I am always glad to be living in Belfast. Sometimes I despair about the mentality of some of my fellow countrymen but in general I love this city. And there are some days when I remember again how lovely a wee place it really can be. Today was one such day.
The Yorkshireman and I went for a bit of a meander up around Botanic Avenue, our plan ostensibly being to track down suitable attire for some upcoming events that require costumes (don't ask - further details to be revealed after the fact, preferably not with photographic evidence of our shame). We didn't have much luck on the clothing front but it was a beautiful day to be out and about. The sun was shining and people were laughing and chatting as they took a leisurely stroll or sipped their coffee out on the pavements, enjoying the vague warmth of the day. It was a day to be outside and a day to be happy. Spring was in the air!
I've always liked Botanic Avenue. Being near Queens University it has developed into somewhat of a students village, with charity shops and cafés in abundance. I may not be a student any more but I have retained my love for cafés and quirky little restaurants and I'm always up for a bargain in the form of pre-owned clothing for £3.99, so it's my kinda place! One of my favourite restaurants, Café Renoir, is on Botanic and I've probably spent far more money than I should have in the Starbucks there. However there are still a lot of places we passed by today that I keep meaning to try, for example The Other Place, Lee Garden and Maggie Mays.
I did tick one "must try" food establishment off my list today though. It didn't appear on the scene until well after I'd left uni but for the last year or so I've kept coming across reviews, seemingly mainly from students, who seem addicted to its wares. I am of course referring to Boojum. There aren't really many Mexican restaurants in Belfast but I love anything spicy and have always enjoyed the odd fajita so I was keen to give it a try. It was a toss-up between the one on Botanic Avenue or the newer one on Chichester Street, but since we were going to be in the area anyway we thought it best to try the original.
At first glance it just looks like a takeaway place but further investigation reveals limited seating in the back. It's pretty much identical to American chain Chipotle but if you've never had the pleasure to experience this first hand, just imagine a Mexican version of Subway and you've pretty much got the idea. First you choose what kind of base you want (e.g. burrito, tacos, salad, etc), then you choose what meat (if any) you want, and then it's on to the extras like salsa, guacamole, cheese and sour cream.
You may think that a meal that fits into a tortilla wrap isn't exactly going to be a huge but I found myself gaping with disbelief as the lady behind the counter finished creating my fajita burrito by expertly squishing a veritable mound of food into a kind of tortilla-coated ball of wonder. Having underestimated the ball's size, I had also ordered a side of tortilla chips with guacamole. For £2 I was expecting a generous handful of chips with my little tub of guac' but instead I got an entire trayful of them. Yikes! The Yorkshireman opted for a fajita burrito as well, his with extra jalapeños (because he's a macho macho man).
We both quite enjoyed our balls o' food, although we each thought that they could have been a little hotter, even with the jalapeños. On the way out I discovered some jalapeño hot sauce by the napkins and plastic cutlery and sampled some with one of my never-ended pile of tortilla chips. It was the perfect hotness so I'll definitely be adding that on my next visit. I have to say I'm not sure it's quite as addictive as some people seem to think but it's definitely a tasty enough feast for the price (the most expensive option is £5.25) and it's fairly nutritious compared to a lot of other budget options. I'd give it a 3.5/5 I think, with potential to move up to a 4 with the addition of the hot sauce.
And then it was back out into the sunshine to walk it all off. We never did find any clothing suitable for our costumes unfortunately but I really enjoyed our little foray up Botanic today. It was just so lively and I love that feeling of being part of the pulse of the city. Everyone is milling around with their own thoughts, plans and objectives but yet on a day where the sun is shining down on everyone, especially after months of snow, rain, greyness and darkness, there is a feeling of unity. Everybody is enjoying the lovely weather together and there is a wonderful atmosphere of community and optimism. Strangers smile at one another instead of charging past with their heads down, intent on getting where they're headed as soon as possible. When the sun is shining, people take the time to look around and realise that this place and its people are quite nice actually. Long may it continue!