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I Am Northern Ireland History and Music

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Living In Belfast

From the In My Ulster Home CD

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Northern Ireland

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Number one tourist attraction in the world.

The Titanic exhibition

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How different it is living in Northern Ireland today than living there in the seventies. Northern Ireland has reinvented itself to become a destination for new visitors from around the world. It is now a destination port for the major cruise ships and it is not uncommon to see the city bustling with visitors from North America,Europe,and Asia. Prior to the end of the troubles most visitors only went to the South of Ireland yet Northern Ireland has some of the best scenery. Driving up the Antrim coast winding through the little villages like Carnlough and Ballycastle to Portrush is a very scenic drive. This road was built during the famine to give people work and avoid starvation. There are many places to visit on the way like the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge and the Giants Causeway which has just opened its new visitor centre. Bushmills has the oldest licensed distillery in the world and is famous for the Black Bush whiskey - take time out to visit it. When they ask for volunteers do not be afraid to put your hand up as you get to taste all the different samples and receive a certificate at the end to say you are a qualified whiskey taster! For the golfers there are many golf courses, none more testing than Royal Portrush the home of the last Irish open. Northern Ireland is blessed with many very talented golfers such as Rory McIlroy,Darren Clarke and Graham McDowell. I am always amazed how they became such talented golfers as the weather is not in their favour compared to Australia where you are in your shorts with the sun shining most times. Northern Ireland with its small population of under two million has managed to produce high achievers in many different fields. It has a high standard of education with better pass rates than in England and in Wales where the teaching systems are similar. In soccer George Best,Pat Jennings,Danny Blanchflower and Martin O'Neill are a few who made it to playing top level football. In Australia and North America they refer to it as soccer. In the sports they call football they pass with their hands it will always be football to me and all my friends .In acting liam Neeson, Kenneth Branagh and James Nesbitt have become well known actors. In music Van Morrison no matter where you travel In the world you will hear Brown Eyed Girl. Snow Patrol a band from Bangor have now a big following around the world. Alex Higgens and Dennis Taylor in snooker. Alex became world champion returned to live in Belfast where he died recently from cancer. Barry McGugian became a world champion boxer and is now involved in training and commentating. More and more Northern Ireland accents are found on the television - people like Eamonn Holmes and Christine Bleakley. One of my favourite comedians was Frank Carson who unfortunately died recently. There are many more to mention in all walks of life who are not as well known living in different parts of the world and who have taken their skills to the top level.

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Belfast city centre is more like a large country town than a city. The city has plenty of live music to suit all tastes and ages. It is easy to get from one side to the other by walking. There are many great bars and restaurants. One area is called the Cathedral Quarter and another popular one is the Golden Mile where the famous hotel the Europa is situated. The Crown Bar is a haven for visitors as it has retained most of its original architecture. You can get an open bus that gives you a commentary on the way. It also takes you to the working class districts of the Shankill Road and the Falls Road where a lot of the troubles happened. Many like to see the different murals that were painted depicting the troubles however some of the hard core murals have been changed to other events in Northern Ireland's history. Belfast's newest attraction is the new Titanic Centre that is situated near where the Titanic was built in the Harland and Wolf shipyard. This attraction has been very popular but you can book your tour on line to avoid any disappointment. Belfast shipyard is still operating today but no longer employs the thousands it did in the past. You can see the two giant cranes Samson and Goliath overlooking the shipyard. People ask why celebrate the Titanic a ship that sunk but people in Northern ireland will say it was alright when it left us. At the turn of the twentieth century Harland and Wolf was the largest shipyard in the world and ships today still have the same basic design of the ships built in that era.

It is worth a trip to Cultra it is about twenty minutes from Belfast by train or car. They have rebuilt many of the old buildings from around the country on one site to let people see what life was like in Ireland in the eighteen hundreds. There are old farm houses,chapels plus the old terrace houses people lived in until the sixties. I am amazed how people survived some of those conditions with the cold damp winters. Five minutes of breathing the smoke from the peat fires is about all I could stand. They must have been a very hardy race of people with a good sense of humour. Northern Ireland as in all Ireland is known for the craic and people can laugh at themselves. On the same site they have the transport museum where they have a selection of everything from bicycles to buses. Fermanagh attracts many fly fisher men from around the world with its beautiful lakes. There is also the American Folk Museum built on the ancestral land of the Mellons who were part of the Scots Irish history. They have a large blue grass festival around September that attracts musicians from the United States. Northern Ireland has lots of festivals during the summer months you can find these through the Northern Ireland tourist board.

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Ireland has moved on with the Queen's visit. The reception she had was beyond many people's belief and put to bed the view that people in Ireland would not accept her. Martin McGuinness the head of the IRA agreed to meet her on her recent visit to Northern Ireland so we have moved on a long way. The troubles achieved nothing and we are where we would have been without all the violence. The change would have come as working class families on both sides demanded better housing education and jobs.


This created the new middle class but the same thing is happening now around the world and is happening in China and India.

Some tips for Northern Ireland. Bring a jacket as even in the summer the weather is unpredictable. In parts of Belfast in might sound more like Norn Iron but I can assure you it is the same place. An Ulster fry is a must for breakfast where you can try the soda and potato bread. You will find people very helpful and they will take time to talk to you. The Ulster Bus tours are worth while looking into. They start in Belfast but tour all of Ireland and beyond. They are great value for money with great food and hotels. Ireland is still two countries but

the only time you will know you have crossed the border is one uses the Euro the other is British pounds.

It is worth a trip to Cultra it is about twenty minutes from Belfast by train or car. They have rebuilt many of the old buildings from around the country on one site to let people see what life was like in Ireland in the eighteen hundreds. There are old farm houses,chapels plus the old terrace houses people lived in until the sixties. I am amazed how people survived some of those conditions with the cold damp winters. Five minutes of breathing the smoke from the peat fires is about all I could stand. They must have been a very hardy race of people with a good sense of humour. Northern Ireland as in all Ireland is known for the craic and people can laugh at themselves. On the same site they have the transport museum where they have a selection of everything from bicycles to buses. Fermanagh attracts many fly fisher men from around the world with its beautiful lakes. There is also the American Folk Museum built on the ancestral land of the Mellons who were part of the Scots Irish history. They have a large blue grass festival around September that attracts musicians from the United States. Northern Ireland has lots of festivals during the summer months you can find these through the Northern Ireland tourist board.