Guinness, Bushmills and champ
08.12.2009 - 13.12.2009 5 °C
(Ok, ok, we hear you those in London and NYC)
Having not a shred of knowledge about Belfast and it's stormy history, we arrived in Belfast two weeks ago with a bit of trepidation, particularly as we had discovered our hotel was in the hot bed of the "Loyalist Area" after we had booked. However all it took was a couple of Guinnesses at the nearby Robinsons Saloon to discover that Irish laughter and merriment was just as alive in the North as it is in the South, and we had nothing to worry about.
Belfast was smaller and quieter than expected, however scars of its past are staunchly on display - for example right by our hotel was a row of houses with the end-wall painted in its entirety: "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING LOYALIST SANDY ROW" with a terrorist (defender of faith, depending on what side you're on) swathed in camoflague, holding a machine gun, pointed at any one who dared enter without Protestant love in their heart.
We started our visit by taking a Belfast Black Cab Tour which was truly excellent. I've never felt the desire to write reviews on any excursion I've ever been on, but was moved to post on Trip Advisor. If any of you head there, take a look: http://belfastblackcabtours.co.uk Our guide and owner Paddy Campbell showed us the murals and memorials of Shankill and Falls Road, and gave us an unbiased look at both Catholic (Republic) and Protestant (Loyalist) sides. From what we saw, the Protestant murals seemed to be triumphant and staunch, with one dedicated to one Stevie 'Top Gun' McKeag, who was celebrated for shooting 30 Catholics to death. The Catholic memorials on the other hand, seemed more morose and mournful. After the trip he dropped us off at the town square to wander the Continental Christmas Market. We were so impressed that we booked his day-long trip to Giant's Causeway for the following day where we shivered at each of the dramatic sights, but warmed ourselves on Whiskey tasting at Bushmills Distillery. Photos to come!
Our final day was spent hunting for an 'Irish Santa' that Mavis had her heart set on, but surprisingly Belfast was devoid almost completely of souviner shops, and it was only by asking around that we found one 'Irish' shop, where Mavis found a leprechaun Christmas decoration instead.
Jac's friend from Dublin, Helen, joined us for the afternoon, however, not without a bit of drama as Jac realised she stupidly emailed out a mobile number that didn't exist, well for her at least. Some poor bugger in NZ would have received a fair few texts at stupid o'clock on Sunday morning, as Helen tried texting in the northern hemisphere Saturday afternoon... oops.
So as the title of this entry suggests, we're huge fans of Eddie Izzard... Jac had booked tickets (second row, no less!) to see him about nine months ago and it was a brilliant show. How he comes up with his material is baffling.
So it was back to London on our foe Ryanair, unfortunately both flights to/from Belfast were abnormally quiet and relaxed, despite Jac and Chalky gearing Mavis up for the typical eating-time-at-the-zoo type experience of air travel. However.... the highlight of Belfast was to be had at the airport... Jac and Mavis were sitting in the airport, waiting for our gate to be announced when Chalky came up and said, "Do you guys have time for a photo?" Despite thinking, "Um, in the airport?" upon looking up, Eddie was standing in front of us, smiling! With typical grace and decorum, squeals echoed through departures as did gushes of every star's favourites, like, "We came ALL the way from NZ to see your show!", "We have every one of your DVDs!" and completely destroyed Chalky's assurances of a discreet and quick photo. Poor guy, but Mavis and Jac got the prized souvenir of their Belfast trip, which is a cheesy photo with a bemused Eddie.