DAY EIGHT - BELFAST
We woke up early this morning and had breakfast at the Europa Hotel. I have been looking forward to today for the entire trip. I had a lot planned.
Ever since the onset of the “troubles” in 1968, popular art has played a role in proclaiming the loyalties of Belfast’s two most intransigent working class communities, on the protestant Shankill Road and the Catholic Falls Road. The gable walls of dozens of houses in these areas have been decorated with vivid murals expressing local political and paramilitary affiliations. Likewise, kerbstones on certain streets are painted either in the red white and blue of the United Kingdom or the green white and gold of Ireland. Even with the successes of the current peace process, many are likely to remain. Some tourists make the journey out to west Belfast just to see the murals. I did, twice. Once on the bus, and later I ran the entire route again. It’s one thing to see the murals from the confines of a tour bus, it’s a whole different experience to see them on foot.
The Thompson pump and dry docks were the home to the Titanic before it set sail. It was built here in Belfast. We were given a tour of the dry docks and pump house. It was pretty cool to see how it was built and some of the tools used. The tour didn’t take much time and we were given the rest of the day as free time.
I made my way to the Central Fire Station in Belfast. I had contacted there administration about the possibility of getting a tour of the station and their equipment while I was in town. I not only got a tour, but the guys at the station were great! I brought some shirts to trade, and I left with so much stuff I almost needed another backpack just to get back to the hotel. It was interesting to hear about some of the concerns they have on calls considering the violence in Belfast. Definitely not something I have to worry about in Florida.
I spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city. I checked out City Hall and took a few pictures and I stopped in a local running store. I was just happy to have some free time and enjoy the city on my own.
I made my way back to the hotel, showered and got a fresh shave of the head and then we were off to dinner. My mom and I met up with almost everyone from the tour and we decided to go to a Chinese Restaurant. The food was decent, nothing fancy. I escorted my mother back to the hotel and then I was off to a pub across the street to listen to a little music. Tomorrow we are headed to Scotland. I will have to say goodbye to Ireland for now.