Landed in Belfast midday on Day 6 to start solo leg. My first trip to any part of Ireland. Picked Belfast and County Antrim because nearly all my ancestors paused here for some decades between leaving Scotland and immigrating to the New World. Sincerely doubt many had *papers* when they arrived here, most by 1750 or so.
Belfast was a lovely surprise; temperature perhaps not so lovely. I had a curry and a real Guinness. Made plans for Black Taxi tour for the morrow, followed by visit to Titanic Museum, not on my radar but friendly concierge insisted. When in Rome?
Day 7. The Black Taxi tours are popular for a reason: for two hours, my dapper guide, Jim, made me see to understand what life was like in Northern Ireland during the time they call “The Troubles.” One of the five gates separating the neighborhoods of Belfast is still locked each evening. Leading to this gate are the famous murals, continually updated, a splashy reminder of the values celebrated on this side of the fence. The election of May 2023 saw the “People Before Profit” party win big. A few of the scenes.
Off to the Titanic Museum. Fascinating education on the massive industrial complex that developed from Belfast’s ship building industry. Spin-offs in multiples, from steel workers to hemp rope manufacturers to finish carpenters and everything in between. They even made it legal for women to work and keep their wages in 1916, although young guide said to my astonished query, “Yah, but we still don’t earn an equal wage!” I assured her it was same here. Lazy walk to hotel along the riverfront. Small cities can feel so civilized.
Day 8. Guess there’s always one day that shines supreme. For me it was the all day coach tour of coastal County Antrim. But: surprise! Now it’s also the Game of Thrones tour. Marty fast forwarded through the episodes. I boycotted on principle. But the scenery? Breathtaking. First glimpses.
Inching over the glens, heading north and west and north. Came to the caves where some queen birthed something called the Shadow Baby (in the show; doesn’t sound good). And then to the Dark Hedges and forgive the abundance of snaps but it was so vividly gorgeous.
And onto the highlight: a visit to the Giant’s Causeway. So *maybe* it was formed when a Scottish giant had a feud with an Irish giant just across the swift channel in the Irish Sea. In truth, the 40,000+ interlocking balsalt columns were pushed from the depths of the earth some 60 million years ago. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site for good reason. Put it on your list.
Day 9. Had planned to wander Belfast and visit the sites on my list (Cathedral, City Hall, Presbyterian Headquarters of Irish Presbyterian church, etc); did not plan on smashing my toe into the hotel room chair in the middle of the night. For such a tiny digit, a broken toe wields an unholy power. Didn’t make it far on my slow, hobbling journey. Managed to get a really good steak for dinner and one last Guinness for dessert.
Day 10. Off to airport. London near Gatwick for sojourn home. Taxi to plane to train to train to taxi. Took forever and I could have done more expeditiously. Next time. It was balmy day. I snickered to see Londoners on balconies and in parks, shirtless if possible, white skin stained bright red. First sunny day. Get it. Walked to pub near my B&B for sincerely last Guinness and last curry. Sad to say goodbye.
Counting the days or months or whatever until I can go back. Traveling again, in these After Times, was damn great.