Titanic Games…Giant Thrones … in Belfast

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Published: October 25th 2023

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City Hall BelfstCity Hall BelfstCity Hall Belfst

Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital. It was the birthplace of the R.M.S. Titanic, which famously struck an iceberg and sunk in 1912. This legacy is recalled in the renovated dockyards’ Titanic Quarter, which includes the Titanic Belfast, an aluminium clad museum reminiscent of a ship’s hull, as well as shipbuilder Harland & Wolff’s Drawing Offices and the Titanic Slipways, which now host open-air concerts”.― Google

And that’s the guided bus tour availability in a nut shell…. Its the Titanic or the Giant’s Causeway or O.M.G. the Game of Thrones filming sites. Once these… in your face attractions. …are overcome, one can relax and enjoy visits to other point of interest. Public bus and taxi are good options to get about. Many interesting spots are within walking distance of the City Centre and City Hall….which most busses use as a starting point.

October 16, 2023, into Belfast

The ferry ride in a reclining chair…never again.

Luckily when arriving at the Ibis Belfast on Castle St. ( I had stayed here in 2018) an empty, cleaned room was available ….at 08.30 in the morning. Hot shower and change of clothes was top of the

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list….even before thoughts of food.

The 11pound breakfast in the lobby was welcomed…buffet style with sufficient choices… not exactly gourmet with floppy bread but at least boiled eggs and nice bacon. Coffee was dispensed according to selection from a machine that did grind the beans per cup, on demand.

Asking direction we were instructed to use The MacDonald’s as our point of references when exploring the City Centre. We made our way towards City Hall anticipating the wondrous stained glass widows to be found there. And I forgot my mobile….so no pics…boo hoo. The City Hall is magnificent. Scroll down to city Hall facts and a comprehensive story, more compact than I could relate ,awaits you

Also to get a true touristy list of what to do in Belfast, this site tells it all…just in case you should happen to find yourself on the fair isle.

https://citytoursbelfast.com/things-to-do-in-belfast

After City Hall a visit to Europa Hotel was necessary so as to book tickets to Donegal and to Dublin Airport.

According to the ticket agent the express bus to Dublin Airport is faster and more economical but tickets had to be booked on line.

Castle from Game of ThronesCastle from Game of ThronesCastle from Game of Thrones

The bus to Donegal and the stay in Spinner’s Cottage came to a crashing END!

The trip to Donegal was to be a search for wool and a tour of the mill …BUT .. bus transfers….long hours on the bus… catching connections…. changing pounds to euros. .. to much wait time between buses, and six hours of riding time all added up toa trip to Donegal for wool purchases to be nixed, cancelled, abandoned,scrapped, axed, scrubbed, scratched. OH WELL…..

At 15.15 an appointment at Merchants Hotel for Afternoon Tea had been arranged.

By taxi the arrival was a bit early but the table was ready… I had no mobile so no pics. The whole reason for the tea reservation was to have a look at the building which used to be a bank.The hotel website only shows the sweets offered at tea, so on the Wikipedia site a full pic of the ceiling,where the tea is served, is shown…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Hotel_(Belfast)

After a substantial repast of sandwiches and cakes and scones with real Devon cream, not the stuff in plastic containers like at the Arts and Crafts House in Windemere, the tea from silver tea

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pots was relished and drunk demurely with pinkies high and elbows low, de rigueur at Downton Abbey.

The toilet was a masterpiece in pink basins and soft towelettes.

Hailing a taxi was easy but when the destination was mentioned the man looked at his watch and said the dreaded.”Its only a ten minute walk from here.”

So no cab. WALKing to hotel was not extremely excruciating … only half so bad. There was hotel cancellation work to be done and also re-booking for the two nights at the Ibis which sould have been spent in Kilcar , at the Spinner’s Cottage.

Dinner was not necessary… the afternoon tea had been too filling … maybe too much sugar!

October 17, 2023, Tuesday … the Giant’s Causeway

Very early breakfast.. at the Ibis buffet… taxi to Tour Office… white Glendale tour bus stopped beside Europa Hotel… all aboard by nine … and the tour to Giant’s Causeway begins.

