It was lovely to return to this part of the Emerald Isle. Catching up with dear friends for meals, drinks and plenty of craic is a rare but delightful bonus in an overseas holiday. But it did take us some time to get to our vibrant, chat-filled dinner at ‘Made in Belfast’.
Our flights from Sydney with Etihad were on time and relatively uneventful – apart from the fact that the effort I went to months previously to secure exit row seats on the aisle were for naught, as the person who locked them in and assured me that the seats were as requested was…mistaken. Result was a 6 foot 2 inches man jammed up in window seat for a 13 hour flight, having to climb over 2 others to get up to go to the bathroom or stretch or whatever. This happened again for the 7 hour flight that followed. The fact that there were seats in business was more than a tad frustrating!
So, we arrived at Heathrow in one piece, and with all our luggage – always good! With a 3 hour wait till our British Airways flight to Belfast we decided to spend the time with some soup at ‘the pub’ at the airport, not realising that we could’ve changed our BA flight to an earlier Aer Lingus flight (for a fee, of course, but when you’ve been travelling for 30 hours, knocking 3 off the journey is very tempting). However, once we had found out that this was a possibility, we had already checked in and were stuck with our wait…which turned into a 5 hour one instead – good one, BA – the flight was delayed. We basically landed 15 minutes before we were supposed to be collected from our hotel by our friends. A further ridiculous delay of 20 minutes for our bags to appear just topped off the whole experience, but appear they did, so we were grateful for that!
After our speedy check in at our hotel (The Culloden), we managed to shower, dress, do hair and face (for me – John doesn’t need such ‘enhancements’), we got downstairs in time to be collected an hour after our original appointed meet up, and were only 15 minutes late to dinner (we had to forgo the planned ‘catch up’ with said friends before the larger gathering at dinner took all our attention).
The service and facilities at The Culloden were, once again, welcoming and full of old world charm. Our room upgrade to the Harris Suite was a delightful surprise, and even though we were rushing to get in and out quickly for dinner, we still had time to just stand and breathe and look out our window at the stunning views across the lough, with the sun regularly flashing a big smile from behind the clouds.
This weekend in Belfast falls between the birthdays of the 2 people we were here to see, so before we left home I arranged for a lovely dark chocolate ganache cake to be decorated and delivered to our hotel to take with us to dinner on Friday night. I tried a few cake shops in Belfast, but they didn’t deliver. Then I happened upon Jenny’s Cakes in Bangor who made exactly what I wanted from my description alone (via email) – and it was delicious! When I opened my receipt envelope the next morning, there was £10 attached with a paper clip and a hand written note explaining that the decorating didn’t take as long as she expected, and here was reimbursement – can you believe it?? What’s even more impressive, is that she didn’t know about my travel blog, as I contacted her through my personal email – she’s simply a really lovely, and obviously really honest person. I highly recommend her cake baking and decorating services!
Our one and only full day in Belfast was spent on a little day trip excursion to the centre of Ireland to Castle Coole, near Enniskillen. This magnificent National Trust property was one we wanted to see on our visit last April, but we had so much loaded into our bulging itinerary, there just wasn’t room for a 2 hour detour to the centre of Northern Ireland. There were some truly gorgeous rooms, but the standouts for me were the saloon and the lobby with its stunningly beautiful cupola and gallery. The basement was particularly interesting, especially since the kitchen had been used as a location for a film shoot recently and all of the huge, pitch-black, wrought iron ovens were actually completely fake and made of wood! Unfortunately, since even though the NT owns the property, the family still own the contents – so no pics could be taken.
Reaquainting ourselves with London is the next thing on our itinerary, and we are going to cram in as much as possible for our next few days!