44 hours in Belfast
It was a very strange trip.
On Monday, Scott and I woke up very early and drove to the airport. We had a friend staying to watch over Winter while we were gone (thank you thank you thank you, Sally) and she took Winter to school since we were leaving too early. Despite the traffic delaying us, we still got to the airport with more than enough time to park the car and get ourselves through to the gate.
The flight from LA to Chicago was almost a disaster as my seat was in between two large not overly friendly men, with Scott being seated in the middle of the other side of the same row. Full flight. Luckily, the window seat next to Scott didn't show, so I got to sit next to Scott after all. The flight itself was uneventful.
I would say that the flight from Chicago to Dublin was uneventful as well, but I might be wrong. See, as we were about to land, someone came on the loudspeaker to confirm that we absolutely had our seat belts on and that we knew where the exits were. I've never had that happen before. This was as we were about to touchdown. When the plane safely touched down the people in the front of the plane all applauded. I have no idea if they knew something we didn't, or what. Whatever. We were fine. And early.
Because we were early, we got to the airport and our ride wasn't there yet.
I'm sure most of you reading know this already, but I didn't (I'm very geographically impaired) so, just in case... Dublin (where we landed) is in Ireland, which is part of the European Union. Belfast (our destination) is in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is under British rule. Because of this, in Dublin the currency is the Euro. In Belfast the currency is the British pound. Before we left LA, Scott exchanged some money so that we would have pounds when we got where we were going. While we were waiting at the Dublin airport, however, and hoping our ride would show up, we went to get some soda at one of the gift shops. This is where my ridiculous habit of having every currency that we've collected, payed off. I had the euros to buy us what we needed. I was secretly very proud of this (and again later, in Belfast, when Scott forgot to actually give me any of the pounds he'd gotten, but I had the pounds to pay for the few things I bought).
Our ride did show up eventually and drove us the ninety minutes to Belfast. I enjoyed the drive. It was the only glimpse of either Irelands' scenery we were going to get. Scott, who had slept much of the plane ride (I'd managed a few hours), slept most of the car ride as well. We arrived at our hotel about 22 hours after we had left our home. (Something I learned: there is no longer a big border crossing between the two countries. There is a sign that tells you you've crossed-I think, I missed it both times-but the way you know for sure which country you're in: Ireland has two official languages, so all signs in Ireland have both Irish and English. In Northern Ireland, it's English only)
It was around noonish at this point. The hotel had a bath. I was happy. And then I was clean.
Rory, who is responsible for Rory's Story Cubes, had invited us to lunch, and with a bit of fumbling, we managed to connect. He took us to a nearby adorable restaurant where we had good food and great conversation. It was lovely. He then showed us around to some of the places we were going to need to get to for the conference that Scott was speaking at.
After our lunch and tour and goodbyes to Rory, Scott and I went and found our host to let him know we had made it. Then it was off to the theatre that Scott was going to be talking in the next night so we could see Erik Spiekermann talk about font design. The talk was very interesting. Unfortunately my jet lag got the best of me for some of it, and I found myself missing bits of the talk here and there, but what I caught, I enjoyed.
When the talk was over, Scott and I went off to a pub where Jesse Thorn was having a meet-and-greet. Lots of fun listening to his stories. The only problem was that it was now pretty late, and Scott and I were in need of food again (lunch had been hours earlier). We'd been told that the pub had good food, but it was late enough that they'd stopped serving, which left us hungry. At around 11pm we said our goodbyes and went to our hotel where the restaurant was still serving dinner! Yay! It was pretty late by the time we were done, and we just crashed, intending to get up early the next morning to do some sightseeing.
I think it was after 11am when we finally woke up. Since we'd missed the hotel breakfast we decided to go to where the conference was going on and seeing what was up. What was up was a lot of people in a room doing things that looked interesting, but wasn't the kind of thing that we could watch or join in on.
