Belle of Belfast and a road trip

My friend Edel who lives in Belfast was my bridesmaid 3 years ago.  Last week, Hubby and I went to Donegal for Edel’s wedding in the little town of Ballybofey (as in buffet).  We decided to make a long weekend of it, and flew to Belfast on Wednesday evening. We landed just in time to pick up our hire car.  Hubby was in charge of driving the bridesmaids to the church, so he wanted them to travel in style but not upstage the bride and groom’s vintage Rolls Royce.  The weather was exceptionally bad for the 2 1/2 drive it took from Belfast city airport to Donegal, so I’m glad the lady at the Europcar desk talked us into taking insurance on the car.  

We didn’t arrive in Donegal until past midnight and by the time we checked-in and showered, it was 1 a.m. when we got to bed.  We got up bright and early to drive the bridesmaids to the bride’s family home to get ready for the big day. We spotted a lot of sheep between Edel’s home and the church. We kept our fingers crossed that none of them would delay the bride on her way to church later.

The wedding went without a glitch, the bride looked beautiful, as did her bridesmaids, and the groom handsome in coat and tails.  Hubby and I danced the night away, and woke up with sore heads the next morning, but very happy that a dear friend had the best day of her life.  We got on the road to Belfast right after wishing Edel and her hubby farewell. The drive took well over 2 1/2 hours on account of Friday traffic. We managed to drop off the car and get a taxi to the train station with just enough time to grab some sandwiches and snacks before boarding our train to Dublin.

Both of us were looking forward to some shut-eye on the train, but then these two lads sat opposite us. Hubby and I are like velcro and we attract the strangest of companies sometimes.  That says a lot about us actually! They were on their way to Dublin for Paul Weller’s gig that night. One of them was sound, but we found out later that the other was the youngest of nine kids and obviously had to be loud and obnoxious to be heard at home his entire life, but not sure what his excuse was to be loud on a train. So there was no sleep to be had, but we joined in and had the craic with them. It was only past 2 p.m. and they were going through a pack of beer each and a bottle of Buckfast as if the taxes on booze were going up ten-fold within the hour. Now, that is rich coming from someone who drank 1 1/2 bottles of wine all by herself the previous evening, but I was at a wedding and it was over a period of 9 hours! (my liver still hasn’t recovered, and like I said, it’s a case of the proverbial pot). So the loud dude kept going to the loo every 10 minutes and just as we arrived at Dublin Connolly station, he shook our hands to say goodbye. You think he washed his hands? (perhaps this is way too much detail for a food blog).

We got a taxi from the train station to the airport to collect our hire car before driving to Bray. If you’re at all familiar with Dublin, you’d be wondering why we’d be travelling a***ways (what? on a food blog??), but that’s the way it panned out.  At this stage, we were absolutely exhausted, and as if on cue, our friends J and T invited us over for dinner. J & T are also parents of our young friend Stavros. We weren’t great company, however, it was great to catch up, fill up on some lovely food and company.  Before calling it a night, I offered to cook for them the next night, Saturday.

The next day, Hubby and I drove into the city for a spot of window shopping. We decided to have lunch in Coppinger Row, just off Grafton Street.  It was fairly busy and we ended up seated at the bar facing the chefs’ workstation.

I ordered dressed crab and crayfish (€12.50), while Hubby had baked polenta served with figs, butternut squash, goats cheese and passata from the specials menu (€10.50).  My dressed crab and crayfish was served with some toasted bread and rocket salad, all on a side plate. I have issues with paying €12.50 for what is supposed to be a main course which comes served on a side plate. I also ordered a portion of chips which tasted like they were fried in old oil. Apparently they don’t serve ketchup in the restaurant. That was me told.

We waited 20 minutes for our coffee order, during which Hubby observed the barista at work. At one point, he (coffee boy, not Hubby) blew off some excess chocolate dusting which he had sprinkled on top of a freshly brewed cup of latte. I also spotted one of the chefs continuously coughing when preparing food (courtesy of our front row seats).

We cancelled our coffee, paid our bill and were wondering what to do next while in town when I made the decision for us. I started to feel faint and had tummy cramps.  I had to go home. During the 40 minutes it took us to get home, I was bent over double, while Hubby started feeling unwell too.  Next time, we might just stick to the Boulevard Cafe.

We got over our bad lunch eventually, did some grocery shopping and went over to J and T’s to cook dinner. I made braised lamb shanks and J organised some lovely side dishes.  It was a wonderful evening – great company, good food, trashy telly (apart from the rugby of course, and the room was divided between Dan Carter and Rob Kearney supporters).

We made our way back to London the next day. Tired, but extremely happy that a good few days were had with dear friends and family.

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