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    • Day 4

      Myths and Legends

      June 5, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

      Another packed day. Sunshine has prevailed all day, so we have been taking advantage of that. A drive through the Catholic neighborhood in Belfast. Saw the Sinn Fein headquarters and a tribute to Bobbie Sands before heading out of town. The Dark Hedges were impressive beech trees with winding branches, made famous in The Game of Thrones. Next was Carrick a Rede Rope bridge. Long hike down to the bridge and long line to wait to cross but worth it - one of our bucket list items. Weather was perfect so no excuse! Rounded out the afternoon with a hike at Giant’s Causeway. Crazy crowded but our driver, Pat, got us in the parking area. Several hundred people joined us, learning the legend of Finn MacCool. Pictures can’t capture the beauty. Ended the day at our next stop in Donegal. The Mill Park Hotel after a drive around Derry and a walk across the Peace Bridge.Read more

    • Day 10

      Belfast Vol. 2!

      August 24, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

      We all woke up early today. Penny and Amy got coffee + pastries from a local cafe and after breakfast Ryan went on a run to the city center. (He and David ran together in Norwich, and he says he wants to keep it up.) We did some laundry and read our books for a while before heading out for the day. We walked for a few miles along the waterfront before stopping for a quick bite to eat at a cafe. Then we went to the Titanic museum which was incredible. Intricate and engaging, the exhibit was totally immersive. We all had a lovely time. After that we stopped at a pub (but Penny wasn’t allowed in), so got some drinks to enjoy outside. Once we walked back to the house, we had some quiet time before going out for a delicious dinner at the Errigle Inn. We shopped for breakfast and lunch for Friday, then came home to retire for the night.Read more

    • Day 9


      August 23, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 15 °C

      Today was a busy travel day for us. We said our goodbyes early in the morning and hopped on the train from Cambridge to London. We took the Underground to our previous flat where we had stored our bags. Next, we got back on the Underground to our Heathrow terminal. (The Elizabeth line is incredibly nice.) After that we checked our bags and had a bit of trouble in security, but proceeded onward. We stopped for some late lunch and then sat in the terminal for just under 2 hours. Once we boarded our flight, it took about an hour and a half to get to Belfast. We took a taxi to our airbnb and explored the town, then finally ended the night with food from Tesco and Derry Girls.Read more

    • Day 11

      Belfast Vol. 3!

      August 25, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

      We had quite the busy day!! We did a black cab tour of the causeway and Belfast. Our tour driver, Paddy, picked us up at 8:30. A quick note on him: a Belfast native, he founded his tour company here. He was lovely to us but not completely unbiased like he claimed to be. When someone lives through something like the troubles here, they tend to have opinions that shine through. Anyway, we started off up at the rope bridge right on the coast about an hour north of the city. From there, we headed towards Giant’s Causeway to climb the rocks. After spending approximately 4 hours up North, we came back to Belfast for our mural tour. Next we got dropped off in the city center for drinks, and then stopped to pick up a pizza at Greens Pizza on the way home. We spent our evening relaxing after our long day. (Author’s note: this post is long but not incredibly detailed because the photos show more than the words.)Read more

    • Day 94

      98ème étape ~ Belfast

      November 4, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

      Retour à Belfast suite à un changement de planning.
      Nous allons visiter le musée gratuit Ulster Museum.
      Ce n’était pas une visite très passionnante.
      Nous avons ensuite profité de notre dernière journée en lrlande pour boire un cidre et une guiness. 🍻Read more

    • Day 23

      Belfast: Most importantly Lord Kelvin

      September 19, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ 🌧 15 °C

      Last week, our group took a day trip to Belfast. This is where the Titanic was built so we went to the Titanic Museum there. It was pretty cool. Sarah, Mitchell, and I enjoyed breakfast and coffee at a cute little place. We also went by Queens University and ended up going to a cookout with some of the students. That was super fun and gave us the chance to meet some local students our age. Glad we happened upon it! Most importantly, I saw a statue of Lord Kelvin who created the absolute temperature scale (ah chemistry hehehe). I sent a picture to all my chem professors, and they loved it. I’m in London now and will update soon!!Read more

    • Day 86


      July 8, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ☁️ 16 °C

      Today was a travel day to Belfast as we start to wind down our European journey with eight nights to go.

      Rather than taking a direct route, we decided to check out a few of the many Game of Thrones film locations. While we enjoyed the series, I think we were equally drawn to the unusual features and beauty of the locations.

      We passed by Binevagh, a beautiful mountain on the edge of County Derry. We had been in the area the day before, and it was fun to get another look at the mountain. This site was filmed as the mountain where Daenrys is rescued by her dragon and taken to his lair. Visitors can travel to the top of the mountain although we just appreciated it from the base.

      We passed by the beautiful Downhill Strand, a beautiful beach that we first saw yesterday franed from above through the window ruins of Downhill Dumesne. Melisandre burned the old gods on Dragonstone here.

