In return for so much, what shall we give back? NYC-DUBLIN-BELFAST

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I’ll fast-forward through the logistics of my journey for now. You can probably paint the picture. Subway to NJ transit to Airtrain to overnight flight to bus ride to long delay at a train station to long train ride to bus ride.

I began reading Forever by Pete Hamill on the plane- a Christmas gift! So far, I’ve found it haunting and magical. I’m not very far in. I’ll keep you posted.

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I had a bit of time in Dublin before my train to Belfast. Once I located Connolly Station, I explored the area a bit. Forgive the phone pictures. I kept my camera gear wrapped up tight because I was carrying all my luggage and it was raining. Don’t fret- I’ll be stomping around Dublin at the end of this trip.

I did poke my head in every coffee shop I passed to see what the menus had to offer. Espresso seems big here, but iced coffee- not so much. Strong, chilled and decently prepared coffee rates pretty high on my list of  basic survival needs. Don’t be fooled. I can survive (and often thrive) in some pretty rustic conditions, but I have become accustomed to being able to get an awesome cup of iced coffee several times a day, every day. I had a pretty mediocre hot cuppa at Connolly first thing off the bus.  I investigated several shops who proved to have no iced options. The anxious sharks began circling in my stomach as I strolled back down Abbey St. And then…

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Bewley’s grabbed my attention from the window of Arnott’s department store. I peeped through the window, and the words ‘iced coffee’ appeared together on the menu. After chatting with a really helpful barista who clarified- ‘iced coffees’ are frozen, blended drinks- I talked her through making her first Iced Americano with Skim. It was glorious.

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The journey to Belfast was a bit of a blur. I sat with a young Irish girl who’d come home to surprise her boyfriend for New Year’s and a Grandma coming home from holiday shopping. They were lovely, but I was so travellagged that putting together a cohesive sentence was a struggle. And so, I zoned.

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I’ve been in Belfast for less than two hours. After wandering the rapidly-darkening streets of the City Centre without a map I finally stumbled upon the bus stop I needed. When I realized I only had Euros and no sterling, my fare was paid for me on the bus by a stranger named Paulie who told me about her family and her Christmas and her cousin who danced in Riverdance and maybe I knew her? and how lovely that I’d be visiting the south and of course she’d get off at my stop with me instead of her own (it wasn’t that much further and despite her leg braces walking was really no bother at all) so she could see to it herself that I got to my destination and deposited me on the doorstep. We parted ways with a big hug and a Very Happy New Years to Ya and Best of Luck in the Year 2014!

The door opened and I was greeted with an equally warm and enthusiastic smile (two to be exact, as my host Mary’s daughter was home). My bags were whisked up to my room and a tour was given and was I hungry? Did I want tea? Or coffee? Juice? All of the above?

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Cease fast forward. Press play. A moment of static and then… I’m sitting in the loveliest, homiest kitchen I’ve ever seen in a little Victorian near Alexandra Park in Belfast, sipping tea and juice and eating homemade scones with fresh butter for supper. I’m alone and it’s quiet. In this moment I feel filthy from traveling through non-stop rain since Brooklyn, achy from bag-schlepping and drained from 28+ hours sleep free. I also feel, quite possibly, the most exquisitely civilized I’ve ever felt. I’m exhausted, but wrapped in a very welcome embrace, which makes tired feel good. Necessary. Part of a process of unpacking onself and becoming untired.

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And now, to rest and dream of what I want to do with the last day of 2013. How did I get so lucky?

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