You know what the issue is with this world? Everyone wants a magical solution to their problem, and everyone refuses to believe in magic.” – Alice in Wonderland
I always try to find a way to travel even if I have limited resources. If that means travelling in Ireland, then so be it. Millions of people all over the world would kill to travel Ireland and just because we’re from Ireland doesn’t mean we shouldn’t!
Travelling in Ireland isn’t the cheapest thing to do but very often driving somewhere or getting on a bus can be a lot cheaper than getting flights off our precious island. Our trip to Northern Ireland was also quite a last minute decision so it was definitely one of the cheapest options for Sarah and I. Sarah is my crazy Canadian friend and an avid adventurer like I am! When she came back to Ireland to visit, we decided a trip to N.I. would be the perfect adventure for us. I remember the week before she came I posted a quote picture on my instagram that read: “The trouble with trouble is that it starts out as fun!” and that’s probably the best way to describe the situations Sarah and I get ourselves into!
We spent 3 days in Northern Ireland and I want to share what we did with you so that if you happen to have 3 days to spare, you might think about adventuring to the North too!
After some very last minute research we found ourselves a hostel in the city that was quite near to Queens College called Vagabonds. It must have been fate because it was one of the funnest hostels I’ve ever stayed in. The staff were outstanding. They were so friendly that you’d hardly even know that anyone is at work, they were all out to have a good time, as were we so it was the perfect match. We even went out with them on a night out. There are two great common areas in the hostel – one with couches and a dining table and what not and another pool table area out the back. The rooms were spacious and spotless and they also provide free breakfast which was a bonus!
We visited Belfast in the middle of December, so the Christmas Market was on right in front of City Hall. The City Hall building itself is beautiful. It gets lit up at night, and it’s truly spectacular. The Christmas Market is also very good – they had some beautiful stalls selling faux fur hats (where I bought mine!) and delicious food as well as hot chocolate and lots of that other good stuff you get in Christmas markets! I’d definitely recommend visiting the City Hall for a gawk but also, if you happen to be visiting Belfast in December – the market is a must see to get into the spirit of things!
Black Taxi Tour
Travel history lessons are my favourite kind of history lessons. You’ll never learn more about a specific event of series of events (in this case) than if you’re actually in the place speaking to local people about it. The Black Taxi tour taught me more about the Troubles in Northern Ireland than I could have ever learnt from a history lesson, the News or the Internet! It’s a must-do in Belfast. The tours are mostly private and you get collected in a cab from your hostel or hotel and the driver is a local who will bring you to all of the key areas and tell you or show you what happened. It was gob-smacking and I learnt so much. Our guide was a lovely man who was really into his job and obviously cares very deeply about the message he’s spreading. I was also very impressed at how neutral he was in explaining everything. We saw the H blocks, the famous murals and the Peace Wall. I would absolutely recommend it.
Take a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway
We took a bus tour trip (because we didn’t have a car) to the Giant’s Causeway. This was by far my favourite part of the whole trip. We left Belfast in the morning and arrived back in the evening, and I have to say it was the perfect day out. We drove straight to The Giant’s Causeway, along the way we got to take in the breathtaking scenery of Antrim Coast Road – which is a a sight to behold in itself. Arriving at the Giant’s Causeway our tour guide did the coolest thing, he gave us two options… He told us the scientific explanation for the Causeway and then he told us the mythical explanation of it. He gave the scientific explanation in a very matter-of-fact, monotonous tone but then regaled the story of Fionn MacCumhaill, his wife and the big bad giant of Scotland, Benandonner. He was a wonderful storyteller! He then asked the tour bus full of people to make up their own mind on which story explained the Causeway best. Obviously, after having heard the fun and enthusiastic myth of Fionn MacCumhaill – everyone on the bus said that they believed the myth of the Giants!
After we walked down to the causeway, took some photographs and got to visit the Visitors Centre, we went for lunch in a lovely Irish pub where there was an open fire and we got soup and a sandwich, which was exactly what the doctor ordered after getting caught in a hail stone shower on the walk back to the bus from the Causeway.
We then drove to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge. What an experience! The rope bridge is about 100 ft. from the water. I am not afraid of heights at all, but I’m normally on a structure that are a little bit more stable than this rope bridge when I’m piping on about not fearing heights! It was quite a scary experience given it was so windy that we could barely breath!
The Cathedral Quarter
The Cathedral Quarter in Belfast is also a fabulous place to wander around. There are great shopping opportunities as well as great restaurants to choose from. We went to a restaurant that was recommended to us by the staff at the hostel called The Alley Cat. At the time, we thought the burgers were delicious and they did cool craft beer, so we were happy out. But, do I have a funny story to tell you! When I went to look for a website for the pub (to link to this blog post – because I was going to recommend it!) I found a very interesting article! The Alley Cat has since been closed down permanently because of the discovery of a dead rat by the health and safety board! Can you believe it?! I’m in shock…
As you are all probably well aware at this stage, I’m a huge museum fanatic! So, when we decided to go to Belfast I was overcome with excitement to visit the Titanic museum. I couldn’t wait for it. I was so excited, I made Sarah get up early one day to walk there from the hostel. The actual building is outstanding and the port area where it is located is a lovely area to go for a walk and I’d definitely recommend that. However, I can’t say the same for the Titanic museum. Call me old-fashioned but I love museums where you have to read information about real artifacts that are displayed for you. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite caught up with the times and I don’t get video and audio displays in museums. I can’t understand the appeal of listening or watching actors representing scenes. If that’s what I was looking for, I could just watch the movie. I was expecting to be enchanted by real life artifacts from the ship itself and although they did have remodels of the cabins on the first floor, there weren’t that many. A lot of the museum was obviously dedicated to Belfast’s role in constructing it and while that was all new information and I learnt a lot from it I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the lack of things to see from the Titanic. In saying that, tickets were only £13 for a student and £18 for an adult (you can buy them here) so you can go and see for yourself and hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did!
I’d love to hear about your experience in Belfast if you go. Hopefully, whatever restaurant you choose won’t later be closed down for hygiene reasons! And, above all, I would absolutely love to hear what you think of the Titanic experience, if you go. As always, you can get in touch by tweeting me, snapping me (imperfectlyfree) or getting in touch on instagram or facebook.
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