Family Life

Our Titanic day out in Belfast

Our good spirits prove to be more buoyant than the world's most famous ship that sank

“Oh, no … he’s not kicking-off now  … and it’s been such a great day, for us all …”

Our big day out at the Titanic Museum in Belfast, and here we were, in danger of it capsizing right at the end …

These were my wife’s despairing words as we wilted against the cold stone wall of a dim, deserted Platform 2 at Drogheda Train Station.

Homeward bound, but waiting,  thanks to our daft train service.

It was 10.30 on the night before Halloween – we’d been up since 6.30 that morning – and A and I were blowing out icy CO2 and soft expletives, as we contemplated the 25-minute purgatory before the next train.

Our daughter K was okay, teenage moany but good, the two neat white paper bags with her new jumper and jacket clutched tightly in her right hand.

But when our O gets this tired, and he just wants to crash, but can’t, he can get cranky …

Like unreasonably, unreachably stroppily cranky …

What had really set him off was our wait was so unnecessary. Daft even.

We had to get our sleeping boy off the Belfast-Dublin train, which passes through our home town, but doesn’t stop there, and now had to wait for the regional service from Drogheda which would actually let us off at our destination!

The waiting room was as uninviting as the platform, and we left O grumbling on his platform bench to walk a bit.

Presently, A went to the front of the train, which was already there, and a quiet word with the driver, and we are allowed on board.

Man, woman and children rescued!

The train was warm and well-lit, and once the wi-fi kicked in, we were good. O even got his second wind and was happily fingering the contents of his bag of contraband rockets and bangers.

We had packed in so much … up so early, and only one altercation, first thing: just 10 minutes left to get out the door and to the station, five miles away, and K was still straightening her hair …

Yes, I let her know, but whined rather than went off on one –  we’d save the fireworks for Halloween – even if there was an awful moment leaving the town, and a white Qashqai almost pulled out in front of us from a notoriously difficult to exit side road.

We had our tickets already, our M&Ms and drinks, and A had booked the Museum stuff … so all aboard, and breakfast on the train to look forward to.

The kids were on mid-term and A and I felt we really needed this day together as a family …  to get out of the routine and do something a little bit different. Together.

It had been a tough few weeks for us all … but we have been working hard on turning things around. For us all.

There had been a lot less shouting and confrontation, and O’s issues in school and with his football team have eased off. He’s nearly back to himself.

And he had put himself out there, arranged to meet up with a couple of Fortnite buddies, to do the whole Halloween trick or treat thing, with added fireworks in the field behind our house.

K and O hadn’t done it in a couple of years, so A and I were delighted they were both up for it. K already had her fairy dress bought online and delivered.

So, in no time we were off the train in Belfast Central Station and walking, necks aloft and gawping, towards the city centre.

All was wide, quiet streets and early-morning echoes, and we liked what we were seeing … the area around the station all skyscrapery new and gleaming, and then the more-expected traditional Victorian brick and stone buildings as we neared the actual centre, and places like Donegall Street, Great Victoria Street and the Cathedral Quarter.

Coffee and cake in an unremarkable but perfectly decent cafe and we were ready to get going.

First up we had to go and buy some  fireworks.

O, master of Google and direction, led us up the famous Shankill Road, all too familiar with explosive devices as it was a den of loyalist paramilitary ferment and operations at the height of the Northern Troubles, as we called that horrible period down South.

We continued up the rising concrete monotony of an unremarkable thoroughfare, the Belfast twangs of ordinary people sounding all around us.

Ordinary people hopefully happy to be living in ordinary times again.

Scenes from old news bulletins were all around us as we gaped, not too obviously we hoped, at the freshly-painted Ulster Freedom Fighters motif over Shankill Cottages, and the Union Jack work shed as we passed, and the assorted murals pledging loyalty to Queen and community.

We found Arrow Fireworks on Agnes Street, right at the top of the road. O got what he wanted in the no-frills industrial unit, and the guy even threw in a free extra bag of rockety things.

The Titanic Museum, in the vast redeveloped dockland area now known as the Titanic Quarter, is fabulous, the stunning building itself designed to look like the prows of the hulking ships once built in this very area, and angled now as if to launch upon the wide Lagan River.

It is a monument to Belfast’s maritime heritage on this, the site of the former Harland & Wolff shipyard.

This is where the famous HMS Titanic itself was built in 1912, before she famously hit that iceberg and went down on her maiden voyage.

There’s all sorts of interactive stuff and film inserts on giant screens, but of course way too much information to take in in one visit.

