"She was fine when she left us"!
So says many a Belfast wag about Titanic, which set sail from Belfast Docks one hundred years ago.
To commemorate that fateful voyage, famously her first and last, a brand new exhibition has been constructed, which opened on March 31st 2012. Some good friends of ours, Marj & Pete, with whom we've been on a cruise or two in our time, wanted to go and take a look and so did we.
Flybe flitted us there in a splendid 25 minutes (hardly time to read a couple of pages of my book), Avis kitted us out with a Peugeot "Stationwagon" (a nomenclature I've not heard in ages) and off we went to meet Marj & Pete at our palatial Holiday Inn Express, in University Street.
Getting out to the Titanic Exhibition and parking there was easy peasy and, after a nice light lunch, our time slot came round and in to the exhibition we went.
The exhibition is superb and the staff truly excellent. Via a combination of escalators, elevators, stairways and, yes, even a cable car, you're taken on a journey through time, starting with a detailed look at what life was like in Belfast at the time of Titanic's construction, a fascinating history of the White Star Line and then, through various delightful and very well-engineered segments, you're given a very good idea of the scale of the endeavour and an insight into life on board.
Very thoughtful coverage of the incident with the iceberg and, of course, Titanic's sinking is followed by areas dealing with the subsequent searches for and eventual discovery of the wreck a good number of years later. There's the inevitable area dealing with the various films including, of course, the Kate & Leo moment. (Fellow fans of Love Actually will get that remark!!) and a truly splendid experience of the sunken ship itself. (I'll tell you no more or I'll spoil the surprise.)
Our next day dawned very, very grey and very, very wet. Nevertheless, of we went in our Stationwagon, round the coastal route to the Giant's Causeway. Well worth the trip it was too, I have to say. Fascinating, jaw dropping and, perhaps, a bit spooky, all at the same time. The new visitor centre is superb as is the self guided tour – well, once Irene got the hang of how the map worked!!
The nearby Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge was closed for repairs and, in any event, it was oh, so windy, I just couldn't keep a hair in place! Accordingly we weren't able to follow in Michael Portillo's footsteps and cross to the other side.
The oddest thing about our day was that, every time we stopped, so did the rain. Indeed, as you'll see, the sun even came out to welcome us to the Giants Causeway!!
On the Thursday we took a taxi tour with Paddy Campbell's Black Cab Tours. During our 90 minute tour, Paddy himself, no less, presented a very well-balance view of the history that led up to "The Troubles", what occurred during those difficult times and how things really are in Belfast today. It was certainly an eye-opener, as we were guided through both the Protestant & Catholic parts of central Belfast, up and down the famous – or should I say infamous roads - the Falls, the Crumlin and the Shankill, past the murals, some very enjoyable, some a bit sinister, all with a deep, deep symbolism.
We all came away a bit wiser, certainly better informed and with a more rounded understanding – a great way to spend a morning.
A quick dash to the top of the splendid new shopping centre, with its 360 degree panoramic views of the whole city, and it was back to Avis, back to the City Airport and back to Edinburgh – this flight must have been uphill, it took almost 45 minutes!!
There you go, a mini account of our mini break. Before I go, though, I must mention our 2 evenings – a pint or two of Guinness for Irene (shandy for me) in a couple of the classic pubs, followed by some great grub and all within walking distance of our hotel.
Would we recommend it? Yes we would.