I’ve been to some of the nicer places in the world. I’ve walked the streets of New York and cycled across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco; I’ve had meals next to the Colosseum and wandered through the rooms of the Vatican; I’ve seen the depths of the Grand Canyon and the heights of the Canadian Rockys; I’ve viewed the ruins of Karnak and I’ve even seen the snow on a pretty Bulgarian hillside.
There are a great many other places I’d like to go as well; I’d like to see Ayres Rock; I’d like to sample Tokyo’s delights and the Inca trail.
But what I can’t really be doing with is visiting that little dump that is Belfast. Despite all the things that Frommers has to say about it.
In little more than a decade, Belfast has been transformed from fractured city into a hot city break destination, moving fast towards its 19th-century accolade of Paris of the North. Premier Victorian landmarks such as the City Hall, Ulster Museum, and Ulster Hall are reopening in 2009 after being given a makeover. But towering above the city, it’s the glass dome of the sophisticated new Victoria Square shopping centre that’s the real emblem of the city’s renaissance. The army check points that encircled the city centre during the Troubles are a thing of the past; today you can amble along the Golden Mile for relaxed drinks or enjoy Irish music in Cathedral Quarter bars. Try the Laganside for orchestral concerts at the riverfront Waterfront Hall and international cuisine from Teppanyaki at Harbour View to seafood at Tedfords. Or, for the ultimate treat, stay at the luxury Merchant Hotel, sip bubbly among the chandeliers in Cafe Vaudeville’s champagne bar and savor Michelin-starred dining at Deanes.
Oh that all sounds lovely. Apparently the renaissance of the city is best summed up by a shopping centre that’s too expensive for the place. Oh, and it’s an emblem that I’ve never really been in and don’t particularly plan on going to.
Does that mean that I’m not on board with the new Belfast?
I wonder is it safe to have a relaxing stroll at midnight outside the Merchant Hotel?
I’m sure it’s perfectly safe. But just in case, I wouldn’t go wandering round there on my lonesome.
OK, so I won’t be staying there over Christmas. If you wouldn’t wander around there on your own what hope would Santa have.
Santa? Nobody’s going to mess with him – sure he’s protected by a small herd of rabid reindeer. And fighting elves.