....Belfast is a wonderful place to visit!!
Eventually getting around to writing about my weekend in Belfast. Visiting regularly for day trips (primarily for shopping), we decided that there had to be more to offer and booked a two night stay.
Promised myself (and hubbie) that it wouldn't be a shopping trip - I surprised myself by only buying a bottle of moisturiser as I had left my own at home.
We booked the Radisson Hotel at the Gasworks - separate review written. Arrived way before the 3.00pm checkin but it wasn't a problem and we were in the heart of the city by 1.00pm wondering what we would do.
First on the list was the sightseeing trip http://www.belfastcitysightseeing.com/
What a delightful 90 minutes and so worth the money. The ticket seller was the first person we encountered who extended Belfast hospitality to us. Don't know if he gave me the student rate or the oap rate but my ticket was cheaper than hubbies;-) He really had the gift of the gab!. This tour was the highlight of the weekend. There is so much more to Belfast that goes under the radar - eg I didn't know Universal Studios had a location in the city, that the Salt Refinery exports salt to the USA (imagine!) and so much more trivia. Our Guide was so informative and I loved his dry sense of humour. Driving up the Shankill and Falls Roads and seeing these places that are entrenched in our history over the years. I was amazed driving through Shankill and people waving at the bus. The murals on both sides are amazing to see. A must for anyone visiting Belfast. The bus was full - Irish, American, Japanese, Australian and French. It was great to see such a broad spectrum of nationalities.
Lunch in the Gormet Burger Kitchen in Victoria Square - well I just HAD to go to Victoria Square to get my moisturiser!!
A stop off at the Belfast Welcome Centre was next on the list - we were now bonefide tourists!!. Spoke to a charming girl about driving the Antrim Coast to the Giants Causeway on the Sunday. Left armed with a map with complimentary book on the area and a wonderful sense that Belfast was indeed buzzing - and it was the people who were making it so. Handy to know that they have luggage storage facilities there too for anyone not driving.
HAD to have a drink at the Crown Bar on our way back to the hotel. Freshened up and headed to Deane's Restaurant for dinner. Review written. Nothing to say apart from this is one of the reasons why we intend returning to Belfast for an overnighter in July.
Sunday morning we awoke to misty rain but thought we chance the drive up the coast. Bad idea - we couldn't see further than the bonnet of the car at one stage. However we kept thinking it would clear (it got worst!). It has to be a fantastic trip on a good day. Reminded me so much of the Almalfi Coast (only worst in spots!). We drove the road to Torr Head. Oh My God - when a sign says the road isn't suitable for coaches or caravans they sure do mean it! I had pulled the short straw and was driving. Suffice to say - I prayed real hard that we wouldn't meet any oncoming traffic!! Each time the clouds broke and we could see the stunning vistas made it worthwhile. Paid our £6 for the Giants Causeway carpark, dressed in our raingear, spent a penny(!) and got back into the car!! I wanted another excuse to have another stayover 'up North' and thought we wouldn't do the Causeway justice visiting in the rain. Had fish and chips from Nortons in Ballycastle in the car before heading back to Belfast. The fish and chips were worth the trip alone!!. Not to self - must put some salt sachets and wet wipes into the glove compartment for our next visit. Hubbie not impressed though - he can still get the smell of them in the car a week later..!!
Headed back into the city later that evening. Yet another charming man - taxi driver who advised us on the best route to take the following morning to get out of the city and head for the Bangor. His directions didn't fail and we had an easy drive the following morning. Down to Cathedral Quarter and had dinner in the Hill Street Brasserie. Meal was fine - nothing special but it filled the gap. TAPL the Dublin Expert had recommended that we visit the John Hewitt Bar - but we decided to have 'one' in the Merchant Bar beforehand. One led to two to three.... all the while chatting to Haydn the bartender. Never got to visit the John Hewitt bar (another reason to return I suppose!)
Monday morning we awoke to sunshine and pondered driving the Antrim coastline again. Eventually decided to return home via the Strangford Peninsula. Lovely drive and took the ferry ride across from Portaferry to Strangford. What a lovely village Strangford. A stop off in Downpatrick (at Asda!) and onwards to home.
Here's my thoughts. Belfast IS buzzing. Everyone we encountered was so friendly, helpful and courteous. Hospitality establishments in Southern Ireland should take note. I could actually say - if you want to experience 'real' Ireland - go to Northern Ireland.
There is so much to see and do. Top of my list for our next trip is a tour of the Crumlin Road Jail. I was disappointed that you have to pre-book but will do so before it closes in September. The Belfast Literary Walking Tour is another must - not to mention another trip up the coast. Looking forward to the day when we will be able to bungee jump from the Harland and Wolff crane too!!
There is absolutely no problems in being a visitor in Belfast. As long as you take the same precautions as you would in any city in any country there is nothing to worry about. Belfast was voted the 2nd most safest cities in the World (Tokyo was first) and also voted the friendliest city in the UK whilst we were there. I can understand why.