Thursday, June 23, 2016

Around town: Randomness of a Belfast Saturday

The view of a Belfast street.
Sometimes not having a plan means stumbling onto parades, passionate football fans, anime and comic characters, as well as inventive seagulls and water skiers. In other words, you never know what you're going to find when wandering around a city (or perhaps just Belfast.)

Q-Con in action.
Five of us set out on foot last Saturday for downtown Belfast with only a rough plan for the day. We knew we'd stop by St. George's Market to check out the food and music and explore the city, which despite the tensions, has enjoyed a tourism and economic revival since the peace agreements.

Beyond having a rough direction to walk, the rest would be up to serendipity.

And serendipity delivered in a kind of Alice in Wonderland way where everything seemed to get curiouser and curiouser. 

First, as we passed through the center of Queens University, we started noticing people in colorful wigs and costumes. It turns out, this was Q-Con, Queens University's answer to Comic-Con. It offered a weekend's worth of anime screenings, social activities (such as Pints Against Humanity) and a concert by the Irish Video Game Orchestra.

When we arrived at St. George's market after a 25-minute walk, most of us were hungry enough to test out the crepes, pastries and coffee for sale.

(From left) Peter Murphy, Jason Spann, Mary Hays, Derek Stine and I take in the market while a musician (playing a mix of traditional Irish music and James Taylor songs) entertains the crowd.
Not sure what the puffy rock thingy is.
In addition to finely prepared foods and fresh seafood, it also boasted a healthy array of veggies of fruits of all sizes and colors.

We split up from there as Mary and Peter decided to walk back to the Botanic Gardens near the university. Jason, Derek and I walked back into town where crowds already assembled for a parade that started at noon.

"We'll just wait around and check it out," we collectively decided.

Once the parade got going, it was an endless stream of regiments and divisions from Ulster that fought as part of the British Army in World War I, as well as other Protestant loyalist groups.

This went on for 20-30 minutes.
Many of them marched to their own beats. And because Jason was a percussionist in Murray State's Racer Band, he offered an interesting critique about their techniques.

"The drumming was terrible," he said flatly.

Some drummers in the same group were using opposite hands, which he said made it look discombobulated. He pointed it out to me. I couldn't tell.

Others carried – or drove – with big guns. The forces from Ulster got hit hard in World War I, particularly the Battle of the Somme in France, which was supposed to be a major offensive campaign for the Brits and the French. But it quickly turned costly for the Brits after the French diverted many of their men to reinforce Verdun.

"Everything went wrong that day," as one soldier from the 36th (Ulster) Division put it.

This World War I era soldier surveys modern day Belfast before the parade begins.

After the parade, the randomness of the day only increased.

How does a seagull fix dinner? She dives for a mussel, carries it to a stone walkway and drops it from about 20 feet in the air to break it open. Then she dines. 
A leprechaun with a "Frozen" backpack? What's going on here? We would soon find out. 

Yes, she is waterskiing around the docks of Belfast with a pulley system.
This is where the leprechaun with the "Frozen" backpack was going. Outside the Titanic Museum, they had set up a stage with a giant screen ("The biggest in Ireland" the sign boasted) to show the Republic of Ireland play Belgium in the European Championships. Jason and I watched the first half, which was good for Ireland. It was 0-0. Then the second half happened. It did not go well, and Ireland lost 3-0. 

We tried to watch the end of the match in this pub, the Cuckoo near Queens University, but the sign on the door said: "No sports jerseys allowed inside." That should have tipped us off. Instead, the bar is decorated with women's underwear and wrestling action figures. Of course. 

Jason and I eventually found another pub to finish watching the night matches, including the Gaelic football championships in which Galway came back to defeat Mayo in a stunner. In all, we did another 8-9 miles. Here's a rough estimate of how far/where we walked:

The circle at the bottom is where our dorm was. The Titanic Museum with the screen for the soccer match is at the top right of the map.

No comments:

Post a Comment