It says something about Belfast’s troubled political past that the Northern Irish capital would rather be known for a shipwreck.
2012 marks the 100th anniversary of the much-heralded launch and subsequent spectacular sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic, the vessel that sold a zillion movie tickets. Belfast, home to the shipyards that built the behemoth, has been capitalizing on this claim to fame ever since — and in this centennial year, the mood is so celebratory it’s easy to forget the Titanic was actually a colossal failure.
Lately, while reading about other people’s travels, I’ve noticed a recurring phrase. It’s expressed in different ways, but with the same ominous sense of urgency, the gist of which is: “Get there before it’s too late.”
Or: “I give Bucharest another three years, max.” (Then what?) “Go to Olinda now, before it’s gone.” (To where?) “In five years, Apulia will be Tuscany.” (Heaven forfend!)
I ran into an Irishman in a Barcelona hair salon in February, and when I told him of my plan to visit his country for St. Patrick’s Day, he replied: “Oh, St. Patrick’s Day is a U.S. holiday — an Irish-American thing, really.”
Well, I felt like a rube. But then I remembered how, years ago, lots of smug people told me not to expect pizza in Italy before my first trip there, claiming the dish was an American invention (advice that, obviously, was way off base).
We all think we know Fort Lauderdale, a sunny winter escape as familiar to many of us as the Upper West Side.
Fort Lauderdale is the airport we fly into (Miami is strictly for international travel, and then only reluctantly). It’s the spring break of myth, the destination for Chinese food at Christmas with the grandparents. More recently, halted cranes and foreclosures have added an unsettling note to these palm-lined boulevards.
The urge to get away for a weekend may be primal, but New York’s sprawl can make it tough to find a true change of scene. A half-hour outside Los Angeles or San Francisco, you leave buildings behind for wild mountains or oceanfront cliffs. A half-hour out of Manhattan, and you’re still mired in traffic.
But with enough patience, I-95 is the conduit to a rustic New England adventure. With a terrific Jewish Film Festival, a Dégas exhibit and last-of-winter discounts, March is the perfect time to explore one of my longtime favorite cities — Portland, Me.