      One of the sites that we were most interested in seeing was the Dark Hedge. The Dark Hedges is an avenue of large mature beech trees, which were planted around 1775 by James Stuart to frame an avenue to his home, Gracehill House. Originally there were about one hundred and fifty trees and about ninety still stand today. The tunnel image created by the trees is quite eerie and beautiful. I would have loved to have seem then with sunlight effects and in the evening.

      In GOT, the Dark Hedges were used as the "Kingsroad", the fictional road that traverses across the land of Westeros, from Kings Landing in the south to “The Wall” in the north.

      We learned that artists had created doors from the wood of fallen trees depicting GOT scenes. The doors are distributed around different pubs and other locales. One of the doors was supposed to be at the nearby gold course, but it had instead been moved to a nearby closed hotel, and not open to the public. I hope to see one of the doors as they are quite intricate. I joked that the area industry had failed to "HODOR"; a single utterance of a GOT character who could only say that as we later learned meant "Hold the door".

      Our final GOT destination was to Cushendum Caves, where Melisandre the witch gave birth to her "shadow baby" in an area portrayed as the Stormlands. It took us a few minutes to figure out the location of the caves which were located around the corner from two closed hotels. The caves were a little tricky to get down to over an eroded path, but it was worth seeing them. Someone has created a humorous Iron Throne out of a dilapidated armchair with swords protruding from the back. It conglomerate stone and erosion of the formations of the cave were spectacular. It must have been interesting to film here.

      We made our way to Belfast, and we were greeted by Kevin who is hosting us in his apartment for the next three nights. We are located about two miles outside of the center of the city. Belfast has about 350,000 people and it serves as the capital of Northern Ireland. It's the birthplace of C S. Lewis author of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" in his "Chronicles of Narnia" and its shipyards built the Titanic. It's also been the site of severe sectarian strife and violence in the early 1920's and also in during "The Troubles". In my early teens, I remember news about the viokence in Belfast, but I didn't really understand it. We are hoping to learn more about the city in our time here.

      After a nap, we made our way to C.S. Lewis Square to see a community concert. Enroute, we noticed many murals depicting fierce Protestant sentiment, not unlike the Catholic murals in Derry.

      We watched a community performance of a local fife and drum group, the Gertrude Star Flute Band; local choir and guest performers who are famous artists from the area. This performance was sponsored by an East Belfast Community organization.

      When we bought tickets for the performance, it was with little background about it. We thought that it would be interesting to see a community show, and we had listened to Spotify tracks of the featured performers, Matt McGinn and Duke Special. Matt reminded us of Pete Seeger as well of a community performance of sea shanties in coastal Maine where he joined the local community singers and dancers. Duke Special has a beautiful voice, and it was fun to hear him sing.

      The similarity of the coastal Maine performance and this one was the strong sense of community pride. But here there is also a sense of palpable anger, resentment and worry about losing a sense of identity. There was also an incongruous selection of songs: some held onto the grievances and loss of the past while others proposed peace and kindness. There were also a few that were very sentimental about returning to Belfast. And there were references to the 12th of July that we didn't understand until we looked it up.

      The 12th celebrates the victory of the Protestant King William of Orange over the Catholic King James in 1688. The day remains a holiday in Northern Ireland and is alternately known as Orangeman's Day. Over time, the day was often marked by violence, particularly during "The Troubles". In my research, it appears that there are some efforts to draw tourists with parades and family-friendly pageants.

      Our take on the evening in this one snapshot is that there is a very strongly held sectarian pride, and that battle remains to hold onto identity. Some still seem to be fighting a war of the 17th century. This is just how we're making sense of it as witnesses. And it's a point of reflection back home about our own schism and comparative narratives.
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    • Day 87

      CÚIG GHRIANGHRAF-Ireland Day 22

      July 9, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

      We woke up to another overcast day, but we wanted to make time to wander around the city. We didn't have a specific destination as we've learned that our unplanned excursions have made for the best trips.

      We observed area art sculptures, including a series of colorful elephant sculptures that are designed as a fundraiser to support children's hospice.

      We were in search of lattes (yes, addicted) and we landed at a breakfast spot with sensory overload wall placards including a promotion for Maine Lobsters. While walking I approached a young man who was wearing a University of Washington sweatshirt, and I asked him if he was from Seattle. I think I startled him a bit as he was struggling with my accent, and I struggled a bit with his. He finally figured out that I was asking him about his sweatshirt, and that we had lived in Seattle. He remarked that he bought the sweatshirt for four quid and that it was easily worth 20£ now as a collector's item. He recommended that I try selling them here if I had any to spare. I guess I should think about retirement supplemental income schemes.

      As we continued our walk in the city, we briefly wandered through St. George's Market, the last covered Victorian Market in Belfast. It reminded us of a hybrid of Maine's Craft fairs and Seattle's Pike Place Market sans enthusiasm.

      In our continued walk in the city, we found City Hall, a grandiose structure with a statue of a dour Queen Victoria statue to greet us. We learned that City Hall was open and free to the public and we only had to provide surnames. The receptionist did not ask for mine, apparently Carroll was sufficient for double admission. He is from nobility after all.

      We first noticed several beautiful stained glass windows with accompanying descriptions. One panel that through me a bit was a memorial to families whose deceased loved ones' organs were stolen without their knowledge. I'm relieved to say that there were nothing in that specific window portraying livers, brains or Frankenstein.

