Destination Belfast

For those of us who only know Belfast from the constant news items on the protests and shootings that occur up there it might not be the first place on our list of cities to visit. I had never been to Belfast until two weeks ago.

Belfast is the second biggest city on the island of Ireland. I didn’t know much about it before visiting and I was excited to see what it was like. Upon arrival I was very impressed, it was quaint; a much smaller, even cuter, city than Dublin. This was on first glimpse while I walked down University Avenue and saw Queen’s University and lots of students walking around. It seemed like a great cosmopolitan place. Vagabonds Hostel, in which we stayed, has to be the friendliest hostel I have ever stayed in.

The following day when we woke early for breakfast (which was free) we sat at a communal table surrounded by graffiti walls. Among all the signatures was a thick bold black ‘DCU Devils’ and ‘DCU MPS’ permeating out from the other scribbles: a home comfort.

The Titanic Exhibition was worthwhile and buying the tickets online beforehand was definitely an advantage as there was a long queue for tickets. The tickets are cheaper online also and work out at about £9.50 for students. I was very impressed with it and would definitely advise people to give themselves a few hours to take everything in as there is so much to see.

The highlight of the trip however would have to be the black cabs tour with a driver called ‘Paddy’. He was recommended to us by the people in the hostel and he knew everything there was to know about Belfast and the troubles. It lasted for one hour and a half and he brought us around East Belfast and showed us the troubled areas. This included a six-mile stretch of the separate Catholic and Protestant areas. It was shocking to see some houses still have huge barriers at the back of their homes in case they are bombed. We also saw one business which had separate entrances for Catholics and Protestants. Paddy filled us in on his own experiences and made us get out of the car at many stages for the ultimate experience.

It was £30 for the hour and a half but there were three of us so it worked out at £10 each. The hostel helped organise a group of us and it was the most memorable part of the trip.

I liked the city but didn’t like the underlying conflict in east Belfast that is still so obviously present there today.

Emma O’Rourke

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