If there’s one thing I will always remember about 2017 a few decades from now, it will be the fact that it was when I finally started to see more of the world. It has just been a little more over a quarter of a year but I’ve been to places I only used to imagine being in.
After our short February trip to London, my friends and I have been unstoppable at finding cheap tickets and coming up with lists about where to wander next. One of our first options was Edinburgh, Scotland but we thought it was best to save it for a future date (as fares were getting expensive) and a warmer month. Another one was Bath and Stonehenge – which, according to most people, looked better in summer. Northern Ireland was not anywhere near our list yet until one of our friends (who was also with us during the first trip) moved there for a few weeks which made us decide to pay him a visit.
It took us more than a few weeks to come up with an itinerary, book plane tickets, look for an affordable accommodation, and most importantly, make sure that this was a trip all five of us was game to be part of. It took a few failed brainstorming sessions over dinner before we decided on a final date and I had to deal with a few additional hassles in my part as I was still supposed to have a shift on the day we were planning to go.
A day before the trip, I was still on a long day shift while the rest of them were on their annual leave already. I was doing my evening drug rounds but my mind was wandering. I couldn’t contain my excitement when it was finally time to leave the ward and I felt like a giddy little girl skipping all the way home. Seriously, I had to leap home as I was only halfway through packing.
On the day of the trip, we woke up extremely early to get ready. However, contrary to what we agreed on the night before, we didn’t leave the house until we literally had no extra minutes to spare and the taxi driver had to delay us for a few more (because he didn’t see I booked a taxi for five and we had to arrange to pay additional fare so he can drive us off).
As expected, we missed our train to Birmingham (where we were bound to ride the plane that would take us to Belfast). After a few heated exchange and calculations (not in my part though cos I know very well how much I suck at Math), we bought new tickets and started a marathon of some sorts all around Birmingham International as soon as we got there. I wasn’t in my best running shoes nor were we warned that the security and boarding gates were far from each other (not that we needed to be warned because it was our fault we had to rush anyway). To add to the panic, two of us were stopped at the security x-ray and had to present our bags for a further search. To keep the long story short, we boarded the plane at the last minute and spent the first few minutes up in the air catching our breaths. Talk about morning rush.
More or less an hour and some attempts at recording 4K videos later, we landed in Belfast, Northern Ireland. We rode the bus which took us to the city centre which was about more than half an hour from the airport. From there, we had to hail a taxi to take us to the BnB we’ve booked.
The house was located in the middle of a peaceful neighbourhood and we were warmly welcomed by our host with milk and cookies. We fell in love with it right away – it was small but newly renovated and very cozy. It was my first time to use AirBnB and I had a few doubts in mind days before we arrived at Belfast because the reviews seemed too good to be true. What if it turned out otherwise? I was the one who found and booked it so imagine the pressure I was feeling.
Thankfully, the BnB did not disappoint. It was probably one of the most hassle-free accommodations I’ve ever arranged – from the booking down to actually spending three days and four nights there.
After dumping our bags, we were ready to see Belfast! We decided it would be best to avail the Daysaver on the bus as we had a lot of places listed on the itinerary. Since navigating is one more thing I’m not good at (aside from Math), I let my friends lead the way while I busied myself dropping my jaw at how clean the city is and how genuinely polite the Irish seem to be. Our first stop, of course, was lunch.
We had nothing particular in mind for lunch when we got there so it was a good thing our host left us a list of must-try restaurants located nearby. Our empty stomachs eventually led us to Mourne Seafood Bar which turned out to be a tiny yet promising food gem in the heart of the city. For £15, we were able to enjoy their savory Seafood Platter which included smoked mackerel, hake, crab claws, langoustine, and mussels (which were my absolute favorite). The best part was the fact it was good for sharing. And oh, their chowder is to die for as well.
After lunch, we toured around the city. For some reason, Belfast seemed to offer a more laid-back lifestyle than England. The people walking along its streets were walking, not rushing; most of them looked very calm and poised, not haggard and storming off somewhere. They seemed to be the kind of people who will most likely be up for a short chat in the middle of the street anytime of the day. In short, it was my kind of city. It reminded me of my hometown. How did I notice these things? Well, funnily enough, we seemed to be the only tourists in the place and almost everything I saw I took in with awe and fascination.
Our feet led us to Belfast City Hall which was strategically standing in all its glory in the middle of the city so nobody would ever have to miss it. We also had the chance to see the Albert Memorial Clock which, according to the tour guide we had the next day, is Belfast’s very own Leaning Tower of Pisa. We went inside Victoria Square – a shopping center which had a lift that took us on the top floor where you can oversee the city. And just an hour before it closes, we visited the Ulster Museum which did not disappoint at storytelling Northern Ireland’s history – if only we had a few more hours to spare. Our last stop for the day was the Botanic Garden which was a short walk away from Ulster Museum. The only bummer, aside from the fact that I brought a camera we couldn’t use cos it wasn’t charged (hehe sorry about this, guys), was that we weren’t able to get in the Palm House as it was already closed.
The day ended with grocery shopping at Tesco. Since our BnB had a fully equipped kitchen, we agreed to make home-cooked meals for our dinners to cut on the costs. Plus, it was one of our friend’s birthday so we just had to celebrate it with cake… and adobo!
The cake which he didn’t get to blow because we forgot to buy match sticks or lighter.