Dream trip Day 105 Farewell Belfast, train to Dublin, hurling championship

Parting is such sweet sorrow, today was my final day in Belfast. I started out with a final breakfast at the cafe.

What constantly surprised me is places I thought were just for hostel guests, as in they were connected or just served inexpensive food, but locals came and ate at the cafe too.

I don’t know, eating at a youth hostel or YMCA equivalent seems odd to me. I can’t place my reason for this opinion to this point, but clearly I was wrong. It was good food.

I never really saw or talked to any of my roommates, and there were a couple of groups who passed through. Like passing ships in the night I suppose.

Checking out the train options for some reason I elected to walk to the main station vs. hopping on at the small station close by. I think this had to do with extra cost to some degree, or maybe I just wanted to walk through the city 1 more time.

The walk along the River Langan passes by the main rail station so that was the path I chose, one away from cars and traffic.

I’d just missed a train by about 5 minutes so I had to wait for about an hour for another 1. There weren’t many tracks at this station, maybe 3 I want to say.

Ireland sure is green and pretty. I do enjoy a train ride. Play some tunes and watch the countryside rolling by is nice.

A short ride to Dublin. Nice to have good weather for a change. Well it wasn’t overcast down in Dublin anyway.

For once I took my hostel’s location in relation to the train station, so it was a short walk.

It seemed to be about writers here as I walked on James Joyce Street to my hostel.

Check-in was a breeze and I was soon greeted by a guy and a gal laying on their bunks in the room. The girl was just as pretty as the guy was creepy. I mean dude turned out to be a step away from only wearing a long raincoat.

We chatted a bit about where we were from. The guy was Austrian, shaggy greasy dirty blonde haired guy who would just fire odd questions at you for a few moments before saying, ‘I must go smoke,’ then leave for a bit, return as if nothing happened and resumed talking.

The girl related she was just beginning her trip through the island and through the UK.

I bade them a goodnight and headed out to see what was good in Dublin. 1st order of business was to get a Guinness, brewed right here.

A main street close to the hostel was severely under construction. I noted about 3 tough looking pubs on this side of the street.

Soon I was walking on O’Connell Street and encountered the Spire. It’s a big spike in the middle of a street, mainly used as a meeting place or orientation spot.

Ah a bridge over the River Liffey, I paused on the bridge to watch a ship pass under.

Wow, Dublin was beautiful, very cool city already and I just arrived. Continuing on the path I begin to keep an eye out for a cool pub.

I found one, a couple of seats at the bar, right near the tap. I could watch the bartender pour Guinness, maybe learn a proper pouring technique.

Probably in my head but the Guinness here was very good, creamy + malty. Different than I can remember even compared to Belfast.

The place was full of people, eyes tuned to TV’s with a sport I’ve never seen before. It looks like rugby but with sticks.

Ah because rugby clearly isn’t violent enough, let’s give them a weapon too.

These guys were charging at each other full speed, trying to knock the ball holder down to get the ball back. Slashing their sticks while they ran.

I was watching the all Ireland hurling championships and by the sound of things, a lot of people here were well invested in the game.

There is always lots of singing, chanting at oversea events, made me wish we had something similar for baseball games in the US. Makes games much more of a group experience.

I decided to finish out the match here before heading out. 1 more perfectly poured pint of Guinness my good man!

Pint after pint, all Guinness, all night, my goodness! Tray after tray kept going out.

A huge cheer, Tipperary were the winners! A victory song was sung.

I give a nod to the bartender while saying thank you and back on the streets I went.

A bit hungry for some more fun or more like it I was just physically hungry.

There was a corner spot called Doyle’s that looked perfect. Fairly small place with not many seats, but there were some around the bar so I took a seat and scanned the taps.

They had it, Tubög! A beer I’d had a lot when I was in Copenhagen a couple of years ago.

I’ve not seen it since, but the reality is it isn’t a great beer, just a good memory in a pint.

A guy sitting next to me commented on the beer, ‘that’s where I am from! Why do you like it?’ he asked.

I told him about my Copenhagen trip and we traded some info about the city as I’d only seen a small portion of it. He had grown up there but was now seemed to always be traveling for business. I think he was a banker.

He knew a lot about Dublin and filled me in pretty well whilst I enjoyed a burger, he just drank, like a machine, beer after beer.

“See Dublin College, don’t go to Jameson tour, Guinness is good,  get an Irish fry up at least once, it is my favorite thing to eat in Dublin. So so good!’ he said.

By this point, he had a 3/4ths full pint in front of him.  He chugged the pint, then hit the streets. Time to go.

