As soon as I found out I’d be moving here for 3 months, I sent a message to my friend Lilly. She’s one of my high school friends and she moved to Belfast after she married an Irishman two years ago (She’s from LA, he’s from Belfast, they met in Japan, they honeymooned in Thailand – yes, they are travel show-offs, I know).
It’s fun enough to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in a while, but it’s even more fun to meet up in a new city. I say “new” but Lilly has lived there for a couple years and will keep on living there, but still, it’s a very different city than where she and I grew up.
The weather was true to Belfast form and it was dark and rainy for most of my visit – actually, it hailed/snowed a bit on Saturday. My first hailstorm! This weather seems to suit the history of Belfast – equally dark and stormy – but the people are a stark contrast. Everyone I met was crazy nice. Even the guy at the airport who confiscated one of my prized possessions – my peanut butter, smuggled from Lilly and Matt’s pantry – was really nice about it and said that he hoped it didn’t ruin my opinion of his country. He was genuinely concerned that I would hate Belfast because Belfast deprived me of peanut butter.*Anyway, Lilly, Matt and I managed to balance some touristy things with much lounging, many tea breaks, many candy box breaks (they have a giant box of candy in their kitchen, because adulthood), and a night out at a BYOB restaurant where we had the best Indian food I’ve ever tasted in my life.
Lilly and I took one of those classic black taxi tours on Saturday morning to learn about “The Troubles” and general Belfast history – and our cab driver/tour guide did NOT hold back on the dark stuff. In fact I think he might’ve laid it on a little thick for us. Hearing about the darkest parts of Belfast’s history for two hours straight is not for the faint of heart (and apparently not for Mormons – our driver said that he appreciated our sense of humor because he’d had a group from Utah recently who didn’t laugh at any of his super dark jokes. On the one hand, Lilly and I were like, “Well, Mormons,” but the other hand we thought, “But also, sir, you’re from Belfast, and we’re pretty sure not everyone thinks murder is as appropriate of a punch line as you think it is.”)It was a great weekend, which means it went by very very fast, as is the rule of truly great weekends. I’ve mentioned before that sometimes it’s better to travel to a place you’ve already been if it means that you’ll get to see someone you haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes it’s nice to have a person, rather than a place, waiting for you when you get there. It’s especially wonderful when you’re seeing a friend in a place you would have never expected to find either of you.
If you went back in time to senior year of high school and told me and Lilly that in almost exactly a decade, when I was living in PARIS and she was living in BELFAST, we’d be hanging out for a weekend in the adorable little house she shared with her husband whom she met in JAPAN, she and I would both laugh you out of the room….but we’d also probably still be eating out of a giant box of candy, because the important things never change.
*Would have been another story altogether if we were talking about wine, however. Although I got the vibe that frequent alcohol consumption is encouraged in Belfast, so if it had been wine, he probably would have let me take it on the plane.
**PS: Lilly and Matt got me hooked on the hilarious show Billy on the Street. It’s so good. Cry-laughing good. Nothing, NOTHING makes me happier than comedians screaming at New Yorkers on the street.