The blonde kiwi and I are travelling every weekend at the moment so my time for blogging is being sapped by pesky necessities such as catching up on work and sleep. So here’s a bit of a throwback (i.e. a post that I have somehow forgotten to publish) from the time that we went to Ireland...

We headed to Belfast for a couple of nights after leaving Dublin, one of the most happy-go-lucky places I’ve ever been to. It’s incredible how two places that are technically both Ireland can feel so so different. 

Belfast is heavy. That is the only word I can think of that fits the vibe of the place. It is also truly fascinating, particularly for a couple of kiwis who knew of the Troubles but certainly didn’t realise how much of an impact that history still has on life in the city today. 

We arrived in Belfast and it was pouring with rain. We’d booked a black cab tour on the advice of friends and it was hands down the best thing we did there. Our driver Stevie picked us up from the train station and set the tone for our trip by getting straight into the horrors of the Troubles whilst coating it in that quintessential Irish humour. It’s an incredible coping mechanism or perhaps (more likely) an attempt to keep us guarded from the harrowing reality. 

There are quite a few black cab tours out there but I would fully recommend this one. Stevie was awesome and I won’t tell you too much about his background because that’s a major part of his tour. He is completely unbiased in the telling of the history and even makes you guess at the end which side of the fence he sits on. 

We toured through both the Catholic and Protestant neighbourhoods stopping along the way to admire murals that were both moving and unsettling.

Belfast Protestant Mural

Belfast Summer of 69 mural

Belfast Bobby Sands mural

Incredibly, there are still gates that separate neighbourhoods and as we were there on a Sunday a lot of them were closed.

Closed gates Belfast

Here we are signing the ‘peace wall’ where on the other side of the fence are houses encased in cages to protect from items being thrown over the top.

Signing the Belfast Peace wall

I could go on and on about how eye opening the tour was- speaking of which, here is me holding actual size plastic and rubber bullets used by police during the Troubles.

Rubber and plastic bullets

Stevie even gave us a recommendation for our first pint in the city - The Crown Liquor Saloon. This is the most famous pub in the city and you can see why when you step inside the elaborate Victorian interior. It really is beautiful inside and also super odd - you sit in VERY private booths. They come complete with a door so you can lock yourself in and the only glimpse you get of other people is when they peek over the top hoping that it might be empty. You certainly won’t make friends with locals in here but it’s worth a visit.

On the whole we were actually pretty disappointed with the nightlife in Belfast. Coming from buzzing Dublin, it was quite a shock to be confronted by what felt like a half empty city centre.
I’d read that the Cathedral quarter was great but it was super quiet and we couldn’t find anywhere that actually had some atmosphere - granted we were there on a Monday night but I thought it was always drink o’clock in Ireland! In the end we wound up in a really nice Japanese restaurant called Zen - at least there were people in there!

I’m sure many people could prove me wrong when it comes to having a great night out in Belfast but if you’re a tourist it’s quite tricky to know where to go. Still, the city is worth a visit if only to discover more about its fascinating past. 

Aside from the amazing Black Cab Tours, here are some more tips if you’re heading to Belfast soon
  • Take a tour at the Crumlin Road Gaol: I loved this place and our guide was great.
  • Check out the Titanic museum. It’s impressive but slightly overpriced.
  • Do a free tour at the City Hall. It runs three times daily and is a truly beautiful building inside and out.
  • For cheap accom stay at the Premier Inn City Centre. Surprisingly nice considering the budget brand and is in a really handy location.
  • Taxis can be hard to come by. Fona Taxi were a good company we used.

My final tip - talk to the locals. Our cab driver on the way to airport was so chatty that he inadvertently gave us another tour and showed us another local’s perspective on the situation. It was amazing how blase he was about some horrific stuff. One thing I’ll never forget is him pulling over the cab to say hi to his mate then winding up the window and casually telling us that that man’s father had been shot dead on his way to work a matter of months ago.

Belfast is heavy alright.

Sights on the black cab tour

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