Belfast and Vicinity
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A City Finding its Way

Belfast's heyday was the Industrial Revolution, and the decline of heavy industry took its toll. Before it could recover the way other cities did, The Troubles began, and Belfast spent decades in decline. Finally, redevelopment is in progress, and the city has a nearly palpable vibrancy and warmth.

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Carrickfergus Castle
Carrickfergus Castle is the best-preserved Norman castle in Ireland, and dates back to 1180. It was built specifically to make the best use of the spit of land it occupies over the harbor.
Carrickfergus trompe l'oeil
An old Irish folk song begins "I wish I was in Carrickfergus". This amusing trompe l'oeil facade contributes to the charm of this small town near Belfast.
St. George's Market
St. George's Market is the last surviving Victorian market in Belfast, and these days it's only in business two days a week. Among other foods and trinkets, on the day we visited, they were selling these enormous lobsters with Mr. Universe claws. The market was built in three phases between 1890 and 1896, and was used as an emergency mortuary after German bombing of Belfast during World War II.
Traditional Session in Belfast
The pubs in Belfast, like the ones we visited in Scotland, offer an important venue for local musicians to keep traditional music alive. These performers were sitting in the very seats where we'd earlier had lunch, and we were able to enjoy their performance from the table just next to them.
Bushmill's on the currency
How important is Irish whiskey in Northern Ireland? Well, a photo of the Bushmills distillery is on the twenty-pound note.
Crown Bar
In 1885, Italian craftsmen were all over Belfast, building churches. Michael Flanagan bought a pub and called it The Crown Liquor Saloon, and refurbished it grandly by hiring these craftsmen to work after hours. The result is a spectacular Victorian gin palace, with elaborate tiles, glass, and woodwork everywhere you look. There are small booths called "snugs", intended to provide privacy to customers during strict Victorian rules of conduct, or rather, appearance.
Hen party
It's common for grooms-to-be to have stag parties, and the brides-to-be celebrate with hen parties. The purpose of these gatherings, as far as we can see, is to compress as much embarrassment as possible into a single evening.
Taste and Music Festival
Belfast held a Taste and Music Festival while we were there. We had the opportunity to sample the specialties of some of the finest restaurants in town, all while listening to local performers.
Botanical Garden
The Taste and Music Festival also gave us an excuse to go to a university neighborhood and visit the well-kept Botanical Gardens.
Mural in West Belfast
The murals in West Belfast have made the neighborhood world-famous. Largely political, murals of all kinds celebrate and criticize local people and events, as well as political policies around the world. They add vibrancy and color to the city, figuratively and literally.