BELFAST has come a long way in a short period of time.
This beautiful city has recovered from the troubles of recent decades to become a rejuvenated, positive and vibrant tourist destination.
My two-day trip to Northern Ireland’s capital coincided with Belfast Restaurant Week, a showcase for its numerous fine eateries. And this is how my stay started, with a visit to Hadski’s in the city centre for a beautiful two-course meal.
This was not before taking a trip through Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter and an impressive painted mural of some of Northern Ireland’s star names including George Best and author C.S Lewis.
But what better way to tour a new place than in a taxi? That’s what we were treated to with Blue Badge Guide Billy Scott.
He proved to be the perfect host and almost Mr Belfast, as he knew everything and everyone in the city.
Our first fare was to the Ulster Museum. This spectacular site houses several floors of science and nature including a number of scarily-lifelike animal models.
But it was the museum’s section on the history of the troubles in Belfast which proved the most poignant and thought-provoking, charting how the violence erupted and continued.
This led seemlessly into the next leg of our journey, with a taxi trip around the epicentre of the troubles.
The Falls Road and Shankill Road were some of our stops, viewing the murals painted on the sides of the streets were a thought-provoking nod to the area’s past.
A nod to another key point in the city’s history followed in an unusual mode of transport.
We took a ride on ‘The Wee Tram’ to explore Belfast’s historic shipyard where the Titanic was built.
The electric-powered tram proved to be a novel and informative way to get around the shipyard.
Our enthusiastic on-board host took us round five venues for a unique five-course meal to give a taste of what life was like a century ago, when the Titanic Quarter was the largest shipyard in the world.
The three-hour tour was capped off with the final course; a liberal serving of whisky in an Irish coffee served in a jam jar.
This journey also called in at SS Nomadic and Titanic’s Dock and Pump-House.
That Irish coffee gave me a thirst for more Irish hospitality and it was back into a couple of Belfast’s hostelries, which were playing traditional folk music and plenty of fun.
The great thing about Belfast is that everything is either a short walk, or a car ride, away. Everything is easily accessible, from pubs and clubs to shops and markets.
The vibrant, award-winning St George’s Market was the first stop on day two. This bustling indoor market featured stalls selling every item under the sun, from Belfast souvenirs, pictures, clothing and food.
This was the venue where the warmth of the Belfast people was truly demonstrated. The friendly way the Belfast people were to me was one of my personal highlights.
A grand view of this grand city followed from the top of Victoria Square Shopping Centre, right in the heart of the city.
A lift ride up to the top of this building treated us to a 360-degree view of the city, including the dockyards and beautiful countryside.
A bit of Bradford history takes pride of place in Belfast City Hall.
Here, in this opulent building, lies a painting of JJ Magennis, a Belfast-born leading seaman who was awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War.
In July 1945, during an attack on the Japanese Cruiser Takao in Singapore, Magennis left the submarine for a second time to free some explosive charges that had got caught.
He left Belfast in 1949 and moved to Bradford in 1955, where he worked as an electrician.
A return trip to the Titanic Quarter and a trip back to the ill-fated events of 1912 followed for one of the trip’s highlights.
The six-floor Titanic Belfast (Titanicbelfast.com) is a museum with a difference.
This spectacular structure features nine interactive galleries telling the story and a six-minute long cable car ride and a reconstruction of the different levels of accommodation the passengers had.
This was an interactive and education experience which brought a key moment in Belfast’s history bang up to date. No wonder this museum has received European recognition already.
A delve into Belfast’s past is vital when you take a trip to this magnificent city, but it is its future that really stands out.
It is progressing at a turbo-charged pace and heading in the right direction.
I fell in love with this place in only two days and would encourage anyone to take a flight, or boat, and do the same.