Hello everyone! So, in Part I of this post you followed me along to St. George’s Market, took a tour of Belfast City Hall, and accompanied me on a famous Black Cab Taxi Tour of the murals and sights of the city.
As exciting as all that was, I was super excited for Day 2 of my trip. I had several things planned out for the day, and they all revolved around the tragic ship, RMS Titanic: Taking a Titanic Discovery Tour, viewing the Robots exhibition at Titanic Belfast, and going aboard the SS Nomadic.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a huge Titanic fan. I even spent a whole summer reading about nothing but the doomed ocean liner. I learned a lot, not only about the ship, but about the time and the ideas circulating at that time, the gaps between the wealthy and the poor and the class divides, many of which would fall after World War I.
I spent the night in the International Youth Hostel in Belfast, and I have to say that I would highly recommend it to anyone staying in the city. It was clean and quiet and the staff was incredibly friendly and always up for the craic. And I can’t say enough about the Causeway Cafe, located on the ground floor of IYH. They serve up a ton of options for breakfast and lunch. I wish I had gotten the Belgian waffles because they looked spectacular. However my breakfast was still good too, as I was served up toast and croissants, a bowl of cereal (Oh! How I’ve missed Cheerios!) plus tea and orange juice.
So, after charging my phone and finishing breakfast, I took a cab to Belfast’s historic Titanic Quarter, named of course after the ship who received its life’s breath from the sweat, blood and tears of the city’s workmen.
As soon as I set eyes on that spectacular museum rising distinctively out of the landscape and the giant yellow Harland and Wolff cranes, I knew I was indeed home. The museum’s architecture (to me) combines the prowess of the ship itself (it is actually the same height as Titanic) and the menace of the iceberg that proved to be its undoing.
First up on my itinerary was a Titanic Discovery Tour, a must in my book. I’d advise booking your tickets online, that way you’re guaranteed a spot. This tour points out some of the more significant aspects of the Titanic Museum–little tributes you may not have noticed on a normal visit–and gives you access to some of the more restricted parts of the grounds.
The reason that I wanted to take the Discovery tour was because of one particular stop on the tour: The drawing offices of Harland and Wolff (the company that designed Titanic). It was here where young men, including Thomas Andrews, worked away on the White Star Line’s latest pride and joys. Long tables covered in draft paper and rulers and pencils would have lined the vast interior. Natural sunlight would have poured in overhead from the large sun roof.
Today, the drawing offices are empty, devoid of the life that they would have had only a hundred years earlier. Today, they are shabbily kept, with chipped paint and some boarded up windows. However, there is still a bit of magic left in these buildings. You can still feel the energy that would have circulated throughout the building. The hopes of so many, contained on a sheet of paper that would be transformed into iron just a few metres away.
I was lucky to take the tour when I did, as my tour guide pointed out that this was one of the last tours that would have access to the drawing offices. The green light had recently been given to turn them into a hotel, just another addition to the rejuvenation of not only the Titanic Quarter, but also Belfast itself.
Next, after my tour concluded, I went back into the museum to view the special “Robots” exhibit. Titanic Belfast plays host to several exhibits and conventions throughout the year (in fact, there was a tattoo convention going on on the fifth floor the day I visited). The advertisement for the exhibit boasted that C-3PO and R2-D2 would be there, so of course I had to go!
There were many other robots there I didn’t know (I’m not a huge sci-fi person), but I was not disappointed with R2-D2 and C-3PO. There they stood, C-3PO with that semi-panicked look on this face and R2 ever calm. They were definitely the biggest attraction there and I had to wait a good long time before getting to take my selfies!
And finally, it was time to go aboard the SS Nomadic, the last surviving White Star ship and the ship that brought (among others) John Jacob Astor and the unsinkable Molly Brown aboard the Titanic at Cherbourg. The tour is cheap (a mere 6 pounds/10 euro gets you all access to the ship, including a guided tour).
When you board Nomadic, you’re entering the same way J.J. Astor and Molly Brown would have–into the opulent first class area, complete with intricate wood work carvings, plush red cushioned chairs and a full bar. Additionally, I was told to tour the toilets before the tour and I’m glad I did, as they were magnificent. Fully restored with the elegant bowls and fittings from Crapper (so when you hear someone say “It’s going down the Crapper” that really was a real name for a toilet, not just some slang!).
It was aboard Nomadic where passengers would have sat for the roughly 40 minute journey from land to liner. You can sit on the benches or gaze out the portholes or lean against the bar as (the tour guide said) J.J. Astor would have done “and ordered himself a Tom Collins.”
However, Nomadic was not just for first class passengers. It was intended for first and second class use. However, on that fateful voyage in 1912, it also delivered third class passengers aboard Titanic. Classes were markedly divided, with gates and railings used to keep the classes separate.
Nomadic certainly echoes it’s bigger sister ship, Titanic, and several times I felt as if I was aboard the doomed ocean liner itself, or alternatively, in the iconic film. While down in the crews quarters I could imagine the ship filling with water and Rose running with her axe in an effort to save Jack.
You can also stroll aboard as well, touring the various decks. You can even have your own “King of the World!” moment on the bow of the ship, if you please. While on deck you can just imagine how exciting it would have been to be ferried across the way on this little ship to a larger ocean liner that would take you across the ocean (hopefully).
Additionally, Nomadic has a rather storied history itself, having been kept in use after the sinking of Titanic. It played an integral part in the World Wars, ferrying soldiers. At one point it was even sold and used as a casino! But now, restored to its White Star Line glory, it’s ready for many more years at home in Titanic Belfast.
After that, I met my new friend Michelle for lunch (Pizza Hut), and then it was (sadly) time to head home. I had such an amazing time in Belfast. I learned so much about the city, and about Titanic, and I got to meet one of the best ladies in the entire world.
It is trips like that you really realize that everything really does happen for a reason and sometimes, not being totally in control is a good thing. I can’t wait to go back to Belfast and explore more and visit Michelle, I feel like Taylor Swift with all these amazing and wonderful women in my life…now if only I could find a Calvin Harris! Haha!