I don’t know if Belfast has an inferiority complex about Dublin, but it probably should. From what I have seen of the city, it lacks it’s southern neighbour’s charm, confidence and vibrancy. In fairness, I’m sure I have not seen the city’s best.
I am just back from dinner, in a restaurant housed in the basement of an old prison, or ‘gaol’, which is now a sort of museum. I thought a couple of the other buildings nearby were jails, but it turned out they were all part of a hospital. It seems strange to see a hospital with all that fencing and security around it. But that is part of my spoiled North American privilege, probably. Car bombs have never really been a thing in Canada. They haven’t been here for a long time, either, but you wouldn’t know it looking around. The police still drive around in armoured cars, and prominent buildings (i.e., churches) have crash guards in front of them. It’s been 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but the place feels on tenterhooks.
It was fitting that I had dinner in a disused jail, since my room at the most regrettable B&B I’ve encountered is about the size of a cell. I’d be surprised if it were much more than 2 m wide. I can stand beside the single bed (occupies the length of the room on the wall with the window), and stretch my arms to either side, and nearly touch both walls at once.
Worse, when I arrived, there was no one to greet me or check me in. The proprietor was ‘in town’ shopping with her gran. She’d be back when she could. She had sent an email with the front door code, and told me where I could find the key for my room. Only it wasn’t there. I called to say there was no key, and she said it must be in the door to the room, no worries. I checked, and it wasn’t. She said she’d be by within the hour. She wasn’t.
I spent about an hour working to get the blinds shut. I finally did, and used my things to block the door, so I could have a shower. Eventually she arrived, young, blonde, and I think Australian, and tried every key should could find to no avail. At last she said, ‘I’m going to give you the skeleton key. Please don’t rob us.’ What would I steal? Some people shouldn’t try to run a business.
If it weren’t all but impossible to find another place on a Saturday night, I would have done so.
But before all this, I had risen early back in Moffat, and packed my things on the bike, and had breakfast before taking off on the two hour ride to Cairnryan to catch the ferry. I had to arrive no later than 11 for the 11:30 sailing. Luckily, I made good time.
The ferry ride was pleasant an uneventful. When we docked, I made my way down to Lisburn, got briefly lost trying to find the bike shop again. (The GPS really doesn’t like Lisburn, and who can blame it, really?) I brought the bike back. They had a quick look, decided everything was in order, and drove me to the train station once I’d transferred everything over from the panniers to my duffle bag. (Note to self: in the future, either bring a suitcase with wheels or a backpack.) I caught an express train to Belfast, and grabbed a cab to the B&B, where I now sit. And wait. Wait for morning and the return to Dublin.
Dublin will be more relaxed (I hope and expect), and I’ll have part of Sunday and a full day on Monday to explore at my leisure. And then it will be time to return home.
One of the great things about traveling is how it makes you more appreciative of what you’ve left behind, what you get to return to. I’m looking forward to being with Adele again, to having her presence bring so much warmth and meaning to my days. I’m looking forward to being in our place. To cooking for us. To our everyday lives. And to the next time we step out of those lives for a short time. Next time, together.