Ah, Belfast

Trip Start Jun 17, 2013
Trip End Aug 13, 2013

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Where I stayed
Botanic Rest

Flag of United Kingdom  , Northern Ireland,
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

I'm soooo sorry I only scheduled one day in Belfast. I'm sooo GLAD I only scheduled one day in Belfast...I could get into so much trouble here. This city that is trying so hard to come back from decades of violence and division, feels like a city on the razor's edge. Every pore of this city seeps the past and a very long memory - sitting on a powder keg ready to explode.

The Scots and Welsh are so ready to bend over backwards for you, allow you to step all over them for the sake of graciousness; not so the Irish in Belfast. I met an Irish couple in Scotland, at Liz Bates' B&B. They said the Northern Irish memory was too long, they didn't forget and didn't want to forget. They held on to the past with a passion and would relive it in a minute to prove their point. You can feel that in the air here. 

I took the Stena Ferry from Stranraer to Belfast. It is the Super fast ferry and takes about two hours. I don't know how long the super slow ferry takes...there is an island out here that is for sale for 1.5 million pounds. Any takers? The ferry is fabulous, there is a lounge where you can watch the news, there is a theater, a computer center, cafes, pubs, a sauna and massage center, a play room for the kids, and a Stena Plus lounge for the Super Snobs. 

I sat at the front of the lounge where I had a bird's eye view of the trip. It was really exciting for about the first thirty minutes, then it started to rain and all I could see was clouds and water. I read my 'wee book' about Robert Burns and l istened to the other passangers. I did have WiFi, but it wasn't very good...

Once landed, I knew I would be getting a cab into town and finding the tour bus - I'd bought a package deal with the ferry fare and a city bus tour, since I I only had one day I wanted to see as much as I could. I plugged in my phone for a few minutes while I waited for the crowds to dissapate, then called a taxi and waited outside. He came in a few mnutes and took me. I'd been told by the visitor's center in Scotland that I could l leave Angus at the visitor's center in Belfast and he gave me the address. I went to the address and was told, in less than gracious tones that this was the administration center and I would have to go down the street to the actual visitor's center

Once there I was able to leave Angus, get a map and directions to the bus. This is something I don't usually do. My youngest son would tell me not to be such a tourist, but it was a really good tour. I wouldn't have been able to get this much information on my own in one day. We went past the Titanic Museum, you can get on and off the bus at any point. I decided to stay on this time, the next time I come I will pay the 10 pounds to see the museum, we also saw the old metall poles (I can't remember what he called them) that held the ships while they were being built. 

We drove through downtown, out to the castle (free admission, but again, next time), to the university, along the peace walls with info about 'The Troubles', through a Protestant section with British flags and pictures of the Queen, past a William of Orange mural, then back into town. You may have seen a recent conflict on the news over William of Orange celebrations. The Catholic and Protestant factions still clash on certain holidays, and this is one of them. I was warned not to talk about William or ask questions...the long memory.

After the tour I went back to collect Angus and see if I could get a room for the night. The friendly man behind the counter called a few places for me and found a room at the Botanical Rest B&B within my price range. I took a taxi, from Mark and Spencer's, getting advice to avoid the black taxis, very expensive! The visitor's center guy had negotiated a deal for me at 45 pounds. The place us under new management and is being refurbished. 

When I got there it was obvious they were working hard to reestablish the place, there was a full dumpster outside and workmen around the building, the foyer was beautiful. They checked me in, told me breakfast was until 10 in the morning (most places stop serving at half nine), then showed me to my room, the shared shower and toilet. I was just happy to get a place with such short notice. I unpacked a few things and started to turn on the TV to get the latest news. I've been keeping a close eye on Egypt. Much to my surprise there was not a remote anywhere to be found. I went down to ask and they said they would be right on it...haven't I heard this story before?

Eventually, the desk woman came up with a remote, it didn't work. She got new batteries, it didn't work. I asked if they were sure it was the right remote for that TV. She said she would work on it. I took a shower and went out to dinner. The B&B is in a college area, so there are lots of really cute pubs and restuarants. I ate at Claudine's, an Italian place - very good!

I came back about two hours later and still no solution. In their defense, they had checked in another couple...no solution was found and I didn't get any news. Also, as in all my travels so far, the WiFi connection was BAD!! What I like about the US? Excellent WiFi coverage and 4g.

In the morning, I went down to breakfast at 9:30. There was another couple eating and one just coming down. The coffee urn was empty and  it was very quiet at the front desk. I asked the woman who was eating if she knew if there was coffee. She informed us that the desk clerk had been there, but quit in a panic at 9:30! There was bread for toast, a toaster, milk and oj and cold cereal. No hot breakfast available! I made toast and tea (there was tea service in a common room) as did the other couple and the phone rang all during our meal. No one answered it. It occured to me after I left, that we probably could have gone in and made our own breakfast, there was no one to stop us. I hope they pull it together, they have done a lot of cosmetic work on the building - unfortunately it takes more than beauty to make a business successful!

I walked to the train station and boarded a train to Dublin.

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