After another pint for me, it was time for me to leave as well.

Once at the bridge, I paused just staring at the water. I don’t know how long I was out there looking at the water but I found some peace out there, if only for a moment.

Beer:  Tubög

Song:  My Bloody Valentine   When You Sleep

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Dream trip Day 104 Queen’s Court, St. George’s market, salmon of knowledge

Morning in Belfast! I headed down to the hostel’s cafe for breakfast. Just coffee and some fruit. I was heading to a historical market and had planned on eating there.

I read a website called reddit, which has many pages focused on specific interests, including pictures of delicious looking food.

I was surfing this website the day before and saw a great looking egg sandwich from… St George’s Market, Belfast!

There is likely a GPS component that saw I was in Belfast and that is why the sandwich appeared in my news feed. All I knew is I had seen many delicious food pics but this was the 1st time I could sample the pictured food!

Despite the drizzling rain, I headed off towards the port. I probably took the long route, but there is a river near and I do like to walk alongside a river.

No boats on the river today, but there was a path for bikers and pedestrians. A lot of cameras up too. I think it was a UK thing to put CCTV recorders over their cities.

These covered markets are all over the UK, Europe. I’d found 1 in Dallas before I moved.

St. George’s Market is full of hopefully local farmer’s offerings. Some cooks, restaurant booths inside used the produce to make meals. Or sometimes the chef would use beef or lamb from their farms.

 

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Once inside, I was gloriously assaulted on all senses. Lots of things cooking so it smells great. Large paintings, photos and other visual are were the 1st things I saw.

I would later sit and watch the singer/guitarist, but 1st I heard him singing in a thick Irish accent mainly singing US songs. Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Denver, Bob Dylan, folkies.

Some booths had crock pots and would scoop up soups, humus, and rice dishes to order. Most food stalls were along the walls. More towards the center stalls had grills or griddles, smoke wafting up to the rafters.

I found the egg sandwich stall and you’d think that I’d have taken a pic, but I didn’t. It was super crowded, I couldn’t find a place to sit or even rest my sandwich.

I had to eat and walk, which is tricky on its own, made more so if yolk and beard are involved. It was very delicious, full breakfast of eggs, ham and mayonnaise on a bun.

Not sure how many times I walked around the market, but since it was raining, I figured this was the best spot to be in. I seemed to find something new with each pass.

Eventually I was able to find a chair and watch the young singer/guitarist sing covers.

One of the first times I heard Bob Denver played in the UK, but for sure not the last.

At last the rain ended and I hit the streets. I was just walking along the waterfront when I spied a very large fish.

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To me it was just a fish, an art installation. Once I got closer to the Salmon of Knowledge, I discovered tiles, tiles with information about city on them. Check it out it is very cool installation.

Belfast has a swagger in its step, it is very cool, hip looking and feeling city. I dug it.

I was in the cathedral district, near the heart of the city so there was a big cathedral, shopping mall and government buildings to see.

St. Anne’s was unique to me being a part of the Church of Ireland, which is more Anglican than Catholic yet overseen by Episcopalians, I think.

Like a lot of things, it isn’t easily explained in Ireland and begs for further research.

Continuing to walk, I passed by the prince Albert Clock. You know that joke about prince Albert in a can just doesn’t work when you’ve not seen a tin of food other than Spam.

I paused at the city hall building, which is very ornate, Baroque building with a lovely courtyard. Selecting a bench I casually people watched for a while, listening to some tunes.

It took a few hours to make my way back to my part of town due to all the stops I made to check out places or people watch.

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I walked all the way over to Queen’s University, strolling through the green courtyard full of artfully manicured shrubbery.

Getting a bit parched I popped into a pub called the Fly. I guess this would equate to being a sports bar, more jock-ish, full of rowers to borrow UK slang. I had a pint before moving on.

There was more of my style of place closer to my hostel. A nice oak pub for a change, I sat down at the bar with a pint.

My friends I met in France told me you can’t have a conversation with an Irishmen without politics coming up. This indeed was true.

I was joined by a couple of guys who immediately began to talk to me. Sure enough, once it came out I was American, we talked politics.

I told them about my walking tour and they laughed. One of them leaned over and told me,

“What is perfect, so perfect about the bloody English, is in London and other areas, they are against Muslim only schools as of late. So they pass laws saying a school can’t be exclusively 1 religion! (roaring laughter now). So so so yeah, they fucking very well forgot that is exactly how things are here in Belfast! By their own design! Separate Catholic and Protestant schools! Oh yeah we are going to court haha. Explain that one! No Muslim schools in England, Catholic only schools ok in Ireland! Those bastards!”

