One Aging Geek

Friday, October 20, 2006

Home from "Norn Iron"

Spent last week in Belfast, N. Ireland ("Norn Iron" as the locals pronounce it). It was a business trip for me and a vacation for Mrs. Aging Geek.

We stayed at the Hilton Belfast on the banks of the Lagan. It's the tallish building in the center of the picture.

You can see remnants of "The Troubles" but Belfast is a very different place from a decade ago. Not much of a tourist stop, especially in October. The weather was beautiful, sunny almost all week but after seeing the murals, the empty ground where the Titanic was built and the Botanical Garden, Mrs. Geek pretty much ran out of things to do.

We did discover that Guinness really is a completely different experience over there compared to over here. The Guinness we get in America tastes like drinking a loaf of rye bread. In the U.K. (and I'm told even more so in Dublin where it's brewed), it's a great beer.

We stayed the weekend after my business was done. Did a bus tour up to the Antrim coast and a ferry ride to Scotland.

The trip back was ... long. The concierge advised us to be at the airport "three or four" hours before the flight. We opted for three so with a 30 minute cab ride that meant waking at 6:00am to pack and make an 11:10am flight. The advice wasn't far off. We stood in a line a good 30 minutes before talking to the person who checked passports and asked the usual security questions then another 20 minutes to check the baggage. U.K. to U.S. flights still don't allow liquids and strictly limit to one carry-on. They also are doing a final random check just as you board... Mrs. Geek and I got nabbed. My backpack had all the electronics, laptop, two cell phones, MP3 player, digital video camera, digital still camera. All of them had to come out, be turned on, and the screener had to see them do something. Plus a pretty thorough pat-down and emptying out of all pockets. Sigh.

After that it was an uneventful flight to Newark. Then the delays hit. Houston had gotten up to 10 inches of rain so IAH was a complete mess. We were delayed in boarding in Newark, then pushed back and sat on the tarmac for a good half hour. The plane was routed around the weather so the flight was longer than it should have been. Finally got on the ground in Houston only to wait 45 minutes for ground traffic to unsnarl enough to get to a gate. And then every remaining step was more crowded and took a little longer than normal, slow baggage, lines for the bus to parking, lines to get out of parking.

The final straw was when we got within a mile of the house and were blocked by high water on the road. It took almost an hour to get that final mile. We detoured, detoured again and finally went a good 15 miles out the wrong way to come at the subdivision from the other side. No problems on that route and no problems in the subdivision or with the house, just that one big deep puddle that got in the way. So we finally hit home and fell into bed after a solid 24 hours after waking in Belfast.

  • Best meal: Dinner at the Cafe Vaudeville
  • Cheapest meal: 1.50GBP for bottomless Irish Stew at The Front Page
  • Most interesting name for a dish: Bubble and Squeak (had at the Morning Star)
  • Local dish I wasn't adventurous enough to eat: Black Pudding
  • Other pubs:
  • Stuff lost on the trip:
    • Nice sunglasses
    • Debit Mastercard eaten by an Ulster Bank ATM
  • Stuff gained on the trip:
    • Coworker from the U.K. gave me an old unlocked cell phone since my shiny Verizon Chocolate is CDMA so doesn't work there. For a mere 5GBP I got a U.K. SIM card for it.
    • An appreciation for Guiness
    • A couple of pounds (the kind around the middle) from eating potatoes and sausages too much.

Update: repost with picture scaled down a bit