I have to say, my stereotypes of Belfast had oversimplified the city. Yes, there is still tension between certain groups of Protestants and Catholics. But as a whole, I found the people I met there amazingly warm, charming and living life to the fullest. The murals from The Troubles era are fascinating and their lessons apply equally well to many current tensions around the rest of the world. I found it interesting that along with the political Protestant vs. Catholic murals depicting martyrs and injustices, you are also starting to see some inspiring murals on the Peace Wall depicting human rights' heroes from all over the world. Mural painting is so much a part of the culture here that it has sprouted a burgeoning, less overtly political, street art scene that is equally fascinating.
Carrick-a-Rede is a tiny island you visit by rope bridge that was originally built long ago by fisherman. If you make it to Belfast than be sure to also take a day to drive along the northern coast. Incredibly unique geology formations, quaint medieval harbors, stone farmhouses and castle ruins are everywhere you look.
My European travels this summer took me to Belfast to stay with my Los Angeles friends who summer there every year at Crawfordsburn House & Country Park. A beautiful old manor house and estate is now divided up into unique apartments with huge windows that overlook the coast. It was the perfect laid back refresher for me after having just come from the intensity and energy of London.
Mooney's is a gem along Shankill Road, the main Protestant thoroughfare of working class Belfast, that is at the center of the political troubles.
European butchers, grocers, and farmers I met found the "organic" labeling concept in the U.S. to be quite peculiar. As several put it, "For us, it's always organic and locally grown" so no need to have all the hype and marketing about labeling.
On my first morning in Belfast I came upon this scene of men changing out the kegs at the Duke of York pub in the Cathedral District. It happens just once a week…out with the old and in with the new. I had a great exchange with the bartenders as they went about their work. When I asked what beer sells the best...of course, Guinness. But surprisingly Coors Light is a close second. Is nothing sacred?
The Shoreditch neighborhood of London is famously known as both the Silicon Valley of Europe as well as one of the best Street Art scenes in the world. Banksy, Shepard Fairey, and a new artist with the moniker Sell Out have all left their mark multiple times. Lots of amazing work to be seen among the hipster and immigrant Bangladeshi populations peppered with many varieties of ethnic restaurants. Truly one of the best of many great walking tours in London.