Well it’s now February and I wonder how your resolutions are going? Do you still go the gym three times a week? Does chocolate remain on your list of banned foods? I’ve got my smug face on, because my New Year resolution is going quite well.
I had vowed to take advantage of all the amazing things that are going on across Northern Ireland. Last month I had mulled wine at The Merchant’s Alpine Ski Lodge and ate at Coppi and the Potted Hen in St Anne’s Square.
This month, I went on a Belfast Taxi Tour* and was guided round some of the city’s most recognisable spots, highlighting our colourful history.
|Jim guiding us through the Shankill estate.|
I may be (almost) a child of Belfast, but there are still places I’ve never been, or seen in real life.
So on Saturday afternoon, my fam and I hopped on the train into Belf where we embarked on our tour, guided by Jim of Belfast Taxi Tours.
He took us to the Belfast peppered with gritty murals and legacies of conflict. From the Shankill estate, once fraught with internal fighting, where exiled loyalist leader Jonny Adair once ruled...
|From left: Shankill monument, our (yellow) Black Taxi Tour at the King William mural, |
UDA mural with Crumlin Road Court house in background.
|From top left: Bombay Street mural, peace wall behind Clonard Martyrs garden, |
Dad checking out the back of the peace wall, memorial to IRA C battalion members.
...and everything in between. Around 50 years after they were first erected, peace walls still exist in Belfast, keeping one side away from the other. They try to ensure interface areas are more peaceful for those living on both sides.
|Peace wall at Cupar Way.|
The peace wall that divides the Shankill and the Falls at Cupar Way is one of the most well-known, and on Saturday my family put our signatures and messages for peace alongside thousands of others – including Bill Clinton.
While Jim explained more detail about the peace walls, and how every year cross-community groups come together to decorate them with street art, a little girl of about eight or nine, ran out of a car, put her name on the barrier, and ran back in.
We also took in the beautiful Clonard Monastery which has recently been restored, and heard more about the well-known mural to Bobby Sands, the republican MP who died in the Maze prison in 1981 as a result of the hunger strike.
Our last stop was the international peace wall on the Falls Road, which depicts Picasso’s Guernica – about the bombing of a Basque village – and the Cuban five, among other local issues.
After our tour, which took around 90 minutes, Jim dropped us into the city centre for a spot of shopping, though he does recommend a drink at Belfast’s most famous pub, The Crown.
I learned a lot on the Belfast Taxi Tour, like how the peace gates shut at 10pm and the background of the red hand. There was a lot of information contained in the hour and a half journeying across Belfast and I’m so glad I did it.
The tours are really flexible, so if there’s anything you particularly want to see, talk to your tour guide, because they’re really accommodating.
If you’re visiting Belfast, or have friends from elsewhere coming to stay the Belfast Taxi Tours should be on your to do list – and even if you’ve grown up a stone’s throw from the city you could learn something new.
You can find out more about the Belfast Taxi Tours and their various routes on their website.
BBL Loves NI is fast becoming a series - have you any recommendations of great places to go or things to do across NI? Leave me a comment or tweet me on @BelfastBeautyL