But the lads enjoyed it until they didn’t and we headed back in towards the city centre, passing over the elegant Lagan Weir Pedestrian and Cycle Bridge,

O had spotted a great Halloween shop and had to have the ridiculously hilarious horse’s head mask he saw, so we returned, but K had to be content with a couple of spooky nose-rings, as the shade of coloured contact lens she wanted to go with her fairy dress was not in stock.

There was time for some leisurely food before we departed, and we found a fantastic place called the Northern Whig, on Waring Street.

We are served by the most charming, shaven-headed man with an accent we tried fruitlessly to source.

Out of earshot the kids couldn’t decide who he resembled more, Wallace, from Wallace and Gromit, or Uncle Fester of the Adams family.

He was actually Czech, from outside Prague, and living in Belfast for 16 years. A wonderfully jovial character, he enjoyed serving up the house special burger to a boy in a horse’s head mask and steering our picky daughter towards the spicy chicken option. Which she loved.

Too tired to walk any more, we hailed a cab outside and headed for the station.

We didn’t have long to wait for our train home.

Did I mention we had to change at Drogheda?

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60 comments on “Our Titanic day out in Belfast

  1. Seán Mac Aoire

    An outing in Belfast! Liked the pitchers you painted so eloquently! Felt I was almost there! So near, and yet….

    Liked by 1 person

    • …. it was a great day, and the museum is pretty impressive. Imagine how famous it would be if it stayed afloat!

      Like

  2. This sounds like a great day out! I have known many people landing by accident on the Shankill Road, the whole yarn has made me smile. A reminder that I have to take that trip some day, it’s not that far after all! Thanks for sharing! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A great family day out! You have planted the longing for a day trip to Belfast, by train. I’m off to check the timetables

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It sounds like a great family day out, I’d love to visit the Titanic Museum, it would probably be longer than a day trip for us though. Your story at the train station on the way home sounds so familiar, thank goodness they let you get on the train when they did. I hope Halloween and the fireworks went well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Tracey Abrahams

    I would love to go to the titanic museum, thats really up my street.
    On a completely different note its probably a good thing your daughter didn’t get coloured contact lenses, those things can cause horrific eye infections and even lead to permanant damage.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, probably as well she didn’t. If you are into history and museums, it really is fab experience. And a great city too

      Like

  6. Sounds like so much fun. We too get to the ending of a trip and it’s a race to see who can kick off first; either kid or me – Ha! #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s lovely that you can still have family days like that. Hopefully there will be more like it for you, before they reach the stage of not wanting to go anywhere with parents – unless they need a lift, that is 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right there, Clive. Getting the two together was an achievement. But it was a good day!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Glad you all enjoyed it. There’s something wonderful about the way kids respond to learning in that kind of setting, isn’t there. It is much more ‘real’ than a classroom.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is really impressive … it contextualises things too, with lots of social history and wonderful affects. And of course food and coffee!

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the context that interests me too, seeing what was happening at that time is fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. viewfromthebeachchair

    I did not even know there was a Titanic Museum but that would make sense! It was such an epic disaster in history. #mixitup

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It sure was … it’s funny it would only be a tiny footnote in history if it stayed afloat!

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  10. One of our kids lives in Belfast and I visit twice a year, my husband came on the last trip and we visited the Titanic Museum as we were looking for something to do on a wet and windy day, it was really good, b ut I’m not sure our son would’ve appreciated it if he was still a child though. I’ve linked up behind you on both #triumphanttales and #tweensteensbeyond

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It is really excellent … but in truth our 14- and 13-year old were bored after a while … so there were two food breaks!

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  12. Mud Cakes and Wine

    My son loves the titanic and we so want to take him here sounds great #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well if he does … it would be just perfect for him.History as it should be done – if schools had a multi-storey dedicated museum to call on!!

      Like

  13. Glad to read you were allowed to board the trail early. Sometimes a little kindness like that can make all the difference in the world. I can remember several trips we took when our kids were younger where we overextended ourselves – just packed too much into a day. I’m sure your family will remember only the best parts of the excursion. Sounds like a memorable trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it made all the difference in the end!! You are also right that we will only remember the good bits … it was a great day

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  14. It sounds like the trip really was enjoyed by all. Very surreal buying large fireworks in that neck of the woods! I will have to visit someday, it sounds so good! #DreamTeam

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds like a very long but good day out #bloggerclubuk

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  16. I would love to visit this museum, but can imagine how tricky it is to try and absorb all the information. How is it for little ones? x

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    • Depends on the kid, I suppose. Plenty to do and experience but if all else fails the food available is good too!! Nice general area too and walking distance to city centre.

