For once in all our bike touring days, we didn't have a plan for what we would do today. In fact, after our later than usual breakfast at 9 AM, we went back upstairs and straight to bed. Neil was deep in the throes of his cold and was soon fast asleep, and Jess took the advantage of the free time to read a book and catch up on some trip notes. What a luxury, one that neither of us had experienced in a while, and we were better for just resting and taking the day off until the early afternoon.
As mentioned previously, there was a severe lack of bike shops in Enniskillen, and generally in Northern Ireland so far, save for Chain Reaction and a few small operations staying alive by the skin of their teeth. In fact, a quick Google search of "bike shops in Northern Ireland" shows their existence primarily in the eastern part of the country - obviously the bits we haven't ridden through yet. This proved to be troublesome as we set out to purchase a repair kit for our ripped inner tubes and reached one dead end after another. We just didn't get it. Where had the other cyclists we had met on the road purchased their stuff? It was a bit of a culture shock for us – where we live, there are a handful of good bike shops within a short walk, and inner tubes can be bought at any hour of the day or night from a vending machine. Online bike stores are great, but it's hard to roll into one for a quick repair when you need it.
Jess had seen a "bike section" in the Poundland at the shopping centre yesterday, and by Sunday afternoon it was starting to look like our best hope. Yes, it was that bad. But lo, we found a puncture repair kit with all the necessary patches, rubber cement and sandpaper, for the entirely unsurprising cost of one pound. One quick tinker at the Tirconaill later, our tubes were patched and we were ready to ride fearlessly into our longest stretch of the trip.
We took Samson for a test run into the city centre, and as we parked in front of the bank, were approached by an old couple who gestured excitedly.
"We saw youse last night racing down the street! Wow, you were flying!"
"Aye," laughed Neil, "we were late for dinner."
After asking where we came from, we learned that they too had visited Berlin back when the wall was still up. The old man was vague with the details of why exactly they had visited, but his wife cheerfully gave us the full story of his brother who had worked at the British embassy there at the time. Once the old man had established we weren't going to react adversely to this news (Northern Ireland is a neverending tightrope when it comes to talking to strangers), he visibly relaxed and spoke freely to us about their experiences there.
People here are still careful about revealing too much too soon. It's a habit born out of years of never knowing quite who you're speaking to, and even after many years away, old habits still die hard for Neil. On the positive side, people from this part of the world tend to be incredibly good at reading the intentions of others, knowing when they can and can't be trusted.
A lazy Sunday pottering about the town was just what we needed. We took a walk by the lake and spent a quiet afternoon at the Crowe's Nest Bar reading the Sunday papers, before heading over to our dinner reservation at Café Merlot. Hidden behind Blakes of the Hollow, it is a cozy underground place with dim lighting and pillars that make you feel like you're in a wine cellar. It was a quiet night with very good food and ambiance, save for the horrid group we had the misfortune of being seated next to, who spent the entire evening fussing about everything. One person didn't like cheese and another didn't like blue cheese. Yet another only wanted "English mustard", not the "regular" mustard that us commoners eat. By the end of our meal, Jess's eyes were in danger of rolling out of her head altogether. What is it with people complaining about mindless shite like that? They should go cycling through Northern Ireland on a tandem without its lowest three gears and find something real to moan about.
Finally, we popped next door for one last beer and a final game of cards at our beloved Blakes of the Hollow. By this point nobody was left in town except the locals, so we were able to procure a snug* and sit in peace whilst sipping our beers. To the tunes of Van Morrison, we reminisced on how quickly three days in Enniskillen had flown by, and mentally prepared ourselves for the remaining five stages of our trip. No more rest days for us now, it's straight to Belfast from here.
*Snug - British speak for a small, cozy public room in a pub or inn.