On Boxing Day (or St. Stephens's day in the Republic of Ireland), many of the shops had reopened and Belfast was a madhouse! People everywhere. And no wonder, Boxing Day sales are much like the after Christmas sales (or even Black Friday) sales in the US. Unfortunately, many of the tourist attractions were still closed, so we explored a little bit of Belfast by foot. One bonus, I was able to pick up a couple things that I can't get in Germany (they had Reese's peanut butter cups! I forgot how good those things are!) for fairly cheap. But, it rained all day, which normally wouldn't have been much of a problem. Unfortunately though, I had a down coat, which isn't the most waterproof of outerwear and I also discovered that the boots I was wearing (and the only shoes I brought with me), had a crack in the sole, meaning my feet got wet. Thank God for wool socks! We also discovered Aaron's shoes were cracked too. Bit of a bummer seeing as how they are a good brand (Keen), mine are less than a year (and were already replaced once under warranty for the same issue) and Aaron's are less than 6 months old. Hopefully, Keen stands behind their product.
The next day, we got up early and headed to the Titanic experience. I mean, since the Titanic was built in Belfast, it felt appropriate to see where. The museum opened at 10, and we got there early to make sure we were one of the first groups in. The first thing they do before you enter is take you picture in front of a green screen to put into different Titanic themed backgrounds afterwards. Too bad I wore a green sweater that was the same color as the green screen - my whole torso was invisible!
The exhibit begins with explaining the history of Belfast in the late 1800s - early 1900s. They discuss the linen industry, the history of shipbuilding in the city, the political climate of Northern Ireland, and give you a glimpse into life as a Belfast citizen. You are then guided through the construction of bigger and bigger ships, and finally the design of the Olympic Class ships such as Titanic. They even have a little Disney-esque ride that takes you through hull construction. This ride covers everything from the rolling of the hull plates, the bending of beams, and finally the grueling conditions of the riveters. The way they used to install rivets is crazy - two people pounding red hot rivets, with one on the other side holding it in place. I can't imagine how tiring, or how loud, that job would be. In fact, many of the riveters did go deaf from the pounding. It also wasn't uncommon for workers to be crushed to death, or die from some other cause, while on the job. Workplace safety wasn't as big of an issue back then as it is today, apparently.
You then continued through the launching and fitting out of the ship. There were a couple of mock rooms set up, one from first class and one from third class, along with examples of the furnishings used throughout the ship, and even a scale model of the ship that was close to 20 feet long. They also had many beautiful pieces of White Star Line china on display, which would be awesome to have in the collection. And then, it continued through the sinking. There were survivor accounts, transcripts from the distress calls sent by the Titanic, and descriptions from those that came to her aid (unfortunately much too late). It was really quite moving. After this exhibit, there was an exhibit on the outcomes of the sinking - lifeboat capacity, lifeboat drills, etc. - to ensure that another tragedy of this magnitude never occurred again (and in fact, it hasn't). The final exhibit was a short video from the wreck of the Titanic, showing its condition and some artifacts, and talking about how it was discovered. There was also a small part showing the multitude of wrecks in Irish waters, most within recreation dive limits, and legal to dive. We tried in earnest to find somewhere to dive (click here and here for more information about sites in Ireland). I contacted Andy at I Are Diver to get some dive shop recommendations and I talked with Aquaholics for a while, but the seas were far too rough to dive (11 meter swells? No thank you!). And as a result, this whole section just frustrated me since diving wasn't an option. However, it did make us realize that we HAVE to return when the weather is better to dive. As a matter of fact, we are already looking into when the best time would be for a dive trip to Ireland
Side note, if you want to dive in Ireland with us, drop us a line and we will keep you in the loop on how the planning is going!
After we finished up at the Titanic museum, we headed over to the SS Nomadic. She is the last remaining White Star Line ship. She was used as a ferry to to bring passengers to the larger ships where deep water ports did not exist. We then tried to find the dry dock the Titanic was built in, but unfortunately, it was more difficult than anticipated to locate. We were hungry, and we needed to get on the road to our next stop, so we didn't waste too much time trying to find it. Plus, it was cold outside that day. Right around 32 F, damp, and windy, but it was sunny, so I guess that's a bonus. After a quick lunch, and picking up some Shoe Goo in skate shop to try to fix our leaky shoes, we were on our way to the western side of Ireland, Castlebar!
The drive was long, and had it been during the day, I'm sure it would have been beautiful. Alas, being so far north (north of the 54th parallel), it gets dark pretty early. That night we stayed at a little charming B&B called The Connaught Inn. The hosts were awesome and the food was amazing! They had a band playing that night and Smithwick's on tap, which meant it was going to be a good night.
The next day, we were on to the Cliffs of Moher and Limerick. Check back in a few days to read about it and see some awesome pictures Aaron was able to get!
Click though the gallery below to see some more pictures from the Titanic experience.
- Meghan -