“The haze of fatigue seemed to act as a magnifying glass, exaggerating tiny details and sensations.”
-Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber
The ebbs and flows of any vacation are a fascinating concept. You spend weeks struggling to sleep for all the excitement you feel about your upcoming trip and yet, about halfway through, there seems to occur an inevitable lull in energy where all you want to do is curl up and relax – two things you could have easily done back at home.
Waking up to the cold, clear light of the Glasgow morning, Kristen and I did not have much time to contemplate how exhausted we were from the exertions of the night before. Instead, we hurriedly threw our PJs into our bags and hopped out the door of the hotel to head back to the bus station. This time, we had a short enough ride ahead of us. We were to be bus bound again, temporarily, on the way to the ferry port where a boat was waiting to whisk us away to a new land: Northern Ireland.
The whole morning was certainly spent in a haze of fatigue and, in fact, the things that remain with me even today are the tiny odd details – things I had no reason to fixate on or to remember in particular. I remember a little girl waiting for her parents to secure their tickets to the ferry, holding on to a teddy bear half her size as if it was her personal lifesaver. I remember the elderly European (accent indistinguishable) couple trying to explain to the staff member at the desk that they wanted two tickets but only one of them a return ticket, the woman’s head wrapped in a shawl against the morning chill. And I remember how thrilled Kristen and I were upon alighting the ship to find that though our tickets were none-too-expensive, they afforded us a beautiful booth below decks, complete with a table to ourselves, graced by a lovely view of the water we were about to cross.
Once we were settled in our seats, though I am sure the ship was in fact filled to the brim with enough excitement to set one’s head spinning, we actually found a sense of calm in our little corner. Nearby was a bar that served both food and drink and we managed to set up a nice little lunch for ourselves as we made ourselves comfortable for the 2 hour trip across the water. Compared to the cramped conditions of the bus rides we had become accustomed to, this was luxury indeed!
Our sense of peace however was rudely interrupted upon our arrival in Belfast by the realization that we had once again miscalculated how long it would take to get from the arrival point to the downtown core and from there to our hostel. In fact, we walked around aimlessly for a little while before finally coming to the conclusion that there may not even be a way to get from where the ship was moored to the city proper on foot. From what we could see, there wasn’t exactly any sort of walkway in sight (please, someone correct me if I am wrong in this…. for posterity’s sake). Everyone else seemed to be hopping into some kind of car, be it owned or for hire, and we did not see a single other person attempting to traipse away on foot. Again, in keeping with the odd details that stick out to me in my mind’s eye some 5 years later, I remember a lot of tall chain-link fences and “do not enter” signs pretty much everywhere we looked. Safety precautions? Or ways to rub lack of preparation in foreigner’s faces?
At any rate, still hazy with exhaustion despite the respite of the easy journey, Kristen and I decided to suck it up and spend some of what was now our dwindling reserves of cash to take a cab in to town. As far as we were concerned, there was no way we were getting anywhere fast with our brains in the condition they were in. On a full night’s sleep and complete energy reserve, the sky is the limit when the Gurski sisters put their heads together. In the midst of the fog of fatigue, we were all but useless and were not willing to use up the last of our mental energies on finding a solution (aka walking somehow out of the shipyard) that may not even exist.
We found ourselves a regular cab to take us into town (not one of those fancy black-cab tours that I am still sorry we did not embark upon), and had the brilliance of our decision confirmed when it took what seemed like ages to arrive at our hostel. The walk would have made our next confrontation with our less-than-ideal, hastily devised itinerary decidedly unbearable.
Upon checking in to our hostel, we were shown to the room we had booked for an incredibly reasonable price. Turns out, though I am sure we had glanced at the details when we booked it back in Scotland – bear in mind we didn’t plan the whole trip out at the beginning, we did it on the go – we had gotten the room for so cheap because it was a 10-bed mixed dorm.
Now, I have stayed in my fair share of large dorm rooms, either all female or mixed, in the course of my travels. In fact, I believe when I traveled to Ireland only a year earlier for a research trip for my Master’s degree, I stayed in an 8-bed mixed dorm in order to save some money. However, when you are exhausted and desperately craving a peaceful, full-night’s sleep to recharge for the second half of your trip, a room filled with 8 snoring strangers is not exactly what you are looking for. To this day, I am not sure why we didn’t just up and leave to find other accommodations. I blame the aforementioned fatigue.
Suffice it to say, upon discovering what kind of night we most likely had in store (and yes, before you ask, all the other beds were indeed booked), we did not get up to much else despite it being a strikingly beautiful day in a city I would very much like to get to know better.
In order to avoid leaving you with yet another gloomy post about exhaustion (and I promise, this is the last one for a while), I will say that the Botanic Gardens – which happened to be a stone’s throw from our hostel – were absolutely stunning.
If I took anything from writing and reviewing the last two posts, it may be that I have outgrown the hectic pace of my former forays into European travel. I speak from experience when I say that neither Glasgow nor Belfast are best viewed through a haze of fatigue, no matter how interesting the strange magnified details are in hindsight.
Next post is cheerier, I promise! In fact, it may take my prose to new heights… *hint hint*.
And, remember, life is beautiful. Even in a room of snoring strangers.