Now the bartender had a wide grin too. I was getting some 1st hand knowledge. Oh the things you learn over a pint with total strangers.

I stayed talking with these guys for a couple more pints just laughing the time away.

When it was time to say farewell I shook hands and headed out into the night. Cue nearly torrential rain as soon as I crossed the street. Unrelenting, hard pouring rain.

I was drenched, though happy I decided to come back to this side of town vs. staying in the city centre.

Sitting in my now usual seat on a sofa by the window, I took off my hoodie and shook it out as best as I could

Beer: Chieftain IPA

Song: Van Morrison  Astral Weeks (the whole record, listen to it straight through)

 

 

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Dream Trip Day 103 Walking tour, murals, zealots

Every time I set my alarm, I wake up a lot earlier before it rings. This time it was due to my roommates packing up and leaving early.

It was ok, I now had time to check out the breakfast options in the hostel cafe.

They had all the typical breakfast items, hot and cold. I selected the old favorite of bacon and eggs with coffee.

A hard dish to mess up and it was good. Different type of bacon out here though was only major difference. Round vs strips too.

There were maybe 10 people gathered in the lobby milling about so I took a seat and waited, keeping the group in sight.

Nearly to the minute of 10am strode in an odd-looking man. Short, grey coat, tweed hat and bits of cloth wrapped around both hand as if he had a wound.

He held up a cloth-covered hand and announced ‘if you were here for the free tour, come over. If you aren’t here for the free tour, there is one you can now join!’

He had the perfect Irish accent I’d ever heard up to that point. It was going to be a great tour!

I can’t remember his name, but he was born and lived his whole life in Belfast. He was a professor at one of the universities and gave free tours during his off times from work.

Our walk was going to be mainly in east Belfast, home to what there was of the IRA, Ulster movements. We would see loyalist, er English murals pleading for separation as well as Irish separatist murals demanding for a united Ireland.

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His 1st warning was if we saw the police, do not take their picture. Being a cop is tough enough, but in Belfast, some separatist specifically targeted police; not just on their beat, but at their homes. Their families were threatened, too.

We should be safe, but someone may yell at us since we are walking through their homes so they felt like they were in a zoo, on display for us to gawk at.

He also informed us the language of Ireland is Irish, not Gaelic and to never refer to Irish as Gaelic.

‘Gaelic refers to several languages, some in Ireland, some Scotland and northern England, but me grandparents knew their language as Irish and so should yew,’ he said.

First stop was to point to a building that the IRA bombed years ago, just across the street. We were staying in the transitional part of town, east meets west.

A very complex issue that no 1 tour or I could ever explain so read about the Troubles to get some idea of what was going on in Northern Ireland.

He said there is still an IRA in Belfast, but it was just old men talking to young boys and riling them up using alcohol and drugs.

Very little gun fights or bombing goes on these days as it is hard to get either. I wonder how the UK is able to virtually stop guns from coming in to the islands?

We continued onwards, pubs usually had a mural take up a whole side of their building expressing separation. The buildings that were English owned expressed otherwise.

England at first tried to paint over the murals as they came up but it was a losing battle as the murals would return as soon as they stopped guarding them.

Several murals had the word Ulster on them or a red hand.  This was a hard concept to understand so read up on it here.

Each neighborhood in this part of town was either Protestant or Catholic, it wasn’t really accepted to mix, which occasionally did happen.

A lot of people on either side weren’t especially adherents to any church, it went deeper to the core of the Irish people. Pick a side, united or separate, Protestant or Catholic.

Making our way through these nice yet small housing projects, we arrived to an empty field, full of the most graphic murals. There were remains of bonfires scattered about. It was here that if any fighting was to occur as it was a known stronghold for separatists.

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The separatists feel like they and the Palestinians are both occupied nations and support the separation of Palestine from Israel. They also feel like the US, Obama is complicit in this continued occupation, which is true.

 

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Continuing to walk through neighborhoods I did begin to feel like an intruder. Whole families sat out front watching us listen to a lecture about their hometown.

Soon we arrived to one of the saddest things I’ve seen, a freedom wall. That is really what they are called because wall = freedom.

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Behind that was is a school, kids play there. Some freedom, some wall.

It separates a Catholic school from the neighborhood.

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It is tough to see all this because it is still going on today. All the WWII things, camps, all that happened, its done. This wall of separation physically, religiously and economically continues.

We took a break and I asked our guide about my friend’s claim that McDonald’s Europe gets its cheese made in Northern Ireland. He misheard me and mentioned there were a lot of dairies, cows in Ireland though he doubted McDonald’s uses real milk cheese.

