Friday, July 29, 2011

Seven Whole Years

Today was certain young lady’s seventh birthday. Chris searched out a bakery and brought home a fabulous (chocolate flake) cake.
We hit the rails and headed towards Holywood, to the Ulster Fold and Transport Museum. An odd mix of Transport vehicles displayed in a fairly modern manner right next to a folk park that depicted life in the early 1900 was held together only by the temporary exhibit that bridged the two museums.
I don’t think Gavin knew what to expect but was blown away when we entered a room that overlooked a railway roundhouse full of steam engines. Each of them were quickly given names and both he, Kyra and Elliot enjoyed boarding the various trains, both passenger and commercial. A few very small trains, no taller than me, were used at the Guinness Brewery. Some transported the beer and its ingredients, but particularly liked the one that was basically two park benches placed back to back on a car that transported employees throughout the brewery. The scale of the brewery even in the early 1900s is mind-boggling.   Yes, beer was a safe alternative to water back in the day, but these tiny branded train put into perspective that Guinness is not just an opportunistic tourist grab but an integral part of this culture .
The transportation Museum, built on the side of a hill, continued, downwards for three more floors of road transport galleries and a really well presented Titanic exhibit. Heading into its 100 anniversary, a new Titanic museum will be opening here next year, but for now, there are pieces all over the place. Belfast is where the ship was designed and built.  T-shirts boldly state “Built by an Irishman, Sunk by an Englishman”.  The exhibit itself was very similar to the one we saw in Halifax not more than a year ago. Much of the same memorabilia surrounded a model of the ship sinking. Each of the four corners of the display represented a different class, first, second, steerage and the ships employees. On two tiers, small painted figures represented each survivor and a grey ghost of a figure represented those who had died in the freezing water.  Several buttons surrounded the display but there was only one handset to listen to the commentary.
The Titanic theme continued over to the Folk Museum. Among the many village buildings, a print shop showed the printing process and displayed a backwards letterpress version of a Titanic ticket and a newspaper from the day after it sunk. There was also an impressive collection of over 40 papers upstairs and the articles they printed the same day. The silent movie house showed a news reel from the day where people had lined up at White Star for news.  We had a nice walk throughout the folk park, in and out of old houses and visiting a basket weaver but were forced to avoid the manor house. Gavin, already tired from the walking and sun, was teased by the event being set up. About twenty inflatable bouncy houses and other activities side by side by side resulted in an understandable melt down when we couldn’t visit. A train ride home was plenty time to recuperate especially when there is a stop on the way home to get a balloon and the promise of (secret) birthday cake.

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