Since we only had three days in Belfast, we had to squeeze everything in really quickly. Our second full day in the city also turned into the sunniest, so we hit the sidewalks and packed it all in!
Our day started at one of the major farm/flea markets in Belfast. We browsed the stalls selling everything from whole animal carcasses, to discounted socks, to French pastries and freshly roasted coffee.
Being on a budget, our souvenir shopping was non-existent, but we did walk away with a still-warm hunk of Italian herb and olive bread, packed away in the snack bag for later. We made our way down to the river, an area of the city that feels completely different from the tumultuous historical areas surrounding the gates, which ever since the Troubles, are still closed at night.
Rachel got to explore the river, and with the sun beating down we enjoyed our small picnic watching the cyclists on the well-developed paths. A little farther along we arrived at the harbour, and even from a distance could spot the glistening, modern, and massive Titanic Museum rising up from the water. Not only do the grounds include part of the Titanic ship sitting in a hole, but also an extensive description of the City of Belfast’s 30 year future plan, an impressive and surprisingly interesting display for tourists and locals. Inside, for 11£ for a student, the many secrets of the Titanic are revealed, video and audio clips from survivors are available, multiple interactive displays captivate audiences of all ages and a ride in a cart taking visitors down into the bowels of the ‘ship’ mock up to see how it was constructed. Many, many hours of educational entertainment, all in an amazing building, on a beautiful day. Totally worth the money.
Walking back along the docks from the museum, we practically ran into an adorable cafe with a great premise. The Dock Humanity Box Café is a coffee shop that allows customers to receive a drink, and up to two home baked, delicious snacks, and at the end of their stay, put in the box the amount they think their coffee break was worth, or alternatively, what you can afford to pay for your treat. For us, this was ideal. We got to take in the art, the book sharing space, enjoy a fresh coffee and an afternoon snack, and as we left, dropped in the box what we felt we could pay. Many, if not all, of the staff are volunteers, and the space is used for prayer circles, youth group meetings, coffee houses, open mic nights, and many other events. We no doubt paid more than our snack was worth, but a win-win situation for all involved. It was just what we needed at the end of a long day of history and walking.
Although we had almost reached the end of our time in Belfast, we had the lovely experience of sharing a room with a young man who was in town from Downpatrick, wanting to take part in a music festival of some kind in the university district. He was very, very excited to be in Belfast, and had enjoyed some pre-show beverages (among other things…) in preparation for his night on the town. We were hoping for a quiet night in, as we had a bus to catch early the next morning, but in an 8-bed dorm room in a hostel, it was clearly impossible. Not only did our roommate – who became permanently known as ‘our friend from Downpatrick’ – manage to dump the entire contents of his bag on the floor, he also left his socks in the bathroom, and managed to turn the entire loo into a shower (we’re still not sure how that happened…). Although we went to bed in his absence, along with our dorm-mates, two girls from western Canada and a young student from France, upon our friend’s return, he turned the room upside down. The lights were on and off every thirty seconds, he came in and out frequently before settling on remaining in, but was too hyped up to sleep and could not manage to find his own bed, instead attempting to join all of us in ours. Among a great deal of yelling, and very colourful language, he did eventually find his own bunk and settle down, but by that time the two poor girls from Canada were terrified, and one was too scared to get up and leave. Everyone was a little shaken, and we all crept out very quietly the next morning. Our friend from Downpatrick did not wake prior to our departure, luckily for us!