8.23.2013

5 Tips for surviving Belfast

Belfast: more like bell-slow.

Belfast is a city full of things to do. Anyone working within the tourist infrastructure scoffs at any news mentions of Belfast as a dangerous place. Other locals are not afraid to greet you with a friendly "YOU DROPPED YOUR MAP YOU FRICKIN TOURIST!" the moment you get off the bus.

It is a calm city, in which you probably won't get yelled at in the street more than twice a day. Here are some helpful tips to make sure your visit is as pleasant as possible.

1. Don't insult the architecture, even if it is an atrocity of modernism meets neoclassical, all in one building. Belfast thrives on the clash of cultures from different sources coming together. This fine building is part of a college right by the botanical gardens.
Cubism, meet columns and a sculpture?
Ok, some of the college buildings are legit.
2. Take some time to appreciate the rainbows. They almost make up for the five times a day you will get rained on from the bipolar weather systems. Oh, and probably acquire yourself an umbrella, or you won't be able to tell the raindrops apart from your tears.
I think Ireland was on the other end of this rainbow.
3. Don't wear William and Mary gear. Well, you might get a high five in Protestant area. As you can see, orange day is a big thing, and William is so popular he gets a whole side of a building in the ultra-union-jack part of the city. You can take a black cab tour from all manner of Troubles veterans. You can request a bias so you can have the tour skewed perfectly to conform to your world view, or you can just take your chances. 
Anyway, don't wear William and Mary gear in the Catholic section, or you will get a high five to the face.
William! And Mary! Loved of Old! Hark upon the &c &c.
4. If you need cheering up after the tour of troubles, go to city hall!

Pretty enough building. What could improve its coolness?

Rows of artistic terra cotta warriors!
He pandance if he wants to.
5. The best way to survive Belfast? Get out of Belfast. You are so close to Giant's causeway, it is a necessary day trip. If you are very lazy, like me, you can find a daytrip bus and feel super tourist for a day. Doing it this way provides a couple benefits, other than avoiding public transportation hassles:


Pirate statue. You get to visit this castle just long enough to snap a photo!

Tiny islands near  Carrick-a-Rede, which is a tiny rope bridge.
You can pay five pounds? For the privilege of walking on a bridge.

Or you can stand around and take pictures.

You can guess which I picked.
Now, to the Causeway!
Giant's Causeway is an important location for many reasons, not the least of which because Hermione teleported herself, Ron, and Harry here for no apparent reason except to provide some very nice scenery in the last movie.

You can walk around on the rocks, slip and fall and get a bruise, because the damps stones are super slick. You can also go hiking up a trail and walk on top of the cliffs. This is a nice hike, but at the top of the cliffs the geographical formations tend to be pretty much like normal cliffs and water, less distinctive than Finn McCool's legacy.

Natural geometric formations!

It's a pattern for a stone soccer ball/football.
Note: the thing I have to apologize most for while traveling:
the American use of he word football.

You haven't seen the last of rocks and water! Oh my no!

Pretty weird formation, right? And big.
Note the genuine rain droplets on the lens!

Cliffs: good for hiking!
Warning: uphill. 

From up here, giant is not the word I would pick.

Anyway, Giant's Causeway is the remnant of Finn McCool's duel with a Scottish giant named Benandonner. The story was explained to me thusly: 

So Ben hears Finn is the most badass of the Irish giants, and he's like cool. So he sends Finn a letter, saying Hey, wanna fight? Build me a causeway so I can come over and kick your ass!

Finn says cool, and builds a bigass causeway to join ireland and scotland, because giant's can't be bothered to take a boat. So Finn sits there and crosses his arms and watches Benandonner strut over from across the channel. As he gets closer, Finn realizes this is bad news bears, and he's like great scot, that is a great big scot. So, being the quickthinking guy Finn is, he gets his wife to wrap him up in swaddling clothes and put him in a crib. (What a baby!)

So when Ben finally gets there, the wife says oh hey, my hubby is out for the moment. Lemme just feed his son, and I'll go get him. So Ben sees this enormous baby, and thinks "Damn. If that's the size of the baby, I don't want to see the dad." So Ben runs back across the causeway, tearing it to pieces, and leaving broken rocks and a whole lot of bizarrely hexagonal footprints. Yay!
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