Two Birthdays in Ireland

In Goa last year, during our yoga teacher training, Rbberta and I realized we had the same birthday. The only difference was a few years (it was her 60th), but us pisces were drawn to the coast of Northern Ireland to celebrate together.

Roberta and I with Nell

I stayed with Roberta and her husband Brian, and their dog Nell, in Bangor by the sea. Brian had two motorcycles and offered to take me on a roadtrip to the Mourne Mountains and Portaferry and Strangford, where we were hot on the trail of the Games of Thrones doors.

Brian at Bloody Bridge

Robertas daughter joined us for a night out to Portrush for our birthday dinner, where we dined on mostly meats, strangely enough, at the Neptune and Prawn. We walked it off on the strands near by, at Port Stuart and East Strand, and visited the nearby Dunluce Castle.

Dunluce castle on the Causeway Coastal Route

The major highlight, as a good tourist, was the Giants Causeway, where we walked over perfectly formed Basalt columns and admired the giant’s organ. The sun was shining and Northern Ireland couldn’t have been more green, and not to mention warm – it was over 15°c in February!

the Giant´s Causeway

Of course we had to do some yoga together, attending Michael´s and Tom´s classes. We visited Roberta´s second home, the Aurora Rec center where she goes every morning before the crack of dawn to keep her 7% body fat figure… she´s healthier than I´ve ever been and looks younger than me from behind! We swam laps and I played on the slides, trying not to lose my top.

yoga on East Strand

We had many, many birthday cakes, extending the celebration a day longer every time we could make some fun out of it. We had Nepalese food at a restaurant that put up banners and candles for us, and treated us to an entire cake and bottle of Prosecco. I had a slice of cheesecake every day, sometimes twice, and chocolate whenever I could, because I felt I deserved it as an older woman.

happy birthday to us!

The trip was a great success, and I even managed to keep up with my marathon training, believe it or not. We walked Nell, Roberta´s dog whenever we could, and even in the fog and rain, Bangor by the sea was more pleasant to visit in February than I could have imagined.

the harbour in Bangor

Northern Ireland

When I arrived in Belfast, I wondered if I was in a new country. I was advised by my various couchsurf hosts in the Repbulic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that I could safely count each Ireland as its own country, since counting Northern Ireland as a UK visit was like counting Scotland as the same place as England, and saying there’s only one Ireland is opening a whole can of beans that I dont know enough about to defend.

Welcome to Northern Ireland

I had the greatest host of all time in Belfast, Rob, who knew how to play the Irish flute and Irish dance and spoke with the greatest Irish accent. He had another couchsurfer from Romania at his apartment the same weekend I was visiting, and we went out to an Irish pub to listen to a session, a live music night where a bunch of random musicians come together to jam on their various instruments. There was a couple flutists, a fiddler, a guitarist, and some sort of percussionist I think. They played happy, catchy folk songs that made you want to tap your foot and slap your knee, and out of the guinness drinking crown, a guy stood up and started river dancing impromptu.

Later that night we talked to the river dancer, and turned out he was actually a river dancer, having toured with the River Dance show for ten years. He was “retired” from the show, at only 30-something years old, and was actually a Quebecois Canadian descendant from Ireland. Then Rob and him had a dance off as the bar was closing, and the bouncers had to stop their feet from clapping despite the few people left in the pub cheering them on for more.

Infamous Sandy Row

The next 36 hours I basically lived on Robs couch, having contracted some serious food poisoning or some stomach bug that crippled me with bouts of vomiting and the inability to eat for 2 days. He took care of me and checked up on me every hour, making sure I stayed alive and force-fed me some water and white rice. Needless to say I didnt get to see much of Belfast, missing out on a rugby match and an Irish dance social, but on my last day there I mustered up the energy to take a walking tour of Belfast. I strolled through the western districts and saw the politically and historically charged murals of Belfast. I also walked through downtown and Royal Avenue to see the impressive city hall.

Belfast's Murals

Finally I boarded my bus to the airport that took me on a scenic drive through the outskirts of Belfast, through rolling green hills and farms in the countryside, and I couldn’t help but notice how stereotypical it was for everything in Ireland to seem a bit greyish except for the fluorescent green grass that managed to grow everywhere, as lively and vibrant as a summer field in a scene from Green Acres.