We had found out the day before that at that very venue, which was a large theatre on the waterfront (the conference was using a workshop room in the building) that John Barrowman was performing that night. After much deliberation I decided that it was really okay if I didn't see Scott's talk this time. I had just seen it the previous week, and it's not like I haven't seen him talk hundreds of times. So I bought tickets to see JB's show that night. Because I was alone I was able to get a third row seat. I was at the far end of the row, but, hey Third Row!
But the show comes later. At this point in the narrative I've just bought the ticket.
From the theatre, Scott and I went to explore the town and get some food. We didn't really make it too far. There was a mall-like thing (collection of stores, with a roof sort of over part of it, it was odd) and they had a Wagamama which some friends of mine had introduced us when we were last in London. Mmmmm good. I highly recommend them. It made for a tasty, though strange breakfast.
After food we did some wandering through the mall, but then it started to pour (it was overcast or dark for most of our entire stay). We had about two hours before Scott needed to be at the theatre, and it was pouring, so sightseeing seemed out. There was a movie theatre in the mall, and I suggested that we check it out. Whenever we go out of the country we think about going to movies and then never do. When you have a limited time somewhere, spending it seeing a movie that you can see at home, seems like a bad use of time. But, in this case, our alternative was to hang out in the hotel for a few hours, so we figured we would check what was there and the times. I thought it would be a cool idea, but since we had such a narrow window, I didn't think we would have luck.
Wow, was I wrong. It turns out, Tintin opened there weeks ago (it's not opening here until next month!), and there was a showing just about to start (we missed most of the pre-show stuff).
I really liked the movie. It's co-written by Steven Moffat and Edgar Wright (and Joe Cornish, who I don't know). Scott didn't like it as much as I did, but I think that was for two reasons: 1) he knows the comics better than I do, so he's more apt to be disappointed. 2) He clearly didn't catch everything. There was one moment that I loved, it was a throwaway thing, but it cracked me up. I heard nothing from Scott. Last night I asked him if he'd noticed it, and he admitted that he'd missed it completely. I'm blaming jet-lag. The movie is fun, funny, and I loved the voices. It has a bit of that uncanny valley stuff going for it (it's 3-D computer graphic animation), but it didn't bother me all that much. There are lots of little in joke types of things. I get the feeling that I'll pick up all sorts of things when I see it again with the kids, when it opens here in the states.
And I will see it again when it opens in the states. So, on the Ivy scale: Definitely one to see again. It might not be for everyone. I figure if you like the trailer, you'll like the movie.
After the movie we were off to Scott's talk. When I got there, Scott introduced me to the guys who are responsible for the Grimace Project and we started talking about applications of the project to people with Asperger Syndrome. They would like to improve it for people who need it, but they don't know what's needed. If you or anyone you know is or would like to use it that way and would like to give them pointers, then please let me know, and I can get you in touch with each other. They would love to have the input.
I hung out to watch the beginning of Scott's talk (standing room only crowd) and then left to go see John Barrowman (as I was leaving there were more people on their way in. Talk about a full house!).
I had a great time at the concert. JB has gobs of personality and just owns the stage. The music was mostly stuff from my childhood, some I loved, some I hated, but he pulled it all off. He had four back up dancers/singers and an eight piece band. There was a woman who was very talented that did some songs so that JB could take a break mid show. The show ran almost three hours with a twenty minute interval so breaks were needed. He flirted with everyone. The band, the back up singers the guest, the audience, everyone. The audience was mostly women with a few gay men and some spouses who looked somewhat confused. The old ladies cracked me up, they were having a blast. I don't know that the audience would've been the same in the states.
I was proud that there were all sorts of things that he talked about or songs that he sung that I knew for all sorts of different reasons. The show was geared for a British crowd and I think many Americans would've not gotten a bunch of things. And he played a song (actually, I think his back up singers might have sung it) that I love love love. I didn't know it came from Eurovision, I know and love it because I lived in London for a year when it was a hit, and it was great to hear it again, and to be among people who know this silly song that I loved! Yay my youth! He talked about being at ComicCon, and I was good and resisted shouting at the stage that I had been there.
