When you are from a big family, it is safe to say that you are never far from home. Only three weeks in and I had the pleasure of having my first visitors. I would like to say that the trip was created with myself in mind, however it was a coincidence that my aunt and uncle, Nancy and Rich, had a Belfast tripped planned months in advance before I was allocated to Ulster University. Luckily our schedules allowed us to take advantage of the opportunity as I was grateful enough to spend an incredible Saturday with them and a close family friend, Sean Blaney, who happened to be visiting his family in Belfast that very weekend.
What’s the best way of going there? What building is this? Where are your favorite pubs and restaurants? Safe to say that after asking me a variety of questions, my visitors came to realize that their “tour guide” had a similar knowledge level of Belfast as themselves. Thankfully Sean was able to answer the questions so hopefully by the next visitors I will be quick to answer any question that comes about.
The itinerary of the day had an underlying theme of see where the city takes us, which I always enjoy because it typically results in memorable experiences. Highlighting this was a walking tour of Falls Road led by an ex-IRA prisoner, Joe. Without getting deep into the politics, Joe brought us through the republican community using his own stories to bring the history to life. 16 years in prison, friends/family murdered, relationships with well-known republican figures like Bobby Sands; Joe had a background that he was willing to share to represent the struggles of Belfast. Although I was unable to go, Nancy and Rich did a similar walking tour of Shankill Road, a loyalist community that according to my aunt and uncle painted a different picture. So to all who visit, I highly recommend both tours in order to get an understanding of both sides. Overall, incredible time with familiar faces and could not be more excited to see who comes next!