Casa’s Blog

A Life Abroad

Every night in my dreams I see you. I feel you.

Today started early, as most days in a hostel do. My night’s sleep was pretty good…no lights turned on at 2am or loud drunks at 4am. I came downstairs for breakfast. Now I am not a big breakfast person and even when it is included I don’t necessarily eat it. At this hostel though they have the ‘Causeway Cafe’ and it is great. I had OJ and Scrambled Eggs on toast. It only cost me about 3 quid and was freshly prepared. Brill food and a great start to the day.

I then walked around the city for a bit, as I booked a taxi cab tour for 10am and had an hour to kill. It was good as it was bright/sunny and thus I got to see Belfast from a different angle than the ‘dark and gloomy’ angle I saw it from yesterday. My tour though will probably be the highlight of Belfast…if not of the Ireland trip….if not of my time away. It was THAT good.

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Now, the cab tours can be a little expensive. When I rang up and booked it they warned ‘the single university student’ that it may be a little pricey – 30 pounds. Now 30 pounds sounds a lot but it is well worth it. I got a private, personalised, Black Cab tour from an INCREDIBLY knowledgeable man (His name was “too irish” for me to get it haha). When I got in he asked what I wanted to see. I said I wanted a political viewpoint of the city…I am politically minded but know nothing about the Northern Ireland situation. And that is what I got. My guide was a 40 year old Catholic man so his stories, tales and information were not only so detailed but had a personal slant to it. He showed me HIS local police station, which looks like a prison its that big. He showed me the numerous murals both on his side and the protestant side – pointing out that he only crossed the peace wall for the first time 1 and a 1/2 years ago. Not only did he show you the murals but he was able to explain the meanings and significance of them. Whether they were about the survival of the Irish language, a particular battle or even that the “top gun” reference in a Protestant mural meant he killed the most Catholics in a year.

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It was a really moving tour. I saw the peace wall from all angles. I saw the window less catholic houses that face the gates in the wall. I saw the bullet holes in an old catholic primary school. I saw the old court house and prison that held the catholic prisoners of the conflict I saw everything someone would need to see to attempt to understand the conflict.

The one theme that seemed to be coming out in the catholic view point was, what he called, twinning. Murals and stories all related Irish suffering to others who have/are suffering. Murals of the hunger strikes from the 70s and 80s are ringed with Mandela, Luther King Jnr and Ghandi. The international mural wall gives an insight into how the catholic Irish associate with the oppression felt by those of Gaza. My guides points about the hypocrisy of America viewing the Iraqi’s as “insurgents” while celebrating their own liberation on July 4th every year was an interesting counter point.

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I am not sure if the above reads coherently or is a bit of a ramble, but it was an amazing eye-opening experience. I also give credit for my guide making the point to try and give the Protestant side of things. One thing that was clear though is that this is not an historical conflict…it is alive. The peace wall was heightened just 10 years ago. The no-mans land between the catholics and protestants has now had houses built…but nobody lives there and they are ruined. The recent attacks by the IRA prove this better than my words could…but around the Catholic side of town “free colin duffy” graffitti is visible. Colin Duffy is one of the people charged with the murder of the policeman in those attacks…this conflict is not dead.

The strange feeling I had through out the tour was that….I wonder if similar tours will run through Iraq, through Gaza, through Congo any time soon.

After that eye opening experience I had a coffee, lunch in a pub (yes again it was Guinness) but it was a good slice of Pizza as its companion today. Pizza made ever so irish by the use of Soda bread.

I then went on the “Belfast Historical Walking Tour”. I had checked the day before that it wouldn’t sell out and any fears I may have had of a large group were put at ease. In the end it was just me and my somewhat elderly, but incredibly smart and well spoken, guide Hilda. The one on one tour for 6 quid was a bargain in my books. Hilda was able to give me a different history of Belfast. She hardly mentioned the conflict at all. In 90 minutes she explain how Belfast was founded as a town, then became a city under Queen Victoria (no wonder they love her!!!) and also was able to give perspectives of why things are the way they are. She explained that Belfast is industrial, always has been…but also what the industries are and why. Hilda even explained why the fact the Titanic was built here has such an emotive connection for the Belfast people. She was also able to give me a raft on information explaining what I had already seen in my wandering around the city. It was a really good tour!

After the tour, I took Hilda’s advice and skipped paying for the Belfast wheel as I had planned to. In the new Victoria Square shopping centre you can get a better view from the top of the dome…and it is free. It was a good view too as today was sunny with good visibility.

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I have now retired to my hostel. I read the paper for an hour, will go get dinner sometime and maybe stop in to a pub to watch some soccer at some point. I need to get an early night’s sleep tonight though as it is the start of summer time and the clocks move forward an hour. Something I have to make sure to take notice of…as I have booked a tour to the Giants Causeway tomorrow. Knowing my luck I may be the only person on that one too haha (although that is extremely unlikely!).
P.S As I am on an internet cafe here…I don’t have time to proof read this so any unreadable parts are not my fault 😛

P.P.S GO LIONS….1 from 1. Go Vossy your a gun coach! 😀

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March 29, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Man, that belfast tour sounds AWESOME. For the first time I’m actually jealous of a ‘touristy’ thing you’ve done since there.

    Comment by Stevechops | March 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. Would really like to get the chance to do this one before I die, too , son. The idea of having in a ‘holiday’ in Belfast still seems unreal to me – spent my childhood watching the TV pictures of Gaza-like violence…and, as you say, it’s not yet gone…

    Dad

    Comment by Niranjan | March 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. have gotten slack on my *raft* spotting… consider it noted in this one! what an amazing day! that sounds so awesome, such one on one attention from people who know so much. i am totally, totally jealous. just wow!

    Comment by ella | March 30, 2009 | Reply


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