Letters From London: Bulletin from Belfast

Breakfast location on St. Patrick’s Day morning.

I spent Saint Patrick’s Day in Belfast, Ireland.

A good friend of mine, Reilly Tennis, a VTSU student, is studying in Northern Ireland at Ulster University in a town called Coleraine.

Sya Barnes, another VTSU student and good friend, is studying at Essex University in Colchester, England, so we decided to meet Reilly in Belfast for the Irish holiday.

Because we are incapable of doing anything in a particularly enjoyable and easy way, Barnes and I didn’t sleep at all Friday night and headed to the airport at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and landed in Belfast at around 9 a.m.

The original itinerary went as follows:

1. Coffee

2. Titanic Museum

3. Meet up with Reilly and her friend Mia Marr.

4. Go to the Zoo (Sya insisted on this one)

5. Pick up Mia’s friend Mallory.

However, when running on an hour of sleep, things don’t always work out the way you plan.

Jess Emery enjoying her first Guiness.

After the hour-long bus ride into the city central, I decided the perfect pick-me-up would be to spend about 45 minutes in a souvenir shop because my planned Saint Patrick’s Day outfit was just not going to cut it.

We rummaged around in that souvenir shop for what felt like eons and finally made our way out. We each got a tee shirt and a couple little knickknacks.

After some much-needed coffee and a quick bite, we met Reilly and Mia at an indoor market.

A man tried to sell us a broken camera for 100 pounds and insisted that it was the best price (although he didn’t know if it worked).

We could’ve been there for three minutes or three hours, I could not tell you.

Much to Sya’s dismay, we decided the zoo was out of the picture for the day’s events.

We met a few more of Reilly’s friends at the market and their friends of friends.

Between all of us, it was a group of about 12 people.

We made the trek to the hotel and Reilly and I checked in and then smuggled Sya, Mia, and Mallory into the room.

Jess Emery and Reilly Tennis in front of City Hall during a parade

After a few hours of rest, we went to an outdoor food court situation for some dinner. The 12 of us ate and drank and got to know one and other.

We were from all different corners of the United States and we each knew only one or two people but we all managed to make it for 48 hours in Belfast.

The next day, Saint Patrick’s Day, we were woken up by the sound of bagpipes playing outside our hotel.

I could not imagine a more fitting sound to wake up to.

It was around 11 a.m. and we had to hurry up and get to breakfast.

We planned to drink all day.

And you can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.

We found a breakfast spot called Maggie’s and it was warm enough to sit outside so we put together a couple of small round tables.

The Irish breakfast was good and the people watching was even better.

Everyone in green walking up and down the streets, beer in hand.

Dancing and drinking for VTSU Castleton student Jess Emery and friends.

We could hear Irish music coming from all over.

We didn’t forget about the drinks, when the waitress delivered Mia’s coffee she said, “there’s a wee bit of milk and about 3 shots in there so you should be good.”

One woman approached Reilly with her son who was probably 2 years old and told us that she wanted a photo of her son in the “holy land.”

Naturally, we thought that meant she wanted us to take a photo of her and her son –

but no.

She handed off her baby to Reilly and snapped a pic of them, thanked us, and made her way to the parade.

We stared at each other in bewilderment before we broke out into laughter.

After we got a few pub recs from the waitress, we made our way to the parade.

The parade was cool, and I learned a lot.

What was particularly evident was the lack of knowledge I have of Irish history.

I didn’t know what a single float or costume was about.

The first pub we wandered into was hidden down a narrow alleyway and we found it by following the sounds of the fiddle.

The music and drinks were good and the band loved our energy.

We danced and danced and clapped along to tunes we didn’t know. Every few songs, Irish step dancers would come out and give a performance which was even more impressive considering the cramped space.

They played songs like “Rattlin’ Bog” by Carlyle Fraser, “This Is the Life” by Amy Macdonald, and “Take Me Home, Country Road” by John Denver.

There were moments at that first pub where me and one of the 12 girls that I had met a mere 12 hours ago would grab ahold of each other and laugh knowing how lucky we were to find ourselves in this tiny back-alley pub listening to beautiful music on a beautiful day in a beautiful country. 

The band wrapped up and it was time to make our way to the next pub. 

The next place was called The Dirty Onion. 

The outdoor venue was packed and one of the first songs we heard as we arrived was “Stick Season” by Noah Kahan, a famous Vermont raised artist, and one of the lyrics is “and I love Vermont but it’s the season of the sticks.” 

We felt elated hearing everyone sing about our little state in a country where I would argue that most couldn’t point it out on a map. 

We danced more and more and sang songs like “Valarie” by Amy Winehouse, and “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons. 

We met strangers from around the globe who were also there for the holiday along with locals who expressed their excitement for us and reassured us that Belfast was the perfect place to be. 

Again, I was overwhelmed with the understanding that I will never be this young in a place like this with people and music like that. 

A piece of my heart (along with two-thirds of my spilled Guinness) forever lies in The Dirty Onion. 

After some much-needed dinner, we landed at the last pub of the night. 

Sya and I knew we had to leave for the airport at 2:30 a.m. and it was about 9:30 by the time we got to the last pub. 

There was no live band, but we met more amazing people, including several that also had the brilliant idea of buying their shirts from the children’s section of the souvenir shop. 

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland provided a mix of music.

With our travel day looming over our heads, Sya and I decided to head back to the hotel early to hopefully catch a couple hours of rest before we had to take for the airport. 

It was only about 11 p.m., but we had been drinking for a solid 12 hours. 

It was time to go. 

The next day was hellish to the say the least. 

By some miracle, we found the only bus leaving for the airport at such an insane hour and piled in with a bunch of other drunken 20-something year old’s. 

Our flight was delayed (of course) but Sya and I were quite entertained by the two drunk old men sitting across from us. They would giggle and share a look and we’d hear the glass bottles rattling in their bag. 

They would then each look at us knowingly because we were clearly in the same boat. 

Delusional and exhausted, Sya and I were cracking up about everything. 

Those days in Belfast I will remember forever, where we basked in our youth and sang along to the fiddle. 

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