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From The Editors Travel

Belfast, Northern Ireland – Don’t Miss It

Belfast is the second largest city on the island of Ireland and the largest and capital city of Northern Ireland. The fact that the ill-fated ocean liner, The RMS Titanic, was built in Belfast bears testimony to the fact that it was once a powerful shipbuilding hub.

To a lot of people the mere mention of Belfast may conjure up images of conflict and violence but all that was in the past. For some years, now, sustained calm has prevailed not only in Belfast but the whole of Northern Ireland resulting in considerable growth in commerce and the economy.

Since the cessation of hostilities visitor numbers has been on the rise every year adding to the economy and growth.

It is an excellent travel destination with warm and friendly people, an absorbing history, great landmarks and tourist attractions, awesome cuisine, and fantastic shopping outlets, especially at Victoria Square which has undergone massive expansion and development in recent years.

The city is served by two airports, the George Best Belfast City Airport which is located within the city limits and the Belfast International Airport, 24 kilometers west of the city.

Here are some great places that should be a must-see on any tourist itinerary.

Titanic Belfast

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This symbolic structure is standing proof of Belfast’s illustrious maritime history and a tribute to the doomed Titanic which was built at this very same location more than a century ago.

The star shape of the structure represents the logo of the White Star Line, the owners of the Titanic. It is home to some captivating artifacts including letters, brochures, and menus.

For an additional charge, visitors can board and explore the fully restored SS Nomadic

Hours:

April, and June- August – Open daily from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm

May and September – Open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm

October-March – Open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Admission:

Adults – £15.50
Children (age 5-16) – £7.25
Children (under 5) – Free
Family (2 adults, 2 children) – £39.00,
Senior Citizens (over 60) – Monday-Friday – £11.00
Senior Citizens (over 60) Saturday & Sunday – £13.00,
Students – £10.00

Address – 1 Queens Road, Titanic Quarter, Belfast

Official sitehttp://titanicbelfast.com/

The Botanic Gardens

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Established in 1828 the Belfast Botanic Gardens is set on 28 acres of land and is under the ownership of the Belfast City Council since 1895 when it was declared a public park.

Designed by Sir Charles Lanyon in 1839, the Palm House, within the gardens, is a glasshouse made from curved iron and glass and is home to a vast range of tropical plants, hanging baskets, exotic birds, and seasonal displays.

The Tropical Ravine was built half a century later in 1889 by the park’s head gardener, Charles McKimm, and his staff. The Ravine boasts of some of the oldest seed plants including banana, cinnamon, bromeliad, orchids and other exotic flora.

Hours:  Open 7.30am (seasonal closings)

Admission: Free

Address: College Park, Botanic Avenue, Belfast

Belfast Castle

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At a distance of 4 kilometers from the city center, the Belfast Castle is located on Antrim Road. Although some castle or the other has stood on this site since the 12th century, the current edifice has been in existence since 1870 undergoing numerous additions and changes ever since.

The castle is the venue for many an event all through the year, including weddings because of its pictorial setting and the historic significance of the building. It is a very popular summer picnic spot as well.

The castle houses a fine restaurant, the Cellar Restaurant. “There’s something to suit all tastes at the Cellar Restaurant, whether you’re looking for morning coffee, a quick snack or a full evening meal. All our menus use fresh, local produce to create innovative and modern dishes,’ says the Belfast City Council website http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk

The place also boasts some great attractions like Cave Hill Country Park, Cave Hill Adventurous Playground, and Cave Hill Visitor Centre.

Check out the pictures of the facilities and attractions of Belfast Castle here:

http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/tourism-venues/belfastcastle/bcattractions.aspx#photos

Address: Antrim Rd, Belfast

Crumlin Road Gaol

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This infamous jail was never expected to reopen after having closed down in 1996 but it did, as recently as 2012. It has since become one of the top tourist attractions in Belfast.

There is a lot of history attached to this imposing and ominous looking structure. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take a guided tour to know about the dark past of the place and its long gone inmates.

Hours: Open daily 10.00am-4.30pm

Admission: Adults £8.50, children £6.50, family £25.00 (2 adults & 2 children)

Address: Crumlin Road, Belfast|

Official site: www.crumlinroadgaol.com

St. Anne’s Cathedral

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A great and a not-to-miss Belfast landmark is the St. Anne’s Cathedral built in the neo-Romanesque style of the basilican type. Its main features are the magnificent mosaic ceiling, beautiful stained glass windows, carved stonework, intricate woodwork, marble tiles on the floors and walls.

