Somebody (named Victoria) has been doing a bad job of giving me assignments which has in turn made me bad at blogging because without any kind of deadline I get lazy when I'm tired at the end of the day, which is every day, and have trouble turning my brain back on to blog. So I decided to pretend some of my big theme things were assignments to keep me blogging and writing even though I am a victim of fry-brain.
After Dublin, my itinerary took me up to Belfast with the intent of seeing Titanic related items. No, really, that's the entire reason I went and almost everything I saw there was related to the Titanic. Laugh all you want but listen here for this piece of advice, while traveling it has proved best to have one main goal in a city because it's not just trying to do everything that is overwhelming, even looking at everything is overwhelming. Even glancing at a list of things is overwhelming. I can't speak for everyone but I've found it most effective to have one main goal and let a few other things slip in along the way. As long as you commit to walking to that one main goal then you'll see a lot else and get used to the city with a lot less stress.
I took the train to Belfast from Dublin on last Monday (I'm quite late updating this, so think like a week and a half ago) and got there around 2. Finding my hostel was slightly difficult because sometimes when hostels give you directions in email, they say 'walk straight past x hotel' when they mean 'walk five blocks THEN you'll see x hotel' but once I found that landmark it wasn't too long to the hostel. I was pleased to find that the room was cute, with a sloped ceiling and a nice free plushy bed under it. There was only one other person staying in the room which was a thrill and I promptly took a nap because morning train travel, although fun, is not entirely a rest.
After my nap I went to see the botanical gardens and walk around Belfast, where I got a Chipotle equivalent type of fast Mexican food. I hadn't even been craving it, I just saw it and suddenly I was inside ordering. No choice was involved in the matter. That night I made friends at the hostel, which was easier than at my last one because it was smaller and we had a community dinner. I went to a pub with a few of them where I was consistently told by my new Canadian friend that I must be in Ireland looking for Gerard Butler. He made many references to this over the next three days because I ended up joining him and his companion a female Canadian to the Giants Causeway. By the end I just stopped responding.
Anyway on to the Titanic. Belfast is so dedicated to its historical affiliations that they call an entire part of town 'Titanic Quarter' and many parts of the city are labeled on maps as part of the 'Titanic Historical Walk.' They don't actually label anything on the historical walk so its hard to say what it is but the Titanic quarter is much less misleading.
The Titanic Quarter was quite a walk from my hostel, but I got a good amount of walking exercise in. The first thing I did was the 'only authentic Titanic boat tour.' I may have renamed it, but regardless it was not entirely authentic because it did not sink. I loved this little trip, it was on a small boat (I really learned a lot of seaman's lingo clearly) through the harbor with just me, the guy driving the boat, the guide, and an Italian couple. This proved a bit confusing at first because the guide asked us all if we spoke good English, and I just nodded because I forgot that that's actually a necessary question, but it turned out they didn't so I seemed to lump in - a few minutes later I had to explain to him that not only did I speak good English, it was actually my only language, because if he directed the whole thing like we were all non-English speakers it would have been quite a waste of a tour.
Anyway cute Belfast tour man was quite enthusiastic and fit in lots of information about the building of the Titanic and how it related to the city. His accent was quite there which really contributed to the Irish feel although it made me understand why people have a hard time understanding me who do not have American accents. Since it was pretty much just me and him we got to chatting and he was impressed with my alone trip. So am I, for the record. We also had a rousing conversation about seals.
After the boat tour I headed across the channel to the Titanic Experience which is the flagship Titanic attraction in Belfast. It is a large building with four big silver triangles stabbing out the sides. According to cute man it was supposed to be designed to look like four ships hulls but all the locals refer to it as the iceberg for obvious reasons. I would post a picture but I can't because all of my technology is faulty per usual.
The Titanic Experience was: 1. Expensive. I think I blocked the exact sum from my memory but it was at least 17 pounds which equates to a lot of dollars. Word to the wise: pounds are THE WORST. It's almost 2 to 1 (1 to 2? whatever. the dollar is weak.) I got the ticket which included both the TE and the shipyard where the real Titanic was built.
The TE goes through 7 stages of Titanic related exhibits related to the building and voyage of Titanic. As with most of the T-related things in Belfast, it is very focused on the building of the ship because that's Belfasts connection to the fame. Many shirts and homeless men like to say that 'she was fine when she left here!' It also has a fair bit about Belfast working conditions around the time she was built which is probably relevant to some people in the world.
The TE as a whole was pretty hit or miss, some sections were awesome and super interesting and well done while others were pretty dry and overly detailed. For instance they have this awesome ride thing where you go through in a little cart through how they built it from the ground, but then there are whole other sections devoted to little computer screens where you flip through trifold screens about 21 different survivors which as you can imagine aren't exactly conductive when the place is packed with people. That's another challenge with this place as well as many others I've been to: WHERE DO ALL THESE PEOPLE COME FROM? (this will be expanded on in the later entry where I go to Arthur's seat and conclude that we need a new plague.)
After the TE I headed over to the shipyard where the ship was built which was quite a walk and very confusing to get to. But once arrived it was excellent. There is a small museum exhibition, but the real gem is of course going out into the shipyard itself. I don't know exactly how to explain it in technical terms but basically there is a bigass hole in the ground where back in 1910-12 they used the relevant technology at the time to build the ship before sending the hull out into the water where the innards were added. Going all the way down in really shows you how massive the ship was but moreover what an undertaking of manpower it was which I suppose is really the point of all the Titanic stuff in Belfast, as the place where she was built, which then makes you realize how insane it was that the ship sank.
I was pretty tired by the time I left here and headed back to the hostel. Until Victoria does her job I will be posting entries based on my main activities in each place, although as I said I'm behind, so stay tuned for The Puppets in the Giants Causeway, "We Need a new Plague": the Puppet at Arthur's Seat, and The Puppet has friends: out of exile in London.