June 9. 2017
This is our first time in Ireland! We have an enrichment lecturer, Jeana Rogers, on the ship now and she provided us with a great overview of Belfast and Dublin.
Ironic that we are here the day after the vote in the UK. It’s one of the first things our guide, Jackie, mentioned. The conservative party may reach out to the democratic unionist party in Northern Ireland to make a coalition to form a government.
We chose to take the “Titanic Trail” tour today. We drove a short way (only 12 people on this tour) through the city and Jackie pointed out various landmarks including St. Anne’s Cathedral and the Albert Memorial Clock. She talked about the history of the making of fine Irish linen in Belfast. Sadly, the advent of cheap labor in other parts of the world has diminished the number of linen factories from 200 to just 1.
The flowers on this gate are made of gilded Irish linen.
This is a very industrial port but the docklands where the Titanic was built are largely defunct and the land is undergoing massive redevelopment.
The violence (the “Troubles”) has stopped since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, Belfast is becoming a cruise ship destination and tourist site. 10 years ago only 23 ships came here. Now it is 88 with 100 expected by the end of the year. It was once lumped with Beirut, Baghdad and Bosnia as one of the 4 “Bs” for travelers to avoid!
Jackie also mentioned that there were great arguments about sports teams here and so they decided to have a neutral sport – guess what it is….ice hockey! They brought in players from other parts of the world and now are training their own. But the first name they wanted for the team was unfortunate… Belfast Bombers! So they renamed it the Belfast Giants and apparently they are doing very well.
The ship building company of Harland and Wolff has two huge cranes here, Samson and Goliath. 840 tons can be lifted by them.
We arrived at the Titanic site and our guide for that portion of the day joined us. What a great, witty Irishman he was. Colin entertained us with the history of the construction of the Titanic and its ill fated first voyage.
We walked to the area that the Titanic was actually built. I didn’t know that most of the passengers boarded in Cherbourg and that the SS Nomadic was the tender ship that took the 2nd and 3rd class customers to the Titanic. The Nomadic is the last White Star ship left (#422). It was built beside the Titanic and now is a tourist attraction after having many “lives” and other uses.
There is an outline on the sidewalk of the actual placement of the bow of the Titanic and also of the path it took before meeting the iceberg.
These are the buildings that housed the architects. There was no electricity then so the roofs are arched and all windows. Below them is a timeline of the construction.
We then went to the dry dock and Pump house. It is the birthplace of the Titanic. This has largely been left intact since the Titanic arrived a century ago. We had tea and scones here, then Colin led us through and down into the actual dry dock. He explained how they used the dry dock to build the ship. Very interesting.
We then spent a couple of hours in the Titanic Belfast centre. The star shaped building has the points that are as tall as the front of the Titanic.
And by the way, they film Game of Thrones in the Titanic Studios here.
The Titanic center covers the construction through the launch, the sinking, the aftermath as well as myths and realities. It is an interactive museum and includes a lot of video and even a ride that shows the building of the ship. If you saw the movie Titanic, you will recognize some of the exhibits, too.
Model of the shipyard and the center (opened on March 31, 2012 marking the centenary year of the launching of the ship), the first class cabin and staircases, and a third class cabin.
The lifeboat. The iceberg tore a 340 foot opening in the hull and the ship sank in 2 hrs 40 minutes. The launch was delayed by 3 weeks which probably led to the accident as the icebergs came further south by then. The Carpathia ran into the lifeboats almost by accident and picked up the survivors.
The museum is really wonderful and you could really spend even more hours there.
Colin told us if we remember one thing it is this: The people in Belfast said “well, it was OK when it left here….!”
After our tour we chose to stay in town and explore. There is lots of beautiful architecture and the Crown Pub is a lovely example of Victorian design. Unfortunately there was a long wait for lunch so we ended up at The Washington Pub where we were waited on by a Canadian who lived in Atlanta, and is now in Belfast for 5 years and getting his citizenship very soon.
The opera house:
A Guiness of course!
Some of the other interesting buildings:
And, of course, a couple of signs:
And a black cab!