Musical Experiences, Travel

Belfast Happenings

Day 1 – Titanic Museum, Concert at St Nicholas’ Church

Belfast was a lot different than Dublin. Even after spending almost a week in Dublin, I still didn’t feel like I was in Ireland. I had a hard time believing that I was actually in another country. I think mainly because it’s such a big city with so much to offer. Belfast was a little bit further spread out so it seemed a little more like what I pictured Ireland to be in my mind. We decided to go check out the Titanic Museum first and foremost. I didn’t realize it, but the Titanic was launched from a port in Belfast. And the museum is built on that port! Since it was the 100th anniversary of its sinking (is that really what you would call it? The anniversary? That seems wrong…) it was even more special to me!

The Titanic Museum in Belfast

I think one of the most interesting parts of this museum that I haven’t seen in museums that I’ve visited before is the amount of technology that was used. When you walked into the first room, there were huge walls with Belfast as it was in 1912 and there were projected images of shadows walking through the streets. Meagan tried to walk with one of them but she had to practically run to catch up to them! I haven’t been to the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge so I can’t compare the one in Belfast to the one here in TN but I loved walking through and seeing the carpet samples, and what the rooms would’ve looked like. There was even a five minute ride that you could take through “the shipyard” and you got to see the different conditions that the workers were working in. At one point, you took an elevator up 70 feet and when you got off the elevator a voice over the speaker system told you that workers were typically up three times as high with no safety harnesses. And that less than 10 people died the whole time they were building the ship! My favorite fun fact of the Titanic trip…the rudder was 78 feet tall. SEVENTY-EIGHT FEET!

Yes, that is a person standing at the bottom of the rudder to give you an idea of how huge that thing was!

After our trip to the Titanic Museum, we had to go back to Queen’s University to get ready for our concert at St Nicholas. I think I was most excited about this concert because I kept telling myself that I was singing at Santa’s church.

The concert was beautiful and the food they fed us in between rehearsal and the concert was amazing! I loved every single bit!

Day 2 – Carrickfergus (train ride!), dumpster experience, Queen’s University photo and surprise!

Today Meagan, David, Ben, and I decided to head out away from the city. We headed to the bus stop in the morning and tried to figure out where to go. We decided on a couple of destinations but realized that we wouldn’t be back in time for rehearsal so we took the train to Carrickfergus. We knew there was a castle there and, for me, that’s all I need and I’ll get on the train! Plus, since one of my 25 Before 26 things is ride a train, I figured this was the perfect chance!

Ben and I on the train to Carrickfergus!

When we got to the small town, we headed straight to the castle. It was an interesting castle experience to say the least. As we were walking up to the castle we heard current pop music blaring from right outside in the parking lot. So the whole time we were touring the castle, we heard Katy Perry and the likes from outside. Very authentic.

We left the castle, had some fish and chips, and headed back to Belfast. When we made it back to the city, we had to catch a bus back to Queen’s University. Unfortunately, we got on the wrong bus. We took 8A instead of 8B. We figured they would be on similar routes but when the locals realized that we were anxiously looking at a map trying to figure out where we were, they graciously told us we were on the wrong bus and that we had to get off and walk back to Queen’s. So…that’s what we did.

Unfortunately, all of us had to pee. Bad. And we didn’t have much time to get back to the University. We all couldn’t walk fast because we were trying not to pee on ourselves. So…

I won’t explicitly say what did or did not take place near or around this dumpster. But the satisfied looks on our faces should explain enough…

Luckily, we made it back to the University on time . We had to be in our University of Tennessee polo shirts and ready for rehearsal by a certain time so we ran back to our room and changed. As soon as we changed we went back to meet the rest of the Chamber Singers and started walking. Back in the direction that we had just come. We all thought we were going to take a picture in front of Queen’s University (aka Harry Potter University) and then going to rehearsal. So…we took pictures in front of Queen’s…

Queen’s University

And then we headed inside for a “photo opp” and then, according to Dr Batey, we were going to rehearse after that. But when we walked inside Queen’s, there was a surprise fancy-schmancy dinner for all of us!

