May 21-24: Belfast and home
On Saturday morning I got up, got some breakfast, packed up my things and headed for the O’Connelly train station in Dublin, which was conveniently located just down the street from my hotel! It took some doing to figure out when the train was from their website – it’s pretty terrible. But I eventually sussed out that it was at 11:00 (or 13:20), bought my ticket and hopped on the train with some sock yarn that I got at This Is Knit. I got pretty much to the heel. Ah, soothing stockinette.
From Belfast Central station I hopped on another train to get to Botanic station, where my hotel was – I stayed at Tara Lodge, a B&B I’d highly recommend if you’re ever going to Belfast! The rooms were spacious and clean, the bed was comfy and they have free wifi too. Oh, and breakfast was delicious. I felt really comfortable there. It’s a bit outside the city centre, but it’s very close to the University and the Botanic Gardens, and it’s just a 10 or 15 minute walk to the city centre anyway.
I was a little early to check in, so I left my bag and had some lunch, and checked out the Ulster Museum. It was really rainy and windy (my umbrella kept flipping) so lots of other people had the same idea of going to the museum! I also walked to the city centre and looked around, but by then it was getting late enough that many of the shops were closing. I ended up getting takeaway, going back to the hotel and catching up on Doctor Who.
Belfast is really a lovely city. But by this point in the trip I was having a bit of sightseeing fatigue, and I have hardly any photos. Plus the rain and wind didn’t make for great conditions! Sunday is a very quiet day in the city, and if businesses are open at all, it’s limited hours like 1-6pm. It made for a pretty relaxing weekend, actually, since I didn’t feel a lot of pressure (self-inflicted, of course) to really go out and about and see a bunch of things. In the morning, though, St. George’s market is open so I went and had a look there. It’s a lot like St. Lawrence market here in Toronto. The Saturday market has the fruit + veg, which I’m sad that I missed, but the Sunday market is pretty interesting too. It’s mostly ready to eat foods, crafts, and vintage stuff. There was even a yarn booth!
The only thing I bought was a bag of hand-fried crisps (potato chips) with sea salt and pink peppercorn – they were frying right there in the market. Yum!
Then I went and hung out in a coffee shop for awhile with my Kindle and my knitting, before heading to check out some of the shopping areas. I decided to do a bit of a spa day, so I bought some body scrub and stuff at the drugstore and also got a manicure and pedicure. Unfortunately the woman who was doing my nails really didn’t do a very good job – I ended up buying nail polish remover and a bottle of polish too, and redoing my nails in my hotel room.
Victoria Square has a dome at the top with a viewing platform – it’s a really lovely view of Belfast. And that day was mostly sunny and clear, so you could actually see!
There wasn’t much else to do that night – I went out for Japanese food (udon soup and some sushi), did my nice long hot shower body scrub thing, and repacked my things. It was a really short stay in Belfast, but I enjoyed it. It felt really restful and was perfect for recharging before my long journey home.
The first leg of my trip home was on Monday. I had breakfast in the hotel again, hung out and then left my luggage and had some tea at a cafe, and sat in the park reading for a little while. Though it was sunny, it was VERY windy! It was almost hard to walk at some points. I took the train and the bus out to Belfast International Airport, which is quite a ways outside of the city – I’m glad I didn’t try to take a taxi! It was a pretty straightforward trip out there, but then I ended up spending rather a long time in the airport. My plan had been to fly to Edinburgh, pick up some things I’ve left at Ysolda’s flat, then take the train to Glasgow and stay the night there. Then I’d fly home to Toronto from Glasgow on Tuesday morning.
Well. The flight to Edinburgh kept getting delayed, and finally they just cancelled it altogether! It was quite a large plane, so there were a lot of irate people. We had to go back through to the check in desks in order to talk to someone about our options. I gather that the wind and storms were worse in Edinburgh, and something happened at the airport that made them cancel a whole bunch of flights (a roof coming off a building? something like that). Luckily I was near the front of the queue, and was able to rebook onto a flight to Glasgow that evening. It actually worked out fine, though I had to leave a few purchases in Edinburgh (I’ll get them later sometime, mostly whisky!).
I spend from 3-9 in the airport, got my 25 minute (!) flight to Glasgow, then went straight to my hotel, which I’d booked right next to the airport. Got in around 10:45pm so it was convenient to just walk to the hotel from the airport! It’s pretty much on the airport grounds, I think. My flight home from Glasgow the next morning was slightly nerve-wracking, because many flights were canceled due the volcanic ash cloud! Sheesh, when it rains it pours. Lots of people were being bussed down to Manchester (which isn’t super close; about 4 hours’ drive) to catch flights out. Luckily, my flight seemed to be just fine. It was a little longer than usual, about 8 hours, because had to take a more southern route to avoid the ash. Due to the magic of time zones, I left Glasgow at 10:30am and got home to Toronto at 2:30pm.
Though I had to cut my trip short, I’m glad to be back home. I missed my bed, my shower, my laundry machine and my own cooking! I saw lots of great sights and had fun walking around cities that I hadn’t been to before. I don’t know if I’m cut out for really long-term travel, but after going around under my own steam for 3 weeks, I think I’ve got some good travel confidence built up. I was definitely lonely sometimes, and I think it would’ve been fun to have a companion to share experiences with, but all in all I’m glad I went on my own. Now I know that I can do it in the future if I want to!