Why Belfast?

“Why Belfast?”

When I announced my travel plans, that was the universal response. After all, I’m from the generation that remembers from childhood the grim announcements on the radio; the litany of bloody place names, the growing lists of victims.

Truth be told, I wanted to go to Belfast because I was curious. And because a whole 19 years after the last bomb attack in Northern Ireland, I figured it might just be alright.

But more than I was curious about Belfast, the main purpose of my visit was to see the Giant’s Causeway. Its been on my bucket list for years and years and years. And finally I had the chance to make my dreams come true.

In the end, Belfast was a hit and the Giant’s Causeway a bit of a let-down (see previous posts). Belfast is a strange place; some areas run down, some districts smartened up, some places waiting to be built. I loved the city centre with its range of high street shops – not a clone town, more an expression of confidence. I loved the University Quarter with its buzzing restaurants and cafes. And I loved the bars, and the Guinness. It does taste different over the water.

However, step out of the city centre by a street or so, and you’ll see another Belfast. Cutting through a housing estate to reach the Cathedral Quarter, I was shocked by the number (and nature) of flags flying outside peoples’ houses. They seemed to me to be a mixture of pride, political statement, and warning to walk quickly out of the estate if you don’t agree. A guided tour of the murals of West Belfast was even more disheartening. There may be a fragile peace, but Catholics and Protestants use different leisure centres, different shops and different schools.

I wasn’t expecting Belfast to be terribly exciting on the jewellery front. But what I thought would be a fleeting visit to the small jewellery collection in the Ulster Museum turned out to be anything but. And I found myself joining several other Belfast residents at finding the window display of near-centenarian jewellers shop Fred J Malcolm in Chichester Street very hard to leave…

Hope this page helps you plan your own visit to Belfast.


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