The dinner was awesome and so much fun. Dr Batey really knows how to surprise!

Day 3 – Lisbane post office, Down Patrick Cathedral, Botanic Inn (again), David Pegel sign language

Today, on our way to Down Patrick’s Cathedral, we stopped at the Lisbane Post Office for lunch and dessert. It was the cutest little post office you ever did see!

Cute little post office!

We had a fantastic lunch and an even more amazing dessert.

The selection of desserts!

After we finished lunch we headed up to Down Patrick, where Saint Patrick is buried. We rehearsed when we arrived and got ready for the Evensong. Unfortunately the local papers had advertised the Evensong at 5:oopm but we were singing at 3:00pm so there wasn’t a huge crowd.

The organ at Down Patrick
St Patrick’s grave

Day 4 – Northern Coast!, Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Portrush

This day will mainly be pictures. We left early in the morning to explore the Northern coast of Ireland and after a Long…LONG bus ride, we finally made it to our first stop. The Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge! It was 100 feet in the air and super exciting to walk across!

Looking back across after crossing the rope bridge.

Our next stop was the Giant’s Causeway. I wasn’t too sure what to expect but I don’t think I ever would’ve guess this…

The Giant’s Causeway

Walking up the stones of the Giant’s Causeway

After we left the Giant’s Causeway, we headed toward Dunluce Castle. At this point of the day, it had started snowing. This was by far the coldest day of the trip! And it was the day we were outside the whole time!

Part of the castle.
Sitting in a window of the castle

Last but not least we headed to Portrush for dinner!

Dinner…and of course, Irish coffee!
Please. Show dogs in transit. Don’t get too close.

The tour of the Northern coast was by far my favorite part of the trip thus far. We got to see so much of what I had pictured as “Ireland”. Even though it was gloomy and cold, I think that’s what my mind pictured when I thought of Ireland.

Day 5 – Black Taxi Tour of Belfast, climbing the bonfire, Bangor Abbey, reception at the Old Inn, hilarious bus ride back

Last day in Belfast was well-spent. We decided to get up and go see the peace walls and murals. Since it was almost the 12th of July (a major Protestant holiday) we decided not to walk. We took a Black Taxi tour instead and looking back on it, that was definitely the best way to go. We had an awesome tour guide and he took us all over Belfast to see the peace walls, bonfires, gates between the two religious neighborhoods, and murals.

It’s hard to tell how tall this gate is but it was over 30 feet tall. It closes at a certain time during the day and locks so nobody can get in or out. (Also, sorry about the reflection.)
This was probably the weirdest and most eery mural of them all. No matter where you stood in the neighborhood, this guy was always pointing his gun at you. It was a mural used for intimidation. And it worked.
The same mural from a different standpoint.
Standing at another stop facing the mural.
Meagan and I climbed the bonfire that they built for The Twelfth.
Signing the peace walls.
My favorite mural on the peace wall

After our tour of the peace walls and murals, we had to get ready for our last concert at Bangor Abbey. We stopped and had tea and scones with the Lord Mayor of Bangor.

After tea and scones, we left for Bangor Abbey and got ready for our last concert.

Our last concert was amazing. It was so musical and we were all very connected to Dr Batey and the music. After our concert, Dr Batey had one last surprise up her sleeve! We headed toward The Old Inn for a celebratory drink and toast!

Toasting an amazing trip with sparkling grape juice.

On the way back from The Old Inn, it was late, we had a little drink in us, and we were all relieved to be at the end of an amazing and wonderful trip so I think everyone cut loose a little bit. Simon usually acted as tour guide as we were busing around Ireland but on the way back, a different person decided to take Simon’s place as tour guide. He showed us the “oldest curve in Ireland”, the “oldest sidewalk in Ireland”, etc. It was fun to let go and enjoy the rest of the evening. A hilarious you-had-to-be-there moment!

In my next post, we’ll talk about what happened in Dingle! After the Chamber Singers left, Meagan, David and I stayed in Ireland for another week. You’ll hear about that soon!

Until next time, fellow BFs!

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