The next destination on our travels is Belfast where we meet Ciara and Ricky, two young locals who show us the best places to visit in the city…
We both agree that Ricky’s old University, Queen’s university is definitely a must see attraction when visiting Belfast. I'd say it's a 15-minute walk from the centre of town, you can't miss it, it's a huge red brick building, really striking. You can wander around the grounds where literary great like Seamus Heaney, Ciaran Carson, and Paul Mundoon, once wandered around.
The grounds are nice and leafy and the Botanical gardens are just next door. So you should pop across and check out the Palm House, it's a pretty Victorian building, the Tropical Ravine and the Ulster Museum .
At Queen's University you also really should see visit the Naughton Gallery. It's got great collections and exhibitions.
There are heaps of Hotels and B&Bs in the area, and its pretty central, so it's a great location to stay in.”
St George's Market is a good place to start when visiting Belfast On Friday it's the variety market. Here you can find pretty much anything and everything. The other week I found this wind-up gramophone, I really wished I bought it. It's one of those places where you have the opportunity to bargain, I am really bad at it, but you have to bargain hunt. There are real characters there, people who have been setting up stalls for the past 50 years.
Saturday’s market has a culinary theme, there are loads of different types of olives, breads, cheeses, meats, chocolate, really, really brilliant coffee, paella...It's all local businesses and local produce but they are getting more and more diverse stalls; Lebanese, Spanish...a whole load of things.
The Market is open from about 8am until 2pm on both Friday and Saturday; they also have a Christmas market and other events during the year.
Another really great market to visit is the Black Market at the Black Box in town. It's all local artisans really, crafty people. There is a huge variety of stalls selling everything from artist’s creations, antique cameras to homemade lemonade.. The Black Market is really just starting up... the Black Box is a really buzzing place, it has a become a great art and music venue.
“ I love this place. It's kind of an informal university bookshop, a quirky little bookshop and café run by this lady called Mary. It's more of a literary bookshop, it's got all the classics, and what it does really well is local authors...Seamus Heaney...Paul Maldoon... but I don't think it's really about the books. It's more about the really great conversation you have and listen into...like really brilliant conversations about taking over the world.
Mary's been there forever. She's quite a character, she'll let you know that there's hot coffee in the pot, and to help yourself. She would have definitely heard her fair share of interesting stories, and is definitely the one who knows what's going on. So besides seeing posters up around town, she is the best person to ask about poetry nights or similar events at Bookfinders. People also post up all sorts of poster and notes, you know selling stuff...I put one up ages ago, I had a look a year later and it was still up there. It's like the wall in there is a gallery of what's been happening in Belfast for the past twenty years.”
Belfast is a compact city, so it's easy to walk around and see everything. Walking is a great way to see the public art around the city. The Big Fish is one well-known piece by an artist called John Kindness, if you are up around the water front you'll see it there. It made up of mosaic tiles that look like they have had newspaper printed all over them. Apparently, Bono from U2 is on one of the tiles. So when you visit, try and find him. Another great way to see the Big Fish, and Belfast , is taking a boat tour along the River Lagan, it's a great way to take in the sights and get a different look at the city.
Another piece by John Kindness is located at the Ulster Bus Station. It is this giant waterfall that stretches from the roof to the floor. It's also made up of ceramic tiles, but this time they are printed with different sayings and the different local traditions. This is what makes it so unusual, but good to look at.
Spring and Airbrake is a fairly new gig venue, about 4 or so years old. It gets quiet a lot of respectable bands playing there. It's next door to Limelight, another venue, with Katy Daly's in the middle. Katy Daly's and Limelight are like a right of passage, they're where you go to see your first band, loads of big bands have played there throughout the years. On a Tuesday night they open up the doors between the three venues and its one big university night. The best way to find out what is going on is to check the venue's website, or check out the posters around the city.
Other venues, like Black Box , Ulster Hall, The Empire, The Menagerie and Aunty Annies are all great too. The Music scene is really thriving at the moment, a lot of venues closed down a couple of years ago, but they're all opening up again, allowing people to put on their own band nights. Places like Black Box , Ulster Hall, The Empire and The Menagerie. Internationally renowned DJ David Holmes took over The Menagerie and reopened it. It's like a dive bar, with tea lights everywhere, old pictures on the wall...it's the first time we've had a New York feel dive bar in he place. It's the first like that. And David Holmes puts on a lot of good nights, he does a lot for Belfast music, if you go to him with a really good idea he will let you play.
What’s great about Helen's Bay is that it's just outside Belfast . It's almost a suburb of Belfast . One minute you're in the city, the next in the suburbs, then you're surrounded by nature. You walk through the sand dunes and then you're in this big open beach at the foot of the Mourne Mountains . It’s great for walks, it's really beautiful, my dad goes every Sunday to clear the cobwebs. Its great after a big night out or a busy week, you go there, there are heaps of rocks to sit on and relax, or you can walk a really long way along the coast with these great big stately homes behind you. There are all these little beaches with forest in between, and then you'll reach large stretches of beach again. You can take a really lovely coastal walk to Bangor ; it's a quiet, small, little coastal town. In Bangor you can find lots of lovely old pubs, fish and chip shops, cafes and ice cream parlours. There are plenty of B&B’s too, so you can hang out there few days.
To see more of Ireland , Ricky & Ciara and other locals click here and view stunning footage of their journeys.
Some of the many events in Belfast over the coming months are listed below but for more information and more exciting opportunities visit http://www.discoverireland.com
13 August 2009 - 16 August 2009
30 April 2009 - 04 May 2009
Artists from Ireland , UK , US, Europe, Australia and Africa bring street theatre to Belfast . Click here to find out more.
01 May 2009 - 30 May 2009
Torvill and Dean's Dancing On Ice - The Tour at the Odyssey Arena.
For tickets and more information visit www.theodyssey.co.uk
04 May 2009
Annual race through the streets of Belfast , take part or support the Marathon , Walk, Team Relay or Fun Run. All events will start at Belfast City Hall and finish in Ormeau Park . Find out more at www.belfastcitymarathon.com
13 May 2009 - 15 May 2009
Ireland’s largest and premier agricultural event run by the Royal Ulster Agricultural Society and hosted by the King's Hall Complex is now in its 142nd year. The event continues to boast a huge range of activities and entertainment for all the family. Over 70,000 visitors attended over the three day event in 2008.Visit www.balmoralshow.co.uk for more information
Belfast City Carnival
27 June 2009
A colourful carnival through the city centre celebrating the end of the Lord Mayor’s term in office. Click here for more details.
13 July 2009
As part of the 12th July celebrations, OrangeFest is a family friendly pageant open to all cultures. Find out more at www.belfastorange.com.