Thursday, August 29, 2013

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Stop #3: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Coast of Northern Ireland
This was one stop that we were unsure of in the beginning, but so glad that we made once we arrived! All that most people remember is all of the fighting and danger in Belfast, but the city itself was actually pretty quiet and nice to walk around. There are definitely some places that you don't want to find yourself, as with any city, but overall, it's easy to get around and there is plenty to see.
Me at the Giant's Causeway

Belfast, Northern Ireland
When we first arrived, it was pretty late at night, so we took the Airport Express from the airport, which puts you right in the city center. From there it was a short walk to our hotel, Ibis Belfast. The Ibis hotels are found all over Europe and are great hotels to stay at. They are reliable, clean, and typically pretty inexpensive. If you are ever in doubt of where to stay, look for an Ibis hotel. They are usually near anything that you want to see and do anyways, so they are a good fallback option. We were only going to be in Belfast for a short time, so this was perfect.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
Shoreline at Carrick-a-Rede
On our first full day, we had a day trip planned to the Giants Causeway, which is on the northern shore of the island. After a huge debacle, which I'm not going to get into, we were finally on our tour and headed north. The first stop was a small castle on the shore. There were gorgeous views, but we were ready to get to the cool stuff! The next stop was the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. There was a 0.7 mile walk to get to the bridge, up and down hill, so we were getting exercise and enjoying the beautiful sunny day that we were blessed with. Since it typically rained or was overcast, we were lucky! The rope bridge was short, and not completely what we expected, but the landscape and views that we had, were well worth the walk and time. It was gorgeous! We had enough time to walk to the bridge and back, as well as take a few pictures and we were off to the next stop. We had lunch along the way,  was at a small roadside cafe, and in which they served burritos. I don't know what the deal is with Northern Ireland and burritos, but they were everywhere! (And who am I to turn down a burrito?!) From there we continued on to the Giant's Causeway. This is an area along the shore of the ocean, where the "beach" is made up of thousands of hexagonal shaped rocks. It's a natural wonder as to how this was all formed, but it was fun to walk and climb around with the ocean crashing against the shore behind us. Definitely something to see and NOT to be missed. Our last stop on the tour was the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. Not being a huge whiskey person, I was a little nervous of sampling, but when in Rome! It was a small, quaint place, but the whiskey was good, as far as whiskey goes and a great end to the tour.
View at Carrick-A-Rede

Giant's Causeway
Once we returned to Belfast, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and head out for dinner and drinks. We went to Robinson's, a pub/restaurant that had been recommended to us. The bar downstairs was lively, with lots of after work people mingling and having a few drinks. The restaurant is upstairs, where I enjoyed some Guiness Stew, which was fantastic...trying to be more authentic! We then headed back downstairs to the bar area and went into the back where there was live music and more craziness! It was a great place to spend our last evening in Belfast and within walking distance of our hotel.
Rock structure at Giant's

Wall dividing Belfast
Political Murals in Belfast
The next day we jumped on the hop-on/off bus to tour the city. There was so much great information and things that you would never really understand about Belfast unless you toured the city. We saw the wall that was built between the two sides of the city that were fighting, and how they built the same things on either side so that no one could complain about being without. There were lots of political murals painted on walls and buildings, and lots of new construction. We also saw the dock where the Titanic was built and the place where they are working on a full-scale replica. We took lots of time to walk around and really get a feel for the city, before heading back to the hotel to pack up and head to the airport. It was a short stay, but we saw so many amazing things.

Belfast--a place to see, with beautiful land surrounding the city.

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