If you are anything like me you are willing this month to be over. With the 5 weekends in January it’s hard to believe that payday will ever come. Rather than complain about it, I’ve been thinking about my favourite things you can do in the city to lift your mood, and even better won’t cost you anything.
Culture Vulture: Sometimes I pinch myself thinking what a great free resource the Ulster Museum is to the city of Belfast. I still remember going when I was at school and the excitement of getting to visit a real life Egyptian mummy – something I never even dreamed I would see and it still gives me goose-bumps, even today. If this isn’t your bag, there is everything from history of the Armada, The Troubles, a cacophony of animals, birds, dinosaurs, examples of how pre-historic man lived and international artefacts. It’s a great location for a date, or to bring the kids or just to spend a few hours on your own. If you need a bit of help getting round, tours start at 2.30pm Tuesday-Friday and 1,30pm on Sunday. Exhausted just thinking about it? Don’t be, as you need some energy for to have a look round the gift shop – I picked up Bog Standard candles and smellies and you’re never too old for a stuffed animal, right? Before you head towards the exit, treat yourself to a pastry from the Yellow Door served in the café while sitting back and enjoying another free Belfast must-see, Botanic Gardens.
Enjoy the View: If you read last week’s G Spots! you will know that getting outdoors is good for the mood as well as the waistline. But if you take advantage of some of the stunning mountains around Belfast, then you can also do something that’s good for the soul. It might be bleak and sometimes the only other people you see are the grazing cows, but the Divis Summit Trail on a clear day is hard to beat.
Looking out at the view which stretches as far as the eye can see and just taking a moment for yourself, is a sure way to lift your mood and appreciate what we have on our doorstep. If you still haven’t the Divis Coffee Barn, don’t get off the mountain until you do! It’s 1025ft above the ground, making it Ireland’s highest coffee shop. Try the traybakes, if only for research purposes!
Try Local: As I get older and busier with the day job, I relish my free time at the weekends. Saturday or Sunday morning spent in St George’s Market is always a good end to the working week as you never know what you’ll see or who you’ll meet. If you haven’t been, make it your (belated) New Year’s resolution. The smell of tasty bacon baps, crepes, paella, cheeses, meats etc…. pretty much whatever floats your culinary boat can be found there and in between some of the best local musical talent.
I know products sold in markets can often get a bad name, but there are so many quality quirky handmade jewellers, craft stalls, photography, pottery, recycled and household goods and cakes, plants and health products for you to enjoy when you get home. Don’t forget our very own Belfast Times stall is there every weekend selling coasters, cards and cups with typically Belfast banter on them. Corrie fans will appreciate Jim McDonald stopping by, so he did, as did celebrity chef, John Torode and even the Queen visited on their recent trips to the city.
Quaint Quarters: If you didn’t know, Belfast is split into quarters or cultural zones- Queens, Cathedral, Titanic, Linen and Gaeltacht all with their own unique features and a perfect and (free) way to explore the best the city has to offer. Queen’s, given the name due to the imposing Queen’s University building which is the centrepiece for the area. Coffee shops, galleries, eclectic shops and bars all reside in this leafy area and offer the perfect lazy Sunday afternoon location for a walk or to watch the world go by. The bustling Cathedral Quarter with its busy bars and restaurants is always the place to go at weekend’s. Take time to visit the MAC and the Oh Yeah Centre. All accessible over cobbled streets, which look great, but maybe not so for your high heels. The Gaeltacht is the centre for Irish language and culture and already a firm favourite for tourists due to traditional pubs, centres for music and political and cultural tours. Check out the events at An Chultúrlann for inspiration.
I’m lucky enough to work in the Titanic Quarter so get to soak up the atmosphere of the old and new during my daily commute. From the quaint S.S Nomadic, to the futuristic Titanic Centre and now the bright and tasty Cast & Crew and T13 all making its presence felt, there is no better time to dander down to this centre of innovation. The Linen Quarter is the new kid on the block, but one of my favourites, maybe because my restaurant du jour, Sweet Afton is located there.
I hope this has given you some inspiration to get out and enjoy the beauty that is Belfast and borrowing the immortal words of J Lo, Love (of Belfast) Don’t Cost a Thing!
Spotting local hidden gems from the world of beauty, health, fashion, tourism and hospitality. I have my ear to the ground (quite literally) to keep you up to date about the new or interesting products and services from our neck of the woods. If you know one – get in touch on twitter @grainnemcgarvey or at www.pulseprni.com