When you are a regular visitor to a city it's easy to get complacent.
Belfast has been my home from home for a decade now and I could count on one hand the things I've seen. Shame on me.
Last week I sat and soaked up the arty side of Belfast for an afternoon. You may seem shocked to hear of its softer centre but Belfast has been a creative hub much longer than the troubles have been rumbling on.
That being said it is this dark, gritty side that has permeated its people. Giving artists and writers alike food for thought, letting their work flourish though it's darker days.
The cathedral quarter, situated in the south and east of the city, is home to Belfast's eclectic bunch. It's one of the oldest parts of the city with derelict buildings dating back as far as the 1800's. There are great little pubs, brasseries, shops and indie offices. It's home to Belfast's Education board and around the corner the city's iconic newspaper, the Belfast Telegraph, is based. This makes for an amazing mixture of people milling around the narrow streets.
Originally it was the city's warehouse district when the linen and shipbuilding industries were in full swing. The lofty red brick buildings are a passport to Belfast's past, and although there has been much regeneration in the area there is still a rugged earthiness running through it as many buildings still lie empty.
*note to property developers, don't even think about turning this space into yuppy 'luxury' housing!*
A stones throw away a beauty of an art deco building has been taken over by Occupy Belfast protesters. They have set up residence inside a former Bank Of Ireland branch. It is one of my favourite buildings in the city, and every time I passed it by over the last ten years I'd get sad it stood empty. I'm glad people are putting it to good use even if it is a bit of a sore point of discussion in the city.
Actually the Bank of Ireland squat is Belfast in microcosm. A beautiful place that divides opinion, but at its core it has honest hard working people desperate to make a change for the better.
1: Leather sofa inside The Mac art gallery.
2: Mural on the side of a building just before turning onto Commercial Court.
3: part of an exhibition piece inside The Mac.
4: Looking down Commercial Court.
5: Occupy Belfast, the Bank Of Ireland building.