We entered Belfast early the next day and found a carpark near the Town Center. The center of the city is one huge shopping district. Boy, was it busy with shoppers, it looked like Christmas at the mall back home. After a short stroll down the main street, we saw that the city had tour buses and decided to take advantage of someone else being the driver. What a brilliant idea! Our tour guide really knew his local history and he adapted his story to the surroundings each block while chatting with us between stops. He was so warm and personable and knowledgeable too. I guessed that he was a professor, well, I was almost right. He said that he was a high school history teacher and this was his second job.
We started out by going to see the docks where the Titanic was built and our guide gave us the background story of the ship and how it was made. He then asked if we had heard of the Olympia, it was the sister ship to the Titanic,just 3 inches shorter. Nobody ever says that they heard of it though because it didn’t sink!
We then drove around the city looking at the oldest Catholic Church, St Ann’s, built with donations from a Methodist minister,a humanitarian and his nearby congregation. We took a thrilling ride up to the highest point in the area to see the castle of the Earl of Thormond. The English lord had the castle built after the flight of the Irish Cheiftans of the ODonnell and ONeil clans. Not a favorite with me, my Mom is an ODonnell.
Then down the avenue to see the demilitarized zone of Belfast and the Wall of Peace. It was chilling to see the posh homes on one side of the wall and the slums on the other,once the segragated neighborhoods of Potestants and Catholics. I realized that not too long ago the English Military controlled the area with gates,guns and rubber bullets,you know,the type that don’t kill? NOT TRUE! However,our guide objectively told the facts and history without taking a side. He related,that there have been so many deaths on both sides of the wall,that the people of Belfast just want to move forward in peace and give up the hatred!
On the way back to downtown,our endpoint,our guide pointed out the hospital, churches, parks and cemetaries built by a joint effort of both Protestants and Catholic officials and clergy.
Before we left the city, we had a much needed coffee/potty break and then on the road again!