The Cathedral is the final resting place of the leader of the Ulster Unionists, Sir Edward Carson who dies in 1935.

Hours: Open 8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Monday-Saturday), and 8:00 am – 4:00 pm (Sunday)

Admission: Suggested donation £2-3 per adult

Address: Donegall Street, Belfast

Official site: www.belfastcathedral.org

Grand Opera House

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Dating back to 1895, the Grand Opera House is located in the vibrant and bustling city center area of Belfast. It is Northern Ireland’s most famous theater and the venue for a host of programs and events like musicals, comedy, drama, dance, pantomime, family and West End shows etc. all through the year.

The theater houses the imposing and stately main auditorium designed by the eminent architect Frank Matcham, a theater with a 100-seat capacity, the cozy and intimate Baby Grand Studio, and most importantly, for many, it has three bars boasting great ambiance.

Address: Great Victoria Street, Belfast

Official site: www.goh.co.uk

Stormont Parliament Buildings

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Designed by the celebrated architect Sir Arnold Thornely, this symbolic house of power is a perfect specimen of symmetry and grandiose in the center of the picturesque Stormont Estate.

The building is 365 feet wide, each foot representing a day of the year. The symbolism doesn’t end here; the six pillars at the entrance and the six floors of the building are dedicated to the six countries of Northern Ireland – Londonderry, Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, and Fermanagh.

Hours: Open Monday-Friday 9am-4pm

Admission: Free

Address: 587 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast

Free guided tours available.

Waterfront Hall

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Having opened in 1997 the Waterfront Hall has, since, seen over 5 million visitors. It is the venue for many an exhibition and attracts top Musicians and performers from around the world.

Located about a mile from the Titanic Quarter, this state-of-the-art entertainment and conference center overlooks the Lagan River and is a sight to behold when lit up at night. The Arc Brasserie is the on-site restaurant offering a great view of the riverfront and beyond.

Address: 2 Lanyon Place, Belfast

Official site: www.waterfront.co.uk

Ulster Museum

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Originally known as the Belfast Municipal Museum and Art Gallery, it was renamed Ulster Museum in 1962 and officially given the status of National Museum in accordance with the Museum Act (Northern Ireland) 1961.

This museum, located in the lush Botanic Gardens, boasts 8000 square meters of display space housing some of the most exquisite works of art and historical artifacts one can ever hope to see. And, what’s more – it is free for all to behold.

Belfast Zoo

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Located not too far from Belfast Castle, overlooking Antrim Road is one of Belfast’s premier paid-attractions drawing over 300,000 visitors every year – the Belfast Zoo. Set over 55 acres of prime property it is home to more than 1200 exotic animals of 140 different species.

It is like a dream come true for wildlife lovers with

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From The Editors

Symbolic Piccadilly Circus Billboards Go Dark

Piccadilly Circus’ giant advertising hoardings have been a major attraction for tourists as well as locals for more than a century, 108 years to be precise. On Monday, at 08:30 am, local time, the lights were switched off for renovation purposes.

Until they were switched off the screens had been a combination of six big screens which will now be substituted by a single high definition curved screen of colossal proportions covering a screen area of 8500 square feet.

The construction of the state-of-the-art convex screen will continue behind a temporary advertising banner until it is ready for display to the public sometime in autumn this year.

The famous Piccadilly Circus Billboard in the capital city of London will be going through a modernization phase and nobody is complaining about it – they don’t have a reason to!

The switch off is advertised on the board
The switch off is advertised on the board

The site is owned by Vasiliki Arvaniti of Land Securities and this is what he had to say about the new look plans:

“This is a huge day for Piccadilly Lights and though it will be a strange feeling to see them go dark, we’re incredibly excited about their future.” The revamping is being undertaken with the permission granted by the Westminster Council.

The planned giant display will be used for high definition video streaming of news feeds, commercials, sports, weather updates, and much more enhancing the attraction of the already famous and crowded Piccadilly Circus.

It will, undoubtedly, be a sight to behold for more than 70 million pedestrians and 30 million people who drive by the lights every year.

Well, this was about the revamping and upgradation of the Piccadilly Circus Billboards; let us now delve into some interesting historical facts about the location itself and the display.

