Arising from slumber in Derry, we made an early start for our drive to Belfast. Roadworks required the occasional detour, but that did not deter our merry bunch of pilgrims: we were on the coach and ready to go (or ‘on and gone’) for a 9am departure. The trip was uneventful, and we arrived in the city of Belfast in good time.
Our first stop today was the ‘Titanic Quarter’, a place of very significant investment in recent years in the light of the Good Friday Peace Agreement. The target of our journey was the Titanic Museum, which is built on the site of the shipyard in which the Titanic was constructed over 100 years ago. The museum is a very interesting building, with a shape that resembles the prow of that iconic vessel.
The exhibition on the inside of the museum focuses less on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic and more on the construction of the ship and the city of Belfast as it was at the time. Clearly, shipbuilding was one of the major economic mainstays of the city, along with linen, and the display made it clear why Belfast was selected as the home of construction for Titanic and her sister ships.
My only ‘complaint’ was the layout of the exhibition: the sheer number of visitors didn’t make progressing through the displays in an easy fashion, and there were times when the volume of visitors seemed to outweigh the space available. Or at least that was how it appeared to me.
We lunched (and shopped) at the museum, before boarding our bus again for a tour around the city, taking in some of the significant sights and exploring some of the tumultuous history of the city, particularly during the times of the troubles. We visited the Peace Wall with its murals, and drove through the neighbouring areas populated by Catholics and Protestants – and it was very obvious which was which. There are still the scars of the Troubles, and the tensions seem only just below the surface. We can only pray that violence, particularly violence that is determined on the basis of religious affiliation (though of course, the causes are much more complex), is able to benefit from the ongoing attempts at reconciliation, rapprochement, and renewal.
After touring, we made our way to our hotel, a place which would be our last ‘stay’ for the pilgrimage journey. We had some ‘free time’ before our dinner that evening, so members of our merry band of pilgrims went this way and that as their preferences took them; I, personally, had a quick nap.
Our dinner that evening was a melancholy moment because it would our last ‘ordinary’ meal together. We ate, however, and then eventually retired to sleep, perchance to dream, but most especially to prepare for tomorrow’s adventures.