Welcome to Ireland everyone. Travel this semester has allowed me to add a few countries to my list. Countries: United Kingdom (Northern Ireland) and the Republic of Ireland. Cities: Belfast, Londonderry (with a side-step to the Giant’s Causeway), and Dublin, not to mention the after-trip to Kilkenny for a food festival (don’t worry, I promise to tell you all about it).
We left Saturday afternoon and arrived in Belfast late at night. We didn’t think to bring much to eat, and not having any pounds, we didn’t buy anything during our layover in London. Needless to say, we were hungry by the time we made it to the hotel. What better to do than to watch The Food Network, yes? Wrong. Waking up for breakfast on Sunday was a blessing. Continuing the blessing, my friend and I made it to mass at St. Malachy’s, conveniently located next to our meetup point, St. George’s Market.
Taking a tour around the city, it was easy to see the physical divide between people. Protestants and Catholics live on separate sides of the wall. Flags flying high display those wanting to be British and those wanting to be Irish. This division seems to fade once away from this area of town. When you talk to the people, though, they might be the friendliest people I’ve met in all of my travels. No matter the time of day, the people of Belfast were welcoming and kind.
As you may guess, the Union Jack is flown on the Protestant side, and the Irish tri-color is flown on the Catholic side. The dividing wall is known as the Peace Wall. Anyone is allowed to write on it–or at least, that’s what the guide told us. It was built at the end of the Troubles to settle disputes by separating the people. It was a stark difference from the rest of the city where flags are more scarce. In these residential areas, the strings of flags stretch down every street, creating a blur of colors. The flag is a symbol for many things, for religion, for nationalism, for pride. The people of Belfast are divided, nearly split down the center. There are many who would like to stay British, and there are many who would like to join with the Republic of Ireland. As of now, a peace seems to have been reached, at least to a good extent. While the dividing wall is still daunting, hope for the future is still clear.
For lunch that day, we ate at the Ulster Museum cafe. Being near the coast, fish is a big deal. So what did I eat? Herring, hake tarts, pickled red onions and a saffron aioli, garnished with rocket and lemon, served on slate. It was as beautiful to eat as it was to look at.
To drink? Tea, of course.
On a side note, if you ever find yourself in the city, and you’re looking for a local pub that’s off the beaten path, check out Kelly’s Cellars. It may seem like a weird alleyway, but it’s not. The place was built in the 1700’s and is cozy and warm. The staff is hilarious and kind. Later at night, starting around 9 or so, live music starts. It’s loud and the place gets a bit crowded, but, again, everyone’s very kind. So sit, have a pint, chat with your friends, and listen to some music. It’ll make for a fun evening out.