This is a bit out of order because we had 3 days in Dublin before we went to Belfast.
Our original plan was to spend 2 nights in Dublin then grab a car and head out to the countryside. When we got to Dublin there was so much to see and do and frankly the idea of not having to pack up our suitcases for a few days or drive sounded really good. So we landed on a day trip to Belfast.
Patrick had a real interest in going there because it's a place that was always in the news in our lifetimes. When we read about a taxicab political/mural tour, that sealed it - Belfast it was.
We grabbed a train early. And headed north with the sunrising and the mist over the rivers and pastured. It was quite lovely. Had we not spent the night before in a sing-a-long late into the night, it would have been the perfect train ride - hahahaha - I could have used a couple extra hours of sleep and a solid breakfast (but it was a fun night).
...anyway...we booked our taxi trip while we were traveling (isn't technology great?!?!?) and the driver met us at the station.
This tour was extraordinary. It was just the two us with Joe who gave us a personal history lesson of "The Troubles" as they are dubbed. While the England/Ireland story really begins with the Norman invasion 800 years ago, our lesson started with King William (of William and Mary) in the late 1600s. It was interesting to hear about the English monarchy from this perspective after having traveled all over Great Britain and heard their stories from the English perspective.
Joe explained that "The Troubles" often described as Protestant versus Catholic can also be described as a question of identity - do I identify as British or Irish. We went to both sides of the city and Joe explained each sides' perspective. He was remarkably unbiased. Each side had numerous murals (Protestant murals were found on the ends of row houses in a housing project; Catholic murals were in a more retail street). Both cannonized fallen heroes or stated their belief systems.
A three story wall separates the two sides of the city. The wall kept getting taller becuase they kept finding new weapons to throw over the wall to hurt and kill each other. The wall is covered with beautiful artistry and graffiti on the Protestant side and thoughts of people have left messages of peace and love on the wall, including now Patrick's and my messages. I didn't see the same decor on the Catholic side.
The biggest surprise was to learn that the wall has two gates that are still closed every night to separate the city. People can get around the wall, but it takes a lot planning of one's route and extra time. Astounding.
The passion of each side was clear and inspiring even though violent. Joe said there is a peace in the city - we saw quite a few pieces of art dedicated to peace - but that the citezenry isn't ready to let go of the past yet. In fact Patrick saw a relatively new sticker on a newspaper box near one of the Murals that said PSNI - people should not inform.
Perhaps it was becuase this piece of history is in my memory; perhaps was the art that accompanied the history; or the incredible knowledge of our guide - whatever it was - this was really a standout experience in both of our minds. It was an experience that really broadened our minds.
Joe dropped us off at the Titanic Experience - which followed the ship from its inception, building, sinking, the inquiry following, and its relocation. Obviously the Titanic is incredibly important to Belfast as its builders. In fact we were at the museum for almost an hour before any of the exhibit mentioned its sinking. I found that fascinating.
The museum is located at the site where the Titanic was built and launched. Just outside it is the last remaining White Star Line ship -the Nomadic. She was the tender for the Titanic and brought passengers to her at the Titanic's stop in France.
After the Titanic, we had some lunch and walked around the city for a bit just taking in the sites until our train.
Miles walked : 5