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Day Six: Titanic in Belfast underground music in Dublin by Ann Treacy
August 18, 2019, 11:49 pm
Filed under: Belfast, Dublin

Day Six was a travel day but we made the most of it! Aine and I got up early and went to the Titanic Museum. Aine is an expert in the Titanic. She has loved it for years and I had to laugh at how much I knew because Aine likes to share what she knows. For example – the old lookout guy was moved to another ship right before the maiden launch. He took the binoculars (or maybe the key to the binoculars) with him, which of course hindered the spotting of the iceberg. We have been to several Titanic exhibits over the years. It is always chilling to think of how scary it must have been and the impact surviving such a tragedy would have on the rest of your life. Watching so much life and death and the best and the worst of people. From Margaret (Molly) Brown, the woman who helped others onto the lifeboats to J, Bruce Ismay, he worked for the shipping company but somehow found his way onto a lifeboat – perhaps taking the last seat available.

After that Aine and I walked around town until the girls and Sean met us at the bus station. We did get to St George’s Market, a fun food market where they have tons of spices and fish and plenty of food to eat on site. And we stopped in the Belfast City Hall.

Then the bus to Dublin. Unremarkable – until we saw the place we will be placing in for the next week. It is gorgeous! There are three bedrooms, two living rooms, a patio and a fully stocked kitchen. The woman who owns it had filled the fridge with “everything Irish” from smoked salmon to brown bread and digestives. Aine and Kate especially were so happy. It wasn’t the food their Irish grandma would have had waiting but I think the fact that there was food waiting reminded them of when we used to come stay with Irish grandma. It was a very thoughtful gesture, more meaningful than the host even intended I suspect.

We are staying behind Trinity a few blocks from Merrion Park – home to my favorite Oscar Wilde statue. It’s not as central as the last place – but it’s even better. It’s not as loud with partying tourists and the place is so nice. We hung out and eventually Lily and I went to dinner. I finally got a bowl of seafood chowder!! It was worth the wait. And the it turns out everyone met us at the pub, including a cousin of Sean who then took most of us to an surprise gig by The Murder Capital. So much fun! Probably will not be repeated again while we’re here but totally worth it.

Day Two in Belfast: Black taxi tour and dinner with friends by Ann Treacy
August 17, 2019, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Belfast

I was reminded that teenagers like to sleep way more than visit anything. So I walked around Mary’s place in Belfast in the morning. It was great. As fast and as far as I wanted. And no one asked me for anything. I walked through some parks. Saw lovely vistas and pretty good street art.

Then by 2pm I made everyone get up for the Black Taxi tour of political murals. We did it when the girls were very young and it’s so good we did it again. Joe was our driver and gave us the quickest history of the Northern Ireland ever – starting with 1690 and the Battle of the Boyne. The battle was really about who was the rightful king of England (King James or King William). The fight wasn’t really about Ireland or religion; in fact it wasn’t about religion at all but it was the first step in a long step that led to the troubles.

I won’t recount everything – you can find a podcast on it I’m sure but only highlight two things that struck me. (I’ve heard the story many, many times. And for folks who don’t know, I have a MA in Irish Lit. But it seems like everything I hear the story something new bubbles up.)

The start of modern troubles begins in 1912, when the 32 counties of Ireland were divided into 26 (Republic of Ireland) and 6 (Northern Ireland). It was a compromise of sorts but a compromise that favors the Loyalists (folks who liked England and were generally Protestant) over the Nationalists (mostly Catholic) – despite the Nationalists being a strong majority nationwide. In fact, North Ireland was gerrymandered to create a Loyalist majority for the area. Joe pointed out that this is where things should have gone differently. A peaceful protest or other movement should have pushed for the will of the people in 1912. (Inspires me for more Women’s March work!)

From 1912-1916 there were uprising but few and far between – until Easter Rising 1916 when Nationalist volunteers took over the GPO (General Post Office) to defend Ireland. It lasted for 6 days, which is pretty impressive, then the rebels were captured and many sentenced to death. While public interest in the movement had been middling until that point, the executed rebels (the idea, the image, the romance) turned the public. And that spurred a renewed interest in a free and united Ireland.

The troubles continued with lesser and greater fervor until last 1960s, early 1970s. Uprisings happened. Rebels were arrested and treated as political prisons. It wasn’t always front page stuff until Margaret Thatcher decided to not call IRA volunteers political prisoners but treat them as criminals – starting with wearing a regular uniform instead of criminal uniform in prison. But the rebels weren’t having it. Instead of a criminal clothes, the prisoners went naked with blanket protest. (Only had blankets.) That stirred troubles that eventually lead to the Hunger Strikers and that (like the executed rebels) struck a chord. People paid attention again. Bobby Sands (most famous Hunger Striker) was voted into political office (MP) while in prison.

