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Belfast Boy .. October 18, 2006

Posted by stagedive in Blogroll, Idle Thoughts.

BobbyNot a holiday as such, but a neat little trip to Belfast for work .. me as a first time visitor too.

I hadn’t visited Northern Ireland before, but like many others, particularly others of a similar age, am fascinated by the colourful past and the conflicts that seem implausible to a non-sectarian, non religous, almost politically apathetic part of the world such as this. Political Leaders whose faces are as much part of my youth asKenny Dalgliesh and Kevin Keegan .. and yet they are still there today .. where’s king Kenny these days? 

It’s an incredible place to visit as well .. worth a weekend away even if it’s not the first name on your list of destinations. The locals are really friendly, my work colleagues are notoriously dry in their sense of humour, but dry verging on black humour as opposed to stale. The city too is full of some great buildings, especially the main City Hall and the up and coming waterfront area.

There are still a lot of pointers to the past, not least the largest collection of CCTV Cameras and Barbed Wire that I have seen anywhere in the world .. it’s easier to get into Lubyanka than it would be a Belfast Police Station and the appearance is less threatening also .. but if you look past that .. and it seems that everyone does .. the City is a cool place to be. It has the Irish charm of Dublin without the tourists!

The nightlife is really busy. I was only there for one evening but the bars and clubs from the centre down to the University area were packed, and that was mid-week and on a night when the International Footy team was playing some 500 yards away.

I had the chance before heading to the airport to take the City Tour. Not my preferred choice of sight seeing, but time was limited and I wanted to see it all quickly. This part was the surreal bit .. the trip started off in the expected way, taking in the City Centre and the waterfront .. all very impressive ..

The Shankhill and Falls Roads are names that immediately conjour up news casts from the 70’s and 80’s .. tit for tat bombings and retaliation from the Military Wings .. the wall Murals and Flag waving on this part of the tour were amazing, there’s a deep rooted pride and culture on full display .. part of you applauds the belief, a larger part hopes for the heavy dose of calm and empathy remains for good. It’s as if every gable wall has to be painted in full colour – I cannot picture the same scene anywhere else in the World let alone UK.

You move from Shankhill to Falls via the ‘Peace Line’ .. a gate that still closes in the evening and opens in the morning .. it was all very hard to comprehend .. and even better, you travel through all this on a big red open top tourist bus, with happy narration and cameras flashing all over. It was a case of ‘did that really happen?’.

In mid October the bus was over half full so someone has a market tapped ..

The murals are certainly more than half the appeal of the place. I tried to get a copy of a book a fellow bus tripper had told me about but it was sold out in the Info Shop .. I then happened to mention my trip to the taxi driver on the way back to the airport, who piped up with ‘well I’m compiling a book on the topic too if your interested’ .. and the kind fellow even sent me a CD Rom with all his pics on it too .. Nice ..