A few months ago, I got a mad notion to go to Belfast on a short break. Primarily for a credit card melting trip to IKEA. She who must be obeyed agreed and on Tuesday last, we hit the road up North with the Sat Nav sucked onto the windscreen.
I was too miserable to buy new maps to for the Nav, knowing that the roads had changed since I got my last ones. In hindsight I should have forked out the extra few bob for the maps as it would have reduced "For fuck sake, it doesn't know they've put a flyover the roundabout" comments. Either way, we got to Belfast just after lunchtime. Excluding Toll central in Dublin and lets dig up Newry, we got there in just over 5 and half hours. A tiring drive, but bags were dropped and we headed out into an absolute miserable, rain soaked Belfast. We didn't have a great amount of time to shop, but we managed the 3 big ones in Belfast.
Queens Arcade was over faster than bad sex. But Castle Court and the Victoria Center all got some sterling and plastic love. We spent an age in a Tesco metro. And quite alot of it was spent with me moaning (as usual) "Why the fuck dont Tesco down south stock this?" Tesco own brand ibuofren (neurofen) 16 pack, 34p. Yup, 34p. I couldn't believe it either. They were flogging their own brand Aspirin for 13p. So after some unnecessary purchases the shopping centers, Urban outfitters and of course Forbidden Planet all got to see our wet asses. On the way back to the Hotel, Ger decided she wanted to go on the Belfast Eye. Similar to the London Eye only a wee bit smaller. Shes normally petrified of such things, but this time it was the other way round. For the first rotation, I very nearly shit myself and hit the panic button. She loved it!
We headed out that night to Cafe Vaudeville for dinner, which was fine. Nothing mind blowing, but nice none the less. The place looked amazing as it was an old Bank. All went well until some alarm went off and the kitchen shutters dropped down and a few fellas went running. Given the troubles that made their way through Belfast, you cant help but think for a split second. But it turned out to be the fire alarm. Another wet and miserable walk back through the wonderful city, concluded our only night in Belfast.
The following morning, we got up and decided to do one last bit of shopping. Starbucks fed us and by 10ish we were back in the room, ready to go.
Originally, we had planned to go the Giants Causeway after our trip to IKEA. From there we were heading to Donegal and then to Athlone to sleep. The weather was still absolutely shite, so the causeway was causing some doubts. Either way, we made our way to IKEA, which the Sat Nav brought us to the right location in a giant industrial park, but not the exact spot. 10 minutes later, I was blown away by the biggest store I have ever seen in my life. 4 hours later we were back in the car planning on renting a van for the next time. I cant fault IKEA at all. A wonderful experience, topped off with some fine Hot Dogs. £2.25 for 2 Hot Dogs and 2 Free Refillable drinks. I'm sure the IKEA staff are still laughing at my purchase of an entire slab of Non Alcoholic Kopparberg!
It was well after 2 when we got back to the car and decided, due to the weather to scrap Donegal and The Giants Causeway.
We arrived at the Athlone Springs Hotel after 6. After a wonderful drive through Northern Ireland. The following morning, after breakfast, we hit the road. If I had updated the maps on the Sat Nav, we wouldn't have got to see some fine Athlone countryside. Either way we got home after lunchtime!
Its amazing to think the history that has taken place in the North. All I ever knew about Belfast was killings, bombs and marching bands. But, Northern Ireland is a wonderful spot. Sure, I might have driven through spots where I wouldn't have fancied breaking down, like anywhere else. To sum up, we didn't get shot at, there were no bombs exploding and I cant wait to get back to Belfast. A wonderful city, with wonderful people and a wonderful atmosphere. Belfast is a credit to its people!!! We could well do with taking a leaf out of their book down here!
If you get the opportunity to get up there, by all means go!