It was during this talk that I noticed why he had bits of cloths around his hands, sorta like some of the goths when they wear sweaters. He had many warts all over his hands. Looked like extra knuckles, they were that big and covered hands and fingers.

Previously we’d seen a mural that had been put up by the English so some locals chipped away the message between the 2 people.

Siochain means peace in Irish, the opposite of war.

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Here is the complete mural with the message intact.

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Continuing on to the docks, the one time heart of Belfast. The Titanic was built here tho he warned us not to go to the museum as it was ‘a bit shite,’ he claimed.

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It was here my mind was and continues to be blown at the tale he told us. Back in WWII, the IRA got into contact with the Germans. They promised to aid in identifying the Belfast port in exchange for weapons.

They shot flares in the air, bombs were dropped, people died. They hated English occupation so much some were ok if their neighbor, soccer mate, or guy they ran into at the pub was killed.

This fact is what makes any discussion about Ireland, IRA, Ulster very difficult to discuss as it was literally neighbor vs neighbor, both of who are against the English rule.

The idea was to begin another front against England, remember London was bombed, so that Churchill would relent and give up Ireland so as to not have another front in the war.

The plan went as far as a boat, loaded with weapons and bombs, being sunk around the Irish island.

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Some of the separatists forgo weapons and instead fight the English through music competitions. Any win vs the English is a win for Ireland.

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The tour was well over 3 hours by this point, some had walked away at the 2 hour break, others saw places to hang out on the way.

He pointed out the only neighborhood not leveled during the bombing. These were government houses, all small houses with gates out front. It looked and seemed like a great place to grow up until you learned about the history.

He highly recommend we all go to one of the oldest markets in the UK, St. George’s, near the port. I made a note to pop in for breakfast the next morning.

Ending up downtown, he waved his hand and told us about the modern, fancy buildings but we’d just seen the best part of the city.

Suddenly a lady began blaring on a megaphone nearby, drowning out our guide. He threw his hands down and said, ‘Goodbye,’ and walked off, basically mid thought.

The lady was reading, no screaming, bible verses and making long comments about what they meant. It was so loud and abrasive, I cannot understand why people feel this is the best way to go about spreading the word.

I got out of there and popped into a store to get some water. I didn’t anticipate a 3+ hour tour of Belfast. A 3 hour tour.

This was downtown, full of people going this way or that, rushing along. I passed a music store and spied a copy of NME, a music website I read. This was the first time I’d seen a printed copy so I picked one up, they were free.

Finding a bench I sat down to read, making it a full article in before I was tapped on the shoulder.

It was a couple of Mormons missionaries wanting to spread the word. They were girls, I was used to the white shirt, black slacks, name tag uniform for the guys. Just change out a dress for the ladies and you’re there.

So we have to talk about religion, my trip, why don’t I believe and don’t want to talk about church. My whole thing is beliefs are a very personal and you expect me to talk about them on a busy street with a stranger whose goal is to change these beliefs?

Of course they will have a private study with me. That misses the point. I was just sitting there, not talking and yet you come up and try to not just talk to me, but try to discuss one of the biggest things I do not want to talk about in public.

I’m pretty much a whatever makes your day, whatever makes you happy, god, jesus, buddah, allah, or no diety. Just don’t hurt yourself or others, whatever you believe. And don’t talk to me about what you believe.

It took a long time to walk back to my hostel and I was feeling heavy. So much to process from the walking tour to my religion encounters. I was feeling existential, very aware of how big things are yet how small I was compared to it all.

The whole way back I was making notes on what to really check out tomorrow as there were many cool spots on this side of town. Many statues, parliament building and other green areas would be much better seen with fresh eyes.

Boy did I need a pint so I found a very small pub near a mall. A lot of pubs are incredibly small, but they fit in a lot to their limited space.

This one resembled the Flatiron building in New York. It was on the convergence of 2 streets so it was curved, but corner point of this building.

It was like being in someone’s living room, bar in corner, a few seats, a standing area near the restrooms.

1 bartender for everything, pouring pints, mixing drinks, washing up glasses, it was amazing watching this guy work. Seemed most of the bartenders across Europe were Irish, certainly the good ones that stood out were.

Lots of local paintings of politicians and writers on the walls. I struck up a conversation with the bartender for a moment. He recommended a fine local pint. He also tried to sway me from going to Dublin, too haha.

He was happy I started my visit to Ireland in Belfast, most tourist don’t make it up here.

Bittles Bar if ever you should find yourself in Belfast I recommend a pop in.

