So it’s been a week since Belfast and whilst I’m still ‘in recovery’ with nothing to do this weekend, I thought it would be a good time to start reminiscing about my first proper group holiday. I know I’ve been on a couple before yet they weren’t really holidays, they were educational trips for 16-25 years olds to some of the Capital Cities of Europe. But, oh, this was the first time where I didn’t need to be any kind of responsible adult. Well maybe to a point.
Consisting of a relatively boozy bunch of 6 people, that was originally meant to be 10, our party of 4 guys and 2 girls formed way back when we all worked and socialised together regularly.
As one of the younger members of the group, I wasn’t quite sure of how my personality might gel with the others for the full weekend. I’m usually a bit reserved but this group of friends know the other side of me and quite well may I add. But the less said about that the better.
However I do think the time in Belfast has brought us closer together, as we landed up giving ourselves nicknames on the Saturday. I won’t say what the nicknames were but I do not like a legal loophole when it comes to manufacturing Champagne.
Friday Night In
The bunch of us met up at Glasgow International Airport in staggers on the Friday as we waited on enjoying a nice weekend away together. Unusually for me I was not the first one to arrive which I was surprised at. One of the other guys was already there and through security.
Once we were all together it was then finish of what we had got for drinks in the Upperdeck Lounge and then head straight to the gate for the flight. And with a quick 25 minutes in the air, we landed in Belfast. The longest bit of the journey was actually getting to the Air BnB apartment from the airport, as we may have taken a detour via a bar on Botanic Avenue.
House Belfast, which until I was writing this I thought was just a bar, is a Boutique Hotel that houses (I know) its own nightclub Onyx. So if all else had failed we could have holed up in their for the full weekend.
Once finished with our drinks, we headed off to the apartment via Tesco to stock up on our essentials otherwise known as beer, gin, whisky, bourbon, coke (coca-cola not the other one), lemonade, ginger ale, doritos and other house essentials. Once we got settled and had one or two drinks, the six of us headed out to dinner at one of the local Italian restaurants Vilia Italia.
Post dinner it was 2 by 2 by 2.
2 went to Tesco to pick up loo roll; 2 were still in the restaurant heading back to the apartment; and 2 of us went to find a bar. The scouting of a bar that was open at least til 1am was easy. Down University Road to Bradbury Place to Alibi. Now I do love a good love a good Singapore Sling and with Alibi having a focus on cocktails, gin and craft beers I was ready for staying for the night. Even better that it had a club as part of its three floors open everyday, offering the very best in liquor and music. But alas it wasn’t meant to be especially when the, and apologies for the wording, local talent walked through the door. Well I am single.
So back to the apartment for a night in where we also met an old university friend of one of the girls.
Food, Food and More Food ….. and Booze too
Well mainly for me than the rest of them on the Saturday after waking up at 7.30am. Dishes? Done. Morning walk? Done. Breakfast at Subway? Done. Tesco? Done. And this was all before 9.30. So rather than waiting for the rest to wake up, I decided to do my own thing and head to St George’s Market.
Built between 1890 and 1896, and one of Belfast’s oldest attractions, the UK’s 2019 Best Indoor Large Market is open Friday to Sunday. As it was a Saturday it was the City Food and Craft Market day. Packed with food and drink vendors and craft vendors from across Belfast, I had a lot of fun trying what was on offer. From tasting local Orange Cake at Jam and Ollys Country Stall to eating what was a ‘second breakfast’ from Cuban Sandwich Factory and a Sun Rise Smoothie from Dabo Smoothies. I may have also bought a block of Bailey’s Fudge and Irish Whiskey Fudge from I Love Fudge but that didn’t last that long.
By this time it was 11.30am, and I still wasn’t sure on how much my stomach could take, so it was another walk.
The plan was to head over Queens Bridge and walk to the Marina, before going back over the River Lagan, via the Lagan Lookout Visitor Centre, and head straight to Brunch. Yeah that clearly happened. Not! Instead I went to Victoria Square to have a look around the City Centre and try and find a nice wee quaint coffee shop to have a hot chocolate in. I couldn’t find one so I wandered around passing Dunnes, an Irish multi-retail store that I once frequented when they had a store in Glasgow. Eventually I got fed up of walking and landed up in Taboo Donuts on Anne Street. Then it was brunch time at the Malmaison.
It may or may not have been a good idea when we booked this ahead of time but having a Bottomless Brunch was a treat. Unlimited Heineken or Prosecco? Check. Decent Food? Check. Service? That maybe not so much. Once we were all there and finished after our 2 hours were up, we went to find a pub, or two in the Duke of York and the Dirty Onion & Yardbird. The latter where I may have went rogue myself and purchased a double Midleton Very Rare. It was really good by the way.
Then it was back to the apartment to get ready for Saturday night at Zen.
Inspired by Asian Cuisine and Mahayana Buddhism, Zen seeks to create an authentic atmosphere and experience. Or as close as it can to being the real deal. I will say one thing, there was a lot of choice. So much so, that only 2 of us went off the Set Menu for £29.95 whilst the rest went off the big menu. Even the drinks were fairly comprehensive but it was something out of a Benny Hill film when it came to serving. The good thing was that I got to try Maesil-ju, or Plum Wine to you and me. I might have drank a fair bit of the wine, that my Coconut and Shrimp Paste Salmon Curry tasted weird. Should’ve went with the Honey Peppered Shredded Chicken instead. After we finished and avoided a dessert, we headed to The Garrick and then back to the Dirty Onion & Yardbird before calling it a night.
Then the weekend came to an end. Some of us with sore heads, sore throats and sore ears but not until one last huzzah with a brunch before we left. Come 4.00pm it was home time. Off to the airport for our now delayed flight arriving back into Glasgow at 7.15 pm with another 15-20 minute wait for the now cabin-based take on hand luggage.
For some that wasn’t the end as it was off to a local pub in Uddingston, whilst I headed home for a much sought after custom made store bought pizza ….. and my own bed. I definitely enjoyed the weekend, but it was too much. Maybe a slightly quieter one next time for me.