AS much as we dislike our accommodation, we don’t really want to leave our respective beds. The awful mattresses mean we slept fitfully, leaving us more tired when we wake up than when we went to sleep.
I’m told that an Ulster fry (take a Scottish breakfast, swap the toast for soda bread and replace the lorne sausages with link sausages) is the thing of legends. It may be, but the stodgy plate of previously edible food before me turns makes me feel worse than the bed I’ve just left. Last time I have breakfast in a shopping centre food court
Turns out Rebekah’s been waiting for us in the bus station, we’ve been waiting for her in the food court. We’re meant to be going to Belfast Zoo, in the north of the city, but we head off to a Bureau de Change first instead – we’re going to Dublin tomorrow, but Rebekah still hasn’t got any Euros. I grab a copy of The Belfast Telegraph on the way, if only for the splash – an angry call to arms following the riot on Friday night. The whole page is one big Situations Vacant ad. The headline is “WANTED: STATESMAN (OR WOMAN).”
Following this we hop on one of Belfast’s bright pink buses for the ride up to Cavehill, where Belfast Zoo. The scenery up there is meant to be quite fantastic, but on the bus there’s a different kind of ‘scenery’ to catch our eye. We pass through both republican and loyalist areas, as indicated by the abundance of tricolours and union jacks on the lampposts. It’s clear you have to be careful with when you hit the ‘Stop’ button.
The zoo is fantastic. Sorry, puntastic. A sign by the main door encourages us to have a “Zooper” day, whilst we can see those leaving trouping into the “Zoovenir” shop.
The zoo has the usual selection of animals: some hiding, some bored…others evidently having the time of their lives. None more
so than in the elephant enclosure, where four Indian elephants are on show. Two are off by themselves, stuffing their faces, whilst the other two are playing. One sidles up another, and tries to wrap its trunk around the others. The second elephant tries to hide its trunk, an impossible task, not that it cares…despite the considerable quantity of trunk concealed in his or her mouth, there’s quite clearly a massive grin on their wrinkled face. They’re extremely photogenic, I end up having to lend Ian a spare SD card, as he’s filled his up with footage he’s shot.
The problem with the zoo is that it’s up a rather steep hill. So when I suggest that we should head into the tropical house to see the sloths, I’m met with blank looks.
This slothishness follows us back into town, where we were planning to visit the Ulster Museum…instead we spend near-enough an hour eating lunch, meaning we wouldn’t have enough time in the museum. No one’s particularly bothered about this, and we hit the pub again. The topic of conversation is sandwich fillings – Rebekah has offered to make us all sandwiches for the bus journey to Dublin tomorrow. I’ve opted for cheese, whilst Ian is going for cheese and onion. Coincidentally, the flavour of Tayto crisps which he tried last night. He wasn’t a fan. This, apparently, is the wrong answer. It’s a wonder he’s getting sandwiches at all appears to be the general consensus.
Dinner comes in the form of two takeaway pizzas, eaten whilst sat in a church’s grounds. As you do. We return to the Buscentre to drop off Rebekah, who’s leaving early in order to make sandwiches before getting up early tomorrow. I go for a look at the neighbouring Great Victoria Street railway station. The next train is for Bangor, a town on the coast. Ian asks about how much it would cost to for a ticket there. The answer is cheap, so the pair of us jump on the surprisingly empty train east.
The train is slow, but the views over Belfast Lough – when they appear – are great. The rest of the line seems to be shrouded by trees. Bangor is a large town – over 58,000 people live there, not that you’d know it. Me and Ian spot half a dozen people hanging around in the station, and a handful more on the High Street. We have little to do in the 40 minutes until our train back other than go to the local supermarket. I look through the £1 aisle – hmm, disposable gloves and alcohol gel…I could do with that in the hostel.
Then, a revelation: Ian has never tried pork scratchings. I share a pack with him on the train home, they go down worse than the Taytos.
Back in the hostel, we get a text informing us that we’re booked on the 8am X2 service to Dublin. We agree to set an alarm for 7am, and call Rebekah then to ensure that she doesn’t miss her bus into the city.
Night two on the starchy sponge bed, let’s see how this goes….