Wandering the surrounding area, I found another pub that seemed very cool. Turns out to be one of Belfast’s oldest pub, McHughs.

As much as I paid for my pint, 1 would be it. I guessed they were cashing in on their history and were charging accordingly. Still it was a cool pub full of people. Live music in the basement.

Off into the night I went, heading back to the hostel. It had been a long day.

As if on cue, it began to sprinkle, then pick up with each block. I just made it back to my hostel’s awning before the sky opened.

I sat and watched it rain from inside the hostel for a moment. I do love night rain.

There is a lot of info on this entry. I am by no means an expert on Belfast and it is my sincere hope that I’ve spurned you on to further research into Belfast, Northern Ireland, and more about this area.

There is a lot more to this region than the Troubles and fighting, the area of Belfast has been inhabited for centuries.

This sentiment goes for any of my blog posts. It shouldn’t be the final word but rather a impetus to learning more about an event, a city, a country.

If I am wrong about anything I’ve stated please correct me.

Be ever curious!

Beer: Yannaroddy

Song:  Stiff Little Fingers   Alternative Ulster

Dream trip Day 102 River Lagan, brewpub, mo rain

Waking up too late to catch the hostel’s breakfast, I crossed the street to the baked potato shop for a bit of the old Irish stereotypical meal of potato.

A layer of brown gravy, ground beef chili covered with cheese,  and a lot of pepper, it was a good tater.

I had to walk back to the hostel, it was pouring rain now. There was a sofa near the window so I settled in watching it rain awhile. I put on some tunes and let the day begin.

There was a corkboard near the sometimes working elevator full of pinned papers promising activities across town.

I saw a flyer for a free walking tour daily at 10am, just meet in the lobby. Sounds perfect, tomorrow had been taken care of in a matter of moments.

Now for today. Still raining so I search maps for green spaces, brewpubs, rivers, outdoor activities, mostly free too!

A couple of miles away was most everything I look for: a park, river and brewpub. A long way if walked all at once, so I sit once I get to the park or river to relax and people watch.

This plan was also a great way to see the city, the way the people who live there see it, not touristy, just spaces created just for people.

Shortly after it finally stopped raining I hit the streets, heading towards the Botanical Gardens.

While walking I passed by a small train station which was pretty crazy in the middle of town but it said it connected to the main rail. One could conceivably travel all over Ireland from this tiny station, a portal to far away lands.

I paused once I got to the River Lagan to take a pic. Kayakers seemed to know when the rain is done for the day.

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I greatly enjoyed the neighborhoods here. Seemed everyone had a tiny, gated front yard, some brown stones had stairs leading to the door.

Another turn and I was there, Brewbot, a very modern beer bar. They’d direct me to some quality Irish beers I’d reckon.

As soon as I was seated I was directed towards a collaboration beer made by a Florida and Irish breweries, Cigar City and Galway Bay.  It was a good beer.

The pub was very sleek and modern, lots of exposed ducts and pipes. A good spot to enjoy a pint.

I made my way back via another route, still had to cross a bridge over the river.

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This road was entirely houses, no business. I quite enjoyed seeing bits of city life.

While crossing a road I was joined by a blind guy. I’d seen blind people all over and I’ll always be amazed at what humans can adapt to.

If you think you can’t explore or you may be afraid of getting lost, know that there are blind people who are daily crossing busy intersections, walking long distances in major cities across the world.

You can do it! You can do most anything you put your mind to doing.

I was en route to another pub which upon arrival felt too nice, too posh.

Testing my luck I returned to the pub I’d been at the night before, Lavery’s. Even fewer people in the upstairs part this time. Hardly anyone playing pool

I move downstairs, to a more wooden, brewpub feel. They have a completely different selection down here, mainly smaller breweries along with small plates of food.

I pick a pint and sit at an empty chair near the window. Can’t have a random adventure every night so enjoy them when you do.

Besides, I had a full day pretty early in the morning, walking tour.

Beer:  Phaethon

Song: the Undertones  Teenage Kicks

 

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Dream trip Day 101 Farwell Glasgow, ferry ‘cross the sea, Belfast party

Ah morning! Ah deadline! Ah travel day!

It was actually cold this early in the city so I wore the hoodie I bought in Edinburgh. BrewDog represent!

Mornings feel unique to me, just like nights: still, calm and not many people out.

I fast walked through the city until I arrived at the depot.20160831_081728

Bus Delayed read the electronic TV. Least I now had time for coffee and supplies.

There was a small market conveniently next to the depot as well as the ever-present homeless guy who howled and yelled at anyone passing by. The more things stay the same eh?

Fortified with coffee, breakfast and snacks for later, my bus arrived.

