Please don't go to Northern Ireland AROUND JULY 12th !
Go there ANY OTHER DATE OF THE YEAR ,for the great landscapes, for Giant's causeway and for the big majority of the population, who voted for peace some years ago !
Local people will know about the specific dangers, BUT tourists will not : there are places of "historic importance" for some people and you might get into a demonstration or protest-march on a motorway and then you are stuck there and a single wrong word to the wrong person gets you into a conflict !
I had such a situation, when after a nap on a parking, suddenly the motorway to Belfast was completely empty, only police-cars standing on the side, BUT they did not warn me at all, that I was about to drive towards trouble at the next street-crossing....
I was aware of the date, but had no idea where Drumcree would be, it is too small to be mentioned in a tourist-map, BUT in the memories of some people it is an important place of history and still has to be defended...
Well, Belfast is made out to be a bit of a war-zone on TV. It is a fine place to be, don't be too scared. The majority of areas are fine and very friendly too. There is however a small minority of people who causes trouble as a result of 'the troubles'. If you've been to dublin or london, don't openly carry around a tourist flag of southern ireland or Britain in Belfast- it will just draw attention to you!
You will just blend in with everyone and get on well. It is highly unlikely you will see any sort of trouble, especially not in the City Centre. The only times to avoid are around the 12th of July when marches take place- there is trouble in some areas, however it's decreasing over the years. Drop me a line if you are worried about anything and I'll answer any questions :)
Is Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom or not?
Well, I traveled in Northern Ireland and then flew to London, with several 5GBP and 10GBP banknotes in my wallet. They were the official currency in Northern Ireland.
I tried to pay with this legitimate British currency in London shops, restaurants and pubs. Everywhere I received a suspicious or worried look, with a slight shake of the head, then they handed me back the notes and said they were sorry but couldn't accept them.
"Why?" I asked, irritated. In "Pret-a-Manger" in Camden Town the shift manager tried to appease me: "Sir, there is nothing wrong with your money, it's just that our instructions are not to accept it".
The lesson: Get rid of the Ulster banknotes in Ulster, don't count on the Englishmen to accept them!
The Fullerton Arms of Antrim, Northern Ireland has won my award for the absolute worst coffee in the entire world.
When I sat down with my cup of coffee, I noticed a very strange smell but hought perhaps it was something burning on the heater next to me. It wasn't. The putrid smell was coming from the coffee itself as I discovered to my dismay as I took a sip of it.
The scones were also below par but the meals were all quite good, hearty servings of traditional Irish food.
I recently flew into Belfast, wanting to drop off in the Republic
With a drop-off in adifferent location, a're-location' fee is often payable. I recently had to stump up a whole 75 quid for that. Disgusting.
On the other hand the company I used (Dan Dooley) still came in cheaper than the big boys by quite a long way.
The 'big boys' computer systems seem incapble of dealing with that when the drop-off is in the republic. Given that it is 'cross-border' rent, they will ask an astronomical price for such an arrangement.
They also wanted to charge me 55 pounds for a tank of petrol ! - presuming that I would return it empty. I insisted that they could re-credit my account if I returned it full. I did, and it only cost me about 55 Euro (thus saving at least a third on their price)
So much for European Intergration.
Right Ok 1stly i live and Indeed and I'm from Northern Ireland ok so I think i should know what I'm going to say and that is That Northern Ireland at any time of the year is not dangerous as for the "marching Season" if you dont wana be near the marches just get out of the town or city and into the country but its no way dangerous to stay in towns or cities during the summer marching season I live here and I'm still alive so like wise up people and come and see Northern ireland , dont listen to the media (esp if you are from the USA!) come and see the real Northern Ireland its brilliant at any time of the year !
Sourbugger and his mate (another VT member as it happens) are both possesed of rather obviously English accents. We were taking in the tourist delights of a small town on the Antrim coast (i.e trying to have pint in every pub in the town).
Settling in a rather (too) quiet but attractive bar the liquid was nicely slipping town. At that point three coachloads of people turned up and entered the bar.
It was only some time later after the band set up that it became apparant, as the singer started singing about Bobby Sands, that the place was full of hardline Catholic IRA supporters who had booked the place out for the night.
It was then that we struck on a great idea to avoid and hassle as the night wore on that we would speak with strong taffy (welsh) accents for the remainder of the time in the pub.
It worked, and we had a really good evening. It was fascinating to see the depth of feeling on the Catholic side expressed through the 'protest music'.
A fried breakfast , whether British, Irish, Scottish or Welsh takes some beating in the morning.
Sourbugger may well have consumed more fried brekkies than is good for him in several lifetimes, but little can prepare you for the artery clogging mountain of grease that is a true Northern Ireland breakfast.
As far as I could work out it combines all the elements of other fried breakfasts (rasher of Bacon, sausage, white and black pudding, potato cake, beans, mushrooms, egg etc) with at least three different types of breads - all fried.
Consuming one will mean you can last without food until tea-time, presuming you live that long.
Dave Allen, the Irish comic, used to tell this joke :
"What is the fastest game in the world" ?
Answer : Pass-the-parcel in a Belfast pub.
Many people have some very strange ideas about personal safety in Northern Ireland - and will not visit out of a sense of misplaced fear.
It is, of course, true that there have been disturbances, bombs and shooting in the past, but your chances of being caught up in anything nowadays are extremely remote.
In the centre of cities such as Derry or Belfast , the Catholics and Protestants mix freely. In surrounding areas (such as the Bogside in Derry or Shankhill rd / Falls rd in Belfast) the sectarian divides are very obvious as the whole place will be painted Gold, green and white in Catholic areas and Red white and Blue in Protestant ones.
In such places, any discussion of politics should be avoided and any clothing that could be considered inappropriate : e.g it would be suicidal to wear Union Jack Shorts in a Catholic area or a Green Irish Jersey in a Protestant one.
I was surprised that she didn't at least turn off the flash, but my travelling companion took pictures, yes with the flash, of British soldiers in Belfast. "But that one is so cute," she said, after I (too late) told her to stop. And, just as I had expected, a soldier came over to our rental car and demanded: 1) that she hand over the film, 2) that she produce her papers, and 3) that she shut up or he would take her camera as well. I hunkered down in the back seat, and hoped that the nice man wouldn't ask to see my passport, which showed the same last name as a well-known Official IRA volunteer and a birthplace of New York (a hotbed of IRA support). But fortunately, the soldier looked at her Japanese face, and her (US) passport that showed she was born in Yokohama, and he let us go. But he took the film. This incident happened in 1994.
The only time you should avoid going to Northern Ireland is in July. On July 12th the Unionist population of Northern Ireland celebrate the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne in which in 1690 the Protestant King William of Orange beat the Catholic James II who had attempted to regain the throne from which he was ousted two years earlier. The Orange Order stages marches all over Northern Ireland during July, many of them through Nationalist areas, which regularly leads to clashes of the two sides in this conflict.
Be careful about asking to local people about political situation in the area...not everyone likes to talk about that. But enjoy the country, it is beautiful.
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