We were absolutely destroyed when we arrived at the doorstep of the Phoenix Bed and Breakfast.
It was 5:30 PM and the sun was on the wane. Having crossed the Foyle and ascended the other side of its valley, our final climb of the day was done. We were starting to snap at each other over mundane things like "breathing too loudly" and "not braking hard enough". As in Burma, that's when we knew that we needed to get off the bike and rest.
After waiting a few minutes, Pat, the friendly proprietor, rolled up and helped us carry Samson through the tiny hallway past the parlour into the kitchen. The scene that unfolded looked something like this:
Once it was safely tucked away in a corner, Pat took us to our room. We got the last available double, which for £75 per night got us a humble but comfy berth with a washbasin and desk, a separate bathroom down the hall which was only for our use, and breakfast each morning. It was small and cheerful, and would do us well for the two nights we'd be staying in Derry which included our first real rest day. If you're looking for a quiet residence that's only a five minute walk away from the hubbub of the main city, you'd hardly do better than to stay here.
Armed with dinner tips from Pat, we made our way down Bishop Street and walked through the gates of Old Derry City.
Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland behind Belfast (and the fourth largest in Ireland overall), and was first developed during the medieval era. The first thing you notice about it is the amount of architecture and historic landmarks that exist within the city walls. It is the only completely intact walled city in Ireland and is amazingly preserved given the amount of attacks it has endured, rendering it the most complete of its kind in Europe. The second you walk through Bishop's Gate, you are besieged (excuse the pun) by a bevy of buildings which have stood the test of time.
It was eerily silent and devoid of foot traffic as we walked further along the main road, which isn't really what you'd expect from a second city. But as we made our way past The Diamond War Memorial (a dedication to Derry citizens who lost their lives serving in World War I) in the centre of town, things started to pick up again. Like in Portrush, we found that the majority of activity sequesters itself around a few streets near the river on a weekday evening. So Pat's dinner recommendation to go to The Fitzroy made sense, as nothing else really looked open.
Unfortunately, it looked like everyone else in town was looking to take advantage of its weeknight "50% off everything!" deal and it was completely full. So we went to The Bentley Bar right across the street. It's a labyrinth, this place, seemingly cobbled together from several separate buildings. One wrong turn and you find yourself in what looks like a go-go bar, complete with pink walls and blinking table tops.
Luckily, a staff member saw our confused faces and upon hearing us say "Food", took us to where we had to go. We were able to get a seat (and also saw many of our fellow castoffs who tried to get into the Fitzroy) and enjoy our pub dinner whilst watching football on the TV. Jess was introduced to a UK classic called Peri Peri Chicken, a dish with Portuguese spices which is popular amongst the millennial dating crowd at Nando's (yet another UK shoutout). The food here was nothing to write home about, but as ever we were famished, and the portions were generous.
Afterwards, we made our way back to the B&B for a very early night. Tomorrow's agenda for our first rest day of the trip entails visiting the pharmacy for some hardcore cold medicine that you can't get in Germany, plus a tour of the Bogside.