Our third day in Belfast dawned bright and sunny. Again. Funny thing about the weather here; it has been gorgeously sunny and 26ish and all the locals here have been cheering the steady stream of great weather. Funnily enough we feel the same about the weather for opposite reasons – as you may recall it’s been steadily in the mid 30s in Braga for awhile now, so being in classic Seattle summer weather has been a shot of nostalgia and comfort that has been delightful. This is apparently going to change in a day or three, but that is then and this is now. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we could be soggy! But enough about the heavens, what went on here on Earth today? Stuff and things! Read on!
We started the day off with a return to Jeffers – that’s the spot that our food tour brought us to yesterday, and we liked those soda bread and bacon sandwiches so much we had to go again. Well. Turns out that a super salty sandwich is a fun treat the first time, but lethal after that. Don’t get me wrong it was still yummy, but we were both feeling a little off for awhile after breakfast. Still, pressing on! Our next bit of business was a rarity for us: shopping! Neither of us actually go in much for classic browse-through-stores shopping. In our buying habits, as in many other ways, we resemble Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock in “Best in Show” it’s catalogs and websites for us, baybeee. Still, the town is full of all sorts of things we don’t normally have access to, so we poked around the downtown shopping district for just a bit and also mailed some postcards. This done, we moved on to our main event for the day: the Belfast Botanic Garden.
The Botanic Garden is a lovely place – not so much an enclosed wonderland of plants as I’ve seen in some places, but a vast open park with stations of particular interest. There is a classic greenhouse from the turn of the last century, full of ferns and other non-native plants. There is a rose garden that struck me as particularly stark for being out in the open – a big grassy field and, bam, bursts of brilliant color, no transition at all. I don’t know if I liked it, but I appreciate that it was a choice that was made with purpose. There were also wide open grassy spaces with incredibly rare examples of the “Irish Sunbather”, rarely seen in the wild. We poked at everything, even braving the more modern, greenhouse-esque “Tropical Ravine” which had multiple climate-controlled zones and which all felt like saunas given the weather outside. Or, more personally, it felt like we were back home for a few minutes. Flee!
Adjacent to the Botanic Garden is the Ulster Museum (Ulster is one of the four provinces that make up Ireland; I’m not clear if the division still has any practical meaning or if it’s purely traditional, although is is true that Ulster lines up 1:1 with Northern Ireland’s territory, sooooo… yeah) which, while modest in size, is actually a heck of a museum. It contains levels for art, history, and nature, kind of like a Smithsonian sandwich. However, as we have remarked in the past about the British National Gallery, sometimes boiling a collection down can render a truly rich exhibition space. Other than being exposed to some truly wonderful Irish artists (which, honestly, is the whole point of such a place) we couldn’t escape noticing that the Game of Thrones influence even extended here to the cultural center of town.
Game of Thrones influence, you ask? Why, have I not mentioned this before? Goodness me! Yes, the television series “Game of Thrones” has been filming in Ireland, north and south, for a decade now, and the new spinoff series “House of the Dragon” will continue to do so. Belfast is often a hub for their filming projects, and the series has benefited mightily both from the industry of producing the show and the swaths of tourists that have been attracted to see the sites of their favorite episodes. (And before anybody says it, I don’t care if you hated season 8 or whatever; I stopped watching the show before it was cool, maaaaan, and anyway don’t yuck other people’s yum) They had intricately woven models of three dragons hanging in the main hall of the museum, and in the crafted arts section, where things like precious porcelain and samples of exquisite lace were on display, so too was a 90-meter tapestry commemorating the entire run of the show. Apparently it was on permanent display after it’s triumphal(?) exhibition in Bayeux. Yes, Bayeux. As in the Bayeux tapestry. Say what you will, that takes chutzpah if nothing else. Sadly, we were starting to run out of gas after long hikes in the sunshine + clomping up and down the museum halls, so we cut the visit short. Partly, we do this to leave ourselves something to anticipate on our next trip(!), but also because we were tired and we wanted to stop.
Lisa, as per usual, had researched the area near the Gardens for restaurants of note, and thus we took a quick walk down to Darcy’s. I don’t know what saint guided us there but I thank them. Darcy’s is really just a classic pub serving food, but dear gods are they ever good at it. Lisa had a seafood chowder, I had a homemade chicken and ham pie (think pot pie but turned up a thousand percent) and we split a toasted soda bread with cheddar cheese. Any of these things, including the bread, could be the last thing I ever eat and I’d die happy. It really was a spectacular meal.
The rest of the day consisted of getting back to the hotel, followed by a scurry out to do a load of laundry, some pre-packing, and a bit of Great British Bakeoff before we now go to snuggle in for the night. Talk about cliffhangers; this was written in real time so even we don’t know what’s in our next post. Let’s all find out together!