Postcards 1 & 2 From Belfast & Dublin

Postcard 1 from Belfast – Monday

I fancied the Titanic Museum in Belfast for some time but never got around to doing anything about it then, last year, we read a Simon Calder article encouraging the purchase of Interrail tickets being offered for half price and we bought a couple of months worth.

The use of these tickets has a reputation said to be challenging so a start in an English speaking country would be useful.

When you put the two together then a 40 minute flight over the water and the use of a few Holiday Inn points gets us a night in a four star pad for £80 – result.

The flight from Leeds Bradford is bumpy but we’re charmed by the conversation of a lovely Irish lady who is statuesque to say the least. I offer to lift her bag out of the locker but as she stands up and in the process becomes taller than me, it’s clearly well in hand.

We’re at the Holiday Inn which is a shuttle bus journey into the City and the Pilgrim manages to harness the front seat on the upper deck – result! The only thing that would enhance the experience would be a steering wheel on a big rubber sucker stuck to the screen and i can pretend to be a bus driver.

There are police in alleys and road junctions which is a minor worry when coupled with the recent paddies thrown by the DUP (sorry 😇) but it turns out to be preparation for the visit of Joe Biden although we do witness a bunch of flag waving drum beating marching men who look ridiculous but create an air of intimidation.

Once passed, the atmosphere returns to friendliness and care. We are in the cathedral quarter and the streets seem devoid of bars which is something of a mystery and contradicts what we’ve been told then, as if by magic, we look through a passageway into a narrow street that’s lit up with strings of coloured lights and two very popular bars with people spilling out on to the pavement. This is now showing some promise.

The promise is indeed fulfilled as we push our way into a loud and joyful throng and we harvest a beer or two as we pass the bar and walk into an anti-room where a couple attract our attention and tell us they are going, “would you like our seats?”

…Well, do dickybirds fly and fish swim?

An absolutely outstanding night is had as we meet two ‘actor lovies’ who are clearly well read and wonderfully interesting and they’re sitting with a vivacious, bubbly and archetypal Irish Colleen who could not have made us more welcome.

A few pints of the black stuff later and we’re in a burger joint with the wonderfully alliterative title of ‘Bunson Burgers’. It was much enthused about by our new thespian friends and lives up to their description well.

The restaurant claims to only use beef that mooed with an Irish accent and it brings to mind the Ameglian Major Cow in Milliways Restaurant who declares to the patrons that she has been bred to be eaten and encourages them to enjoy her most succulent parts. Douglas Adams has a lot to answer for!

We wash this down with with some bottles of Perone to enhance the holiday spirit.

The walk back to the Holiday Inn across the city is wobbly but event free although the number of police has increased, especially where ‘The President’ is to stay and we see the odd mirror (or camera) on a pole being removed from the back of a seemingly well equipped van with ‘stuff’ that we’re clearly not allowed to see as the door is quickly and firmly closed as we pass by.

Not a bad opener for the first day including flight. Sleep comes easy and suddenly, it’s Tuesday.


Postcard 2 – Tuesday – Belfast and Dublin

The wind is gusty and bitter as we make our way across the city to the bus stop that’ll take us to the Titanic Museum in the aptly named Titanic Quarter (interestingly, one of seven quarters in Belfast! – I love Ireland!) so we take in a Starbucks to warm up.

The 10 o’clock ‘G2 bendy-bus’ arrives fives minutes early but a short dash later and we’re on it heading towards a quarter which is a seventh of the number of districts of Belfast.

The museum is housed in a magnificent building that has the look of the Guggenheim although certainly not a copy. We spend two outstanding hours in and and around this fabulous exhibition and would recommend it to all. It’s friendly to those who need a little help to get around and the commentary is descriptive and matches well the illustrations and animations. There’s a wonderful little ride that I would urge you not to miss and the finale is both emotively and beautifully presented with music that is majestic.

You’ll have noticed that I’m not giving a lot away and that’s because it is exceptionally well presented and well worth the journey.

