Impressions of Belfast, Northern Ireland

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We recently spent three nights in Belfast and we enjoyed it very much.

However, one more night would have been advantageous. Our flight from England was delayed thanks to President Trump’s arrival and all the extra security that entailed.

So by the time we got to our hotel it was about time for our evening meal – we didn’t have that much time to explore the city.

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The second day was taken up with what turned out to be a fantastic trip around the County Antrim coast, which lasted most of the day.

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The third day we had already pre-booked a visit to the Titanic Experience and the Game of Thrones exhibition, both in the same general area on the city’s outskirts. This took up most of the day too. We did do a little exploration that late afternoon.

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And then our return flight back home was at 8:20 the following morning, so we were up with the lark to catch that.

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So, despite a very full two and a bit days, we didn’t get to see as much of the city as we would have liked.

 

What we did glean, however, is that Belfast is lovely and the people are lovelier. We will return.

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copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

The Titanic Exhibition, Belfast

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On a recent trip to Belfast, we visited the Titanic Experience.

Located a short trip from the city centre, the exhibition lies, quite fittingly, in the old industrial dock area, for so long the life blood of the city.

As you arrive you see the old yellow Harland and Wolff cranes, nicknamed Samson and Goliath; what better sentinels could there be?

New Meets Old

The centre itself is of course very modern, the style of the design reflecting a new take on the industrial old.

Inside it is huge, and as ever in Belfast and Northern Ireland in general, the staff were very helpful and kind.

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Going around, however, although there were several reconstructions of the kind of cabins that could be had on board the Titanic, we were a little disappointed that we couldn’t ‘interact’ with them more.

Lack of Interaction

For instance, you could not walk into the third class cabin. Everything is behind glass, or perspex. Perhaps they don’t want things to disappear, shall we say, considering the volume of tourists they must get.

And also, considering that this event, which occurred in April 1912, was one of the greatest human tragedies of the 20th century, I don’t think there’s quite enough about that human element. Maybe we’ve seen the film too often.

Short Ride

There is a short automated ride around a kind of reconstruction of the shipyard at its height, with all the noises and sights you might have seen. However, I think this is too short and did not convey enough atmosphere for me.

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I don’t think it’s quite on a par with the Yorvik museum in York in this regard, for instance, where you get a better sense, I feel, of what Viking York might have been like a thousand years ago – stronger smells and all.

Evocative Style

Just across the way in an old dry dock, lies the SS Nomadic, a much smaller ship, but which allows you to explore more of what it must have been like aboard the Titanic on its only voyage. The styling and the sense of the pre-war period is evocative.

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So overall, I think the Titanic Experience does a good job. It’s well put together with lots of detail. There is plenty to keep people of all ages occupied for a couple of hours, on several levels. You get a strong sense, too, of how fundamental ship building is to Belfast, the industry which turned a small town into a boom town in the 19th century.

Overall I would give it 7.5 out of 10.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

The Game of Thrones Exhibition, Belfast

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We recently visited Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland, and one of the venues on our list was The Game of Thrones Exhibition.

It appears relatively new and situated outside the city centre, about a 15 minute bus ride. The Titanic exhibition centre is also close by.

Not the Biggest Fan

So what did we think? Well, I did watch the show, although I’m not the biggest fan. It would be pointless for me to enter a quiz about it, for example.

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The GOT exhibition centre is about another ten minute walk from the Titanic exhibition. From the outside it has the appearance of a large warehouse in an industrial quarter.

Nearby are some of the scene constructions from the show, though these are partly hidden from view behind a fence which you can’t get through.

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Not Very Busy

On the day we went, it wasn’t very busy. It was wet and the school holidays are still a little way off. We were greeted by friendly, enthusiastic young people, most of whom we were told, were either extras in the filming or had been involved in some other way.

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In fact, it turns out that a significant percentage of the Belfast population have had some involvement in the making of the biggest TV show ever.

Boon for the Local Economy

Many millions of pounds have been generated for the local economy and one of the largest and continuing benefits is tourism.

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Once we had got our tickets – £17 pounds each, I might add – we were shown a short film, like a precis for the whole 8 series. We were the only people watching it.

Large – and Dark

Then we were ushered through and entered the exhibition itself. Inside it’s large and dark, so dark that taking pictures (allowed) is not easy, as they don’t like flash photography.

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What we saw were basically numerous sets of costumes of the individual characters of the show, from the white walkers to Daenerys.

There were also large dragon skulls, which made the best use of the darkness within the huge hall; there were reconstructions of scenes from the Stark crypt and also interactive areas where you could, for instance, have your picture taken on the Iron Throne – at extra cost, of course.

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Fantasy Map

What I enjoyed best, however, was the map. I’ve always been fascinated by maps and spent a significant proportion of my youth making up fantasy islands or lands – maybe I should have had a pitch at writing a story about them!

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We got around the whole exhibition in around half an hour, though a real enthusiast, which I’m not, might take 45 minutes. At the end there was the usual gift shop with the inflated prices which we quickly bypassed.

Underwhelmed

So, overall, what did I think? It was OK, but I think we both left feeling a little underwhelmed.

Don’t get me wrong, Belfast and Northern Ireland in general deserves all the benefits this show has brought, the employment, the massively increased tourism, but I had the feeling that the exhibition had been put together quickly and it showed.

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That said, how elaborate should it be? It could be argued that the large dark space of the centre/warehouse was the perfect setting, complementing the dark mood of the show.

Ultimately though, having been around it now, I don’t think it’s worth what we paid. Ten pounds would have been more reasonable, I think.

If you are a real fan, however, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it – whatever the cost.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019