Piccadilly Circus is situated in London’s West End in Westminster. It was built as a road intersection with the intent of connecting Regent Street with Piccadilly and is in close proximity to major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End.

The street intersection, or junction, if you please, is in the shape of a large circle – a round open space for tourists and revelers; hence the name Piccadilly Circus – “circus” being the Latin equivalent of a “circle.”

This six display screens, soon to metamorphose into a single high-tech convex display, is mounted on a corner building on the northern side of the Circus.

Piccadilly Circus, though commonly famous for its glittering billboards, is a major tourist attraction for other landmarks, as well, such as the Shaftesbury memorial fountain and statue, popularly known as Eros – a mistaken identity, though.

Other mention-worthy attractions surrounding Piccadilly Circus are the Criterion Theatre and the London Pavilion, to name a couple.

The Piccadilly Circus underground tube station, directly beneath the circular junction, is responsible for spewing out and swallowing in millions of passengers every year – it allows convenient access to the passengers who voluntarily prefer to avoid the street traffic by not using their own or public street level vehicles.

London, Piccadilly - showing the London Pavilion, and a busy array of vintage transport and people.
London, Piccadilly – showing the London Pavilion, and a busy array of vintage transport and people.

Going back more than a century, rather close to one and half century, in time, 1879 to be exact, Charles Dickens Junior had described the Piccadilly area as “the great thoroughfare leading from the Haymarket and Regent-street westward to Hyde Park Corner is the nearest approach to the Parisian boulevard of which London can boast.”

Here’s a list of some historical facts about the Piccadilly Circus and its Billboards:

* In 1908, Piccadilly Circus was encircled by well-lit advertising hoardings on buildings, starting with Perrier advertisement,

* On March 10, 1906, the Piccadilly Circus tube station became operational

* In 1910, the junction’s first electric advertisements were displayed.
From 1923, electric billboards were set up on the façade of the London Pavilion.

* In 1928, the tube station was rebuilt on a massive level to handle the rapidly increasing commuter traffic

* The lights that initially lit up the advertising hoardings were incandescent light bulbs later replaced by neon signs followed by laterally scrolling signs.

* In 1998, digital projectors were deployed to display the Coke logo.

* From 2000 onwards LED displays gradually started replacing the neon lights and in just over a decade it completely took over from the neon displays, making them obsolete.

* Over the years the number of advertisements reduced as the display costs rose dramatically which small companies could not afford

* On January 16, 2017, earlier mentioned, the six commercial screens were switched off for an upgradation to a single “large ultra-high definition curved Daktronics display,” – probably making it even more expensive to use as an advertising medium.

* This will be the longest the lights will remain switched off since the German Blitz in the 1940s when lights were kept switched off for protection against air attacks – the war blackouts.

* Twice before the billboards were switched off in respect of the deaths of Winston Churchill and Lady Diana.

* Other times the lights went off were inadvertent – the result of technical faults and malfunctions.

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From The Editors Health

“Humanitarian Crisis” Warns British Red Cross – Britain’s NHS Grapples to keep Pace With Demand

One would expect to hear about such crises in developing countries where it is a common every-day feature – the supply and demand crises. However, one is taken aback to read about a crisis of this magnitude in a developed country like Britain. Patients being sent away from emergency wards without treatment – unbelievable but, nevertheless, true if the Red Cross warning is to be believed.

According to the president of the Society for Acute Medicine, Dr. Mark Holland, the NHS has been aware of this ongoing crisis for some time now and the current situation is evidence enough of the escalating issue and the NHS is helpless.

“For a long time, we have been saying that the NHS is on the edge. But people dying after long spells in hospital corridors shows that the NHS is now broken,” was exactly what Dr. Holland stated.

Dr. Holland continued to explain that the crises were not just limited to the Worcester hospital where the deaths occurred, “so many other hospitals in England are facing the same pressures as the one in Worcester means that other fatalities could occur.”

Worcestershire Royal hospital is supposed to have initiated an investigation into the deaths of two patients on trolleys in a corridor awaiting treatment.

One can well guess what the investigation findings would reveal: not enough doctors, shortage of beds, stress on the existing staff, shortage of other hospital staff – in short, a breakdown in the system of how a hospital should be run.