Fast forward to today. A ceasefire was signed with the IRA with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.

As Joe pointed out, the crease fire has brought much greater investment and return than the troubles ever did. We did speculate about what will happen in the wake of Brexit. Most people in Northern Ireland would prefer to stay with the EU than the UK. Brings us back to 1912 – will the will  of the people be heeded and what romantic image might it take to spur interest.

SO there’s a long winded recap of our time on the tour. It was interesting to see what the girls remembered. Lily remembered the memorial to a Catholic community that had been burned out of their homes while police stood by (or worse). They all remembered the Peace Wall that separated Catholic from Protestant parts of town. The murals tell the story. And the murals continue to be painted. Our friend Mary had just helped with one and I loved the recent-ish mural on Resiliency. One strange push we saw near Sandy Row (and really in the UK Flag demonstration we saw the next day) was the push by some people to celebrate and remember the oppressors. It very much reminded me of the discussion back home of changing the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

In short – the back taxi tour gave us so much to think about!

Then we enjoyed a really nice dinner with our hosts Mary and Ricky. Mary generously invited us to stay in her place, drove us around, gave us great ideas for activities. And it was a delight to catch up with Mary again – we worked together 30 years ago at the Half Time Rec!

Day One in Belfast: Street art and everyone is together by Ann Treacy
August 16, 2019, 1:10 pm
Filed under: Belfast

Thursday was a travel day. Aine, Kate and I took the bus to Belfast. It’s a trip we’ve done many times. We met up with Lily and Sean here. I have to give a special shout out to Mary, a long time friend who has given us her whole flat for a couple days. And so much great advice on where to go and what to see. And it’s just great to see her. (Mary and I worked together at the Half Time Rec many years ago.)

When we got here we walked around. We ate at Pizza Express, which is something Aine has been looking forward to for a long time. She just remembers going there as a kid. SO we went there and then got the bird’s eye view of the city in the big elevator in Victoria Shopping Center. It was sunny and we could see for miles. And on our walk we saw the giant Belfast fish, a favorite of mine and lots of street art.

At night Lily, Sean and I went out to the Duke of York and a couple places around there for a pint and to see some live bands.

Belfast Children’s Festival – last minute super star Aine! by Ann Treacy
March 12, 2014, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Belfast

Aine and I decided to take a day trip to Belfast. That way our family teenagers could enjoy a night at friends unhindered and we get out and see something fun. Belfast is about 2.5 hours away from Dublin by bus (add an extra hour to get from Cabinteely to town) so it’s a jaunt but a fun one. And the super luxury of visiting a place like Belfast again is that we didn’t feel like we had to see any of the big sights. We mostly went to have lunch with a friend and check out the Belfast Children’s Festival.

I was excited to see a special event at the festival – performers from Catalonia (past home of mine) were there doing fancy hair stuff. I know that Catalonia knows how to put on a show. And when we got to their performance I was not disappointed – there where doing hairstyles that would make Dr Seuss proud. Much to our delight – Aine was selected to be a model. So that made the event even more fun.

Also it was fun to catch up with an old friend and to hear how things in Belfast were going. I think they may be experiencing some growing pains as different cultures (and some not-so-new) cultures learn to coexist.

Personal Tour of Belfast City Hall: aka we met the Mayor of Belfast! by Ann Treacy
March 8, 2014, 11:17 am
Filed under: Belfast

OK I’m on a bus to Belfast – months after this summer visit but I’m going to make a real effort to catch up the blog a little bit while I’m on the bus today. Last summer Mary and I got the best hook up from my friend Bobby. He got us in with Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell to give us a personal tour of Belfast City Hall. I’d been in the building a few times in the past – but never for a personal tour! Mary Ellen is Sinn Fein – and the Lord Mayor is Sinn Fein, subsequently we got a very Sinn Fein tour of the building, government and history.

It was interesting to see what Sinn Fein was doing to try to balance the Irish and English threads of Belfast’s history. Efforts were being made to blend the gold, green white with the red white and blue. Some efforts seemed more successful that others – I was impressed that there was definitely an effort for blending though – not replacing. Also we heard about how open Sinn Fein is. We missed the big Gay Pride Parade by just a few days. Apparently, outside of St Patrick’s Day, it is one of the largest events of the year – bringing in lots of tourism and the event is embraced by the local government.

Our super score was a quick visit to meet the Lord Mayor, who gave us super fun gifts and snapped up a quick picture for Twitter. So it’s not every day I get Twitpicked with anyone famous. It very much made our day!!

A personal tour of Belfast by Ann Treacy
June 25, 2013, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Belfast

We landed in Belfast after a very full and partially Amazing Race kinda travel day from Tobermory. We covered a ton of ground – but when we landed in Belfast my friend Mary was waiting for us! Which was totally unnecessary and totally appreciated! We headed out for a pint or two at McHugh’s, which was fun. The next day we took a whirlwind tour of Belfast.

