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Trip Report Our Black Cab Tour of Belfast

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In my search of the board for this topic the most recent posting that I found was in 2009. As the tour described below was so very helpful to my wife’s and my visit to Belfast in September of 2012, it would appear that a fresh posting on this topic would be appropriate.

A note of clarification: for those of you not familiar with black cabs, please look at this link:

http://www.londonblackcabs.co.uk/About.html

Apparently the standard approach many travelers take in visiting Belfast is to engage, ad hoc, a black cab driver on a purely random basis (but, usually, at specifically-designated spots) to give them a one-hour tour of both the Falls Road and Shankill Road neighborhoods. Those same people, more than likely, probably also use the Hop-on, Hop-off (HoHo) bus approach to tour the rest of Belfast. We personally enjoy both individual guided tours as well at the HoHo offerings and I was curious to see if we could combine those offerings into one meaningful adventure. I’m pleased to report that we were very successful in doing so.

My research yielded a number of firms which offer these unique tours and we finally decided to engage the services of Bobby Walsh who is one of the principals of a firm called CabtoursNI.com at http://www.cabtoursni.com/. At his website we learned that he and his partner, Paddy, actually are able to provide a wide variety of cab tours of Northern Ireland. Their website also provides a link to customer testimonials which I found very impressive.

Bobby responded very positively to my e-mail request in March inquiring about the possibility of combining a political tour with the HoHo offering during our September visit. Our electronic correspondence allowed us to arrive at a plan whereby he would meet us at our hotel at a specific day and time and take us on a five-hour guided tour of Belfast. We structured the tour to assure that it would encompass all the things we were interested in seeing. His price was very reasonable considering what he was offering us and I accepted. To my amazement, when I asked him what kind of deposit and payment arrangements he wished, he said simply for me to bring the agreed-upon price in GBP on the day. Business on a virtual handshake? What kind of a world does he live in? What a delight. We were not to be disappointed.

As agreed, about a week before we were to arrive in Belfast Bobby and I exchanged confirmation e-mails and we were all set to go. Alas, as sometimes happens, at literally the very last minute a personal tragedy struck Bobby’s family. Fortunately, a colleague of his, Paddy Geraghty, was able to step in and delivered, superbly, the entire package negotiated between Bobby and me.

Paddy G, as I have designated him to distinguish him from the Paddy featured at the referenced website, was waiting for us at our hotel five minutes before our agreed-upon time. He threw my wife and me both off completely by turning up in a red cab but we forgave him totally the minute he gave us his big, charming, and warm greeting. We were off for five hours of Belfast and it (as they are wont to say in Yorkshire) were wonderful!

We were favored with sunshine on this, our first full day in Belfast, and were able to exploit it fully. We went first to the Protestant area of Shankill Road, then to the Roman Catholic Falls Road area where we received full and comprehensive descriptions of what had taken place there in the past without a single sign of bias on Paddy’s part. Among other sights we saw during our tour were Stormont Castle, Belfast City Hall, and Dublin Castle (with its magnificent overlook of the city and the shipyards). We drove by the major Titanic sites but, by prior agreement, did not stop to visit any of them.

During our trip Paddy was always alert to our needs for toilet breaks and rest stops and was able to get us to a Barclay’s Bank cashpoint in order to assure that I had the necessary currency to cover his more-than-fair fee. We returned to our hotel about ten minutes beyond our schedule having been given a comprehensive and totally professional introduction to Belfast.

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