Northern Ireland - Round The World Tour 2 2003 Day 182

Belfast

Wednesday 10th September

The photogenic morning mist together with a nearby field full of cows was too much for Sandy to resist this morning and she was soon out and about with the camera. She seems to have some kind of fetish when it comes to photographing cows.

It was a slow start to the day with yet another pancake breakfast. The slow pace gave us a chance to watch the very last episode of Star Trek Deep Space 9. Amazingly, we’ve now watched four complete twenty-six episode series in less than three weeks' time. What will we do with our time in the evenings now that there is no more Star Trek to watch on the box!?

Any activities that we were going to get up to today would almost certainly have to be the indoor kind. We are still heading in the general direction of Belfast to get the exhaust repaired and we would be passing through Lisburn. The tourist information lady from yesterday was quite insistent that we not miss the tractor and linen museum in Lisburn (although I had my doubts about the unlikely combination) so we headed in that direction.

Each time we depart a camp-site we are faced with the same dilemma. Which way do we turn after leaving the main gate? Camp-sites are invariably located in out of the way places that you can only reach by travelling down several, winding, country lanes. As such, we are always disoriented in the morning with regards to where we are on the map. Most of the time, the roads that we travelled along to get to the camp-site are too small to show up on our maps. This has been something that has been a constant source of irritation for us throughout the British Isles and Ireland. The maps with the most detail are not practical for travelling longer distances and the maps with the less detail don’t represent many of the roads that we traverse. I don’t know why camp-site owners can’t put a simple sign at the entrance to assist departing customers.

We followed the signs to the museum in Lisburn and eventually found a nice place to park. The museum chronicles two separate and distinct industries: the Fergusson Tractor company and the Irish Linen industry. The tractor section of the museum was interesting enough but the Linen industry section was done particularly well. With audio-visual presentations, interactive displays nicely laid out in several rooms and across multiple floors and even some working looms manned by real people, the overall experience was at least as good as that of King John’s Castle in Limerick.

After the fine museum, shopping and the procurement of some local currency was in order, but not necessarily in that order. Quite surprisingly, to me at least, the bank notes here in Northern Ireland are different to those in England. The currency is still Pounds Sterling but the pictures on the banks notes are different here. I must remember to retain one of each for my growing collection of bank notes and coins from around the world.

By now, the clock was starting to yell at me a bit and we needed to get moving if we were going to get the exhaust fitted today. Belfast was just a few kilometres away but the rush hour traffic added significantly to the time it took us to make it to the Kwikfit garage. The somewhat dubious directions that I was given by one of the Kwikfit staff also added significantly to the driving time. When we got there, there was both good news and bad waiting for us. The good news was that they had the part ready to be installed. The bad news was that the brick was too high to get through the door and so they couldn’t fit it. Another Kwikfit garage across town would be able to fit the brick in but it was now to late for us and the part to make it to the other location before closing time. We would have to return in the morning, much to Sandy’s disdain.

Not feeling particularly comfortable about finding a place to park for the night inside the city, we set off in search of what appeared to be a nearby camp-site. Unable to locate it, we stopped to ask for directions and a very nice woman at a local video rental store was ready to oblige. She even offered to let us park outside her house with an extension cord hooking us up to her household electric supply. I don’t know if her generosity and friendliness was because she is also a camper-van owner or simply a Belfast resident.

As it turned out, the camp-site that we were looking for was actually just a Boy Scout camp-site but the friendly woman did point us towards another, nearby camp-site, which was next to the Belfast Ice Bowl ice skating rink and leisure centre. It was still relatively early, so we decided to go and see if there was anything at the leisure centre that might occupy us for a while. We spent an hour or so there playing air hockey and pool.

Since we weren’t in need of electricity or any of the usual services of a camp-site, the £16 per night charge for the nearby camp-site seemed a bit of a waste of time. In the meantime, we had travelled sufficiently far enough out of the city centre for a secluded spot to suffice for the night. It wasn’t long before we found a supermarket where we could park in an out of the way location and so here we are.

After we get the exhaust problem rectified tomorrow, we might be able to finally go into Belfast city centre to see what we can see.

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