It was only a couple of hours ride until we arrived at the port city of Ayr. I wound up falling asleep once on the bus with my headphones on listening to music.

The ship was huge once we arrived in Ayr. I’ve never seen such a large ship! It was like a moving mountain.

We had to pass through customs though they didn’t seem too concerned with me once I told them my full plans. I was on my way to Dublin, but wanted to see as much of Ireland as I could.

The rule at the time was if you are an US citizen, you were allowed in the UK for up to 6 months without a visa. You couldn’t make any money during this time. If you wanted to make money in a foreign country, that was a separate visa.

There was lots of activity once I was on the ferry. We had to climb several floors to get to the deck with food and beverages on it.

I elected coffee vs beer. They did have breakfast for sale, eggs, porridge, fruits, your basic breakfast fare.

The coffee was incredibly hot so I added more milk than I usually do in order to cool it. I was also able to fill up my water bottle thus maximizing my savings on the overpriced ferry food fare.

I selected a seat near a window as well as an outlet for charging my electronics.

Knowing how a previous hot coffee between the legs scenario played out, I sat my cup on a nearby table, thus making it a real coffee table.

I was soon joined by a scruffy looking man with a pint of beer who sat to my left in front of the window.

“You Scottish yeah,” he inquired after taking a big swig off his pint.

His eyes lit up when I told him I was American. It was always referred to as ‘The States’ by anyone when I was in Europe. Never America.

We chatted about The States, DC, Grand Canyon (usually the 1st thing people brought up aside from Obama) and his life in Northern Ireland.

He worked in Scotland, returning home to Northern Ireland on weekends. I was part of his commute which involved a couple of buses and this ferry.

We were crossing the Irish Sea when he told me he mainly repaired cars and worked scrapping parts from some of the more damaged vehicles he came across.

He had a couple of families due to his drinking, which he said was under control now seeing as how he was only drinking beer, not whiskey or ciders.

I was happy to have a pleasant conversation for a change. We talked for over a half hour before he turned and just stared out the window. I guess he was done talking.

Excusing myself, I circled the observation deck to take some pics of the Irish Sea.

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The sea breeze was cool and water droplets pelted my face at times. I took the whole walk around the boat on the outside deck. Water as far as the eye can see.

It does take longer going by ferry but the feeling you get from being on the water is worth the time by my estimation. Wind in your face, water all around you was the way to go for me. A more elegant mode of transportation.

It was also just a bit less expensive to ferry vs. airplane. Plus no metal detectors, pat downs, it was a very proper means of travel.

We ported in Larne where a row of buses waited. You showed your ticket to a guy who directed you to the bus based on how you bought your ticket. Full ride included everything but you could just get a ferry ride or bus into town from this port.

It turned into a very grey, overcast day in Belfast upon our arrival as if rain could happen at any moment yet rarely did.

Maybe 15-20 minutes later we were dropped off in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I hit the streets in search of my youth hostel. I was now noticing hostels used the word youth as well as having an age maximum. Happy to say I was just under that requirement for this trip.

Belfast was unexpectedly beautiful city. I very much enjoyed the half hour walk to my hostel. I noticed every sign was in 2 languages: English and Irish.

I noted the street I needed to turn on to get to my hostel, as well as the restaurant’s name on the corner. Best to always have 2 points of navigation to find your way around.

Still too early to check in so I scoped out my surrounding areas looking for pubs, good food options and a grocery store.

I turned around once I arrived at Queen’s University. Big green space behind a black iron fence seemed like a good place to explore once I checked in.

My hostel was on Donegall Road. Off in the distance was a mound, very similar to Arthur’s Seat.

This was the Divis Mound and was several miles outside Belfast so taking a hike up the mound was not in the plans this trip.

Across the street was a destination I marked to visit, a baked potato shop.

The bar next to it was seemingly a set out of an IRA movie, complete with a couple ever-present guys smoking out front, I felt best to avoid it.

The girl who checked me in had long, thick red hair to match her thick Irish accent.

Pretty much every th word that came out her mouth sound like just a hard T. Every O sound was elongated like sew.

“Sew, ya want ta check in ta hostel?” she asked. It took a moment to translate that, yet she was speaking English ha.

I was sharing a 6 bed room in the men’s dorm. Here the rooms were separated by gender as the showers were individual rooms with lockable doors.

Getting into the room, I placed my things on a top bunk near the window. I had a nice view of the now wet street below. It had began to rain as soon as I checked in.

Having no real choice, I laid down listening to the pouring rain.

Soon enough a couple of guys come in and take the bunks across from me. They literally throw their things onto their bunks and back out the door.

