Northern Ireland Five // Belfast

The structures that can be found in a city give clues as to what the city is known for. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, a symbol of culture and art. London has the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, symbols of a monarchy and a noble class. Perth has modern skyscrapers and freeways, symbols of a developing city.

Belfast's most recognisable structures are the Titanic Belfast building and the Harland and Wolff cranes Samson and Goliath. The latter two make several appearances in the photos below as bright yellow figures against an overcast sky. The former is the main subject of some of these photos since I still can't get over how great it looks.

Be warned, this is a photo-heavy post so it may take a while to load.

That being said, our day began at "The Dome", a structure that sits at the top of the large Victoria Square Shopping Centre. After climbing some five stories, you can look out at Belfast within a weather-shielded glass dome. The viewing platform is quite unique and operates like a suspension bridge except it is suspended from below, not above. So when Mum noticed that the structure was swaying a centimetre or two, a man was able to assure that it was normal.

A poem romanticises the dome with stories of ice-cream pokes and Pegasus.

The H&W cranes, Samson and Goliath, make their first appearance.

The viewing platform is suspended from below by a spiralling staircase and the lift. After taking the stairs, I would recommend using the lift.

After viewing Belfast from above, we took to the streets. Our destination was past Titanic Belfast to the Alexandra Graving Dock, where the Titanic was "fitted out". Our walk took us past Albert's Clock, over the River Lagan and past Titanic Belfast and Titanic Studios (where Game of Thrones is filmed). I probably shouldn't complain all the time about it raining, but there was one time where we had to shelter from the rain, and another time when we got drenched by it. Other than that it was a nice walk.

The photographers out there might like to know that I used my 27mm (equivalent to 40mm in film standards) f2.8 pancake lens for the whole day. This meant I could walk around without being bothered by a bulky zoom lens. My 27mm is also light and allows me to take shots quickly and easily since I don't need to worry about zooming when composing photos.

This doesn't mean that I just went on a point and shoot rampage when walking around, but quite the opposite.

With a prime lens you have to think about your subject more since you are unable to simply zoom in on the top half of the Albert Memorial Clock (see below). Instead you have to use your feet to zoom. For me, this philosophy meant I made a lot more photos that I was happy with while the challenge of using a prime helped me enjoy my photography more than I may have otherwise done. For more about this great little lens, and some general advice on photography gear, check out my review of it.

Here's some photos.

The Albert Memorial Clock stands as a memorial to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's late husband. Not late as in, you should get a clock late, but late as in deceased. And in case you're wondering, yes the clock is on a very substantial lean.

The tidal barriers at Lagan Weir work to keep the river level constant.

Crossing the River Lagan, featuring one of the H&W cranes.

Belfast is one of those cities mixing the old and the new. Plus it has a big fish (near the centre of the image) because why not?

Construct-a-Titanic. We don't think the original came like this.

Titanic Belfast. Love it.

Love it, love it, love it.

On reflection, I really like this building. It's like the Sydney Opera House of Belfast.

Well it's like the Opera House except that it kind of stands in isolation. The area (aptly named the Titanic Quarter) is under development, so in a decade or so it might look a lot different.

An old world war one or two naval ship. It's used as the headquarters or training facilities for the navy reserves or cadets. I can't quite remember. Titanic Studios is the yellow/grey/black/white building to the right.

The above photo is of an old graving dock used back when Belfast was constantly churning out large ships. Now days, the city is mostly used to repair (and maybe build?) oil rigs. Their world class facilities host rigs from places as far as Brazil, which is kind of crazy.

Two of the oil rigs Belfast that have taken over the ship building/repairing port of Belfast.

If you're wondering what a graving dock is, it is basically where a ship is "fitted out" for service (i.e. where the interior is completed and the parts of the exterior finished). The dock would be drained of water so that a ship could sit on the bottom of it. Workers would then be able to scurry around the ship as they finished it. Once this stage was completed, the dock would be filled with water and the ship would be relaunched, ready for action.

That afternoon we visited the Princess Alexandra Graving Dock, named after Princess Alexandra "Graving" Dock (maybe). It was constructed by Harland and Wolff (I think) precisely (I think) for the Olympus class line of ships (I think), including the Titanic. The dock is next to a pump house that was able to remove the water from it in about two hours. I can't tell you how many kettles of water that is, but you can find out if you ever go there (since that is one of the facts they give you).

Princess Alexandra Graving Dock. It just fit in the Titanic, which sat as high as the White Star House at the end of the dock. We believe that height referred to the top deck, not the top of Titanic's funnels.

Various dials of the pump house. They no longer work.

A replica of the hull of the Titanic. Nice face Sam.

Well, that was a day walking in Belfast. Of course, this short walk doesn't sum up the city completely but gave an idea of it up close. It mostly shows how important the port was (and is) to Belfast's economy, as well as showing a few of the sites such as the Albert Memorial Clock.

This looks like the last of my posts on our trip to the United Kingdom and France but I assure you there will be one or two more arriving sometime in the next month or two (I'll try for ASAP, but you know, life). These final posts will be on my impressions of the cities of London and England.

I hope you liked [(n) find agreeable, enjoyable or satisfactory] this impression of the city of Belfast and if you did, it is always appreciated if you also like it [(v) publicly show you enjoy something on a virtual platform: she hit the thumbs up button on Facebook and also shared the post.]. As always, you don't have to but it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when people do.

Until next time.

JR

p.s. if you want to catch up on any of my posts and photos from our trip, you can find them all here and on Facebook.

Joel Gibson

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Perth, Western Australia

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