Day 9–When Rihanna’s concert thwarted our plans to spend two nights in Belfast and we had to readjust, there was one thing we all agreed upon that had to be at the top of the list. We had all been told to take the Black Taxi Tour. We took the two hour train ride to Belfast, disembarked, withdrew just enough Ulster pounds for a few pints, lunch and a taxi tour and headed out into the rain to book ourselves a tour. We made the requisite post-train-ride pub-pit-stop at Ronnie Drew’s where the TV screamed out the pre football game festivities and we familiarized ourselves with the size, shape and value of our new Ulster notes . Very unscientifically we attempted a currency exchange value comparison using a pint of Guinness. It went something like this– Hmmm… a pint in Dublin is around 4 euros and the pint in Belfast is 2.95 pounds and the exchange rate is 1. 4 which means–wait lemme do some math…ok never mind. We liked the smaller number in any case and after a pint maybe that is enough!
We found the Tourist Information Office where they were helpful dialing the phone on our behalf so we could book our tour and then recommending a place without screaming TVs for our pre-tour lunch. We all enjoyed the John Hewitt which had a fresh, tasty and attractively prepared take on pub grub. This was one of the best meals we had in Ireland.
Finally it was time for the tour. We were picked up by Joe who led us through the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods including a trip to the Sinn Fein’s former headquarters which is now a book store. Joe was equipped with photographs, extensive personal experience, and umbrellas. Everywhere we went people greeted and chatted with him–except for in the Protestant neighborhood. Nevertheless, we thought he did a very balanced a tour given his personal involvement. Being in these streets and neighborhoods, traveling through the gates and standing next to the walls and murals while listening to Joe’s narrative was a history learning experience like no other. We were lucky to have Joe of Belfast Mural Tours as our guide.