21 Mar Ireland (3 of 4)
Belfast is about two hours on bus, train, or car from Dublin. I took the bus and it was easy and scenic. There’s no passport check or notification that you have left the Republic of Ireland, but you’ll notice the Union Jack at homes and businesses you pass and you’ll know you’re in another country. You will soon arrive at Belfast – a worthy place to spend some time. You should quickly see the port area, the massive Harland and Wolff cranes, and then head over to excellent Titanic museum.
The areas of the Troubles (the time of major conflict between 1968-1998) are, or course, not a tourist site and out of respect for both sides, they shouldn’t be. Nonetheless meeting the friendly Irish and British people throughout Belfast and seeing the working-class areas of town which were flashpoints for the Troubles (Falls Road and their murals for the Nationalists as well as the murals of the Unionist side not far away) was a highlight of the visit for me. You could take an open top bus tour or do a black taxi tour to see the sites. The second day, you should do a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway which will include a tour of a castle and whisky mill. Consider staying at the Europa Hotel right in the heart of Belfast.
Highly recommend going to Derry for a night (if you’re interested in the Troubles or simply want to see an amazing ancient walled city). In Derry, you must stop at the McGinley Pub within the walled section of the city and do a walking tour of the murals (the McGinley Pub was owned by my family before they emigrated to NYC over 100 years ago during one of the Irish uprisings against British rule – they were on the Irish side). The next day, head back to more traditional Irish vacation stops… Galway. Galway is a great town on its own but also the launch pad for the best experience you can have in Ireland: the Aran Islands (next week’s post).