Sunday, September 16, 2012

Friday, September 14

The ship arrives in Belfast, Northern Ireland around 7AM. We are tied up with our starboard side to the pier and a fairly narrow channel of water to our, open, port side, The far side of this water is bordered by some old, brick buildings and in the distance you can see huge, yellow, gantry cranes with H and F painted on them. We don’t notice it at first, but there is a large, dry concrete trough in the ground by the old brick buildings. It runs parallel to the waterway on which we are docked.

A shuttle bus will start running into town at 9AM so we have breakfast a little earlier than usual and catch the first bus. It drops us downtown in front of the visitor information center where we buy Jack his pin and two tickets for the City Tour HOHO bus. We walk a block or so to where we catch the bus and Dick visits with a man who works for the tour company. Our bus arrives on time and we get front row seats, under cover, as it is threatening rain.

Off we go and are soon turning into the area where Harlan and Wolf had their shipyard and where RMS Titanic was built. We get a good look at the huge, yellow cranes (no longer in use) and are told that up until 1974 they were the largest in the world. It turns out that the old brick building mentioned earlier is the pump house for the dry dock (see large, dry, concrete trough mentioned above) in which RMS Titanic was built. Pretty neat!
Our tour then proceeds out past the airport to Stormont Estate, the location of the Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings. This area is very pretty and is open to the public.
From here we head back into town, in a heavy mist, where we pass by various points of interest. The one that is most interesting is an area known as Shankill and its main street, Shankill Road. This is a working class area of row houses and pubs in which much of the violence between Protestant and Catholic, Unionist and Republican factions took place between 1968 and 1996.

This area is still an armed camp with only the center stripe of the street separating the various factions in some places while in others they are separated by 25' high "Peace Walls" topped with razor wire and looking strong enough to stop armored vehicles.
While some of the gates in these walls remain open most of the time, others are regularly closed from Friday evening until Monday morning. We did not see any armed guards but we were told that they are there and can appear in moments if needed. Right now, things seem fairly quiet.

There are political murals on the fronts and sides of many buildings in both types of neighborhoods. 

These people are still fighting over things that took place in 1690 and eulogizing young people killed in the fighting in the 1970s! We see the Sinn Fein Bookshop, the Paddy Power Bar, posters recruiting for the Irish Republican Army, etc. The city seems to have prospered since "The Peace of 1996" but to us its seems it may be only temporary, the hatred and rancor just under the servi, and will burst forth at any excuse. Much the same feeling we got in Cape Town in 2009.
The rest of the tour is the usual University
and church buildings. We are through with it about 11:30AM. We do a little shopping
but find nothing we need and catch a shuttle back to the ship where we arrive a little before 1PM. We eat lunch and Dick watches sail-away from the Sky Bar, Deck 10 forward. Carolyn catches a 2PM movie and joins him before we are out of the harbor area.

Just before sailing, the Captain comes on the PA system and tells us to expect a rough night tomorrow and tomorrow night before some improvement in the seas and winds in time for our arrival in Reykjavik, Iceland. The system left over from Leslie has moved on past our course, but the seas and winds are still high. We eat dinner early and are back in the room by 8:30PM. The ship has started to move quite a bit, our patio door is whistling from the 50MPH wind and a warm bed seems to be the best place to weather the storm.


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