Away from the hustle and bustle of busy London, my cousin and I headed off for the greener pastures of Northern Ireland. Despite my ignorance over the nuances of Ireland’s internal conflict, I’ve been assured that Northern Ireland is much less Ireland and much more an extension of the UK. A boon to be sure for currency and cellphone bills, which haven’t changed since leaving London. Still, I was looking forward to getting acquainted with a bit of that local “flava”. My cousin is here on work, setting up the Sky TV feed for a big football match.
Belfast though, is small and lovely. Everything seems to be in a 3km or so radius, which means I’m out and walking. The weather is cheerfully sunny, with indiscriminate patches of drizzle. Inoffensive sun showers feel a bit odd, but aren’t really an indictment on mood. I’m sitting down for a massive fry up on my first Belfast morning. Plans for today are as simple as looking around and checking out this Titanic museum that everyone (literally everyone I’ve spoken to) says is fantastic. Tourists, locals, reddit threads. Everyone’s been raving about it, so I’d be a dolt to let it pass me by. I don’t think my heart will go on without it.
Most of my daytime hours yesterday were spent in transit. After the nightmare election and two or so hours of sleep, I was mercifully early for my flight. Sleeplessness is a great cure for tardiness. You know what a great cure for sleeplessness is? The first class flight lounge! My cousin is a frequent flyer, so before our one hour flight, we spent an hour relaxing in the lap of luxury. Complimentary fruit juices, beer, wine and champagne. Buffet trays with delicacies like mortadella, soft and hard cheeses and sun-dried tomato tapinarde. We arrived in the bridge between breakfast and lunch, so I grabbed a black pudding while I could, before they brought out lunch fare. A la carte meals were also available and, like everything else, were entirely complimentary. I made sure to stow a few beers in my bag before we left. There’s nothing wrong with having hotel beer in reserve.
After dinner I decided to wander and hit up the town. It’s a pretty city at night. brick and concrete buildings everywhere. City hall was all lit up in dazzling blues. I followed my map to Cathedral Quarter, the supposed night life area of Belfast. Cathedral Quarter was this cute collection of alleyways. Fairy lights everywhere, walls festooned with art of all kinds. Advertisements from years past. A small alley had yellow umbrellas suspended from the roof, leading into a courtyard covered entirely in murals. It was all kinds of neat. I headed into the Duke of York with dreams of Guinness in my heart.
The Duke of York seems like exactly the place to send tourists, but it was exceedingly more fun than it was cheesy. Every surface was covered in something, mirrors, ads and alcohol paraphernalia. A local covers band was in house, two elderly guys strumming at their guitars playing exactly the hits you’d expect them to: Rolling in the Deep, Little Lion Man, Superstition, Black Betty, etc etc. Time proven pop rock stuff that was enjoyable after a couple of Guinness. Speaking of which, people had mentioned that Guinness tastes better over this side of the world than back home. They’re not talking shit. It’s smooth, like an alcoholic milkshake. The few I had filled my belly and warmed my heart. I met a Canadian couple from Vancouver who’d come over for an emergency funeral. I met their Irish extended family. As expected, it was mostly tourists in there, with a couple of people in from surrounding towns. A fun night, but in order to actually get something out of my day today I turned into a pumpkin just after midnight.
Speaking of getting something out of my day, it’s midday. I just demolished a massive fry up from Maggie Mays, an unpretentious local place with huge portions, good food and decent prices. The milkshakes are the size of my head, but not today. I still need to be mobile enough to walk to this Titanic thing.
Alright. I’m blowing this popsicle stand.