      After we passed the windows, we moved through a series of sixteen exhibition rooms that portrayed various aspects of Belfast's history. The rooms varied from displaying the Belfast Charter, to Freedom of the City Awards to people ranging from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Thomas Ismay (Titantic builder) to Van Morrison. Bill Clinton and George Mitchell were recognized in their support for the Good Friday Agreements that brought an ostensible end to the lengthy civil war between the IRA and Unionists.

      There were portrayals of games children played in the mid-60's; I would have been about their age. I enjoyed panels recognizing specific idioms attributed to the people of Belfast. Some of my favorites include:

      "Would you not have a titter of wit?" (to a stupid person)

      "Who ate the sugar of your bun?" (to a grumpy person)

      "Her head's full of sweetie mice." (to an ungrounded person living in fantasy land)

      The one notable absence in the museum was the absence of reference to "The Troubles" with the exception of a brightly lit "Reflection Room with quotations of local people's experience. There was no reference or use of the phrase "The Troubles". For me, it would be like going to the Holocaust Museum with only the sanctuary and no other references to the atrocities of the time. The quotes were moving, but I did wonder if it's still too painful to talk about. Perhaps I'm over projecting, but it feels like the efforts of some politicians making the effort to block the history of white supremacy in the U.S.
      Having said that, I did appreciate the exhibits.

      We have noticed the existence of rainbow and Progress flags around the city. It was heartening to see these displays, particularly in establishments and businesses that were not GLBT owned.

      In the early afternoon we ventured to Crumlin Road Gaol, a Victorian era prison that operated for one hundred and fifty years. The prison tour reminded me a bit of touring Alcatraz, particularly with the escape stories.The displays and tour guides information were interesting. At one time the prison housed men, women and children. Our guide told us about the heightened difficulties of housing IRA and UFF prisoners at the and time that other prisoners during the period of The Troubles were described laughably as "Decent Ordinary Criminals".

      We enjoyed the tour and we caught an Uber back to our flat. We enjoyed a conversation with our host Kevin. We did enjoy a brief apoearance of the sun before it drifted back behind the clouds. Later this evening we went to get a pizza and we dropped by a small neighborhood gay bar for a drink. A curious experience the that we have had here is bartenders cut off making cocktails well before closing time. You can still order beer or wine, but no mixed drinks. It makes you wonder if Guiness corporation has lobbied for such a rule.

      We enjoyed a walk back to our flat, and we realized that tonight is our last Saturday night in Europe. As I get ready to sleep, I'm listening to very chatty seagulls. I think one is boasting about perching on a very not amused Queen Victoria's head. She did look like someone ate the sugar off her bun.
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    • Day 91

      94ème étape ~ Belfast

      November 1, 2022 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

      Après avoir découvert Belfast de nuit le soir d’Halloween (nous avons même eu droit à des feux d’artifices), nous l’avons visité de jour.
      Nous avons visité le fameux musée du Titanic. Il faut savoir que le mythique bateau y a été construit. Il a été mis à l’eau le 31 mai 1911 à 12h13. C’est aussi de Belfast qu’il a entamé ce qu’on attendait comme un prodigieux voyage. Malheureusement, tout le monde sait comment ça a fini…
      Le musée se visite en 2h. Il y a beaucoup de choses à voir et à découvrir.
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    • Day 30

      Derry Drive, Belfast Boat, Go2Glasgow

      May 26, 2023 in Northern Ireland ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

      Pretty much just a day of transport and transiting, our goal was to get to Glasgow.

      This entailed a 1.5hr direct drive from Londonderry to Belfast, boarding our slightly delayed ferry back to Cairnryan and then making the 2 hour drive to Glasgow.
      We bid farewell to ‘the land of 40 shades of green’ under blue skies and mild temperatures without having experienced a drop of rain.
      Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite wrangle our way into first class on the very full ferry - business class was the best we could manage this time.

      Having suffered the deprivations of the business class experience onboard, the drive from Cairnryan to Glasgow was quite enjoyable along a fairly scenic coastal route for the first part.

      Some few years ago, we had employed a lovely young Scottish dental assistant by the name of Zoe who had worked for us for 2 years before returning to Scotland with her partner Sean. I had lost contact with Zoe, but with the help of Steph Leckey, we were able to make contact a few days ago and arranged to meet them at their apartment in Glasgow for dinner this evening.

      After driving directly to our rented apartment - of course located on the top floor (again) with no lift - we settled in then headed off to the Southside of Glasgow - about a 12 minute drive away.

      It was delightful to see Zoe and Sean again after not having seen them for such a long time. Sean was cooking up an amazing dinner, Zoe showed us around their apartment which they are part way through renovating (including their roof top space) and we had an excellent meal with lots of conversation stretching late into the evening. They plan to be visiting Sydney in late November for a friend’s wedding in the Blue Mountains and we have made arrangements for them to come and stay with us for a few days either side of that date.
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    You might also know this place by the following names:

    City of Belfast, Belfast, BFS

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