The Giant’s Causeway is almost 60 million years in the making and counting. Find out how the world-famous hexagonal basalt stones were formed, and discover the legend of the giant who made the

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causeway …https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/northern-ireland/giants-causeway/things-to-see-and-do-at-giants-causeway

Beside me sits a fellow Canadian … small world. The bus driver is also the commentator …for the whole tour except the visit to the hexagonal rocks of the Causeway.

And Stuart, that was the bus driver/guides name, talked and talked and talked about Game of Thrones. The Hedges, depicted in the series, was mentioned on the tour brochure. What was not cited was that each cave, each step into the sea, each Whitecliff wall, each field of battle, each castle wall each outlook from whoknowswhere would be acknowledged according to season, episode and I sweat time slot on video by the seriously dedicated bus driver fan of Game of Thrones.

And the passengers LOVED it. Did they know that they would hear such a running commentary on a series I have never watched. “The Dark Hedges is a beautiful avenue of beech trees that were planted in the late 18th century, originally to form a “living” alleyway to the gates of nearby Gracehill House (now an events venue and golf course).”google…

Getting there was a waste of time … too full of people to take a definitive shot…did not even walk

Garden DrivewayGarden DrivewayGarden Driveway

down…saving the knee. The lunch mentioned was unattainable because two full tour busses stopped at the same time at The Hedges Hotel…what was it called before the TV series.…and the line up for mashed potatoes was too too long. A small diner on the path to the actual prettiest trees in England offered sandwiches and orange juice.

A stop for photos was made at “Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – one of the best stops from Belfast”, the bridge could not be accessed by the tour bus…. everyone got off the bus … everybody snapped a pic… everybody got back on the bus … and the tour continued.

Belfast to Giant’s Causeway: how to get there and key stops on the way

Back on the bus, past a few castles …stops for ten minute photo opportunities and on the way …again …to the Causeway.

Finally….every body out of the bus …it will return in an hour and a half… admission to the Causeway Info Centre is 13pounds so bathroom facilities must be found at the Church Pub or the Causeway Hotel.The walk to the rocks is free. I stay at the pub drink a long pot of tea, use the toilet down a long flight of stairs and wait

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for the long white bus.

The man from Sri Lanka is disraught. ” Where is the bus…my wife is on the bus(she had mobility issues) …my mobile is dead… where is my wife…” The man was in agony. After being assured that all was well and the bus was returning he gave a grateful hug and then inquired about a toilet. To the Pub he went in great relief…before and after the visit.

The wind was strong and brisk. It was a small relief to see the bus return. All were anxious to board. Now for the last stretch of the tour, back to Belfast, on the motorway. No Coastal Road repeat. The Coastal Road was the most exciting part of the whole day…which began at 09.00 and ended17.30.

“The rugged, raw elemental beauty of the Causeway Coastal Route truly captures the thrill of an adventure in Northern Ireland. Maybe it’s the sheer breadth and beauty of its landscape. Perhaps it’s the mythical stories, shaped and inspired by the dramatic coastline.” google https://northernirelandholidays.co.uk/the-causeway-coastal-route/

The bus of course did not follow the whole road but that which was covered was magnificent … truly worth the day.

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Back in Belfast it was time for dinner….at the Robinson for Irish Stew. Tasted good but was a disappointment…no real cubes of beef or lamb…only shredded beef and cubes of potatoes. I had asked for mashed potatoes and I did extend my thanks to the chef when the spoon shaped mashed appeared around the top of my bowl of shredded irish stew … nice restaurant… nice price… WALK back to Ibis …already dark.

October 18, Wednesday … no trip to Donegal

Time for a quiet day. No real plans. Work done on blog in hotel lobby with leg elevated. Do go out for magnesium pills …cannot seem to find the first bottle I bought. At Holland and Barette. the sales girl suggests magnesium spray for the knee. I am either resting more or the spray is a miracle. Am working on this blog…

In the afternoon, went by taxi to a wool shop in South Belfast that Sherry found on line..The Donegal trip fell thru and the buying of skeins of wool at their origin was not possible so a solution was found… Folklore Yarns here in South Belfast sells Donegal wool.

We went

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and stayed for hours, drank tea, ate scones, met some enthusiastic knitters and bought Donegal wool by the 100gms. … off a huge cone direct from the mill.

Actually this trip was less expensive then if we had made the two day trip.