I had a blast. I'm really glad I went.
When the concert was over, Scott was waiting outside for me. (he worries about me being alone in unfamiliar places late at night. There's no need for him to, but it's sweet, so...) We went back to the pub where the conference was having their pub quiz. We stayed for a bit, said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel, realizing that it was now after midnight and we'd only had the one meal. The hotel restaurant is open late, but not that late. But they do have room service all night. I had cheese on toast for dinner. It was the best food I'd eaten possibly all year. Oh my god was that good. Irish cheddar is a favorite of mine (second only to swiss) and it was on an english muffin (a real english muffin, the kind without nooks and crannies). So. Very. Good.
And that was our trip to Belfast. The next morning we got up very early, had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, a car got us and drove us the ninety minutes to the airport where we hung out until our flight. I bought jelly babies and some chocolate for the girls, and we came home.
When we got home Winter was watching episodes of the TV show Soap (I had introduced it to her right before we left, and now she's obsessed) and I joined her for a bit. We finally went to bed at about 1:30am our time. I hadn't slept more than ten or fifteen minutes in the last 30 hours. I went to bed and woke up less than four hours later so that I could pick up Sky who was bussing in from school for the weekend.
I spent a substantial part of the weekend driving Sky places. But I did manage to get to see two movies. One with a friend, and one with Scott and Sky.
On Saturday, I met up with my friend Theresa who I don't see very often, and we did dinner and a movie. We went to see Immortals which was about what I expected it to be. Not a good movie by any standard, but I had fun. It was a bit too violent for me. There's a tendency these days to make movies ultra-violent because they can. I wish they wouldn't. Though I enjoyed it in many ways and I'm glad I saw it, I don't really need to see it again. If there had been less violence, that opinion might be different. It's definitely on the forgettable list. As in, I'm sure that if you asked me next year at this time if I'd seen the movie, I'm likely to not remember, and if I remember that I've seen it, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you anything about it. But while watching, I had fun (well, except for all the parts I couldn't look at).
Yesterday, Scott, Sky and I went to see Like Crazy. I liked it, I guess. I love Anton Yelchin, he's always awesome. And it amused me how there were three different actors in the movie from three different fandoms that I'm currently obsessed with (Yelchin is in the new Star Trek movies, the actress who played Raven in the new X-Men movie, and the actress who is River Song from the recent Dr. Who were all in the movie). It was a rather melancholy movie and in the end I realized that there was no ending that could make me feel good about the whole thing. I guess the one they picked was as good as any. I left feeling unsettled. The camera work played a part in that as well. We were always really close to everyone. I had no sense of where anything was. I really noticed it. Enough that it took me out of the movie. I spent much of time wishing the camera would pull back and show us the whole picture, instead of paying attention to what was happening with the characters on the screen. Sky liked it much more than I did. Not sure where Scott fell. I know he didn't like it nearly as much as Sky.
Glad I saw it. Don't need to see it again. Great cast.
And there you have my last week. It was a strange trip overseas, but I had a great time. I saw a movie and a concert that I loved and couldn't see here (well, I'll see the movie here, but not for several weeks). I met cool people. There was serendipity. There was magic. I might not remember that these things all happened in Belfast, but I will remember that all these things happened. One day Scott and I will go back to Belfast for more than a day, and we'll do the things we thought we were going to do, or didn't have the time to do this time.
I appreciated the trip so much more during the weekend when I spent most of my time making sure that other people were happy (not the movie parts of the weekend, the rest of it) and driving driving driving.
Last night Sky went back to school. Winter is in school for this week then she has all of next week off. Life continues to be very busy.
Every now and again, it gets strange and wonderful and awesome. I might not be online as much as I'd like to be. And sometimes life is all about doing for others and not having a moment for myself. But life feels worth living when the magic happens and you're in the right place at the right time to do something you hadn't planned on doing and it's all just...magic.