Friday, June 21, 2019

Friday in Belfast

When I used to travel with my own young family, I'd plan each day in advance. There would be flexibility, but there were anchor points that formed a structure. We'd see the great sights, we'd ramble along ancient walls, up tall towers, inside expansive art galleries. Later, with Ed, I abandoned that. He was flexible (or you could say indifferent) as to what we'd see and if we didn't get to major sights, that was alright with him as well. I knew to skip crowded places (Ed does not like the chaos and noise of crowds) and I understood that a trip to a museum would take a very long time as he tends to read every posted notice or commentary. Eventually we would avoid big cities altogether and I more or less stayed with that model after he stopped being my occasional traveling companion. Apart from Paris, I rarely explored unfamiliar to me cities. I'd get to the countryside as quickly as a train would carry me there.

Now, in Belfast, I'm following a different model: I let the parents set the day's agenda. (It's not as if they make choices that would differ much from my own.) I sit back and let them lead the way.

The day starts early for me in that I wake up and say a silent thank you for the beautiful weather on this longest day of the year. (The room view again, in the very wee hours of the morning...)

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And I pass on silent anniversary wishes to my daughter and her husband back home. Five years! So much happiness and love! May the sun shine ever so brightly on them always!

And now it's time to focus on the day ahead. Of course, we all start with breakfast. I come down first, for a pre-breakfast snack...

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... soon to be joined by the happy, well rested and playful family.

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It's a bit late in coming (they basically forgot about our food), but it's good (all that Irish smoked salmon!) and honestly, we all enjoy taking things slowly for a change.

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Our first real sightseeing begins immediately after: we walk over to the Botanic Gardens.

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You could say that this is special for everyone: the quiet simplicity of a park for the kids, the calm promenade for the grownups. But I would wager that I was the one with the greatest benefit -- I spend a wonderful handful of minutes in the most beautiful rose garden I'd ever seen...

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... and romp with Snowdrop between herbaceous borders.

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I've said this before -- these flowering borders are at their finest in the UK and especially in the early days of summer. It's not that you wouldn't find these very flowers elsewhere, even in my farmette flower fields...

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But viewing a professionally sculpted border is always simply sublime! Yes, welcome to summer my friends and beloveds! Welcome to this season of flowering landscapes!

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From here, it's one step to the Ulster Museum. (I find it interesting that the name belongs to the province of Ulster which, perhaps you know, was split in two in 1922, with nine of its districts forming Northern Ireland and three remaining in the Republic of Ireland.)

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This is a place of history and ethnography, of technology, of art, of children's exploration.

One children's section is closed due to a school group, but there is another room devoted to art for kids. And it is quietly empty.

True, it is rather basic in scope, but Snowdrop and Sparrow love it.

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You could say that Sparrow really relaxes, for the first time, here, laughing and scooting as is his fashion back home.

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And Snowdrop? Well now, there's paper, there are crayons. She sets to work. First, drawing together with her dad...

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... then continuing on her own.

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We do go back together to the paintings I had looked at (and adored) earlier. Again, it's an empty space, perfect for coming in with an enthusiastic little one ...

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... I challenge her to find her own favorites. She loves this assignment and soon picks out a collection that is uniquely Snowdropian!

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(We encounter the school group in the gift shop. Snowdrop tells us that she is very glad her school does not require uniforms.)

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Lunch is at a place called the Barking Dog. And this has to be truly shocking: it's just perfect weather for eating outside at a picnic table.

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Sparrow continues to giggle his way through the afternoon...

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... and Snowdrop -- well, she just keeps falling in love with her surroundings. She tells us that she will go to college then continue to live in Belfast! She loves it so much! (The college of her choice? Queens. This one: )

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We don't know what grabs her about Belfast and we don't probe. She is enchanted. That's all that counts.

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Three of us return to the hotel to rest (I'm among those choosing to break for a little bit), two make it over to a playground. And then we join forces once more.

We walk over to a place called Home for dinner. Again, it's casual and very fresh and honest.

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I'll end the post with a huge grin at the kids:

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Both were spectacular travelers and their excitement was our excitement!

Last walk, back to our hotel...

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It's late, but of course, the sun is still out. Still, time to draw the curtains on this beautifully long day.

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Tomorrow, we leave for Scotland.