It was still raining, though a lot less heavy and felt I needed to walk more, at least until sundown. Maybe get something to eat before heading to a pub I saw just down the street.

There was a small chicken shop that wasn’t a major US chain a few blocks away.

Scanning the menu this was likely just supposed to be a fried chicken spot but they also had chicken and rice curry, and briyani (a Middle Eastern pilaf with spices).

Make mine a briyani please. I can get fried chicken anytime but I hadn’t seen this rice dish before.

It was delicious of course, a bit spicy causing a runny nose. A more flavorful chicken and rice dish than I was used to eating.

The rain began again outside, raindrops plinked against the windows. I began to chew slower and soon I was full. It was true, just slow down eating and you were full sooner.

I always feel bad throwing away food but they gave me probably 1 lb of rice.

“Can’t stand to see good food go to waste,” as my uncle used to tell us.

One particular breakfast, he scrambled probably 2 dozen eggs for 4 adults and 2 kids. He kept spooning eggs onto our plates until they were gone. We were young and still growing, you see.

I hurried across the street as it was still raining and headed into a huge, 2 story bar.

There were several big bouncers with tattoo sleeves out front of not just this pub, but every pub I passed. There must be fights all the time.

This bar was huge! 10 pool tables on either side of a huge room, bar along 1 wall. No place to sit near the bar so I sat along a wall near pool tables.

Of course first beer I got in Ireland was Guinness! So creamy and delicious, it made me feel what I’d heard was true, Guinness tastes better in Ireland.

It is nostalgia that makes you think, remember something tasting better, a more beautiful sunset, I feel. Just enjoy the moment, whatever you are doing, that is exactly what and where you should be.

There was an outside smoking section I availed myself of, a break from watching guys shoot pool and throw darts. It was a nice, brisk evening in Belfast.

Returning inside I sat watching sports highlights and a groups shooting pool.

A pretty blonde girl walked up to me, “Dew yew want tae plaay puhl?”

Of course I did! I met the group which included a couple gals and guys. Most of them were attached but not this one.

We talked about the States, Northern Ireland, beer while occasionally taking a shot at the balls on the table.

I got to know one guy the best, after a while I guess my charm wore off but not with this chap, he wanted to ask questions.

A tray of beers arrived with instructions to toast then chug them. I think it was a green bottle skunky beer so I was ok chugging it. Super cold brain freeze.

One doesn’t chug Guinness, that much I know.

I was led through a backdoor to a huge alley behind the pub. No one could leave through the front.

As I was about to say farewell and head home, I was instructed to get into the back of a taxi. I tried to pitch in on the fare but was waved away.

I had no idea where we were going, but I did know the name of my hostel, I could get back if necessary. There’s an app for that!

We were at someones house, with a front gate and everything! I followed everyone in, the pretty blonde who invited me was not around yet.

I spied an acoustic guitar in the corner so I began strumming chords, trying to make myself useful and entertaining. I wasn’t sure whose house we were at yet.

More people arrived and a beer was handed to me. I traded the beer for the guitar and they played a lot better than I.

Eventually the blonde who invited me to play ‘puhl’ arrived and nearly fell down some stairs. She had taken a few shots at the bar in addition to beer.

Her and several others disappeared into another room not to be seen the rest of the evening. I listened intently to the Irishmen playing guitar.

A long-haired chap sat and began rolling a joint. A couple of us followed him outside.

Ah ha, finally I met someone who lived here. We exchanged pleasantries and talked about life in Belfast. Long hours at work but he had a nice place to hang out in the backyard so he was happy.

He was excited about someday going to the States. I told him to just do it, go now. Only 1 life to live, so do what you want. They cannot take away memories, not yet.

The Grand Canyon came up again, he wanted to see that as well as just drive for hours across the country.

I was given instructions back to where the bar was, it wasn’t far and he said the area was safe to walk. It wasn’t raining so I figured why not walk for over a half hour at 3am in Belfast. What could go wrong? Nothing did.

What an amazingly long yet excellent day in Belfast!

Beer: Guinness Draught

Song:  Them   Baby, Please Don’t Go

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Dream trip Day 36 Excursion   Tales from the Irishman: A Dell-icate situation 

Another good story from a guy I met in a pub in Madrid. This story did not happen to me but was told to me by guy from Limerick, Ireland. In a few months I too would be in Limerick!

