Given the hostel in Belfast doesn’t serve breakfast, I had little motivation to rush about. I talked with Eric (one of my roommates) this morning, who planned to visit the Ulster Museum and Botanical Gardens. I asked if I could tag along, as he knew the way. Eric traveled here from England, and will be in Belfast for a few days, on the coast for a few days, and then head home. I learned from Eric today that while Northern Ireland uses the pound, they issue their own bank notes which only Northern Ireland honors.
The museum held a hodgepodge of small exhibits on Natural History, Modern Art, Costuming, Minerals, Jewelry, and Porcelain. The mineral display included a radiation lab kit for children to play with. I left in short order. I stopped by a nearby theatre looking for a show, but Sunday limits my choices.
After that I headed off to find the bus tour. As I walked back to the center of the city, two people approached me to pitch … the bus tour, from two different companies. One pitch included a trip to Belfast Castle, so I followed him back to their kiosk, and used the tour to deliver me to the castle. Belfast Castle includes a small garden outside, but the interior serves as a convention center you can rent out for parties and weddings. They also offer one more experience – can you see it in the picture?
I boarded the next tour bus that came through to finish the tour. The tour brought to the forefront the history of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Fortifications surround the churches. Blast barriers still protect the police stations. Walls decorated with iron spikes still separate the sections of the town, with gates they still close every night. The city serves as a stark reminder of where the religious right wants to take America.
No cycling today and little cycling yesterday leaves my metabolism confused. I didn’t drink or eat anywhere near the usual volume or calorie level, and spent part of the day sugar-crashed before I figured that out.
While not maudlin, I ruminated on things I won’t miss:
-Wondering if I’m going to run out of water.
-Racing the rain to avoid getting cold and soaked.
-Hand-washing my laundry.
-Finding a supermarket every day.
-Wondering about my bike, alone somewhere.
-Not packing up my life every day.
-Hostelmates that snore.
-Mosquitoes buzzing in my ear. (Wait, I have that at home).
-Finding a missing ferry.
On second thought, all of those minor aggravations come with:
-Hiking the walls of Derry and Carcassonne.
-Sitting in the seat of a Roman amphitheatre(s).
-Surrounding myself with the hills of Connemara.
-Climbing into a communist space ship.
-Two Australians renting bikes to visit fortified churches.
-Camping next to the water (over and over).
-Clambering about innumerable castles.
-Bulgarians doing their damnedest to find me a map, and failing in their success.
-Visiting friends who never expected me to show up at their doorstep in Europe.
-Touring with a friend from America.
-Perseids while camping in the Swiss Alps.
-All the other kindred cyclists I met along the way.
And the trip’s not over yet. I reserved my ticket for the bus to Dublin tomorrow.