the hoofindex - rewind to the previous trip (prague) - fast forward to the following trip (final weekends in london)

 

Friday 10 August and our last ''overseas'' weekend before our big trip home. We left Belfast until August so that it would "guarantee" warmer weather, but due to the terrible UK summer this never happened and we faced a wet and cold weekend.

Due to the prospect of rain in Belfast the Hoof'ess packed an umbrella and it came in handy as soon as we go off the bus from the airport and had to walk to our hotel which was about 15 minutes away and past a busy area for restaurants and bars. While we were walking I couldn't help but notice that there were a few people staring at us, and particularly at the Hoof'ess. Then it came to me, and mentioned to her that she should have chosen a different coloured umbrella. Turns out that she was making a very, very political statement with her bright orange umbrella! Orange is the colour of the loyalists in Northern Island and she was showing support for that side! As soon as she realised what she was doing she decided that it was better to get a bit wet than have to have a difficult conversation with somebody who might take offence. It seems that ''The Troubles'' are still top of mind for Belfast's general population.

 

Judging by the police patrol vehicles that we saw on the Belfast streets you would think that they had experienced some trouble in the past and the police felt the need for some heavy duty vehicles! No normal patrol cars here....

 

Belfast's city hall was pretty impressive...

 

The Titanic was built in Belfast's ship yards and outside the city hall there was a pretty moving memorial to the lives lost when the ship sunk

 

Okay we know that this doesn't quite say "Cormac Street'' but everyone at Lion Nathan will know that his nickname there was Cromac after his boss mispelt his name in the announcement of his position when he joined Lion.

 

The Titanic Quarter had an audio guide available, the tourist bus stopped there and they are about to celebrate a substantial anniversary for the building of the ship so we thought that the area was worth a visit. However it is well up there with Hadrian's wall in terms of disappointments when we got there. Not only was it raining, but the area was a huge building site and you can get nowhere near the slipway where the Titanic was built and launched. We felt entirely ripped off....however these are the gates to the building where the ship was designed and apparently the slipway is somewhere in the direction that the Hoof is pointing.

We had been told that a Black Cab tour was the best way to get an understanding for ''The Troubles'' that Northern Ireland has experienced, so we picked a company and off we went. The first stop was Shankhill which is the main street of the loyalist or protestant area. The cab driver pulled into a pretty grim looking street and gave us a great history lesson and also explained about the ''Peace line''. This is the fence that was built to keep the two sides apart. It still stands and in this particular road the gates stay permanently shut (on other streets they shut at night and also stay closed on Sundays to make sure everyone stays on their sides at time when trouble could flare up)

The murals were pretty impressive and completely dominated the ends of all the shops and houses....this is just a selection to give you a taste of some of the most interesting.

 

This is the peace line...completely dominates the landscape. Makes the Berlin wall look like a backyard fence. We got the opportunity to add our message of peace to the wall thanks to a vivid that the taxi driver had with him.

They live pretty close to the peace line on the catholic or republican side. Imagine if this was your backyard? (Looks a little more like a driving range only more menacing as the netting is designed to keep molotov cocktails and the like out of your home!)

Coming down The Falls (the catholic side) not all the murals were related to an independent republic....there was a long stretch of wall used to highlight other conflicts going on around the world, including Palestine, Iraq and Cuba.

Sunday morning and roadtrip time again. This time our rental car was the smallest car in the world....it was towered over by all the other cars in the parking lot and the Hoof only just managed to fit into its plastic interior.

 

The primary destination of our roadtrip was up to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and the Giants Causeway. Its a UNESCO World Heritage site....and quite weird too! Its a stretch of coast that is covered in strange hexagonal rocks that were formed by lava slowly being cooled by the sea, but the legend is much more interesting and about two giants fighting across the sea.

 

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If you look really, really carefully you might be able to make out Scotland across the sea behind the Hoof.

 

Second stop on the road trip was the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge...the Hoof'ess is not one for heights but was very brave to cross the bridge (especially given the high winds that were blowing through the gorge too).

 

So that's Northern Island, well worth a visit to check out the troubles. Now before we left the UK we spent a few weekends in London in late July and August to try and see everything we had left - check out how well we did here.