Friday, June 12, 2009

Belfast - A City Divided

Our day was like a sandwich with two beautiful gardens as bread and "The Troubles" as the filling. We had booked a Black Cab tour of the recent history of Belfast but before that we strolled through the botanical garden of Queens University which is only 5 minutes from our lodging. 
 The rose garden of the Queens U. gardens, not yet at its peak.

The Black Cab tour was of the Falls Road and Shankill Road districts, two parallel streets, two religions.  This is where the fighting between the IRA and the Loyalists largely took place. There is a high wall built between the neighborhoods (the peace wall!) and the murals on the wall have become something of a tourist attraction.

The very high peace wall along Shankill Street. 

  On the Catholic side, Brendan Hughes who initiated the hunger strike.

The back of a house which abuts the wall with a cage (not a greenhouse) to protect it from petrol bombs which were thrown over.
This mural compares Israel and Palestine with Shankill and Falls.

Laurel adding our names to the peace wall.

We have many more mural pictures but will spare you.  The tour was an eye-opener but could have been better if our driver/guide had a cab manufactured within the last 30 years.  It was very noisy so at times it was hard to hear (and interpret the dialect) and everytime he went around a corner, his door would fly open so he would keep his window down and his arm hanging out trying to control it.

Andrew wanted to go to Mount Stewart which is a National Trust Property some distance away from the city. It is considered one of the finest gardens in the UK and the home of the 88 year old Marquess of Londonderry. How to get there?  We walked to the tourist information centre who instructed us to go to a specific bus terminal from which a bus would leave at 12:20. We had little time and about 12.70 sterling in cash so wanted to stop at a cash machine along the way. Somehow, we managed to take a meandering route to the terminal and got there just as they were announcing the bus at about 12:17.  We assumed  (incorrectly) there would be a cash machine at the terminal.  The ticket wicket was closed so bus tickets had to be purchased in cash from the driver. With faint hope, we asked the bus driver the fee for two return tickets to Mount Stewart, and he said 12.40, so we paid and hoped that the gardens would accept VISA!
They did, although it took several minutes to get the card to work.  

The gardens and house tour were fabulous!  The climate is very mild and they have many south american species of trees.  The former owners were quite remarkable in their impact on British history, but I won't go into that.  The property and house were built with money inherited from the Governor of Bombay who got rich through the East India Company back in the 1700s. 

Laurel thinking of making an offer on the place.

Part of the formal garden.  The garden has lots of statuary.

The lake with the family burial ground on the hill top behind.  The burial ground, Tir N'an Og in gaelic, means "the land of the ever young".

A harp topiary.
The other side of the house. A nice flat lawn for a game of croquet and perhaps some cucumber sandwiches!

Now we had to catch a bus back to Belfast so we waited at the appointed spot our driver told us, along side the road across from the gate.  We were led to believe that a bus (#10) would come along near the hour so we arrived at a couple of minutes to 4:00.  At about 4:10 a #10 bus whizzed by as we were waving to get his attention.  He didn't even slow down!.  So we had visions of hitch-hiking back to Belfast. We crossed the street to confer with some locals who were watching the whole affair while waiting for a bus in the opposite direction.  They showed us the proper way to flag down a bus and suggested that the one that just passed may have been out of service.  So back across the road we went hoping that we wouldn't have to wait an hour for the next scheduled bus, which might not stop anyway.  But after only another 10 or 15 minutes, another bus approached and we successfully got it to stop.

A really big fish by the Custom House along side of the River Lagan, in Belfast.

Looking down the Lagan toward the dockyards, near where the Titanic was built.

To celebrate the days adventures, Laurel ordered a Benedict Angus Burger for supper!

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed this post very much! I think it would have been pretty amazing to see the peace wall and add your names to the history. Such a moment to remember.