I’ve always said I love (or at least like) every place I’ve ever travelled to. With one exception: Belfast.
I spent one week in Belfast in 2011, which is definitely a big part of the reason for my dislike for Belfast. One week is too long to spend there as a tourist. It wasn’t all bad – the history is fascinating and I Couchsurfed and met some lifelong friends. It was just so different from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and to my 22 year old self, not in a good way. At 22, when I travelled, I liked to constantly be on the go and do and see as much as possible. Belfast is not a good place for this because it’s not much of a tourist attraction – there isn’t all that much to see. At 27, I’m a very different traveller and prefer to get to know a city the relaxed way through its cafes, bars and restaurants. Belfast is absolutely wonderful for this and I am so glad I gave it another chance. I’ve felt terrible expressing (or at least thinking of) my dislike for Belfast all these years!
I have a good friend, D, who is currently living in Belfast and is studying at Queen’s University. He’s been there since September 2014 and I’ve been meaning to visit him ever since. I finally had the opportunity to do so and spent all of Wednesday and Thursday there. He gave me a tour of Queen’s and I am envious of their library! It is so much nicer than Trinity’s and I’m obsessed with the C.S. Lewis room. We had lunch at Maggie Mays and I definitely want to try one of their massive milkshakes next time!!
I had the best time and now have so much love for Belfast. I stayed at a stunning boutique B&B called Maryville House off of Lisburn Road and I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough! It is gorgeous and felt like a home away from home. We explored Lisburn Road which is my new favourite area of Belfast, just a 10 minute bus journey from the city centre. So many lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and boutique shops.
We lucked out with the weather and it was very sunny, so we sat outside for coffee at Miel et Moi. I enjoyed a cappuccino and an almond scone – really lovely place with super friendly staff.
We then popped (literally) next door to The Albany – a stunningly elegant bar. I had the New York Sour: rye whiskey, roasted orange sherbet, fresh lemon juices, Cabernet Sauvignon, served with a camomile foam. Gorgeous cocktail and I’ve never had anything like it before.
We then walked around the city centre for awhile before eating dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon. We shared the nachos and the wild boar & chorizo burger (combining chorizo and its spices of paprika and chilli with lean and flavoursome wild boar meat) which was unreal!!! This was my parents’s favourite bar on the whole island of Ireland so I had to try it. After eating, we went downstairs and were able to grab a snug for me to have a pint to toast to my parents. Such a cool place for a group of friends to go and a really beautiful bar!
Afterwards, we went to Kelly’s Cellars and enjoyed some Irish music, followed by Maddens, where we had a long chat with a lovely local. Loved the buzzer on the door to get in – remnant of Belfast’s troubled past.
On Thursday, I had a long, leisurely breakfast at my B&B, followed by an apple and cinnamon scone the size of my head. No exaggeration. I then (finally!) went to the Titanic experience and was happy to avail of the student discount because the prices are fairly shocking (understandable though, since Titanic is now Belfast’s biggest tourist attraction and I know the city spent loads to build it).
The exhibit is absolutely gorgeous and was a very informative, enjoyable experience. My only disappointment was the fact that there weren’t many artefacts recovered from the Titanic. I was expecting it to be more of a museum, but it really was more of an “experience”. They did a fantastic job though. There were many different ways to learn – a ride, voices from survivors, reading, artefacts of letters, china, menus, set-ups of what different rooms looked like on the Titanic, a simulator which made you feel like you were on the boat, a discovery theatre, interactive computer programmes, etc. and it’s all visually stunning. I spent 2 1/2 hours inside and then had a look at the SS Nomadic (included in the admission price) and the outside where the Titanic was built. I then met D for a light dinner- we ate at Stix and Stones and I was very impressed by this place.
I’d like to send an apology to the universe for my previous dislike of Belfast. I am happy to say my opinion has completely changed and I have a lot of love for this city now. I had forgotten how friendly the people are! Belfast natives make Dubliners seem rude – and I think Dubliners are very friendly. The lesson here is: if you travel somewhere and do not like it, give it a second chance a few years later. You might be surprised.