Saturday, 10 May 2008

Victoria Square: WhyNotSmile Investigates

Hot on the heels of Ikea, Belfast has a flashy new shopping experience (which brings me to my first point: why 'experience'? Why does it always have to be an 'experience'? Why can't it just be shops, where you just turn up and buy (or not, as we shall see when we get to my main point later) things, like in the olden days?). The new experience is called Victoria Square, and combines cinema, shopping and food all in one place (out the back of Argos).

So I went to visit experience this new establishment (out of journalistic necessity, obviously), and the first thing that struck me was that it was rather like being outdoors, but indoors; for although there is a roof, there are no walls, as such (you'd probably have to visit to see how this works), so you wander around protected from the rain but having the full experience of the breeze. Which is quite nice, on warm days.

There is also a Dome, which merits a mention, because it's high up and made of glass, so you can see out and have a shufty at Belfast from above. In order to achieve this you have to acquire a free ticket from a talkative fellow on the lower ground floor (who will also provide you with a weather and visibility report, along with other sundry cheerful conversation) and then you walk or (as in my case) take the lift to the top floor where you wander in and have a look around at the sights of Belfast (the ticket, by the way, does not appear to play any further part in proceedings once you've taken hold of it; you don't need it to get into the lift, and you don't need it to get into the Dome. Given that it's also free to start with, one has to question the need for it to exist at all; possibly the chap on the lower ground floor just likes people to come and talk to him). (The lift, by the way, is something of an experience in itself - one of those glass affairs where you can see all the ropes and things and therefore spend the journey picturing how little needs to go wrong in order for the whole thing to plummet to the nearest concrete base.) But back to the Dome. On the occasion of WhyNotSmile's visit, things outside were a little misty, but it looked like it would be a nice view if you could see it. I liked the Dome.

The main point, however, of this establishment is the shopping, and you will want to know how that is. I like it, but not in the way you might expect; specifically, I like it in the way I like when newspapers have special pull-out football sections. Let me explain: I do not like football; a pull-out football supplement is therefore a good thing, because it can simply be pulled out of newspaper and thrown in the recycling bin (or given to someone who does like football, of course) - this allows me to get on with reading the worthwhile bits of the paper, undisturbed. In the same way, Victoria Square is a useful device for taking all the shops in Belfast that I can't afford to shop in, and putting them in one easily avoidable location, thereby leaving me free to wander the streets of the city centre and see only things which are within my budget. They've even had the heart to throw Claire's Accessories in there (not that I can't afford Claire's Accessories, I just don't want them), although I've yet to figure out whether this is because it has relocated (a good thing) or simply spawned an offspring (bad thing). That's not to say the shops aren't nice; they are, and so are the things they sell, it's just that you could feed the people of several poorer nations for the price of a jumper in some of them. It's basically Debenhams, only stretched out over more floor space and with more walls between the different bits. So I didn't actually buy anything, but just enjoyed the experience, which is maybe why they call it an experience rather than a shopping centre.

The highlight of the visit was Paperchase, which is in part of House of Frazer, and which consists almost entirely of notebooks and photo albums, but this is the sort of thing I like in a shop, so I had a lot of fun.

This of course says nothing about the restaurants and the cinema, because I began to feel I was becoming over-experienced and left them for another day (I'm also not sure that the cinema has opened yet, which throws a further spanner in the works). At one point I heard word that there are apartments in some part of it as well; I can't confirm this as I haven't seen them, but can only assume they'll be very expensive and that they'll not have skylights (otherwise the Dome-visitors would be looking in on them).


Vox said...

All I needed to know was that the first Apple store in Ireland is coming there... then i'll visit...

espero said...

They have PAPERCHASE?!

espero said...

This has singlehandedly transformed my attitude to coming home.
I feel safe in the knowledge my stationary fetish needs will be met.

whynotsmile said...

Esperon, calm. It is quite a small Paperchase. But it's nice, yes.