I must email Maureen in Kilcar that we are not coming for a tour of the wool mill. Definitely missing this opportunity… makes me feel sad. I love wool mills.

What a lovely shop. Tea was served with homemade sweets. The range of wool brand possibilities was enticing… but Donegal wool was the purchase of the day… 150gms of wool and a lovely cotton bag with the Folklore Yarn logo imprinted in colour on one side. A group of regulars were sat at the table drinking tea. Joining them, lively conversations were had, cards and addresses were exchanged and everyone was happy to have encountered each other. Back by taxi even though one of the ladies had offered to drive us back. Declined gracefully because head still thick with sniffles and scratchy cough.Once back the easiest way to have dinner is to order the butter chicken from the hotel menu. The sauce and rice

At the BakeryAt the BakeryAt the Bakery

were perfect. The chicken breast pieces were large and dry and had had to have come from some big chicken. Green lemon tea was the drink of choice…no beer …”I’m on drugs.” ….well painkillers of one kind or another. three types have been sold to me over the counter … ibuprofin…only two packs at a time ….codein 32capsules for only three days right over the counter… and paracetamol of questionable effectiveness.

The hot steamy shower at the end of the day did not help the runny nose or the scratch in the throat.

It was a good day…love my wool purchase.

October 19, 2023, Thursday …in bed all day

I am in the hotel room… with the cold that began on the 16th …17th…somewhere back there…

Seems the floods in Scotland have been escaped. Its raining here in Belfast … no trip to Titanic… no pot of tea in Titanic Hotel … eventually ate butter chicken number two…rice not perfect ..sauce still good … some yogurt from a glass container was the evening snack… lots of green tea and lemon. Am anxious to be going to the market tomorrow.

Not the best

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day ever … please do not think of anything else that could go awry.

October 29, Friday, 2023 ….St. Georges Market

St George’s Market was built between 1890 and 1896. The market has won local and national titles and awards for its fresh, local produce and great atmosphere. It was named the UK’s Best Large Indoor Market 2023 by the NABMA Great British Market Awards. St George’s Market is open Friday to Sunday, with its live music and an electric atmosphere, it’s a good weekend destination. https://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/things-to-do/markets/st-george-s-market/information-about-st-george-s-market

Friday variety market ….and that is the day we decided to visit the market…because …well… only one day left in ·Belfast

Wikipedia

If you’re visiting the Lagan Lookout, or admiring the Customs House, you’ll notice a big fish sculpture beside the Lagan. ‘River Lagan, river, eastern Northern Ireland, rising on the western slopes of Slieve Croob and flowing for 45 miles (73 km) through the city of Belfast into Belfast Lough. The Lower Lagan Valley is one of the most intensively industrialized and urbanized regions of Northern Ireland.’ google

It was created by John Kindness, and the most interesting thing about this fish

Bridal Pair in MarketBridal Pair in MarketBridal Pair in Market

are its beautiful blue scales, which are made up of ceramic tiles describing different scenes from the city’s history. Bigfish is a printed ceramic mosaic sculpture by John Kindness. The 10-metre-long statue was constructed in 1999 and installed on Donegall Quay in Belfast, Northern Ireland, near the Lagan Lookout and Custom House.Wikipedia
I was enthralled. From far off one could not discern that the blueness was made up of printed tiles. Genius …so happy that I did not miss it this time…it must have been there in 2018????

The wander back to Ibis continues and is broken by a stop at the Linen Library Tea Room … so fine … so low key… so classy… so luxurious….can you tell I love this place. Soup and tea are ordered, consumed leisurely, enjoyed perfectly and while asking for a writing tool paid efficiently. two stamps need postcards. Two postcard addressed and deposited in post box across the street from the Library. Browsing the shelves titles are discovered that sadly will never sit in my library at home. Photos taken, small gifts bought and its a final good bye to the Linen Library.

Down the lift out the door and what

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should be discovered a few steps ahead but a Waterton’s Bookstore. Oh Joy! A happy hour, maybe hour and a half, is spent perusing the amazing choices of books already read and soon to be read. Only two children’s books bought…because the story and the illustrations appeal.

The Station Cat, a story of kindness and hope, by Stephen Hogtun …and do we not need such a book at this time … its a DK book …my absolute favourite book producer.

