Belfast to Dublin to Cork, OH MY!

Yesterday, I took the 6:50 AM train from Belfast to Dublin Connolly station, and then the 4:00 PM train from Dublin Heuston to Cork. Normally, riding the train longer distances (each leg was about two and half hours long) is a perfect time to reflect – much like highway driving, listening to music while a landscape rolls by usually prompts a ton of thought, and often some writing as well. But I spent yesterday morning’s journey napping by design (to rest up for the roughly seven hours I spent in Dublin), and while I meant to stay awake and absorb all of the Irish countryside I could handle on the evening’s journey, I passed out five minutes in and didn’t stir until a teenage girl in a Slipknot hoodie shook my shoulder and told me we’d reached the last stop.

It’s not that I didn’t have anything to internally reflect on – BOY, I had tons – but I’ve also been sleeping very little since leaving the U.S. nine days ago. I spend my days packing in as much archival research or museum touring as I possibly can, and as soon as my work-related sites close for the day, I run off to see as much of these cities as I can squeeze in. For the most part, this has been a solo adventure – I met up with a few friends and a cousin who live in London, and last night I had dinner and an amazing walking tour of Cork city centre with the parents of an old friend. I’ve traveled alone before of course, but by “travel” I mean taken solo road trips from New York to DC or Richmond to visit friends and family, or taken the Amtrak between various east coast cities. Mostly, I’ve traveled with friends or family, and the idea of being alone in two foreign countries for nearly two weeks was a little intimidating. But (and no offense to friends and family I’ve gone on trips with!), I am really loving the experience – not only am I finding exactly the sort of material I came here to seek out, but getting to set my own schedule and do whatever I want to do in a series of cities feels very liberating.

It’s winter here, and my research schedule doesn’t allow as much nature and famous monument viewing as my last trip to Ireland, when my family traveled together for a wedding and sightseeing in 2008. But I’m absorbing every experience I can get in, and discovering so much more about my surroundings. Fortunately, paying attention to surroundings and culture is ideal when researching a thesis about public, collective memories of historic events…

Belfast, in a Few Quick Pictures

So busy I hardly have a moment! So just a few quick pictures of some of my favorite Belfast things…

Titanic wall mural, off of Newtwonards Road.
Exterior of Titanic Belfast, world’s largest Titanic museum.
Me, standing in the absolutely massive Titanic Dry Dock – the last place the ship touched dry land, according to my tour guide.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the banoffee pie…

The Grand Tour of Titanic-Related Sites, or How CCL Went to Europe and Learned a Ton, pt. 1

When I was proposing my thesis topic to my history department, I wrote a paragraph about how going on a research trip to the U.K. and Ireland would be incredibly helpful, but I honestly didn’t think I would have the time or money to do so. Well, the head of the department suggested I apply for funding from my school, and two months later, here I am in Belfast.

My topic is the collective memory of the Titanic, particularly as seen through pop culture, but also through public history, so Belfast makes total sense – I thought the tagline “Titanic Town” might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it turns out to be pretty on the nose from what I’ve seen. BUT before I describe what I’ve been seeing and doing in Belfast, I should take a step back and mention my whole itinerary for this trip – Belfast is my second stop, and I have at least 2-ish more I have back to the States.

I started off in London (4 days), with a day trip down to Southampton, before flying over here. I’ve been in Belfast for a day and half, and I have about another 30 hours left before I catch an early morning train to Dublin. I’ll get 7 hours in Dublin, and then on another train down to Cork, where I’ll spend a day and half (and probably most of that day in Cobh, less than an hour away by commuter rail). Then back to London for two more days, although I’m thinking of trying to fit in a quick stop in Liverpool…

Right, I should get to sleep – I have a long day of walking tours and murals and talking to people nicknamed “Mr. Titanic” planned, so I had better write more about my research over here tomorrow!