This week’s dream
A bright new day in Belfast
Two decades after the peace accord that ended the Troubles, “battle-scarred Belfast is finally moving on,” said Diane Bair and Pamela Wright in The Boston Globe. During the 30 years of violent conflict between Protestant unionists and Catholic nationalists that preceded 1998’s Good Friday Agreement, more than 3,500 people were killed, and the clash left the capital of Northern Ireland wounded and divided. So-called peace walls still separate Belfast’s Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods, but today, with nearly half of its population under 30, “this once beleaguered, bitter city is young, eager, and energetic—and fast becoming one of the coolest destinations in the United Kingdom.” New hotels are opening, tourism is growing, and the food-and-drink scene is positively buzzing.
We got a taste of that scene by signing up for a four-hour gastronomical tour. At bustling St. George’s Market, housed in a lovely Victorian building, we wandered among the vendors sampling potato bread, traybake shortbread, and blood pudding. Next, our guide brought us to the Garrick, a small 19th-century pub with a “belly up to the bar” atmosphere. After a couple more food stops, the good times, or craic, continued at Muriel’s, a pub offering about 140 artisanal gins. Later, we toured the “stunning” Titanic Belfast museum, standing tall in the shipyard where the ill-fated ocean liner was built. There, we listened to stories told by period actors on screens, poked into cabin replicas, and saw re-enactments of the ship’s construction, “complete with the sounds of pounding and riveting.”
“Hanging around Belfast was a blast,” but the city is also a gateway to Northern Ireland’s scenic coastline. One rainy day, we drove the Causeway Coastal Route, stopping to walk along cliffside paths and dip our toes in the Atlantic. We even braved the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which swings 100 feet above the crashing surf. “Once was enough.” But Belfast called us back, and on our last evening we strolled the Cathedral Quarter’s maze of cobblestone streets, and joined the young locals listening to live music and hoisting pints at the Duke of York. From what we could see, the walls that divide Belfast are “finally crumbling.”
Taste & Tour (tasteandtour.co.uk) offers beer crawls and food tours starting at $59. ■