We had a great morning at the Titanic discovery centre and exhibition in Belfast on our trip ‘up north’. I was really nervous about taking the children around the exhibition but it was actually all good. Ok so I didn’t get to read everything I would have liked to and there was certainly a lot of chasing Vivi around but all in all I got a good experience and I think the kids did too. We parked right at the centre and it was easy enough to find too which is always good when you have lots of mini people in tow.
First up the building is AMAZING. I love me some architecture and this does not dissapoint, the way it mirrors the ships sitting on the slipways, the use of glass and metal, the way you travel up as if you are on the ship itself – to be honest I would have loved to have soaked up more of the space but we headed right into the exhibition. You start off in Boom-town Belfast and get some historical background about the trade in the area and what was happening politically. I love things that really make history come to life and this display with its huge interactive newspaper walls was no exception. I have to admit I really struggled to explain to my English Catholic kids living in the Republic of Ireland some of the history leading up to the Easter Uprising. I find the troubles fascinating but am always a bit cautious as to the politically correct way to speak about them. After reading a few of the insights to the politics of the 1900s I’m determined to read up some more and study to better understand what went on. Luis has got the history bug big time so I want to involve him (and me) in some of the 1916 anniversary events.
When you enter the shipyard there is lots to see and do, and even a little ride. Everyone loved this, moving up through the underbelly of the ship up through to ‘launch day’ inside a little cab that moves along on a track. We got a real sense of just how much ‘Titanic’ meant to Belfast and Ireland in general. There was lots of interactive stuff here too, like a whole floor of ‘jump on’ games. Everyone really liked this and Cora and Vivi got to walk around a lot in this space.
When I was a little girl I was genuinely obsessed with The Titanic. I used to write essays about it for my Dad to read and mark. Serious what does that say about my childhood? haha! I used to read my Dorling Kindersly ‘Titanic’ book over and over. When the film came out in 1997 I saw it no less than 7 times in the Cinema (mainly because I was also obsessed with Leo. My favourite Leo is now Gastby but Jack comes third right after Romeo) which is probably why I quoted movie snippets the whole way through. Anyway – in my DK book there was an infographic page showing how long the titanic was compared to some landmarks, I never really understood just how enormous it was until we got up to the launch area and saw the imprint of the Titanic and Olympic out on the actual slipway where they launched from. AMAZING and awe inspiring.
Then it was through to the fit out, which I have to say I was a little disappointed with, the kids breezed through this part because other than a screen ride thing that took you up through the ship and a built out first and third class room, both behind glass, there wasn’t much here to really catch anyone’s attention.
The inevitable was coming next, the sinking. “There aren’t enough boats,Rose”. I would have stayed for hours in this bit but Luis got quite upset by it so we moved through. I was also super aware that having two toddlers walking around was quite distracting for those who wanted to read everything and in some ways quite disrespectful. Reading the survivors stories were heart wrenching. It really hit home to Luis that if we were on the Titanic (in third class) we may not have got to a boat, and if we did it would have been without Mr Clev. Sad times. Maxi was concerned about lifeboats on Irish Ferries and was quite excited at the thought of going in one.
After that there is the aftermath gallery (more words and stories) and then the Titanic in myth and legend which was really cool. We went downstairs then to ‘explore the wreck’. This part really held the attention of all the kids as its done through interactive floor. SO COOL. Vivi loved walking over this over and over as did Cora.
Then it was time to go. Obviously we stopped into the gift shop. The best ever part about this was that they sell replica Heart of the Oceans for £4.99. “I thought the old lady threw it in at the end” – OK so that is actually a Britney quote but its Titanic related right. I am so glad I visited, I have to say that the biggest take away for me was how this disaster affected not only an entire area but also an entire industry, and to see the effect of that first hand was really exciting for me. I love history, its my thing, and I love sharing it with my family. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable morning and another big fat check off the 30 before 30 list.