      Like

  17. Maybe it’s because I’m from the US and we don’t ride trains often, but I admit I am perplexed. Why do they make you change trains when the first one you ride goes directly through your intended destination? Is it a different train line so one has a station and the other doesn’t? Is it to save time? Is it because Lord Voldermort decreed it to be so??? I’m baffled! #GlobalBlogging

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    • No Heaher … it’s the same train line. It’s just the Belfast-Dublin train at certain times is express, and so doesn’t stop at minor stations like ours! So we had to wait for the non-express train! Plain daft!

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Hi enda! I’m coming back through with the #DreamTeam and I’m still baffled by the train swap.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Lisa's Notebook

    I visited some friends in Northern Ireland many years ago and they took me for a “tour”. The Shankill and Falls Roads were part of it and I remember being stunned at the murals. Banksy, eat your heart out. I also remember feeling very uneasy about all the gently swaying net curtains but that’s another story. Sadly we didn’t make it to the Titanic museum but if I go back again I’ll make sure to rectify that omission!

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I was glad we were walking up the Shankill early in the day, and the irony of looking for explosive devices there was not lost on myself and my wife!

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  20. Sounds absolutely fab. I’d love to visit some time. Thanks for linking up with #itsok xx

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Sounds like an interesting trip. Kids always make the day more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Sound like the day went off with a bang – hahah love me a pun! Glad things with O have settled a bit more! Nothing like a bit of teen wobbles!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back next week.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Such a real post about a day like most others really that have their joys and challenges too. Funnily enough I was talking about the Titanic Museum only yesterday with my 13 year old son who has suddenly in his home-educated way developed a real fascination with the whole history of the Titanic and apparently her sister ships too. He knew so much and far more than I did so perhaps one day he would love to visit this Museum too. Always enjoy visiting your blog – keep doing what you do so well #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well your boy would really.enjoy this. So much has gone into it in terms of not just loads about the background to the building of the Tiranic and its ultimately tragic journey but loads of stuff like personal testimonies, social history of Belfast and the docklands where the Titanic wss built, and where the museum is located. Lots of stuff.

      Like

  24. What a fascinating museum! I’m amazed to learn how many folks from Philadelphia, PA went down with that luxury liner. What a story. Pretty cool. #mixitup xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is a great story AND the museum has some great stuff. Loads of personal testimonies and all sorts of interesting aspects

      Like

  25. STopping back for another journey, from #globalblogging xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  26. diynige

    Looks a fab day out mate and the museum looks fantastic I wish I lived nearer Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Oh Enda, Mr Google really should know better than send you up the Shankhill. I visited it a few years ago and stopped to take a photograph of a mural outside a building. One local chap didn’t like that very much and then I stumbled across the Rex Bar, known to me by a book written by Michael Stone. From the outside of the place, clearly not a bar where you want to go for a Campari and Soda or a nice Pimms. Not, however, that humans can be trusted to get it right. On that very same trip, I was casually strolling round the city exploring where my family came from. I got myself a bit lost and was listening to music on my earphones. I was stopped at a crossing surrounded by kindly locals. I wasn’t really paying attention to what I was doing. ya know, just absent mindedly whistling English football chants when I looked up and saw a road sign. Turned out I was on the Falls Road. Needless to say, I stopped whistling very quickly! Somehow, I got away with that.

    I think a highlight of the trip, however, must have been paying a visit to the museum of of the armed forces. I came across details of a great uncle of mine. He was a pathfinder in the RAF during WWII, a highly skilled, regarded and risky job. He and his aircrew were awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross but shot down before they could ever receive it. At the museum I was able to get the details of his war grave in Germany and give them to my extended family a they weren’t aware where his headstone was.

    Enough of me! Silly old fool reminiscing. Glad to hear your boy is doing better. I’m also very glad to hear you crossed that border before the wall goes up. Enjoy it while you can. Damn Brexit.

    Like

  28. Brexit is like one of those conversations you suddenly have enough of, you walk away, watch some TV, write a blog, do your nails, feed and walk the dogs, make home-made marmalade for the first time … you come back and you pick up the same conversation, you have missed nothing. It’s serious, but also seriously confusing. We just hope it all works out. Some good stories there, John. Belfast, and the area around the Titanic museum are full of history, of the explosive and the social interest sort! Thanks for your wonderful contribution here

    Like

  29. I’ve seen the Titanic’s departure point in Cobh but never been to Belfast #thesatsesh

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Daydreamer mum

    Back from #blogcrush

    Liked by 1 person

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