Mary is from Belfast and did a great job touring us around. We started with St Pat’s – where Mary had been married and where much of the consternation regarding the recent flag flying had taken place. We saw the Belfast Cathedral, the Victoria shopping center, the big fish, lots of shopping, especially some nice secondhand places, Linen Library and a ton of other things as we toured around. It was interesting to hear about the recent history of Belfast from Mary who lived through much of it.

Then – and I super appreciate it – Mary brought us down the Falls Road to see the murals. I think the murals are fascinating. I have seen them before but I thought Mary would enjoy them – and of course I never mind seeing them again. I think they are such a testament to the recent history. We also visited the Milltown Cemetery – which includes many IRA members. It was interesting to see the graves and to travel out a bit.

Finally we had a really nice dinner and a few drinks at the Duke of York, which has a cool alley/patio for drink, which I feel is pretty optimistic of them given the weather.

Belfast to the Boat by Ann Treacy
April 6, 2010, 11:09 am
Filed under: Belfast

We’re officially on vacation! It was a quickly devised plan – but a good one. We’re heading to Edinburgh. As Irish Grandma says, we’re taking the slow boat to Scotland. We started yesterday by taking the bus to Belfast. We headed into town where we saw (from a distance) and commemoration event at the GPO (General Post Office) for the 1916 Easter Rising. We could have joined the event but we were a family on a mission – lunch, new shoes and bus. It did make me think that it wasn’t so long ago that a bus trip from Dublin to Belfast during the Easter holidays might not make Fromme’s list of safest vacations.

Anyways we got to Belfast. We had about an hour left of daylight so we ran around the city center for a while. We saw the City Hall, Langan River and a bunch of empty shops. Apparently they take Easter Monday more seriously in Belfast. Even the Crown Bar was closed for a few days – the girls were bummed. (Actually they have been in the Crown Bar but they didn’t love it in the way they don’t love most pubs.) We ran into some troubles finding a restaurant that would take kids. We’ve noticed before that on the one hand Belfast pubs are generally better than Dublin pubs; on the other hand it’s tough to find a place that serves food and kids – because so many restaurants are pubs.

We ate. The girls drew a picture of their wishes. I had to add Kate’s (below). Apparently she’s not really looking forward to the boat.

We slept in our very OK but definitely right-prices hotel. We walked for about 20 minutes and went to the Stena Line launch – and that’s where we are now. We’ll take the boat to Stanraer and train to Edinburgh.

Beautiful Belfast by Ann Treacy
August 8, 2009, 11:43 pm
Filed under: Belfast

We have always enjoyed Belfast. Last time we were here in the dead of winter and saw a lot of the political side of Belfast. We toured the murals and politically charged neighborhoods. This time around we didn’t do any of that. What’s funny is that if this were our first visit to Belfast the girls would not know that such a side existed. It was strange to see how easily that could happen – strange in a good way I suppose. The short of it is we saw a very different city this time around.

Patrick did not spend the day with us. He rushed off to do research. In fact he left in a big scurry claiming that he couldn’t waste any time, leaving me to worry about checking out, bags, not having money and getting plans for the day. Turns out though he did have time for the 40 minute walk to the library. Humpf. We’re calling him Mr Importantpants after that.

So the rest of us started out our day with the Titanic Boat Tour. We took an actual boat tour of Lagan River, which runs through Belfast. We saw where the Titanic was built and learned all about it. The last thing we did in St Paul before they left was visit the Titanic exhibit at the Minnesota Science Museum. I thought we’d probably make it to Belfast and everything would click more if we did both in the summer. I was amazed at how much Lily soaked up from the tour.

We learned that there were 3 boats related to the Titanic. The Olympia sailed before Titanic. It got a lot more press. So much so that often after the Titanic sank they often took pictures of the Olympia and just photo-shopped in the Titanic name. Some of the bad calls on the part of the Titanic: they iniitally had enough left boats for everyone but the owner thought that they obscured the view for the first class passengers and had half removed. They also saved money by not getting the lookout people binoculars. The Titanic actually was weeks behind schedule and should have sailed much earlier in the year when the ice would not have been so far south. We also learned that air-conditioning was invested in Belfast – along with a whole lot of other things.

After the boat we had a quick lunch. I had potato skins – which I have to say is an unusual choice for me – but it was clearly God speaking to me. It was chips of potato peels topped with bacon and melted cheese. Health on a plate. Mmmm.

We serendipitously ended up walking through the shopping district. I was really impressed with the pedestrian area in Belfast. First, it’s huge. Second, they have really nice shops. I didn’t get a very good picture but the Victoria Square Shopping Center is very cool with its glass domed ceiling/roof.

