I landed in Glasgow, Scotland at 9:30AM on Wednesday, September 5, with my body thinking it was 2:30AM, and enough adrenaline and excitement to not really care. I’d planned to arrive in Belfast by sea; it only seemed appropriate, as it was the ship building capital of the UK (and even the world) for so very long. This plan involved taking a train to Ayr from Glasgow Central Station, a bus from Ayr to Cairnryan, and then finally a ferry to Belfast.

I don’t remember much of the train and bus rides as I drifted between train stupor and bus naps, but the ferry ride was really rather lovely. The slow approach into Belfast harbour through a long bay was beautiful, if not appropriately grey (this is Ireland we’re talking about, after all). Once we had docked and disembarked I caught a taxi to my hostel, The Linen House. It was the most central hostel I could find in Belfast, though it was also somewhat disappointingly on a street that was more of a dodgy alley. My room was crammed with bunk beds, but the people were nice, and the kitchen was outfitted with a hodgepodge selection of pots, pans, and other such stuff so we could cook our own food.

That first night I went out to a pub (that was no doubt older than Canada) with a group of hostellers. I made some new friends, drank some beer, and got entirely too excited whenever the live band played traditional Irish folk songs that had been featured in Titanic.

The following day I went on a coach tour of northern-Northern Ireland with my new Aussie mate Heath. I’m not generally a fan of coach tours as they are usually very touristy and mostly frequented by retirees, but this one was actually quite nice, and really my only option for seeing anything outside of Belfast. On our way out of Belfast I caught my first glimpses of the Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes and the Titanic Quarter and hyperventilated a wee bit.

We visited the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge after a long and scenic drive up the Irish coastline. The description of the bridge had me expecting a long, creaking, Indiana-Jones esque bridge. Something epic. It was not epic. It was perhaps 7m long and always had tourists on it making the peace sign and taking photos. But the walk to the bridge was lovely, and the view from the other side (it led to a small island/jumbo sized rock just off the coast) was beautiful.

The other noteworthy stop of the day was the Giant’s Causeway, a remarkable geological formation that would doubtless supply weeks worth of discussion material for my geologist parents. Much legend and lore surrounds the area, which was supposedly built by the Irish Giant Finn MacCool as a causeway across to Scotland. The reason it doesn’t quite bridge the gap is because the Scottish giant Benandonner destroyed it.

Regardless of the legends, it’s really a rather amazing place. Rock columns jut straight up and nestle together like honeycomb, the different heights creating a lego-like landscape of stepping stones and staircases. It was also exceptionally windy! There were times I was forced to lean backwards (past the point of falling under normal circumstances) in order to not be blown over!

Day two was Titanic Belfast! My Titanic hat and I were very excited. Heath showed remarkable bravery and came along as well. We arrived just as the staff were tearing down James Cameron’s press conference, and though we were told that James was “in the building”, we saw no sign of him whatsoever.

In any case, the museum was quite wonderful. It was very multimedia focused, and contains no artifacts from the wreck. It was also very Belfast/shipbuilding focused, which is understandable given the location. While I enjoyed many of the displays (especially the digital vertical fly through of the ship), I missed the authenticity the artifacts lend to displays like Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit (which I’ve seen 4 times… Seattle, Victoria, Toronto, and Calgary). What I love about the Titanic is the few short days it was afloat, and without the artifacts the museum was heavily focused on how the ship was built, how it sank, and what it is like now.

I fully understand why they don’t have artifacts; Titanic Belfast is affiliated with Robert Ballard, and he firmly believes nothing should be recovered from Titanic as she is a grave site. Obviously not everyone with access to a deep sea submersible agrees with him, but the folks running Titanic Belfast do.

The highlight of the museum for me was the tiny “exhibit” (display) that James had just launched that morning, containing some of the costumes from the film! Unfortunately there was only one of Rose’s dresses, but it was one of my favourites: The Swim Dress (which I’ve made a few times). I took entirely too many photos, fawned over it, noticed details completely lost in the film, and vowed to make the dress yet again with my new found knowledge.

My last day was simply spent walking around Belfast, exploring the harbour and downtown. It was lovely. That evening my hostel moved me to a new room (one holding at least twice people as many as what I had paid for). This room was on the other side of the building as my previous room, and was right above a nightclub. An exceptionally loud, all-night nightclub, at that. And the window latch was broken, so the window was open all night long; it was like sleeping directly inside a nightclub. Which obviously means I did not sleep at all as I had not been dosed with horse tranquilizers. I left early the next morning (4:30AM) for the airport to go to Edinburgh, and the club was still going strong. My advice? Do not stay at The Linen House in Belfast unless you intend to go to that club and stay until it shuts down sometime after 5AM.

Next stop, Edinburgh!