A Flying Visit, a Percy the Park Keeper Story, by Nick Butterworth about a hedgehog. “The data showed that between 30%!a(MISSING)nd 75%!o(MISSING)f rural hedgehogs have been lost nationally since 2000. Numbers have plummeted across the countryside, but the declines vary in different regions, with the most apparent in the East Midlands and the East of England regions.

https://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/news/2022/february/britains-rural-hedgehogs-see-dramatic-population-decline.html … I had a hedgehog once, when I was a child of four…OMG ..an age ago.

But back to the Ibis. Sherry had headed back. I got lost in books and Doris Lessing. The rain had stopped. I had had a long day. Steamy shower, tea with sugar, elevated knee and a good read. Lights out

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with thoughts about how to spend the last day of this eventful trip in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Shetland.

October 21, 2023, Saturday, The last day….

The day began well with more sourdough bread at the Jamaica Blue Cafe.

I am looking forward to a visit to the Ulster Museum “located in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, has around 8,000 square metres (90,000 sq. ft.) of public display space, featuring material from the collections of fine art and applied art, archaeology, ethnography, treasures from the Spanish Armada, local history, numismatics, industrial archaeology, botany, zoology and geology. It is the largest museum in Northern Ireland, and one of the components of National Museums Northern Ireland.” widipekia

Confession… only visited the children’s room, the cafeteria, the gift shop, the toilet and the display about the Spanish Armada. The way the information about the Armada and one particular ship which had sunk and whose booty had been brought up from the sea has been presented is spellbinding. Every placard was read, any gold coin was admired, all bejeweled treasures dazzled the eye, each memory cited was read and many paintings and depictions made impressions. The installation inspired further reading so as to

The Big FishThe Big FishThe Big Fish

absorb new ideas of what why and where this dramatic occurrence took place

https://www.rmg.co.uk/queens-house/attractions/armada-portrait-elizabeth-i

The Armada Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I at Greenwich tells one story about the Armada and here in Ulster the story, told again, emphasizes the dramatics of the event.

After browsing once more thru books and buying books about the Titanic widows left behind and the potato famine in Ireland, the adventure in the Palm House was about to begin. This UK trip was to be only to places where I had not been before and the plans were well laid out. After Shetland all new territory was to be discovered. But changes were made and here I was again in Belfast…not a bad place to be since it has been greatly spruced up since 2018 … and no way could I miss a visit to the glass house the pic of which I face each time I open my mobile. And it did not disappoint.

Wandered slowly as a cloud…took good shots from differing angles… loved the look then and love it now.

To get to the Museum I took the number bus from outside City Hall. To get

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back I had to find my way back to the bus street. After a wander thru Queen’s University grounds and past more than one charity shop. I did stop to ask about the bus. First I was on the wrong side of the street second the man said the City Centre was only two stops. So I WALKed…. and lucky I did. Along the way I encountered a Free Palestine demonstration and in the crowd found one of the ladies from the Belfast South wool shop. Good things do happen.

No painkillers at hand I made my way back to Ibis the last few blocks leaning on my umbrella cane.

No butter chicken a third time…this evening it was fish and chips … AND AN IRISH BEER!!!

Back in the room … let the packing begin. …clothes thrashed to make room for books and wool … bed moved to make sure nothing of importance rolled beneath… cannot find my earpods nor my auxiliary charger, should I or should I not take the down jacket home, all clothes now deemed ready for laundry, one set of clothes in plastic bag, which had been cleaned here in Belfast, were

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ready for wearing on the plane ride home, double check all liquids and bigger bottles into checked baggage, where are the painkillers, what to do with umbrella from Edinburgh which cost 10pounds,where is the extra knix in case of needed change at airport, passport good, will check in online once in bed, no time to be blogging, set alarm for 05.30, will that be enough time to get ready, have to shower because protective plastic on mattress makes me sweat, anxiety about getting there on time setting in, shut out light, listen to BBCWorldService, sleep? sleep? sleep? better not sleep past the alarm!

This trip is done. From the beginning it was a pain….and the pain affected what was doable and what had to be cancelled and what had to be hobbled to and what could absolutely not be undertaken. I thank Sherry for her patience and endurance. I am not the easiest person to put up with and under the influence of an injured knee I was even worse. Again, Sherry, thank you for the fun we had and for the wonderful experiences we shared






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