Then we headed to Belfast Castle, which was a little further out than I thought. (Correction it cost more than I planned to get there by taxi. Money wasn’t as much an issue as currency but if you don’t have the readies, that kind of distinction is academic.) There was an “adventure playground” that the girls told me was very OK. The gardens around the Castle were beautiful. And it is an amazing view of Belfast.

Our plan had been to take a taxi back to the city – but one never passed so we took a bus in from Belfast Castle. It’s always fun to get a glimpse of a city that way. The homes near the castle were beautiful. I’ll just say that the homes became more lived in the closer we got to town.

Eventually we got back, we got dinner and we got on a bus back to Dublin. (In fact I’m typing this up as we ride.)

We’ll get home just in time for my midnight conference call. The time difference doesn’t work so much against me – but I’ll be talking to new blogger so that’s always fun.

Belfast: a series of missteps by Ann Treacy
August 8, 2009, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Belfast

The best laid plan… We planned to go to Belfast on the train at 11:00. The girls and I made it to the station on time. Patrick went to collect his mom. They did not make it back in time. (boo!) Luckily I had time to find an alternative to the next train – at 1:30. The train station is Dublin is very near the bus station. Turns out there are buses to Dublin every hour. So at noon we boarded the bus. (yea!) Not quite as comfortable the train but better than hanging around for an 90 minutes and probably cheaper.

We got in and amazingly we are doors away from the hotel. (yea!) We used the ATM to get Sterling (remember, Belfast, new country, new currency); Patrick’s mom’s card was eaten by the machine. (boo!) For some reason Patrick thought the bank would retrieve the card. SO we had to go to the bank. (boo!) They don’t. (shocker) So we went to check into the hotel. (yea!)

None of us had eaten since breakfast. It was 4:00. But I had looked up a great restaurant near where Patrick had to do research. (yea!) The taxi driver had not heard of it. (boo!) So we ended up at a very OK pub for lunch. Patrick went to do research but ended up back within half an hour. Turns out his library closed at 4:15. (boo!) I had suggested he check the times of the library – but that had gone over about as well as me suggesting that the bank would not be retrieving the cash card.

Anyways the lunch was nice and was very near the Belfast Botanic Gardens – someplace I wanted to visit. (yea!) So we walked through. Most of the pictures are from there. It’s beautiful. It was raining but not too hard so we didn’t mind. Patrick, Irish Grandma and Aine headed back to the hotel. Lily, Kate and I trekked around town for almost an hour.

Fun Night

MY favorite thing about Belfast this time around was meeting up with my friend Sarah McCormack. Sarah is working on a movie in Belfast. She normally lives on an island off the coast. I have seen her in at least 15 years. She looks great. It was great to hear about how well things are going for her and the rest of her family. The good news is that I’ll be back in Ireland in January so we didn’t have to try to cram 15 years into a dinner; we’ll meet up again after the New Year.

Forgot to mention, I’m trying this new approach to pictures. We’ll see if I like it.

Another Black Taxi Tour by Ann Treacy
January 12, 2008, 12:03 am
Filed under: Belfast

I have to say that the girls should win some kind of award because they were very good natured and pretty well behaved about going on the second black taxi tour. The adults had loved the first tour so much that we called up Jimmy a second time to see what else he could show us – and he didn’t disappoint. (If you’re ever in Belfast you should call Jimmy for a tour: 077 079 49 578.)

I’m going to try to post the pictures and then make comments on each picture or group of pictures. If it goes well I might go back to the earlier post to see if I can add more there too.
These pictures are from St Malachy’s. The ceiling is one of two of its kind in Europe. The other is in Rome. They closed the church on Monday for two years for renovations.


We took a tour of east Belfast, which is a predominantly Protestant area. I think these were the 2 Catholic murals that we saw on our tour.

The following are the Protestant murals that we saw. We heard that the Protestants got ₤5,000 (that’s $10,000) to take down bad mural and put up new ones. I’m not sure how they defined “bad”. There was a serious of 6 or so murals we saw that were created with a ₤100,000 grant.

What I found significant was that many of the Protestant murals that we saw on our previous tour were very pastoral – these were not. These were placed more often in current day and had more urgency to them – much like the Catholic murals that we saw a few days earlier.

I actually took more pictures, which you can see on Flickr.

Here are a couple of sporting murals. One is of George Best (big soccer player who died a couple of years ago) and one commemorates some soccer game win against England.
belfast-sport.jpg belfast-geobest.jpg

The next pictures are of Van Morrison’s house (where he grew up, he now lives in Killiney not too far from Cabinteely) and Ina Paisley’s house – really you can only see the lane, but there it is.

Finally, we have pictures from Stormont, the Parliment Buildings in Belfast.


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