Ireland day 0062. Monday 29 November 2021- Titanic
|Today’s summary||Took the Enterprise train to Belfast then walked on the Lagan embankment to the Titanic exhibition. Absolutely superb. Train back in the evening then a restorative pint in Gibney’s, Malahide, to round off the day|
|Today’s weather||Milder than recently. Drizzly and overcast in Belfast. A bit brighter in the evening. About 10C|
|Today’s overview location
(the red cross in a circle shows where Val and I are at the moment)
(Click button below to download a GPX of our walk from Layton Place to the Titanic):
Newry, Portadown, Lurgan.
For anyone growing up in the 60s and 70s, like me, these are familiar names with unhappy memories from the evening news. But today, as we sped through these iconic landmarks on the train to Belfast, few traces – on the surface at least – of this troubled chapter in the Province’s history were evident.
But what were we doing? Well, while we are without a car, we have decided to make as much use as we can of the train to see Ireland. After all, our flat is right by the station in Malahide, so it seems an obvious and simple thing to do.
We’ve been monitoring the news, like everyone else, and of course with the Covid and Article 16 difficulties were wondering how much longer it we would actually be possible to travel easily between the Republic and Northern Ireland. So we decided to make hay while the sun was still shining, and book tickets for a quick day trip to Belfast. Val had never been there before, and I had only been a couple of times on business, so it was very high on our list of places to visit while we on this side of the Irish Sea.
Our particular objective today was to visit the Titanic exhibition, down in Belfast’s docklands area. It’s one of Ireland’s top attractions so it sounded like a promising place to start. We had anticipated spending a couple of hours there, then heading off and exploring a bit more of Belfast city centre before catching the train home.
So we duly caught the coast train to Drogheda where we changed and jumped on the Enterprise express to Belfast. The journeys both there and back worked well, actually, though changing at Drogheda is a bit of a nightmare as there are six platforms and absolutely no indicator boards – or announcements – to tell you where to go. The journey took about two and a half hours each way.
Belfast was shrouded in mist and a light drizzle was falling when we arrived, allowing us to see the city as it should be – grey and damp. It did clear up a bit in the afternoon, and the weather was actually quite decent by the time evening fell. We strolled down to the Lagan river and were quickly in the newly rejuvenated and very smart Titanic Quarter of the city. The riverbank has the usual furniture of cinemas, interactive displays and interpretive plaques and has recently been further enhanced by the addition of a number of stained glass exhibits celebrating the Game of Thrones series, which was filmed at the nearby Titanic studios.
Then we arrived at the Titanic exhibition and I have to say both of us thought it was easily one of the very best we have ever visited. We had planned on a quick trip but spent so long there that we left no time to see anything else. We almost had to run back to Lanyon Place to catch the train home.
It’s extremely well laid out, spectacular and imaginative. There’s an excellent and informative audio guide too, which leads you through the displays at a comfortable pace. Perhaps the highlight is the ride on the mini roller coaster train, which wouldn’t be out of place in Disneyland.
I’m sure everyone knows the story of the Titanic’s final hours on 15 April 1912, when it struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic and sank. Although 700 passengers and crew were rescued and survived, 1500 lives were lost – partly as a result of the vessel being equipped with too few lifeboats. The exhibition doesn’t gloss over the tragedy – nor over the stunning rediscovery of the wreck in 1985, but it does also spend time explaining how the vessel was built and fitted out. All of which is fascinating and often overlooked in narratives about the great vessel’s ultimate demise. The noise and hazard involved in the construction process, in which 15,000 men (and they were mostly men) were employed and eight died was excellently portrayed.
Heads full of facts, we finally left the exhibition and just had time to visit the dry docks where Titanic and her sister ship Olympic were built. And of course we had to test out the Iron Throne too.
So now I’m writing this on the train home, reflecting on an absolutely excellent day out. As we speed south, I’ve just realised that a few moments ago, we crossed the border and rejoined the EU. There wasn’t even a pause in the journey, much less any hint of a passport check. Let’s just hope it stays that way, so future generations can have the same freedom and painless travel as we have enjoyed today.
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)