My Irish friend followed his travel passion and as such, has had to work many jobs over the years as most wouldn’t tolerate so much time off. He’d work for 6 months or so, enough to save up money and then pick a country or area of Europe and explore until the money ran out. He was currently a toll taker, a ‘shite job for sure, but it pays good. They always seem to be hiring so I just ring them up when I return and start again, no training. They put up with me and it’s a job I can do so it works,’

One job he had was security at a Dell workplace. It was very basic job through an agency that supplies security workers.

‘We had 1 job, verify that a person had an ID and the pic matched their face. Didn’t matter if you knew them, no ID, no entry. Well I’m working with a rural lad, not so bright but he certainly could do this task and took great pleasure in turning away people without ID, people he chatted with the other day or last week, didn’t matter, thems the rules. So who comes to inspect the place but Michael Dell himself, founder, namesake and CEO. He runs every morning and decides to stop in our place but left his ID in the room.

“Sorry no ID, no entry. You’ll have to go back to your hotel.” This guy tells Dell, a man whose very name is on the building. I’m this guy’s shift leader at this point and I explain who he is, no budging from this boy, it emboldened him really.”

“I don’t know Micheal Dell from Adam, no fooking ID, no entry.” Dell agrees and runs back to has hotel and comes back with ID.

“My boss learns of this and is livid, tells me to fire this lad, but I say, no. He actually did his job as told. Guests present ID before entry is granted. This pisses my boss to no end, ranting yelling he will fire this kid and me! He begins to try to find any infraction or reason to fire this boy. I tell him I’m not helping, he’s on his own.

“A week or so later my boss calls me and the boy into his office and shows us a letter from one Michael Dell commending this boy and what he did and oh if Dell had employees just like him what a better place it would be. Oh he was beet red having to thank this boy and give him praise. That boy was bulletproof for a long time after that meeting! Haha and he could tell people he turned away Dell at his own building and was rewarded for it too! Ah managers, I could never be one again. I had to leave that job for a long trip with my wife.

“Companies make managers do horrible things, just for more money. I may never be rich, but I’ve got a clear conscience which, as you’ll find, is very important as you get older… especially when you are trying to go to sleep!”

Dream trip Day 36 Excursion Tales from the Irishman- Amsterdam

This is not my experience, story but from a guy from Limerick, Ireland I met in an Irish pub in Madrid. I enjoyed his stories so much I thought you’d like them too. I had no idea that I would visit his hometown of Limerick later on in my trip.

I sat with an Irishman who told me great stories from his life once I told him I was traveling long term. He had done the same thing back in the 70s. He had just received a nice job teaching at a Uni in London, which meant good pay and job security for life, unless he killed someone, he said with a laugh. ‘I was all set.’

Came time to vote on a yearly pension increase and discussion fell into a long argument when it should have been a quick aye vote. In the midst of this argument the Irishman realized that what they were voting on and arguing wouldn’t effect them for nearly 30 years.

‘Then it hit me, I’m going to be here, at this same desk with these same arseholes arguing over a 2% pension decrease and lord knows what else…for 30 years! This was a Monday, by Thursday I was on a ferry to Amsterdam with a roll to sleep on and a bit of money in my pocket. I realized those guys were insane. Plus I’d never been anywhere, I had no real life experiences.’

At this time Amsterdam had just made it legal to sleep in a park overnight, you only had to keep it clean and break camp in the morning. You couldn’t lay about all day in the park. So he arrives to Amsterdam, finds a park and carves out a space come nightfall. It felt good to sleep under the stars, free from everything.

He wakes up next morning, a guy next to him is smoking, but ‘it ain’t tobacco, lad, nay stronger stuff.’ The guy looks at the Irishman and passes the joint his way, so he takes it, having never seen marijuana before in person until this moment. He takes a drag and sees a cop walking their way. His hair was like a mushroom and stuck out on all sides from his helmet. ‘I was properly fooked. He had me, joint in hand, my first one at that. In a foreign land, just as I was beginning my adventure, it was over!’

Without a word the cop extends his hand to the Irishman and so he passes the joint. The cop takes a drag, eyes light up, then takes another, slowly exhaling.

‘This is actually good weed but you need to be careful, there are bad people about,’ the cop says. He then proceeds to pass the joint back and breaks down Amsterdam, the safe spaces, the dangerous places, where to buy things legally, etc.

‘You two do need to move along soon, but you’re welcome to come back again at nightfall. Have a good day and enjoy our city!’ The cop said as he walked off.

‘I have no doubt he was pleasantly stoned at that point! A cop too, on duty, I’d never dreamed of an encounter like that in Ireland or London. They likely throttle you for good measure, bruise you a bit so you wouldn’t do it again. I then realized I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. It was a sign. I stayed on the road for 6 months after that, nary a problem.’