At the beginning of the week I travelled to Belfast for a visa interview. I could have gone to London but I could hear the sweet tones of the Northern Irish calling me and I was powerless to resist (a weakness which, according to my Dad, runs in the family) so I decided to make the trip across the Irish Sea. Rather than bore you all to tears with a minute-by-minute breakdown of my solo journey I thought I’d write a list of six things I learned in my 24 hours in Belfast:
The best things in life are free.
And by ‘best things’ I mean ‘gin and oreos’. The hotel I was staying in had oreos in the room and I had shovelled four of the six into my gob within about 90 seconds of my arrival (no regrets). The hotel also gave me a coupon for a free drink so I went to the residents bar for a gin cocktail where my evening was hijacked by a random Italian man who skilfully managed to stay just on the right side of creepy and bought me another drink.
Eating at a restaurant by yourself does not make you feel like a sexy independent lady.
Instead it makes you feel like you’re going to die alone.
If you join the queue at the post office on a Wednesday morning what you’ve actually joined is the dole queue.
I thought I was fully prepared for the visa interview, got up in the morning feeling smug and was getting ready to eat my bodyweight in pastry at breakfast when I discovered I had forgotten to print off a required document and needed to get a special delivery envelope for my passport. Queue much panic.
In Belfast there’s a nick-name for just about everything.
My favourite is the one for Belfast City Hospital- on one of his ‘critiques’ of architecture Prince Charles commented that he believed the hospital to be the ugliest building in Belfast, so the locals now refer to it as ‘Camilla’ (harsh, but hilarious).
Visa Interviews at the American Embassy aren’t like an interrogation scene out of Dexter/CSI.
Having had to fill out an endless amount of paperwork and jump through so many hoops that I was considering becoming circus act I did approach the visa interview with considerable trepidation, a feeling of foreboding which only heightened in the hour and a half spent in the waiting room with other similarly queasy looking people. I had nothing to fear though, I walked into the interview room to what was essentially a bank tellers desk, an American woman barked less than ten questions at me (which I hardly heard through the sound of my thumping heart) and I was free to go. I flew over 100 miles for an interview which lasted less than 100 seconds.
The people in Belfast are lovely.
Tourists aside, everyone I came across was chatty and engaging. Even the guy who didn’t believe I was from Glasgow and said I must be from ‘posh Glasgow’ did so in an endearing manner.
And so ends my whistle-stop tour of Belfast. I’ve learned a lot and will hopefully return one day and enjoy the craic without all the paperwork.