herald

Friday 14 December 2018

Literary tours to keep Belfast's tourists happy

THURSDAY Rolling Rs you might call it. The ferry from Roscoff to Rosslare is a stormy crossing.

We meet friends, relations and acquaintances, just to prove what a small place Ireland is, or at least its access services can be. The ferry is a gathering point for that retro class of holidaymaker: people with children.

Camping holidays in France can do four or five children. The reservation system in the travel agent office blows up if you have more than three children, so they end up on the ferry instead.

FRIDAY Happy landings in Rosslare and a saunter down the road ahead of the ferry traffic. Fast-track costs a tenner and the drive west, which is largely new to me, is stunning. Apart from the signage, it works.

SATURDAY Wedding bells for my cousin Mary and her Kiwi husband Andrea. The father of the bride speech is shorter than expected -- east Cork is unofficially the culinary capital of Ireland.

Barnabraw House hotel is an 18th-century farmhouse with the out-buildings converted into comfortable apartments, tight for space, but each a design wonder.

SUNDAY Went to the All Ireland, but Tipp's big-ticket performers did not.

MONDAY Belfast's Park Inn by Radisson is one of those nests of sparkling budget hotels that have grown up around the Europa and Ulster Hall, the old Golden Mile. The fish cakes and crab in the associated RGB restaurant are not up to scratch. Deane's Brasserie is across the road and the nightlife of Belfast around the corner. Despite the pretensions of the Cathedral Quarter and the big-audience events elsewhere, the Golden Mile still yields a nugget or two.

TUESDAY We have not had so many Belfast celebrity writers together since the launch of Patricia Craig's Belfast anthology in 1999, and Glenn Patterson was a gracious host at the Ulster Hall as the Belfast literary tours and app is launched. Michael Longley, as always, is the daddy of the night, gentle and kind as he talked to his young fans.

The females are the star performers, Leontia Flynn's poem The Superser and Sinead Morrissey's astonishing trio of poems. Belfast's women have out-performed the men in many fields -- they have now taken the initiative in poetry.

WEDNESDAY We have many cruise ships in Dublin, three overnight last night for instance, but this is different. Azamara Cruise Line are bringing 680 passengers from around the world to embark on their cruise from here. Azamara CEO Larry Pimental says: "Dublin has the air access, the quality hotels and people like coming here."

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