Sunday, August 28, 2016

Goldring Travel's 2016 Culinary & Cultural (Food & Wine) Cruise on the Seabourn Quest - Part VII (Belfast, Liverpool - And Another Seabourn Moment!)

The 2016 Goldring Travel Culinary & Cultural (Food & Wine) Cruise spent a second day in Belfast, Northern Ireland, so we headed out to St. George’s Market for a wander around and to buy some souvenirs.  

St. George's Market - Belfast, Northern Ireland




It is packed with both culinary and cultural items ranging for local cheeses to more exotic fare to t-shirts with a truly Irish flare.  If you can’t wear a smile while wandering here there is something wrong.

We then headed upstairs for a drink.  But when I saw what was coming out of the open kitchen in Georges at the Market, my pint of Guinness became a pint with a full Irish breakfast (which most certainly beat out the full English and full Scottish breakfasts I previously sampled).

A beautifully prepared and delicious full Irish Breakfast
George's at the Market
It is all it is supposed to be
It was then time to head off and wander about Belfast and wander we did.  The politics of the past are very much the politics of the present.  As we walked we saw many people milling about in various dress and most without smiles.   We didn't know what was happening as we walked, but we would eventually find out.

Hundreds of people in prior dress were seen as we wandered
through Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Why?
There was a palpable tension.  Police in riot vehicles and heavily armed were omnipresent.  So as we came upon The Garden of Remembrance (those who died during the Catholic Hunger Strikes protesting against British rule and occupation) 


The Garden of Remembrance - Belfast, Northern Ireland

and the Peace Wall


A small portion of the Peace Wall separating the Protestant and Catholic
populations of Belfast, Northern Ireland
the troubled past and tensions between Catholics and Protestants were clearly also in the present. 


The name of this abandoned bar was not lost on me
Possibly as a Jew struggling with the positions of the Jewish-Palestinian conflict (and the terrorism and Wall) it hit me harder than most.  


A surprising portion of the Peace Wall
And speaking of walls, I thought it was remarkable...and important...that there were a number of Anti-Trump posters advertising rallies against him.  Alas, all walls are not the same; though needing any walls is, at best, heartbreaking and troublesome.


So what were the uniforms and hundreds of stowic people about?  The answer was found in a souvenir shop next to a Sinn Fein office. (Sinn Fein, or "We Ourselves", is the political party, considered by some to be a terrorist organization, that has fought for the reuniting of Ireland.) The shopkeeper said that there was a march honoring the hunger strikers starting at 2:00 pm.




So there we were, by happenstance, fortunate enough to be present for a march honoring the 35th anniversary of the start of the hunger strikes protesting British rule.  I was especially lucky to have found a place on the curb to watch the march next to a Belfast fireman named Norman.  I first asked him, at 2:30 p.m. why the march hadn't started at 2:00 p.m.  He said,  with the charm of Irish humor that fortunately broke the tension, "It's Irish time!"  Norman then went on to explain the meaning of each act, wardrobe, etc.   It made the march truly meaningful and memorable.

First we heard a number of garbage can lids being banged on the ground.  This was how the Irish Catholics would warn each other that the British army was entering their area.  Today it was announcing the start of the march.





The marchers wearing only blankets honored those Irish Catholics
that refused to wear the British jail clothes, but rather wrapped themselves
in their bed's blankets.
H-Block is where the hunger strikers were jailed


I must again emphasize that when people ask me what tours they should take I think about days like today.  There is no tour that would could have provided this experience.  Wandering and meeting people are, to my mind, one of the keys to meaningful travel.

After returning to the Seabourn Quest it was time to unwind and reflect before another Goldring Travel Culinary Event:  A Cheese Tasting which highlighted cheeses of Britain and Ireland.  Of course there were the appropriate wines to pair with the variety of cheeses…and some wine and champagne for those that, well, just wanted a nice glass or wine, champagne, sparkling wine or cider...including some from our pre-cruise experiences in Kent, England prior to boarding the ship!






The next day a beautiful sunrise greeted the Seabourn Quest as we sailed into Liverpool, England; a surprisingly interesting and revitalized port.  

A beautiful sunrise as the Seabourn Quest arrives
 in Liverpool, England
While much of the previously depressed area near the port has been transformed into a huge modern open-air shopping area (though I did take the opportunity to load up on English candy; which my kids love), the magic is actually right along with waterside. 

A Cheese on Toast Truck?  You gotta try it.  
The old marina area has been transformed into a lovely but still historical area filled with shops and restaurants.  However, the Slavery Museum drew my attention.  It was interesting, but a bit too jumbled for me. 

What blew me away was the Maritime Museum (located in the same building).  It is undoubtedly one of the finest and most comprehensive museums of its type anywhere.  If you are interested in maritime history you could easily spend a day or more lost in this treasure trove of models, relics and information.  

I cut our time short in Liverpool, much to the frustration of my girlfriend (as you know we love to explore and find an interesting place for lunch), because there was yet another Seabourn Moment to come…and I had to get her back to the ship because it was, yet again, for her.  

You see, last year it was actually her birthday during the June 2015 Goldring Travel cruise, but for a bit of humor I put down on my preferences during the Guest Registration that it was her birthday…though obviously it was not during this August cruise. When I arrived the Hotel Manager and Executive Chef enthusiastically told me that the same pastry chef was onboard and he was excited to create an even bigger Seabourn Quest birthday cake for her.  Although I admitted that it wasn’t her birthday, Seabourn insisted we celebrate anyway…and so Seabourn did, well, Seabourn.

When we arrived back at the ship, the opened the suite door to a huge Seabourn Quest cake along with champagne…and balloons all over the suite, along with photographs of the two of us from our travels all over the world:  Portugal, Denmark, Norway, Spain, etc.  hanging from balloons and pasted to the walls and windows.


Incredible!

It is, at times, surreal that one can travel from the tensions and troubled history of Northern Ireland to being spoiled in rarefied world onboard a Seabourn ship in a matter of hours.  To my mind, the ability to have different types of moments can, at times, allow one to appreciate each in a way otherwise never possible.  

Next up:  Another Goldring Travel Culinary Event!

If you would like more information or would like to book your Seabourn cruise, please give us a call:

United States:         (877) 2GO-LUXURY
United Kingdom:   020 8133 3450
Australia:               (07) 3102 4685
Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585


Or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com.