Sunday, 25 October 2009

Northern Ireland - Belfast

Another week of school holidays for the kids, and we decided to go to Northern Ireland. After touring South West Ireland 2 years ago for Easter, Nicole really wanted to see Northern Ireland and the Giant Causeway at some stage.

A bit of an interesting start to the holiday, with Phil being in San Fransisco the week before, and not returning to Berlin until Tuesday. Phil has already been to Belfast (although not sure how much of Belfast he saw as he was on a Rugby tour at the time), Nicole and the boys decided to fly to Belfast on the weekend, and catch up with Phil on Wednesday at the airport, and then pick up a hire car and start our touring holiday.

Tickets for flights to Belfast from Berlin were really pricey, (as we had left it a bit late). Nicole and the kids flew into Dublin with Ryan Air, (one of the cheapest airlines we have ever seen), then caught a bus from the airport to Belfast, (about 2 hours in the bus). Thanks to the Irish knitting group on Ravelry, they told me about the bus direct from the airport, instead of having to go into Dublin central. (The worldwide knitting community in Ravelry is a wealth of information; they were kind enough to tell me about the big knitting shop coming up in Dublin, in case we would be around the area at the time.) The bus trip was non eventful, and easy to use, and we got to see some of the lovely countryside as we headed north. The hotel we had booked was visible from the central bus station...perfect! So we checked in, and got a map and headed into town.

First stop was the Northern Ireland Information Centre, to find some accommodation for Saturday night. I had tried to find something around the area we were going to be in for Saturday, but was unable to find a room for the 4 of us. (Otherwise we have to split up into 2 rooms, and Phil and one of the boys go to one room, and Nicole and the other boy goes into the other, and we meet for breakfast...not ideal!) The man there could not help us, but gave us the address for the Ireland Information Centre to try on Monday. He did give us lots of information on places and things to do in Belfast which was great.

Monday morning after breakfast we put our walking shoes on and walked into town. Belfast is an easy town to walk around, it’s quite compact. We walked to the College North Square, where I though the Information centre was, but couldn’t find it. So we walked back to the Information Centre, where I showed her the map the guy had written circled all the different things to do, to find that I mistaken one circle for another circle. We had gone to the bus stop for the Belfast Castle instead! So a quick walk to the Ireland tourist office and the wonderful lady there had us booked in a B&B in less than 10 minutes! So accommodation all sorted, we were off to tour.

First walk was to the East side of Belfast where we passed the Albert Memorial Clock Tower, built in 1867 to honour Queen Victoria’s husband. It is not straight, and it leans to one side. The locals say, “Not only does Albert have the time, he also has the inclination”.

Across the Lagan Wier Walk Bridge, is the “BigFish” sculpture. The fish is covered in ceramic tiles depicting the history of Belfast.

Belfast was the home of where the Titanic was built. It was built in the wharf here. There is a lot of construction and development happening around the Titanic Quarter. I hope that at some stage they will build a permanent exhibition of the Titantic!

We walked to the Odyssey Complex which houses an entertainment centre, restaurants, bowling and for the kids “W5”. W5 stands for whowhatwherewhenwhy, and is a great Hands On Science Museum . So we spent about 3 hours playing with all the different technology, making smoke rings, cyclones, playing an air harp, doing lie detector tests and so much more.
This is a glass floor. You can see 2 floors down!

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