Many patients who visited the Worcestershire Royal Hospital, had to bear the brunt of the long anticipated breakdown of NHS by experts, complained to The Guardian about long waits and overcrowding in Accident and Emergencies (A&E) with people lined up on both sides of the corridors.

The chaos and mismanagement and shortage of beds have reached such a level that patients have been allotted wrong beds.

“At the moment, we have lots of patients in the wrong beds in hospitals. That is, patients admitted as an emergency, but who do not need an operation, being looked after in wards that usually look after patients with surgical care needs,” said, a visibly agitated, Dr. Holland.

Dr. Taj Hassan, who heads the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said that the statistics from hospitals from across the United Kingdom were very discouraging indeed.

“Figures cannot account for untold patient misery,” he stressed. “Overcrowded departments, overflowing with patients, can result in avoidable deaths.”

Both Hassan and Holland held the government responsible for the underfunding of the NHS and social care systems resulting in the prevailing chaos.

Professor Keith Willett, director of acute care for NHS England, while speaking to the BBC, however, tried to play it down by opposing the Red Cross analysis of the current situation as a “Humanitarian Crisis.”

“On the international scale of a humanitarian crisis, I do not think the NHS is at that point,” he tried to clarify. “Clearly, demand is at the highest level ever. But also our planning is probably more comprehensive than it has ever been.”

It would be interesting to know that the membership organization of the National Health Service, the NHS Providers, had given a clear warning back in September that the NHS was facing a potential collapse if funding was not given the due priority.

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From The Editors

Buckingham Palace to Undergo Large Scale Refurbishment

Buckingham palace, the residence of the Queen of the United Kingdom (U.K.), with its history going as far back as 1703, is finally going to get the refurbishment long due. The  announcement by palace officials came on November 18, 2016.

The Royal palace attracts an estimated 15 million tourists and is host to over 90,000 guests every year. “Buckingham Palace is one of the most iconic buildings in the world, and this program is designed to extend its working life by a further 50 years,”

Tony Johnstone-Burt, master of the queen’s household said. “The program addresses parts of the structure you can’t see from the outside: the plumbing, electrics, and other essential building services which have gone six decades without a comprehensive upgrade.”

The refurbishment to the iconic edifice is expected to be carried out over a period of 10 years or “phased programme of works over ten years,” as mentioned on one of the Royal websites.

The aim of the plan is to protect the Royal palace from fire and flooding hazards and keep the building and its Royal art collection safe for the next five decades, at least.

Buckingham Palace will undergo its first serious renovations in 60 years.
Buckingham Palace will undergo its first serious renovations in 60 years.

The facelift will include the replacement of the heating system, electrical wiring and other electrical works, miles of cables, and water pipes among other refit plans. According to the U.K.’s Press Association, the renovation plan is expected to begin in April 2017.

Funding of the so-called “phased programme” will be made available by increasing the sovereign grant. Currently, the sovereign grant stands at 15% of the Royal estates’ profits and is proposed to increase to 25% for the duration of the restoration – it will revert to 15% once the project is successfully over and done with.

Buckingham Palace originally known as Buckingham House was acquired by King George III in 1761 for, the then, Queen Charlotte, and soon became popularly known as “The Queen’s House.” Since 1837 when Queen Victoria took accession to the throne, Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of Britain’s monarchy.

Coming back to the present, the overhaul announcement, however, has drawn some flak from certain quarters as is evident from their tweets. Many taxpayers are of the opinion that their money could be better spent. Here are a few of the tweets to give you an idea of the kind of dissent being expressed within the community:

Chris Parkes @rocknrollparksy
This country has a nerve calling itself ‘Great’ when there’s thousands using food banks but funds a £369m refurbishment of Buckingham Palace

JJ Fazz @J_J_Fazz
Where do they find this money from seriously? In a world of have and have-nots there’s always more than enough for the royal family.

McG @1987mcg
hang on, we pay taxes for stuff we want. no one wants to renovate Buckingham palace. who made this decision? I don’t feel like paying for it.

Stephanie Rowe @stephlaurenrowe
I pay taxes for the queen to get a refurb which will be more than I will ever earn, banter in it

Aaron Dawson @aaronsdawson
@superhxns so I pay taxes because the queen fancies flowery wallpaper?

Robbespierre @Robbo1992x
Queen Elizabeth II is one of the richest people on Earth. Why do UK taxpayers have to pay for her house renovations? “Buckingham Palace”