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In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the second Monday in October.  For our family, Thanksgiving has always been a time of reflection and contemplation and re-evaluation.  After our extended travel, there are many things we are thankful for but this Thanksgiving, we’re framing it within the context of Northern Ireland.

View from our apartment, Belfast.  The Titanic was built and launched right here.

View from our apartment, Belfast. The Titanic was built and launched right here.

We are thankful that Northern Ireland is healing and there is a new optimism and vibrancy here.  We are thankful that we were observers to the Troubles and not living in the horrible conditions Catholics and Protestants and everyone else in Northern Ireland found themselves in.  Because there were also non-Catholic, non-Protestant families who lived through the Troubles.  We’re thankful that teenagers are once again congregating and smoking and drinking by the Derry walls.  Although we don’t condone that behaviour ;-)

Belfast.  For North Americans of university age or older, the very word conjures up extremism, bombings and certain danger.  Today, Belfast has a vibrant core with a possibly dicey suburbia.  We loved our time in Belfast and would recommend it for an urban getaway but things do kick off here.  Occasionally.  In the outskirts of town.  I feel comfortable bringing my family here and if it wasn’t so far, would come back sooner.

belfast restaurant week

October 4-11 marks Belfast Restaurant Week.  Because most of you probably can’t nip over to Belfast for a meal, our family would like to offer you a visual, virtual taste of this city.

“Big Fish"

“Big Fish” – mosaic of Belfast history.

“Big Fish” detail

“Big Fish” detail

A few more atmosphere-setting photos before we head to what I believe to be the only National Trust bar!  How fitting that our last National Trust visit of many is to the Crown Bar where we can toast the fine work done by the registered charity.

belfast boat tours

Onlyboy’s favourite fountain

Onlyboy’s favourite fountain

Interesting building - evokes the Jetsons

Interesting building – evokes the Sputnik or the Jetsons

The Crown Bar is owned by the National Trust but run by Nicholson’s Pubs as a fully operational eating and drinking establishment.  The bar is on the ground floor and the dining room is upstairs.  The pub opened in 1826 but it wasn’t until the late 1800s, when Patrick Flanagan bought the pub from his dad that things started getting funky.  Patrick was a traveller and a lover of architecture.

Crown Bar, Belfast

Crown Bar, Belfast

Exterior detail, Crown Bar

Exterior detail, Crown Bar

Wrought iron gate, Crown Bar

Wrought iron gate, Crown Bar

Belfast was full of skilled Italian craftsmen building new Catholic churches.  Patrick convinced a gaggle of these to moonlight in the decoration of his pub.  The result is very pub, very church, very Irish, very Italian, very beautiful, very bizarre.  For me, the brilliance of the Crown is that it is so overdecorated yet comes off as delightful rather than gaudy.

One of a cachillion decorated surfaces, Crown Bar

One of a cachillion decorated surfaces, Crown Bar

View through stained glass of tile work in the Gent’s toilets

View through stained glass of tile work in the Gent’s toilets

The Crown Bar is such an institution in Belfast and so visually stunning, I would recommend it to all adults, drinkers or teetotalers alike.  I don’t think kids are allowed in.  Anyways, for me it felt like a tourist bar so I would say go and see it and then leave.

We enjoyed our bevvy here.

We enjoyed our bevvy here.

You can just see into a snug on the far right.

You can just see into a snug on the far left.

That might just be my feeling because we were at the bar rather than in one of the 10 charming “snugs”.  These are famous and hard to come by.  They look like confessionals and insulate the patrons from all the ipad toting yahoos who come staggering in like Zombies to snap a bunch of low-light grainy photos.  Why yes, I do include us in that group.  But we’re National Trust members so we believe ourselves to be more architecturally sophisticated Zombies. ;-)

Today’s Quote of the Day come from a very drunk man who stopped me in the street mid-afternoon to tell me,

The Irish will NEVER be vanquished.