The Ireland Diaries – 8 Hours In Belfast

Listen, I’m from Belfast. We’re not polite people. And it’s language. We’re directPaula Malcomson.

Belfast was the second place we travelled to during our road trip around Ireland. It is a city that I had seen so much of through the eyes of Instagram and other social media, so I had an expectation of it already – not that we should pin expectations of places, people or things, according to social media because, well, it is a polished reality most of the time… As we drove through the city to our bedroom for the night, my expectations lowered dramatically. It was quite a shock, but we powered through, and actually ended up having a culturally-rounded, incredible day learning the wonders of the city’s history as well as being in awe of the city itself.

10am – GAME OF THRONES EXHIBITION

Even if you aren’t up to date with the iconic show (the last thing I saw was the aftermath of the great fight at The Wall in season five), going to the Game of Thrones Exhibition is a fantastic experience. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a die-hard fan – although most people who visit are – as long as you have an appreciation for costume, stories, and how television works, you will enjoy every moment inside TEC Belfast, where it is currently exhibiting until 1st September 2019. The atmosphere is dark, static; it makes the hairs on your arms stand on end as you walk around each part of the exhibition. There are beautiful costumes (actually worn by cast members) with pieces of stunning jewellery that seem too magical to be real… or too expensive. There are magnificent set pieces, swords and shields that have been held by various characters in significant scenes… and an entire section of dragon heads that make you wonder if dragons were ever real, or figments of a magical imagination. The price is just £15, and there is a massive GOT shop at the end too!

TEC Belfast, 17 Queens Road, Belfast, BT3 9DU

12pm – TITANIC EXPERIENCE

For a really long time, Titanic was my favourite film. My family always tell me when it is on the telly and I have the deluxe DVD version. However, I sob uncontrollably for about two hours after it finishes so I really can’t watch it a lot of the time. It isn’t just the obvious heart-breaking love story of Jack and Rose, it is the reality that this really did happen and all of those lives were lost on that fateful day. It is unfathomable, and it doesn’t feel completely real until you see the newspaper articles and the black and white photographs with the names of the lost souls etched next to them.

The Titanic Experience Museum itself is a massive six floors, overflowing with information about the unsinkable ship that fell to the depths of the ocean. What surprised me was that the experience also educates you about the years before the Titanic was built, the reasons why it needed to be created, and how Belfast was the centre of the world with regards to the linen trade. During the late nineteenth century, it was the biggest producer of the fabric in the entire world. It was the biggest producer of a lot of things during that time, so it was no wonder ships had to be built for worldwide trade and consumption. Despite my wanting to get to the actual Titanic part, it was important to learn about the kind of lives people were living in Belfast, and why most felt like escaping to the new world was the only option.

Wandering through the museum, with its high ceilings and compact information, it takes you on a journey of the businessmen of White Star Line from Liverpool, its design and architecture, its being built at the Belfast shipyard (including a ride through what would have been the hottest parts of the construction), all the way to the finished product and the excitement of its launch, and then journey to New York. It is a fascinating and sobering experience; it shows how little the poor had in terms of money, and the flourish that the rich owned. The museum keeps the memory of those lost souls alive, no matter the money they had. It even has a discovery section, where you can watch a video of the wreckage, and spot items that the ocean has not swallowed in its dark pit.

The experience is well worth £19.

1 Olympic Way, Queen’s Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, BT3 9EP

3pm – BOTANIC GARDENS

The magical thing about gardens in a city centre is that once you walk through those gates, it doesn’t feel like you’re in the middle of a city at all. It was scorching throughout the day we spent in Belfast. That blazing sun got the entirety of Belfast people out on the garden lawn. I love the way summer brings people together in that way; even if you don’t know everybody, it feels as though you are one unit, all enjoying the same thing. There is a Palm House which I adored because of its sister in Sefton Park. In this one, there is the greenhouse section, and then there is the tropical section. It was sweating inside. But worth it to see the gorgeous plants. In all honesty, until we found the Botanic Gardens, and its beautiful surroundings (think statues, gorgeous buildings, heavenly pubs), I had pretty much given up hope on Belfast as a city. I am so glad we explored that little bit more.

Botanic Gardens, College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast, BT7 1LP

4pm – THE CITY CENTRE

The city itself is a force to be reckoned with. There are countless pieces of stunning architecture, especially surrounding the incredible City Hall (go inside to see the full exhibition about Belfast through the ages – it is completely free and well worthwhile). The shops are on the main street, as well as tucked away in the side roads, so prepare for a little adventure to find your favourite store. Of course, we found Waterstones first. It is a really special place, so much so that I have to find one in every city I visit. I bought four books with my vouchers and birthday money… that will sit on my TBR shelf for a little while.

Waterstones, 44-46 Fountain Street, Belfast, BT1 5EE

6pm – FOOD AT THE LOCAL

There are so many pubs, bars and restaurants in Belfast. Before we made our way to the coast of Northern Ireland, we spotted a really good deal (even better since our spending in Dublin) at a local pub and restaurant. It served the most incredible chicken and leek pie with a creamy mash and local vegetables. Plus, we shared a chocolate brownie with ice cream after!

Another food option – definitely the more expensive side – is Stix and Stones – a steakhouse that serves the steak in a way so that you cook it right off the hot coals. We did not anticipate the prices until we had the menu in our hands and it was too late. However, it was an incredible dining experience with mouth-watering food (if a little on a smaller side with my duck), amazing cocktails and a fabulous atmosphere. Our server was also enthusiastic about all things steak and a lovely person in general.

Stix and Stones, 44-46 Upper Queen Street, Belfast, BT1 6FD

Belfast and I had to do a bit of growing in order to love each other, and I am so glad I visited not once, but twice. Warren and I really made the most of our time in Belfast, and it just goes to show that you really can explore an incredible city in just one day as long as you do it right!

Have you visited Belfast? If you’re a GOT fan, get there before September!

Love, Faye xo

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