So having a friend from England to stay was a chance to take a weekend break, at home – a mini staycation.
We started on Friday evening with a concert at the Church of Christ the Redeemer at Clonard Monastery, as I now know it is called. There was some confusion between me and the English friend as he kept asking where we were going and I kept saying Clonard, and finally was forced to explain what this meant. Note to all on weekend breaks at home – you know stuff like this already, as well as knowing how to get to everything, more or less. The Ulster Orchestra and the BBC Singers performed a first class Haydn programme, and of course the church surroundings were spectacular.
On Saturday we went to the refurbished Ulster Museum. The new interior of the Museum is world class, with its new cafe and shop, and atrium which only requires a few black leather sofas to be perfect. The Sean Scully exhibition was wonderful (example pictured: Beckett, 2006) and also free, unlike special exhibitions in so many city art galleries. I even saw the man himself, but didn’t have the courage to tell him he’s right up there with Rothko in my opinion. The exhibition is at the Museum until next February, so I’ll be popping back in my lunch hour now and again.
After lunch we returned to have a look at the other galleries, and the place was packed. It was great to see it, but they will have to improve the ventilation if that level of traffic continues. I enjoyed the ceramics, including the Belleek collection which inspires wonder at the craftsmanship and a cringe at the designs. The history floor was a disappointment. The old ‘Made in Belfast’ display has gone, replaced by a much smaller section about the city’s industrial heritage, although there are some new videos on the subject. The Troubles section is superficial and, I suspect, designed not to offend; but the same could be said about the presentation of older events such as the Flight of the Earls and the Siege of Derry.
An essential part of your weekend break at home should be to try a new place to eat, so in the evening it was off to trendy Japanese restaurant Zen, in Adelaide Street, for a cocktail followed by a delicious meal with lots of veggie choices, great service, and a great atmosphere without music so loud we couldn’t hear each other. And still home in time for The Thick Of It, one advantage of living in a small city being that it doesn’t take long to get anywhere. The next day, we were out of the city for a drive to Bangor and a couple of hours walking along the coastal path, braving the weather and feeling great afterwards.
We finished off the long weekend on Monday with a short visit to Belfast city centre – first to the Victoria Square dome, where I hadn’t realised the views are so fantastic, and then to the, again, newly refurbished Belfast City Hall, and were able to take a guided tour which hadn’t been available on Saturday. The tour seemed pretty much like the one available before the refurbishment, but it was lovely to see the building spruced up and to become more aware of its Irish as well as its British heritage.
So I had a great time in my home city and now would recommend a short break here to anyone.