Interrail

Now, it’s Interrail time…

The Journey Planner app that is the container of our Interrail pass has not yet been used and early attempts have been ‘challenging’. We want to go from Belfast to Dublin and that’s easy but we don’t want to use our UK element of the pass for such a short journey on Northern Irish soil so se we split it with a one way ticket to Dundalk that gets us just over the border and into the EU. The trick now is to plan a journey between Dundalk and Dublin then turn it into a QR code. The helpful clerk in the ticket office informs us with a wink and an Irish smile that this will be completely ignored by any passing ticket inspector and concludes with a nod in the direction to which we should go, “Have a great adventure”. He’s already helping the next customer as we thank him…

The train journey is non-reserved so there’s no issues or challenges and the carriage is comfortably busy but not full. It’s a two hour ish journey through beautiful green countryside although the intermittent rain that’s responsible for the beauty has the ironic effect of taking the edge off it.

There’s a tram service that operates from the rail station and takes us almost to the door of the Easy Hotel booked yesterday. We’re here for a couple of days so there’s always a slight apprehension that the place is going to live up to expectations. It has a reception so that’s a positive and the room is clean with a good shower etc. We’re not in possession of a cat today so its size is not an issue but if you are in the habit of swinging a feline then you’d struggle.

The Pilgrim has taken advice from a camino friend who owns a bar that we’ll be testing tomorrow evening in the centre and he’s given us the names of a couple of ‘interesting’ bars in our vicinity to keep us amused this evening.

We make our way to Frank Ryan’s Bar which looks a bit iffy but we go in regardless. It’s dark! By that I don’t mean it’s dingy or badly lit, it’s dark with only a few led lights that just about illuminate the four inches of the wood, picture frame, or joists to which they’re pinned. The guy behind the counter looks suspiciously like a guy that works the bar of an anonymous joint in a dubious area. The Pilgrim has fired the torch up on her ‘phone and has illuminated the labels on the beer pumps whilst simultaneously burning the retina of the guy sitting on our side of the bar who’s clearly been there some time. I’ve already ordered, it’s a Guinness and it’s currently doing its time standing half full and being allowed to settle. I once made the mistake of trying to pick up a ‘settling’ pint to look at it and was the subject of a severe verbal chastisement that included the words, “Take your fecking hands off that glass, it’s not yours until I tell you it is”, and I haven’t done it since. After some discussion with the gentleman with the burnt retinas about the qualities of the beers still lit up by the torch she goes for a local one and I pay. I think the barman is settling back on his joist as we feel our way through the bar and into an anti-room then head toward a window that’s the only source of natural light. The barman is hanging upside down from a joist now and his gown is flowing like bats wings. I like this bar, it’s different.

The music is a great mix and the next twenty minutes sees, or rather doesn’t see, a few people of student age and one or two who are, you might say, a little more mature, in fact one of them looks like he was dug up!

We finish our drinks and exit the back way which means we don’t need to feel our way through the rooms or take any risks with the vampire.

It’s a short walk to Springfield area and we find the second pub on the list easily.

Cobblestones is more traditional with a band that is forever changing itself as new musicians arrive and ones that have been there for an hour or so, leave. It’s heaving and atmospheric. We’re served immediately and find a table to share with an American young man who plays piano and lives in Berlin. He’s kind and offers us his seat as it has a back to it. These acts of kindness are a mixed blessing that we usually refuse but it does illustrate the respect for older people whilst emphasising the fact that we’re old!

Once on the outside of another pint we’re on our way to Oscars where an absolutely wonderful Korean Salad is experienced with a Peroni chaser. Recommended.

We’re back in Cobblestones with new best friends. They’re American and seem to be an interesting couple who are normal until the Pilgrim asks them what they think of Trump. There’s a silence without an answer followed by lots of diversionary chat. I guess we’ll never know?!

We make our way back to the Easy Hotel and bed down. It’s comfy and we’d stay again… the cats are safe!

Enjoy the snaps. G x

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