Newest Review: ... the children can really get a good a view of the animals for as long as they like without jostling crowds ( the exception being Easter We... more
BELFAST is BOOMING
Belfast in General
Member Name: foxielady
Belfast in General
Date: 06/01/03, updated on 06/01/03 (304 review reads)
Advantages: Irish hospitality, pubs with character, architecture and sights
Disadvantages: Rains more than london, 5 degrees cooler than England
Having spent a wonderful week last Christmas exploring Southern Ireland, I was quite excited about my first trip to Northern Ireland, this time on business. My travel guide for my trip to Southern Ireland was a great book, Pete McCarthy's Bar, which is all you really need. And this weekend, EasyJet announced REALLY cheap airfares to Belfast, as well!
Business in Northern Ireland is booming and growing throughout the whole of Ireland. Property and houses are cheap by North American standards. S. Ireland benefits from the influx of funds, as being part of the Euro zone, and there is a lot of new building going on - and new houses, mean all that goes with them! My trip was to see some customers who are builders merchants - bathrooms, plumbing and heating showrooms and wholesale distribution, both DYI and Trade.
I arrived the night before my colleague, but having watched too much old news, I was a bit apprehensive about driving around on my own, so I decided to use taxis instead of renting a car, since the taxi drivers know where to go/not to go!
However, my work Colleagues feel it is a safe place to go, and has always been! Because they take security seriously. And the atmosphere was great, I felt totally at home, once I got there.
I flew into Belfast City Airport, which is only 8 pounds taxi ride and 5 or so miles -- it takes a bit longer because of the 'one way system' that many UK cities have, for 'traffic calming', so that you are SOOOO confused you cannot speed! The runway on this airport is a wee bit short, so there is much applying of brakes, don't be alarmed, it is still better than the old Hong Kong airport, which was my scariest landing experience.
Northern Ireland currency is pounds sterling and Irish pound notes, which you can use in the rest of the UK. However, if you go to Southern Ireland, they are already part of the euro
zone, so you will need euros not pounds.
I stayed at Jury's Belfast Inn, which is in the center of town, but although the staff was professional and helpful, the rooms and breakfast were not. I went out for supper to the Red Panda for chinese food, across the road and a block to the right of the hotel. The portions were good and the food tasty - I had beef and broccolli which I don't get to have much in my part of the UK, as I would like to (West midlands chinese restaurants don't seem to like their greens as much as I do!).
On the way back from the restaurant, we stopped at The Crown, a wonderful pub full of character and characters! The seating is surrounded by low 'walls' as if you are in a corral, and the walls are intricately carved. This pub is featured in a lot of pictures of Belfast. Next door is Robinson's, which was a bit noisy for my liking as there was a football game on (or perhaps people were just loud!). Guinness was on tap, but I also noticed people drank wine and cider, for those of you that find Guinness a bit heavy!
I was hoping for a repeat of my Irish singing debut (from my Dec trip to Clonakilty) at a Craic where, if you are lucky (and brave), you are invited to sing a song of your choosing, to the accompaniment of accordian, whistle, and fiddle, and they DONT MIND IF YOU ARE OFF KEY! But this was not that kind of a pub, at least not that night.
Just beyond is the Shaftsbury area, where there are lots of restaurants. However I decided to go across the road instead, to the Grand Opera House, a Victorian Theatre, complete with balconies and painted ceiling which was restored and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1995. I saw a play there - excellent seat on an aisle, 21.50 pounds sterling, or slightly cheaper on a Tuesday night. They have plays, musicians, etc and it is more leg room and the same actors as in London's West End, so I was pleased to be able to fi
t this in! Plus the history of the place is super - and you can buy a book which features Artists who have performed there: from Sarah Bernhardt to Van Morrison (plus a picture of a young Pavarotti!)
The next day, for lunch we went to a fish and chips shop - John's just around the corner from the hotel. It was packed and for 3 pounds you got a large portion of cod in batter and chips (french fries to you-all)!
A colleague rented a car at the airport and we drove to Portadown, an easy ride along the motorway/main highway. He pointed out the different flags flying in the neighborhoods to indicate the politics favored by the residents. It is very complex to know what is what, so I avoided discussing anything political or religious! He tried to explain the connection between Ireland and Scottish football teams, and I gave up! But I did notice in the pub, there was a sign saying, no Football kit (uniforms, logos) allowed!
I will have to save my tourist visit to the Giant's Causeway (a massive natural stone bridge) for next time, because it was about an hour north and the weather was a bit too gloomy to do much exploring. I looked at a map and was surprised to find that Belfast is almost the same latitude as Scotland is. That helps to explain why it was about 5 degrees colder than England.
As for the atmosphere, I found people to be very helpful and friendly. There are only about 2 million people in all of N.I., and about 1/2 million in Belfast. It seems that everyone knows each other, and they are all interested in visitors, from the usher at the theatre, to the taxi driver who had been all over the USA, to the staff at the Bathroom Design showrooms we visited (Spendlove C. Jebb in Belfast and Bassetts in Portadown).
On my way to the showroom, I walked past a police station, and as I passed, two heavily armoured vehicles emerged, a reflection of, hopefully
, an earlier time in Belfast. They looked more like Tonka Trucks with all the reinforcement and the radio mast on the top. You would definitely see them coming!
WOULD I GO BACK AGAIN?
I DO want to go back, but I feel as if I would need a guide to the sights outside of the city. Or perhaps I just needed a better travelling companion, next time! And on the way home, I heard a news item about a car bomb in the centre of Belfast having been diffused, so life is always timing, isn't it? I would go there on business again and this time stay at the Europa Hotel, take in another event at the Grand Opera House, then rent a car and go see the Giants Causeway, Irish Castles, and of course find a small pub where the music is playing and the Guinness is flowing, and they ask me to sing something. I have been practising.