The train was absolutely packed. There were so many people standing that the conductor was not able to make his way through the train to collect fares. I'd imagine NIR lost a few pounds today. But not through any fault of mine. I purchased my (free) ticket at Botanic. It's easy-peasy being honest when honesty comes without a price tag.
I met a very pleasant lady on the train. Turned out she was a fellow SmartPass holder although I'd have guessed her to be at least 15 years too young for it. We chatted about the general delightfulness of free travel and she told me this story. A retired couple she knew from the Castlerock area went for a trip on the train every day! Apparently it got them out of the house and saved them a fortune on central heating. Personally, I don't think I'd enjoy it so much if I did it every day.
Once on Botanic Avenue I headed towards the Ormeau Road and the Asia Supermarket. Non-descript from the outside, it is a hive of activity inside. The staff are very helpful. One young woman, I think she may have been Polish, went out of her way to find me gochugaru. My recipe (from The Guardian) recommended that this could be sourced online. Not a-tall! Just head over to the Ormeau Road. Asia Supermarket is also a great place to get woks, fryers, knives and other kitchen equipment at very reasonable prices.
After finishing my business in the Asia Supermarket I took a stroll along the Stranmillis Embankment past the Holylands, scene of a famous St. Patrick's Day riot in 2009. I think I may be related to at least one of the rioters but, as I have over 50 first cousins, around 150 first cousins, once removed and about 17 million second and third cousins, it would be hard not to find kin among them. Anyway they were all well educated people so nothing to be ashamed of.*
I then strolled through the Botanic Gardens and called into the Ulster Museum. I didn't stay long as it was mid-term break and far too many over-excited children that I wasn't related to. As far as I know anyway.
Portrait of Seamus Heaney by Barry McGuire
Peter Edward's painting of Michael Longley
Then couldn't resist a quick peek into the Palm House where I saw a glorious display of highly scented hyacinth interspersed with cyclamen and cineraria.
Then a quick bowl of soup and a coffee at The Little Cupcake Cafe** and it was time for the train home. I arrived in Cullybackey to a minor drama. Our 14 year-old godson was AWOL in Ballymena and there was an irate (and worried) parent in Antrim. It all worked out. He safe. He grounded.
All in all a very good day out.
* Heavy irony.
** I had a cupcake too.