A Grand Day Out to Newtownards

We were told at semester start that Declan didn’t need a PE kit at Lagan, given he was just there for the semester. But he came home last Monday and announced that he was being picked to play in Thursday’s football match and did need a kit—immediately.

Declan in his Lagan College football kit.
Declan in his football kit.

Unlike the school uniform, which could be purchased in at least three places in Belfast, there was only one outlet for the PE kit, 12 miles east of Belfast in Newtownards (pronounced Newton-ards). A quick search of bus routes showed that it would take 75 minutes and two busses to get to Newtownards, then the same amount of time and busses to get back.

So I asked a family friend, Eileen, if she would kindly drive me. Eileen had been instrumental in hooking Declan up with a local academy football team, even driving him to the first practice, so she was happy to help.

Detour to Ikea

We set a plan for Wednesday, but on Tuesday night, the third of six Ikea bowls we purchased in early January failed, so I asked if we could go to Ikea, too. Eileen invited another family friend, Joanna, so we set off on Wednesday morning, first to Ikea. The Ikea customer service rep was happy to replace the bowls while Eileen and Joanna shopped the scratch-and-dent furniture and purchased a few items.

The route to Newtownards took us past the Stormont Estate, where the Northern Ireland Assembly meets, so we took a quick detour to see Stormont and Stormont Castle.

Upon arrival in Newtownards, we quickly bought the kit and had a quick meal at Haptik, a local coffee shop. I had one of the weirdest-sounding but greatest-tasting brunch dishes—waffles and maple syrup topped by a fried egg, with bacon pieces sprinkled around the plate. It also had sesame seeds sprinkled on top. I did everything but lick the plate afterward.

Garden center? No shit.

Eileen warned me in advance there would be a garden shop involved, but fortunately not the manure she had previously mentioned. Walkers Seeds & Paints is also in the city centre, but we drove there because Eileen sensed there was a big shopping trip ahead. She wasn’t kidding.

What a great, old-fashioned store, full of things a gardener needs as well as many things a gardener didn’t know he needed until seeing them. Oh yeah, and paint, too. I saw nearly two dozen varieties of seed potatoes and hadn’t realized before there were so many. I knew the Irish liked their potatoes, but two dozen kinds?

Half a day after we started, we arrived back in Belfast, lighter of wallet but fuller in friendship. And that’s the best part of a grand day out.

P.S. Declan did play in the match, and his team won.

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