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Parrot Knight in Belfast

November 15th, 2004 (12:03 am)
current music: Last night's Bob Harris show, again

The train line through Northern Ireland had a slightly different character from that in the Republic; the line was further from the coast, and in most cases the original station buildings, lovingly preserved for the most part in the republic, were gone, replaced by corrugated metal and concrete. Politics were never far away; a sign belonging to a private business was held up by two poles dividing the sign in equal thirds, and someone had started to paint the Irish tricolour on the back. There was another area where almost every house was flying the Union Jack, and where it flew from lampposts as well.

The train pulled into Belfast Central, whose buildings opened in 2003, which didn't appear to be particularly central to Belfast at all. Deboss and I ended up being put in the back of a taxi which already had another passenger, a man of far eastern appearance on his way to a police station; but the taxi driver didn't seem to rip us off as the price was surprisingly low. The new hotel was plusher than the Dublin one, and was a conversion of a nineteenth-century building on Donegall Square itself, one side facing the back of the City Hall. I have never stayed somewhere with so many cushions and pillows on the beds. If the joys of travelling on expenses had not been brought home to me before, they were now.

Deboss invited me to join him on a walk to Queen's. We passed the Hotel Europa, which prides itself on being the most bombed hotel in Europe. Belfast is becoming a smarter city but we were plunged almost straight into the interstices between the city centre and residential streets, full of small electrical shops and restaurants.

Queen's University has attractive nineteenth-century buildings but its modern ones leave something to be desired. It loks as if a plan of quadrangles was abandoned in the twentieth century and the result is messy. Nonetheless, the best thing about Queen's is that one walks from the clash of architectural styles into the Botanic Garden, established in the 1840s and including several Victorian greenhouses full of exotic plants. They were probably the warmest places to be in Belfast that afternoon.

I noticed in the shops that there are the beginnings of Troubles tourism in Belfast - it's possible to buy postcards in newsagents (but not WH Smith!) showing loyalist and republican wall murals. (I didn't send as many postcards as I might have done, as I forgot my address book - I'll remember next time I go to somewhere postcardable.)


Posted by: Pellegrina (pellegrina)
Posted at: November 15th, 2004 01:13 am (UTC)

We got your postcard, thank you!