Being disabled in a big city

I really enjoyed my few days in Belfast, a trip for two to celebrate our 42nd wedding anniversary. We finally got here after being Covided off three years ago. We cancelled a lot on our wedding anniversary due to Covid, Belfast in 2020, the West Indies in 2021, which was our long-planned Ruby Wedding. Finally, in 2022, we had to cancel because we both caught Covid. This was our first celebration in four years.

I have a few mild disabilities: Light sensitivity which is part of being autistic, arthritis in an ankle, a hernia and a partially torn shoulder, which is exacerbated by being load-bearing as I walk on crutches. One of these playing up at a time does not pose any great problem, but they often gang up on me. three or four of them at a time, when it becomes a problem.

Day 1

My wife, the lovely Linda and I flew out of Leeds Bradford Airport heading out to George Best Belfast City Airport. The approach had us flying to the right of Strangford Lough giving us fantastic views. This is a fantastically scenic province. After checking in at the Bullitt Hotel we had a look around seeing the Big Fish, a statue of a Salmon where each tile showed part of the history of the City, Lagan Weir and its footbridge and having a pint in Belfast’s oldest pub, Mc Hugh’s Bar.

Day 2

The first of three full days and our anniversary. After a belly-busting breakfast at Munch we retraced our footsteps from the previous evening to cross the Lagan Weir Footbridge to the Titanic Museum, which included a visit to SS Nomadic, a tender to RMS Titanic which was used to ferry passengers from Cherbourg to Titanic as the harbour there was not large enough for such an enormous ship.

If you are in Belfast and you are going to do only one thing, this is that thing. Everything about the Titanic Museum is absolutely fantastic, the highlights, if I were to choose only three, being the welcome, the ride showing how Titanic was built and the sensitive way her sinking and the loss of life were handled.

Coming away I noticed the nearest toy shop, facing the Titanic Museum had a LEGO Titanic in its window

The afternoon was a visit to St Anne’s Cathedral and in the evening a return to McHugh’s for traditional food. Linda had the Irish Stew and I had Chicken Boxty. Boxty is a potato cake.

Day 3

Up early, well early for being on holiday, and off for a full day’s coach tour of the Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills’ distillery and several sites from Game of Thrones. It was the commentary from the driver which brought the first mention of the troubles, from sites in West Belfast through to the coastal villages after Carrickfergus (where William of Orange landed). These villages either flew the British Union flag or the flag of Ireland. We learned that before the troubles they would have been a mix of unionists and nationalists, but during the troubles, the paramilitaries would come and murder a few Catholics and the Catholics would retaliate by burning down the houses of the Protestants or the other paramilitaries would murder a few Protestants in another village and the houses of Catholics would be torched. The scenery on that coastal road was fantastic, like the best of the Yorkshire dales on one side with steep limestone cliffs and valleys and on the other side the Irish Sea and views across to Scotland. Then onto the Atlantic coast and the Giants’Causeway. Thoroughly amazing and an otherworldly site. I might have overdone it by climbing on the stones as my pain levels were getting high by this time, but when you are autistic or disabled the amount you can do is always a play-off with the amount of pain or fatigue you can stand. I think I got the balance right and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The trip back was via Bushmills where I bought a bottle of Redbush whiskey and some alcoholic marmalade from the distillery shop. Throughout the trip, there were mentions of sites used in Game of Thrones, the caves at Cushendall were great, but by the time we got to the dark hedges, I had no energy left at all and stayed on the coach to nap.

After we were back there was a short time to shower and change for a nice rare steak in the Hotel.

Day 4

Thursday, and a tour of Belfast on an open-top bus, starting from Belfast City Hall. After going through the city streets and talking about the time Queen Victoria visited the city, and only stayed for 3 hours it was back over the river to East Belfast to the Titanic Quarter and close to the airport we came on. We were told there are two names associated with East Belfast, Titanic and George Best – one of them was a disaster, and the other one sank. That was typical of the humour we got from the commentary.

The second half of the tour had a more sombre mood as we went through West Belfast down Falls Road and back down Shankhill Road- thank god for the end of the troubles. I have not included any photographs of this as my pictures of the murals from the loyalist side contain other passengers on the bus, and I did not want this post to be sectarian.

The only stop we made on the journey was at the Ulster Museum and Botanic Gardens. It’s good, so good we had lunch there though we were planning lunch after the tour had finished. Their collection of clothing was on the top floor, which is the art gallery, I have never thought of fashion designers as artists before this. You are a walking art gallery! The museum is very well laid out with lifts and ramps to make everything accessible. Well worth a visit.

After the bus tour, we visited Belfast City Hall, missing the last guided tour and getting out as it closed. We had a full day out.

Day 5

Our last day. Another breakfast at Munch before visiting St. George’s Market. I was pleased to see a thriving market as so many in Yorkshire are run down, a shadow of what they once were, we also went into Fraser department store, Linda likes to see department stores, but to me confirmed that once inside you could be anywhere, department stores are the same the world over.

The taxi to the airport was interesting. The driver told us his story of being a boy, growing up in the troubles. He was crossing a bridge a heard what he thought were doors slamming and carried on, two men in balaclavas carrying guns came up, one lifted his balaclava and the other one said, “Put that back on. there’s witnesses.” Another time in a football Stadium he was watching a game when the police station next to the stadium, by the stand he was in was car bombed. Another time he was in a crowd being escorted back into town from that same stadium when the Opera House was bombed nearby.

I’m home now, and it has taken me there days of resting to overcome the sheer exhaustion that being disabled and autistic can bring. But I can’t stay inside just because it might hurt, there’s no enjoyment in that. Would I do something like this again? Yes of course I would, enjoyment is more important than pain to me. Would I do something like this again soon? An emphatic no! I reached the absolute limits of my endurance here, I need time.

Everyone in Belfast seems to have a story about the troubles, and though there has been peace for 25 years sectarianism is still strong there. I thank God for the end of the troubles and pray for the continuing healing of the people there.

One thought on “Belfast

  1. Sarah and I really enjoyed reading this. It reminded us of our trip to Belfast and the Titanic. It is a great piece of writing and very eloquent.

    Bless you and Linda and I hope you do get enough energy and respite to do lots more… even the West Indies perhaps.

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