October 2021 - Belfast - Day 2
It was another late start as Karen was still suffering with her cold. Breakfast was as good as yesterday and the Egg man had obviously delivered, before we headed back to our room quickly as Karen was expecting a call at 9.30am. Once this was over we were ready to hit the streets of Belfast.
Todays plan included visiting the Titanic Experience for which we had pre booked our student tickets (saving nearly £5 each). However given that Karen still wasn’t feeling great, we decided to walk back to the City Hall to pick up the Hop On Bus which we knew had a scheduled stop in the Titanic Quarter. We upgraded our tickets from yesterday to a 2 day pass for an extra payment of £2.50 each. As we had 30 minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave we spent that time trying to revive Karen further with another free coffee from Caffe Nero which was opposite the bus stop.
The tour guide on the bus was different was yesterday. He thought he was a comedian - he wasn’t. The way he described the sites we passed en route to the Titanic Quarter was entertaining though.
Now I deliberately hadn’t done any research on the Titanic Experience itself as I wanted it to be a surprise and didn’t know what to expect. I did know that it had cost £77 million to build back in 2012 and it was NOT billed as a museum. In fact there are now plans to build an actual Titanic museum nearby. The entrance hall was almost empty when we arrived which was both surprising and pleasing. They had lots of queuing ropes that were superfluous. I hoped that this was due to the season and Covid rather than overall visitor numbers.
The ‘experience’ started on the first floor and I was not too sure about it. It set the scene for Belfast at the time when the ship was built. Then we took an authentic lift ride to the top of the building where to our surprise we got on a ride. It was a bit like the Peter Pan ride from Disney World. It took us through the working shipyard. It was a good attempt, enjoyable if not a bit surreal.
The rest of the experience took us through the rest of the build/fit/launch of the ship and of course sadly the sinking and its legacy. It ended with a film showing the discovery of the wreck on the sea bed. Overall I enjoyed it. Did it justify the cost though? - not sure. Is it really one the best visitor experiences in Europe? - err, no. Would I recommend it - yes, especially if you haven’t visited any other Titanic attractions. We have both had the privilege of touching an actual piece of the hull that was recovered from the ocean floor in an exhibition in Orlando. This also recreated the famous staircase and we had our photos taken on it. This perhaps took away some of the awe of this experience for us but we are glad we had done it nevertheless.
After this we walked along the slipway along which it was build and launched.
The whole area is being regenerated and badly needs it. I hope there is an overall plan rather than it being done piecemeal as it seemed. With a large working studio already there, I do not know why they haven’t cashed in more on the fact Game of Thrones was filmed there. What they need is a Studio experience in the same way as the Harry Potter one in Watford. All they had done was create some Glass of Throne windows, which although pretty is not enough.
We had decided to walk slowly back around the marina to the City Centre. This took us past a Subway store where we stopped to have lunch. We then walked across the river and headed towards Victoris Square. Karen was feeling really quite poorly again so we stopped to get her a muffin and another free coffee (yes we had lots of free vouchers) to try perk her up.
Our forward planning had been fortuitous as we had booked to see the latest Bond film (again using free vouchers), as Karen was not really up for doing anything more energetic. She was worried about how full the cinema might be, but as it was there were only about 10 other people watching in a very large screen with us. Without giving any spoilers (and it was the ending I was expecting) we both thought the film was about 1 hour too long. They could have cut down some of the many long fight sequences. It was though enjoyable and the rest did Karen some good.
There were a load of restaurants outside the cinema however they were all fully booked when we tried to get a table. Then Karen remembered we had made a backstop reservation at the Villa Italia so as that was on our way back to the Hotel we headed toward it. We were quickly seated in what was a very busy and bustling restaurant. I had a chicken dish which was superb. Karen had a pizza which she couldn’t finish and complained that it wasn’t as good as the ones I have been making in the Pizza Oven at home. We washed the meals down with another carafe of wine. It was another thumbs up for Villa Italia.
Karen had by now had had enough and so we were back in the room by 8.30pm and she was asleep in bed by 9pm. She had done so well to keep going as long as she had. We had both enjoyed our day though and would absolute recommend Belfast to everyone for a visit.