--- DAY 41 ---
We knew there was an off-of-roads bike path almost all the way to Belfast but didn't know the best way to intersect or enter this route. Edwin, our warmshowers host, helped us figure this out the night before; he showed me the town we would need to route to and then the point in that town that would be most efficient for connecting to the path. The path was an old towpath for a canal system that ran from Lough Neagh to Belfast. The path was used by mules to pull coal by barge from a mine across the Neagh all the way to the hungry customer of Belfast. What this route added for in distance was made up by its complete lack of any hills...we were following a canal after all.
A few segments required us to enter roadways and navigate off-canal routes through town centers, but a majority of the day was spent next to the water. The routes are all numbered with the UK's National Cycle Route numbers so theoretically the route should be navigable using the turn by turn signs provided on the path. Unfortunately there are points where these signs visibility is lackluster due to vandalism, poor location, or who knows what. Either way we had a few occasions where we either had to backtrack or cross navigate back to the path.
Without to much trouble, we completed our 30 mile day to wind up at our planned accommodation in Belfast - a cost effective, converted B&B town home operated by a few Portuguese men. The manager, Joa, was extremely helpful and welcoming. The place was old and tired but had everything we wanted, especially alongside the ideal location near the center of Belfast - the guys were making it work. We went out that evening and enjoyed a healthy portioned and cost effective meal at a local 'diner' adding milkshakes for the walk home - it was the perfect find fitting the stereotype of joints near a college campus. With a good place to ditch the bikes (the B&B), we would spend the next full day exploring the town by foot.
--- DAY 42 ---
As a day off deserves, we started slow with the plan to go explore the nearby municipal gardens and museum. A refreshing part of their local exhibitions is that they have been entirely free to enter with boxes scattered about encouraging donations; from the looks of the contents of these boxes, this method works well - human nature seems to prefer charity over forced fees. These exhibits were also not lacking; they showed obvious thought, planning, and execution to deliver an effective presentation to the public. All very impressive. So impressive that we spent the remainder of our morning and early afternoon wondering these two sites.
From there it was time to hunt down some calories, eating at a restaurant with a focus on local micro-brews. They had a 'brew bot' in their entrance. It was a glorified box that they claimed self sufficiently made micro-brews...there first batch was due in a few days so we didn't get to check the quality of the bot beer. Interesting thing to see though; created and developed in Belfast - we were a bit far to go check out the pub of the Brew Bot owners where all served beer was from bots. With the milk shake joint on the way home we stopped through to get some more SUPER calories. With the day sufficiently spent with activity, we headed back to the beds to get some needed R&R.
First big travel day by ferry set for Day 43.