Our taxi driver, Paddy O’Donnell, sat behind the wheel sharing a tragic story of the reason a monument was erected. On the spot, civilians were murdered and homes burned down. As he spoke to us, a Frenchman on a bicycle rode up to Mr. O’Donnell’s window. Paddy rolled the window down and the man on the bicycle asked if there was a good pub he could grab a pint. He was overcome with emotion and needed a moment to collect himself. Mr. O’Donnell patiently walked him through where you could grab a drink. Wiping tears from his eyes, the man on the bicycle peddled off toward the pub.
While planning for my trip to The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, I was told I had to book a Taxi Tour of Belfast with Belfast Tours. Belfast Tours offers visitors a history lesson of “The Troubles” while stopping by important locations and a view of the many murals portraying important people and events. They were right in telling me to book this tour. It was one of the best things I did while in Ireland.
Ireland is full of beauty. I said often, “This place doesn’t seem real.” When hiking across cliffs and through forests, you expect fairies or trolls to walk out and meet you. And the people are the friendliest individuals I have ever met on my travels around the world. And yet, the darkest parts of humanity can be found within stories occurred not long ago.
I knew a little about “The Troubles,” clashes between Protestants and Catholics, pro-British sentiments, and the IRA, but not that much. Most of what I knew came from movies and news reports from the 90s. During the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, I was in college and followed the history making moment minimally. While on our Belfast tour, I wished I had paid more attention. The weight of the agreement and the loss of lives did not register as much as it should have. On the tour, the realization that around 3,720 people died (according to the book Lost Lives), hit hard. That is roughly 2 percent of the population (Politics of Antagonism). 274 of those that died were children (from Brendan Browne). Despite it being not long ago when these clashes took place, Belfast has become peaceful. Tensions are still high, especially with the unknown fallout of Brexit, but people and the city are at peace.
Mr. O’Donnell drove around Belfast, pointing out plaques, murals, and important spots. At times, he pulled over and led us to an area and explained what had happened. He also showed us newspaper clippings, excerpts from books, and photographs of bombed buildings that are now restored. We drove by Peace Walls, that separate catholic and protestant neighborhoods and asked many questions. Belfast Tours offers not just a look at the city, but an expert account from someone who lived through it. If you are visiting Belfast, this tour should be number one on your list.
Stories from my trip to Ireland:
Other travel stories:
Visiting the Warmer Brothers Harry Potter Tour in England
Visiting Westminster Abbey
Lost on a Ghost Tour with my Son
Attending a Chelsea Match with My Son and Missing My Other Son
Walking in Shakespeare’s Footsteps: A Father/Son Story
3 Day Itinerary for Visiting Shakespeare’s England
Climbing Over the O2 Arena in London
Flying on The Thames in a Speedboat
How an Ice Cream Truck Saved the Day While Hiking Across England
Reliving the Dads4Kesem Hadrian’s Wall Hike