Belfast, Northern Ireland: Ready for Travelers
Say hello to Belfast, Northern Ireland, where the pubs pour great lager, and the laughter and the garden-studded streets cover the ugly scars of “The Troubles.”
Who would have thought Belfast would be one of the next, best tourist destinations?
Until the Good Friday Peace Accord (April 10, 1998) the city and Northern Ireland were riven by sectarian and religious conflict for nearly 30 years. The 3,000 plus deaths are appalling, especially for such small part of the world.
But today Belfast is restless with life.
There are still pockets of unrest (they exist in Washington DC too!), but Belfast’s rain -drizzled streets welcome classy restaurants and lots of shoppers.
The Arts Flourish
Just visit the majestic Grand Old Opera house, an architectural sweet spot.
Badly bombed in 1991-2, it’s the best surviving example in the United Kingdom of the oriental style theater, with a rich calendar of top performances.
A must see is the St. George’s Market for foot-stomping live music and stalls overflowing with North Ireland’s best pates, breads, cheeses and produce. It's a terrific people-watching experience.
You have to take the Pub Tour or at least have a Guinness at the Crown Liquor Saloon, a Victorian-Italianate masterpiece, a classic Irish pub.
The lurid murals on the walls of Belfast still cry out about the past pain and violence. And, the corrugated “Peace Fence” still divides the so-called Catholic and Protestant sections.
And if there is some lingering tension, it’s more or less eclipsed in the warmth and wit of the people, the energy of the young and the endless building, a sure sign of a belief in the future.
Out of the city, drive the Antrim Coast, along the dramatic ocean, past picturesque harbors and untouched village, into Bushmill country for a taste of Ireland’s finest.
Belfast and Northern Ireland are proof that not just Phoenixes rise from the ashes.
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