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…is where we’ve been today. Val has never been here, and my last visit was over 50 years ago – my father came from N Ireland, and for some years when I was a boy, family holidays included visits here.

As I mentioned in an earlier post we were going to visit some of the places from those long-ago holidays, but in the event it was very dull and grey this morning and we thought better of it. We got the shuttle bus to the City Hall (15 to 20 minutes) and were dropped off outside the ‘Visit Belfast’ information centre. There was a bit of a scrum here but eventually we found a city map and decided to walk over to the Titanic Experience, with a view to going in if it wasn’t too expensive. The walk took about half an hour and was easy enough, though some stretches along the river were pretty open and would be very wet in rain. We hadn’t hurried off the ship so it was about 11:30 when we arrived. (Frustratingly, we were probably only a quarter of a mile from Azura when we got there; just on the other side of the river.)

The attraction itself cost us £14.50 each. That was a ‘Seniors’ price which I was able to get even though I didn’t have the proof of eligibility that I required. Val did, and they raised no objection to also giving me the reduced price. (The normal price is £18pp, btw.) That gave us access to two attractions – the Titanic Experience and a chance to walk around the SS Nomadic, which is berthed in a dry dock just outside.

We enjoyed the Titanic Experience. It’s an immersive museum/attraction in the modern style, and Val found the first stage,which covered the development of industrial Belfast in the 19th century, confusing, but once the story focused more clearly on the construction of the Titanic the experience improved. There’s one section where visitors enter cars which swoop around huge multi-storey displays about the shipbuilder’s experience of the construction – riveters, frame benders, and so on. It brings out what a very hard job a shipyard worker had in those days – I was particular struck by the ‘heating boy’ tossing white-hot rivets up in the air to be caught by a other workers who performed the actual riveting process.

The Experience finishes with a brief account of the voyage and the sinking, but I did get a feeling that that wasn’t the story being told (although it’s impossible to ignore it, of course). The main focus was its construction and the role of Belfast and its people in that, and how it fitted into a long and proud industrial tradition. We enjoyed it. I suppose if I was being really critical I could wish that Titanic’s position as the middle one of three huge (for the time) sister-ships, and not a unique object, was brought out more clearly – Titanic was built more quickly than Olympic which preceded her, as all of the problems had been sorted out during the construction of the earlier ship. Butt that’s a counsel of perfection – it’s Titanic that the world remembers, not Olympic, even though she did 25 years service on the Atlantic run, or even Britannic which was also sunk. It’s an extraordinary fact that of that class of world-beating ships, built specifically for the North Atlantic run, only one of the three ever reached New York.

SS Nomadic was less interesting, but as our ticket included it we did visit her. She was used as a high-class tender at Cherbourg for 1st and 2nd class passengers of the Olympic-class liners, Cherbourg harbour being too small at that time for them to berth alongside the quay. (Third class passengers had to use a different tender ship – perish the thought that the great and good should come into close proximity to the great unwashed…) She was interesting enough, I suppose, but if I’d paid the £7 pp just for admission to Nomadic, I’d have been pretty disappointed.

Then we walked back to the city centre, quickly got a shuttle bus back to the ship, and were back on board just after 4pm, having had a more enjoyable day than we expected at breakfast time.

2 Responses to “Belfast…”

  1. Sarah says:

    I’ve been to Belfast, a number of years ago, just for the day from Dublin. I didn’t go to the Titanic museum though – maybe next time.

  2. Malcolm Oliver says:

    It’s not really a ‘Museum, it actually has very few real Titanic artefacts, I guess that’s why they call it an ‘Experience’.

    However it is very good. It is built next to the original Titanic slipway. The nearby Titanic dry-dock and pump house are real as is the original drawing office next door. I’d definitely recommend a visit.

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