I cannot begin to even attempt to fully explain how incredible Ireland is. Never having been here before, but having heard lots about it, but having no real expectations - I am completely blown away by how AWESOME this place is. I don't even know where to begin - just everything is so damn cool.
First off, being an American with a weird Scottish-American accent who talks kinda fast - I fit right in - I am not ousted as I was in Scotland for being an outsider - or as a Yank as they quite often put it - but being born in Charleston, SC - I try to explain the Mason-Dixon Line to them, to no avail - In Scotland, all Americans are Yanks...lol...so right away, I like this place a lot - I suppose I'd never realized how much it bothered me.
The marina I was told about, is very economical, with free showers, toilets, and FREE laundry....C'mon this place is awesome already and I haven't even seen Belfast yet! You never fully appreciate the value of a hot shower until you have to pay for them, the same goes for laundry - getting your clothes washed is just a hassle - it's kinda the reason I try and stay in shorts, flip-flops, and a t-shirt for most of the time - they are easy to hand wash, and dry quickly.
Jeans are not so easy to hand wash, and take ages to dry - but here - not a problem - I have never encountered free laundry - I straight up - washed everything I had! Clothes, bedding, everything! - they even have a dryer!
Now, as a rule, I don't normally explore the land around the places we stop, but this is Ireland, and we are making an exception this time, I kinda get land-sick - after a while on terra firma I start to feel drowsy these days, I trip over things and kinda feel drunk - its strange, but I feel better on the boat - and just try to stay there...but...
There's just cool stuff everywhere you look! Right outside the Marina, they have a large display of old buoys - these fellas are very old! Everything here is huge and old. These things are made of metal and were hand-worked - just incredible! Don't think they were ever used due to world war II or something, but impressive all the same!
Moving swiftly along, you are quickly reminded that you are in the home of the Titanic, and they don't let you forget either, even this area is called the Titanic Quarter.
Just 30 yards away they have a large vertical display of the Titanic, kinda reminded me of one of those air-fix toy sets you get as a kid where you build a model airplane, and how you have to twist the bits off to build up your model...I looked for a plaque or something that might have explained what I was looking at but I didn't see one...
Not much further along there were these cool metal silhouettes - one you may recognize
This is called the Portrait Bench, its located just outside the SS Nomadic visitor attraction with three full-sized silhouettes of a shipyard worker who helped build the Nomadic, a French waiter who served on the Nomadic, and of course, Charlie Chaplin.
And if you are wondering what the Nomadic is - it's this:
It is the last surviving White Star Line Ship! And it's here in Belfast, and at one time shipped passengers to the Titanic
It's a whopping great big thing, it's been restored and you can go inside it as kind of a tour, but it was closed when I got there - a fascinating thing all the same...You can see the White Star in some of the windows...
And then there was this odd thing - It looks like a ship - but it's not - it was used to close off the dock, kinda like a gate - they would put it in the opening and flood it with water till it sunk and provided a walkway over the closed opening - it's a very odd-looking thing.
But now it's just perched here and seems to be home to a bunch of pigeons, who very smugly relax and sunbathe knowing that they won't be bothered by anyone. To be honest, these Irish pigeons have no fear of people - and I didn't see anyone bothering them in town either - they seem to walk right in your way - they seem to have the right of way on pavements - I kinda like that. All too often you see people chasing and harassing them - not here - people are cool here.
The Titanic branding is everywhere around here, and quite rightly so, I think. It's got to be the world's most famous ship and it did come from here, and with all the hype of the notoriety of the events that transpired, and the various movies and books that were spawned as a result.
The coolest thing, I think, is the fact that, as a result, so much has been preserved that might otherwise have been destroyed. Many old things are just forgotten and allowed to crumble to dust, or to rust into oblivion, and all too often get scrapped or knocked down to make room for the new. And the new is never as good and interesting as the old stuff was - they really don't make 'em like they used to.
The branding has even found its way onto trash cans!
Just a little further along they have the old Drawing offices - now converted into a hotel...This is kinda what I'm talking about. Many of the old brick buildings have been knocked down and destroyed to make room for new buildings.
But this building has been beautifully restored and is very much still in use to this day!
For example - this bench outside the Titanic Visitor Center... Also closed, well it was open but the last tour had started and no one else was allowed to go in...
I did take a walk around the outside of the visitor center, there were a bunch of neat little info quotes around the place.
There is no escaping the Titanic lore around this place! but check out that Huge Titanic Sign...and yes, I walked through all the letters...lol...you have to, right? It's the law.
There was also a huge mural painted on the wall of a bar on the pier - not sure of its significance, but I thought it looked cool...
There is a lot going on in this mural, many elements that are just, kinda, well, stereotypically 'Irish' - still a cool mural, I thought...
