Apr 28, 2012

Belfast Trip - 2012

There is no denying that our trip to Belfast has taken on a Titanic feel. Although we are regular visitors, this year has special significance.  The city on the east coast of Northern Ireland is celebrating the great ship, as well as remembering all those who lost their lives in the famous sinking 100 years ago this month. More on that tomorrow.

Some facts about Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is made up of 5 quaters or districts: Titanic, Cavehill, University, Cathedral, Gaeltacht. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland was given the title of city in 1888 by Queen Victoria. At the time, it was the largest city on the the Island of Ireland with many thriving industries including ship building and engineering, linen, and whiskey. Today the city has a population of around 250,000 and including the surrounding urban area of almost 700,000.

We kicked off our weekend on Friday by taking the Open Top City Bus tour. The tour was narrated by Lizel and our driver was Kevin. I would recommend this tour to visitors, not only for the very informative guides(this was our third time) but also because the tour is hop on, hop off. This means the bus can be flagged down most places it passes and the tickets are valid for unlimited use over 72 hours after purchase.

The author in me is attracted to the literary of the history of Belfast. So that’s what I will concentrate on today.

Northern Ireland is known as land of the giants. There’s a few reasons for this. First, The Giant’s Causeway on the north coast -- a formation of basalt columns.

The second reason is sort of tied to the first. For anyone who has read my book, Shades of Atlantis, Guardians were inspired by the godlike race of super humans who were said to once populate Ireland. Fionn mac Cumhaill(Fionn McCool) was said to be descended from these people. One legend goes that Fionn built the causeway as a means of reaching Scotland. 

A third reason takes us back to writers. High in the hills overlooking Belfast, there is rock formation that resembles a sleeping giant watching over the city.

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It’s this giant that was said to inspire Jonathan Swift while writing Gulliver’s Travels.  At the time, Swift lived on Limestone Road in Lilliput cottage.

CS Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia also found his inspiration in Belfast. Lewis, known as Jack to his friends, attended Campbell College, an exclusive public school(The equivalent of a private, fee paying High School). A lamp post on the long drive to the impressive school buildings gave spark to the idea of the lamp post where we meet Mr Tumnus after entering Narnia.  A bronze statue in the city show’s Diggory Kirke, the professor whose wardrobe door becomes a gateway to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

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Incidentally, Lewis wasn’t a confident writer(I know the feeling) and was good friends with Tolkin(Lord of the Rings), whom he met while at Oxford, and cleared all publications through him first. Tolkin advised against publication of The Chronicles of Narnia. Luckily Lewis decided not to listen to his friend on this occasion.

Another writer among many with connections to Belfast was Irish man, Samuel Beckett. Beckett taught for a short time at the above mentioned Campbell College but was said to have considered the privileged students who were ‘the cream of Ulster’ just like cream – rich and thick. Thick meaning stupid for those not accustomed to Beckett’s definition of the students.

Tomorrow, I will be sharing images of our visit to Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. For now, I’m off to the hotel bar for one of these.

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