belfast, opened on the shipyard where the Titanic, among other non-sinking ships, was built.

Belfast in the 1900's was a major industrial and commercial center with shipbuilding, linen, tobacco and heavy engineering.  Between 1851 and 1901 Belfast's population increased from 87,062 to 349,180.  Harland and Wolff, one of the largest shipbuilders in the world, dominated the shipping industry in Belfast and employed over 35,000 workers. In 1911 the RMS Titanic was built.  This must-see vistor attraction is six floors with nine interactive, virtual reality galleries.  Each gallery depicts a different period in the ship's life, from manufacture to maiden voyage.
First class cabin
The floor is all glass showing the sea floor and the Titanic.
Overall I was impressed with the Titanic exhibition but not blown away.  We purchased our tickets online and got a discount so it was $17.00 US per person; not horrible. The building itself is absolutely beautiful and the exhibition is well laid out.  But mostly I enjoyed the detailed history of not only the Titanic but of Belfast.  
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