For whatever reason I didn't take a picture of the Titanic Visitor Center, it is quite an impressive building, I think I couldn't get a decent picture of it up close, it really was huge!
I did, however, on my into town, snap a picture of the harbor and you can see it on the right-hand side - I think each corner was made to look like the bow of the ship, or so it seemed to me - a very cool, but modern-looking structure.
About the place, there were quite a few quotes and mentions from and of various people, mostly related to the shipbuilding industry. And they were nice quotes too.
Was quite taken by how much they celebrate their history here, all too often nowadays - they want to go back rewrite stuff - but here everything is championed. Love how proud they are of their history. I only managed to snap two of them, but I can assure you there were many more - I was quite distracted by all the awesomeness that was just everywhere! Love this place!
And just over the first bridge, I came to, I saw a Big Fish...I asked someone what it was, and they said it was just a big fish. I asked if it was a 'special fish' - nope, just a big fish.
Did it mean something, or was it symbolic, or meant to represent something - Nope, just a big fish.
As I got closer to the 'Big Fish', I was sure it must have a proper name or something, I then noticed that it was covered in old-looking interesting things...I snapped some pics of what I thought were some of the more interesting ones...
There was a clue as to what it was - I did find a tile saying that this art installation had been funded by the National Lottery through their local art council.
Still looking for an actual name of the fish - I did find a warning sign that confirmed its name, they weren't lying - it was just called 'The Big Fish'....hmmmmm
The town center was beautifully decorated with all kinds of old steel and ironworks....all over the place, everywhere you look....there was something to look at.
And it was all old stuff, not reproductions either - sometimes places try and replace what was removed to try and recreate the old look - but this stuff was all original - As I said, they just don't make'em like they used to - just gorgeous stuff!
There were some new things that I didn't quite fully understand as I didn't watch the show, but Game of Thrones I guess was filmed in Ireland and a number of stained-glass art installations were also installed...called "Glass of Thrones"
I didn't manage to get shots of them all, but I did snap a few shots of the one I did see, I gather there was a sort of trail you could follow to see them all, but the day was running out, and there was still so much to see and hear! I did get 3 of 6 of them!
Now, the next thing I noticed was the music, walking up the town I could hear some awesome street performers busking. These two were excellent, just raw talent in the streets - I got my camera out and managed to get about 30 sec of footage before it started raining...I went to ask them if they would kindly give me permission to put what I had shot in my blog - they of course said yes. As it was raining, I had tucked my camera under my jacket against my rib cage, but hadn't turned it off and left it on the review screen by accident - my rib cage promptly deleted the video and the last 30 pictures I had taken as it bumped into my rib cage as I walked about to get out of the rain...I had collected their details so I messaged them to tell them I wouldn't be able to share the footage as I, like a moron, had deleted it.
At first, I had asked them if they were to be playing the next day, and that I would come down to film a few of their songs on my camera, but Silvia, the singer was flying back to Italy the next day and it just wouldn't be possible. But, as luck would have it, one of their friends had filmed their last few songs including the one I had shot(and then deleted) as well, and they managed to send me the clips! And I include them all below!
These two were, I thought, really talented and played well together - the audio isn't perfect, but they didn't think they were very good, but I say the lady dumping the entire contents of her purse into the guitar case tells a very different story! I spoke to them both for a few minutes, Camilo Rubiano (guitarist) and Silvia Paganotti (singer) - Not only were they both very talented, they were also good people - It was a pleasure to have met them both - even if only briefly - and I wish them both the very best! I would have loved to have heard more of their music - but we have to keep going... That's kinda the problem with traveling, you meet so many wonderful people - just once, and then they're gone - just disappearing into the vast world...
A bit further into town, I came upon this huge fancy building...Belfast City Hall
About this time I figured it was time to head back to the boat, the light was beginning to creep away, and I was feeling pretty tired, so I turned around and started to make my way back to the marina, as I did so - I happened to pass a pub that had just started playing some live music....I couldn't resist
I think the pub was called The Jailhouse and it was down a little alley...
When I first walked in they were playing some very Irish music, I stayed for a little bit and recorded a few of their songs...and you can watch them below
After leaving the pub - I was heading back to the boat once again and passed a restaurant that had a rather poignant quote painted on the brickwork of the building...
Continuing my way back, I snapped some of my last shots of Belfast...everything shot in the last hour of light - or the magic hour as they call it - everything just can't help but look pretty.
...and that was it for Belfast....will def grab some more shots as I leave the place as well as a proper shot of the titanic center - It's quite an impressive building...Love Belfast! To be honest - we didn't even scratch the surface of Belfast - there was so much we didn't get to see...must come back here....!! Can't wait to see what else Ireland has got to show me!!