A Wandering Widow Post
“Home isn’t where you’re from, it’s where you find light when all grows dark.”
Pierce Brown, Golden Son
One of my Belfast friends recently observed that sequels were either better than the original or a complete letdown. I’d add they can also be “okay” and close enough to canon that you don’t hate it. And that holds true for both movies (All hail the Marvel Universe) and real life. I’m happy to report that my Belfast sequel continues to make all my dreams come true.
I know. You’re probably saying, “Lisa, every time you go someplace new you tell us how much you love it and that you want to live there.” Fair enough. I do say that. And it’s true. I could be happy anywhere. But coming back to Belfast is coming home to a safe harbor and my happy place. Out of all the places I’ve visited, this is the one I can’t stay away from. I’ve been here three times now if you’re counting.
And this visit I was blessed with mostly sunny skies and the opportunity to see more of the country than I’d have ever thought possible. Sadly, my six-month tourist visa is at an end so I won’t have time to come back before I have to head West, but I WILL be back. I’m leaving behind dear friends who have become my family. Saying farewell makes me sad, but this departure is balanced with happiness in the knowledge they’ll be here waiting for me when I return.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big, Love Fierce.
Click here for my latest Belfast photo album.
Lisa’s Belfast Pub Crawl
I did get to stay at my favorite flat in North Belfast for my first week back but, apparently, the rest of you love it as much as I do and it was booked out for the rest of my stay. (I’m going to stop telling you where my favorite places are if you keep out booking me.)
So I found a cool flat in the Cathedral Quarter, stumbling distance from my favorite pubs and restaurants. The location was both incredibly convenient and a test of my decision-making hierarchy each evening. You know how some girls have days of the week panties? Well, I have days of the week pubs. Here are my favorites, although you really can’t go wrong at any Belfast pub that features live music.
Get thee to The Thirsty Goat to hear Mark Kane. Mark is unbelievably talented and funny, and I’ve written about him before. He is the king of adlibs and can take his gigs from concert to a full comedy show in less than a minute. Leaving without a smile on your face is impossible. There was this one time the entire pub was dying laughing at my expense when he changed the words to Mrs. Robinson because um, never mind.
After Mark’s gig, head a few doors down to The Harp Bar to hear Rory and John play. These guys are awesome, and it’s always a party at Harp. They have a rock and roll edge to their modern covers and traditional Irish set, and are fun to listen to. (My TripAdvisor reviews are in the links.)
Head to The Duke of York to hear Rory and John play. Yeah, I can’t get enough of the mandolin (it reminds me of my grandpa), and they’re good enough to listen to two nights in a row. But this pub has a completely different vibe. A traditional Irish pub with the best whiskey selection of them all. Say “Hi” to Paul, my blue-eyed silver fox while you’re there.
Wildcard! There is an unlimited number of pubs in Belfast, so try something new. Or stay in and recover. Up to you.
The John Hewitt to hear whoever is on deck. Cool place, mostly locals.
The Garrick for traditional music followed by McHughs to hear Mark Kane and Gary Duffy of For Folk Sake. Freaking amazing! Make sure to request the Lonesome Boatman; their version is the very best on the planet. If my craziest stories start at The Harp Bar, McHugh’s is where I’ve made my best friends. If I had to pick only one pub in Belfast to ever visit again (OMG, please don’t make me), McHugh’s would be the winner. Did I mention the dancing? Never mind the whiskey, the music and the craic, at McHugh’s I can be the Dancing Queen.
The Basement or The Balmoral Hotel to hear For Folk Sake again. You might think I’m biased because we’re friends, but I’m not wrong about this. I could listen to them every night of the week. If you are on foot and can’t make the Balmoral, or want something a little rowdier, The Dirty Onion is a good option, and they have live music on the weekends in their outdoor beer garden. You can’t go wrong, no matter who is playing. And while it is outdoors, it’s also covered so don’t be a sissy-lala-bedwetter about the weather. If you’re doing it right you’ll be shaking your groove thang and plenty warm no matter what the temperature.
If I can peel myself off the couch, the Harp Bar is where you’ll find me since they have live music seven days a week.
So there you have it, seven days of music and pub crawl, Lisa style. I confess I’m in withdrawal. If this makes it sound like I’m drooling a bit, I might be. No place in Europe will ever match Belfast’s music scene. And as much as I love all the places I get to visit, I’m a sad panda when it comes to leaving my favorite music and musicians.