A few weeks ago, Jesse from Cooks and Travel Books put together a wonderfully crafted piece of travel narrative detailing his crossing to Belfast. I enjoyed reading the post so much that when he approached me about producing a follow up article, I couldn’t say no.
So, fresh off his crossing to Belfast, Jesse tells us about waking up the following day and what followed.
Waking Up in Belfast
I awoke early to the thrum of rain against the window. Unwinding myself from the tangle of sheets, I stepped onto the creaky floor of my hostel room in the Linen House as quietly as I could. A Canadian couple had come in late the night before. Although I’ve yet to see a surly Canadian yet, I decided to play it safe and packed my duffel as quietly as I could so as not to wake them. I had university classes starting in less than three days in Dublin, and I had spent too much time and money in Belfast. University fellowships are a double-edged sword. You get to travel and they give you a stipend but I always run out of time and money in places that weren’t on the itinerary to begin with. I had originally planned to stop in Belfast for two days at most before pushing on to Dublin. I hadn’t actually planned to like it so much.
I think that the Belfast folks must make it a point to prove that Belfast is different now that the Troubles are over. I’ve never run into so many hospitable people in one place. That may have contributed to me spending more than a week knocking around the red brick streets of Belfast and eating too many plates of fish and chips off wrinkly newspapers. I shrugged into a thick scratchy wool sweater over a clean cotton t-shirt, pulled on a pair of my least wrinkled Levis and laced up my boots. The last of my mostly clean clothes crammed into my oversized olive drab Army duffel, I tiptoed out of the hostel room accompanied by groaning wood planking despite my efforts to be quiet. The Canadians’ snoring never even wavered away from pitch perfect harmony. I had to think that if the world were populated only by Canadians we’d have fewer wars—a blander diet perhaps, but far less violence. Still mulling the trade-off, I clumped down the stairwell and checked out.
I walked outside into a blend of greys. Grey rain was pelting out of a grey sky and running down grey buildings. My resolve to walk to the train station dissolved rapidly and I hailed a cab before my boots were soaked through. I got to the train station in time to drink two hot coffees and ward off a case of chattering teeth before the train bound for Dublin pulled in. I stepped into an empty train car, stowed my duffle and took my pick of seats. In spite of the coffee I must have dozed off immediately in the warm train carriage because I awoke to a conductor gently shaking my shoulder. I produced my wrinkled Eurail pass and handed it up to him. The Irish must have some kind of special minerals in their drinking water—or maybe it’s the Guinness—but this guy had the biggest mustache I’ve ever seen. It made Sam Elliot look like a wispy-lipped adolescent in comparison.
I tried to quit fixating on the conductor’s massive mustache and focus on reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. The whole purpose for this university fellowship—hence the entire trip—revolved around the novel. I hadn’t planned on the fact that live Irish folks could be a lot more interesting and engaging than literary characters and dead Irish authors. I immersed myself in the world of Stephan Dedalus for a while and when I next looked up the rain had stopped. I watched the brilliantly green pastures dotted with Jersey cows slide by as the sun peaked out from behind the receding grey rainclouds. Dublin was getting closer, just around a few more bends in the tracks farther south and deeper into the interior of the Emerald Isle.