Thursday, May 15, 2008

Ray's Walking Tour of Belfast

On the last day of our National Trust holiday I decided to give some of the English a walking tour of the centre of Belfast. You will probably not be able to see the route properly unless you save and enlarge the map above and the numbers are not very clear (what do you want a bleeding piece of art!) but I will take you through the main points (the walking tour is in Purple)

1. The Crown Bar. An obvious starting point as its a national trust property and its a bar! Before setting off we all had a much earned drink. Across the road from the Crown bar is the Europa hotel which until the war in Yugoslavia had the dubious distinction of being the most bombed hotel in Europe. Now its only the most bombed in western Europe.

2. On to the city hall, past the goths who hang outside trying to look as weird as possible. Of course the City Hall was closed for renovation - bloody typical!

3. Then it was to arthur street and a quick look inside Cafe Vaudeville. This is a recently opened bar in Belfast which used to be a old bank and still includes all the ornate decorations. I basically hate it - its a cattle market full of tossers.

4. A much nicer bar now - Whites Tavern - the oldest bar in Belfast dating back to the 17th century. (There is a slight theme to this walk!) Only a toilet stop here.

5. On to the Albert Clock - Belfast's own leaning tower. This is due to the idiots who built it putting it on top of the river Farset which flows under the high street of Belfast. (Béal Feirste is Irish for 'Mouth of the Farset" - see, read this blog and you will learn things!)

6. The lagan weir is Belfast's flood barrier complete with an underground lookout where you can watch tampons, condoms and turds gently float past underneath the water. It was of course closed.

7. Another Pub stop - but only to look in on the Merchant Hotel. Another bank turned into an ornate poseur hole. I still haven't gotten into the place - they keep saying they are full up. Are they arse! The pot house across the road has the distinction of having a glass bottom to its upper floor so perverts can look up women's skirts from below. Who ever said Belfast was not sophisticated.

8. Back to a real bar - the Duke of York which is a great bar to end the night in if you can ever find the place. We had a quick drink there before heading to our final stop.

9. Back to Culture - St Annes Cathedral. I do believe that this was the very first time I have been in St Annes. It has a very nice interior spoilt by what can only be described as the largest lightning conductor I have ever seen sticking through the dome - Who the hell thought that was a good idea!

After the walking tour came the driving tour in which I took the remaining people on a quick tour of west Belfast. This was supposed to be a showcase of all the murals of Sandy Row followed by the Falls and Springfield Road and then across the peace line and down the Shankill back into the city centre. However I could not find most of the Murals up the Falls and the ones in Sandy Row seem to have all but disappeared. I will have another go and do a 'Murals of Belfast picture tour for everyone before I head around the world.

Ray's Pub Crawl of Belfast!

The Red route on the map indicates a typical Saturday night pub crawl for me in Belfast - here is a quick overview.

0. Bus stop I get off at. 0 because unlike the previous walking tour this tour is marked by number of pints consumed not stops.

1. Kitchen Bar/Bittles Bar
Pint of choice: Real Ale of some description. If there is no ale on then I go to Bittles just beside it for a bottled ale.
Interesting facts: The current Kitchen bar is only a few years old - the old one having been demolished to make room for the monstrosity that is the Victoria Place shopping Mall - that's progress for you. Bittles has some very interesting pictures but the best thing is the cardboard models of all the old cinemas in Belfast (sadly all gone now)

2. McHughs Bar (beside the Albert Clock)
Pint of Choice: Real Ale again
Interesting Facts: Although not the oldest bar in Belfast (which is Whites) part of McHughes is the oldest building in Belfast.

3. The Spaniard
Pint of Choice: Guinness or sometimes Mojitas.
Interesting Facts: Very small bar which is usually too packed to get into. Has a dart board at the back - a very dangerous place to sit near!

4. Whites Tavern:
Pint of Choice: Guinness - the best Guinness in Belfast
Interesting facts: As well as being the oldest bar in Belfast it also has diddly dee music on most Saturday afternoons for tired shoppers.

5. (and usually 6 if Spaniard too packed earlier) The John Hewitt.
Pint of Choice: Back to Real Ale.
Interesting Facts: Owned by The Belfast Unemployed Resource Centre which is where all the profits go to. It also exhibits paintings by various artists which are available to buy. Usually have to wait until the Jazz band stops on a Saturday before venturing in here. Not because Its too packed but because I can't stand Jazz!

7/8. The Duke of York.
Pint of Choice: Guinness or sometimes Belgium bottled beer.
Interesting Facts: Full of mirrors from various whiskey companies. In my younger days of drinking I always had to be drunk to find this bar - I could never find it sober as its down an alleyway.

The night becomes a bit hazy after the Duke of York which is usually my last port of call before getting the night bus back home. However if its a good night then its off to Robinsons.

9/10. Fibber Magees (back bar in Robinsons)
Pint of Choice: Sensible night: Guinness, Stupid Night: Newquay Brown (Newcastle Brown Ale)
Interesting Facts: There is a band playing until 2 and they have beer. Newquay Brown produces the most lethal farts known to mankind the next day.

Normally I don't venture into Robinsons as the front bar is usually full of spides and millies but on occassion I will go to Fibbers to end the night in style.

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