Belfast – Day 3+4 – Prison and city

posted in: Belfast 2016, holiday | 0

Nice relaxed start today with a lay-in. After some breakfast we’d head to Crumlin Road Gaol, a ‘recently’ (20 years) shut down prison, a large 4 wing prison which used to house some 1500 prisoners – men, women and children.

The interior of the prison is tour only, and included a talk and tour around a cell block, holding cells, admin offices, the yards and even the execution chamber.
The prison was well maintained (moreso than the courthouse opposite), it was pretty fascinating to see the internal workings and hear some of the stories from the prison. The execution chamber in particular was very ominous and apparently had a genuine noose.

After returning from the prison, we went for lunch at the large pub we passed by the other day. A decent if only slightly above average roast chicken and chips meal.

We’d spend most the rest of the day just kind of wandering around Belfast city and trying to find some souviners to take home etc. I don’t think we really found too much else, we stopped in a pub for a drink whilst wandering around, and eventually headed back to the hotel to relax for a bit before going to find food.

Dinner was at a nice little restaurant not too far from our hotel called Havana Bank Square, I had a lovely Hake, bacon and mash meal.

 

~~~~~

 

Day 4

We really didn’t have much to do by the time day 4 rolled around, we just kind of relaxed until about midday and then went out to one of the higher rated pubs in Belfast central. We had a beer and their Irish Stew for lunch which was super thick and hearty – filled with potatoes and meat. The pub itself was really cute and welcoming, with the bar lady treating us like regulars even though we most definitely aren’t (and I was probably the only Chinese person to step foot in the bar all year).

Afterwards, we walked around castle court shopping centre for a little bit afterwards, before heading to City hall for the free tour (Free tours run at 11, 2pm and 3pm). The tour guide and explanations were a little boring, but there was definitely some interesting rooms and history behind the building, especially the stained glass in the atrium.

Not a whole lot else happened after that, we’d eventually head back to the hotel to grab our bags, and then catch the bus to the airport. Belfast departures was hilariously overstaffed compared to the amount of passengers, I think there were more staff than travellers around the bag check, which would explain why everybody got thoroughly searched. I lost a jar of Bushmills whiskey marmalade because apparently it’s considered a liquid :(
The plane was delayed, and by the time we got home it was around 11pm, which is absolutely shocking considering we arrived at the airport around 5pm.

 

Belfast – Day 2 – Game of Thrones and Giants Causeway

posted in: Belfast 2016, holiday | 0

Bit of a rough night’s sleep, with the drunks of Ireland seemingly having a street party directly outside or window. Premier Inn do a ‘get a good night’s sleep or your money back’ thing so have written in to their customer service team to see if we can get that £120 waived, which would help me be less bitter about it.

But on to the day ahead.

The Game of Thrones Tour, hosted by Irish Tour Tickets, our expected highlight featuring a bunch of stops at some Got filming locations as well as stunning natural wonder ‘Giants Causeway’, also known as ‘that place with lots of hexagonal rock columns’.

Our tour started a bit rough, with the tour bus being a little bit late and then the weather being absolutely shocking. They dropped us off Carrickfergus Castle and we were literally just blasted by wind and rain as we tried to take photos, I imagine all of my photos here are just going to be filled with rain on lens, but I haven’t reviewed the photos yet so who knows.

We would journey onward to see some Got scene related stuff, the outside of the filming studios, the production office, one of the spots where Arya climbs out of the water after being stabbed in one of the recent seasons, we saw some of Castle Black in the distance, along with The wall, Theeon Greyjoy’s castle, and some of the iron Isles, and one of the caves where the red lady gives birth.

Cushendun Caves which had some really impressive rock formations and cliffs, and next stop Carrick-A-Rede featured a beautiful walk near the Iron Isles and a rope bridge across a 100ft gorge. The weather was kind of on and off, the majority of the day was rain and storm weather, however on occasion the sun would peak out and bless us with some blue skies – you can see them in a lot of the carrick-a-rede pictures.

A silver lining to the erratic weather is the amount of rainbows we saw today, literally more today than I’ve see in the last 5 years or so in London, double rainbows a-plenty too.

Giant’s Causeway was our penultimate stop, with a 15 minute walk down to the coast and then an incredible view of the scenic wonder that it is. The actual causeway goes on for quite a stretch and you are able to freely walk upon it. Our tour guide told us the legend of how it was formed and it was fairly amusing,  give it a read yourself if you are interested. The location was unfortunately a little bit busy, making it hard to get good photos, the sky didn’t really help us much here either.

Last stop on the tour was the Dark Hedges, apparently featured in one of the game of Thrones episodes, this was a long road (closed off to vehicles today due to the recent filming of the latest transformers film apparently) surrounded by some incredible twisting trees. The rain was very heavy at this stop, and sods law, the rain died down and the sun appeared just as we were finishing and got back on the bus.

Quickie nap on the bus, and before I knew it, we were back in Belfast. We stopped off at City Hall to take some night shots (beautiful building, and fantastically lit at night).

Dinner was at the previously reservations only ‘Blu’ near our hotel. We actually stopped by here yesterday night but was turned away as they were fully booked, so we booked a table for today –  though we didn’t need to at all because it was absolutely dead. 1 other table during our meal, the restaurant was chilled and w had almost dedicated service from the waiter. The food was amazing and at a good price too, with 3 delicious courses for £20.

Belfast – Day 1 – Arrival and walkabout

posted in: Belfast 2016, holiday | 0

After an annoyingly lengthy journey, we arrived in Belfast at around 3pm and checked into our hotel. We would be staying at the premier Inn cathedral quarter during our stay, mostly selected for it’s location and the fact that it was the cheapest hotel on offer at the time. Offloaded all of our baggage and promptly left to go and have a wander around the city.

Our first impressions of the city were admittedly not fantastic, I think we may have walked in the wrong direction because we were heading into the north area which seemed to be just filled with rundown buildings and graffiti, however there turned out to be a large amount of actual ‘Street art’ (note: Totally different to standard graffiti), there were some really impressive 2+ story murals. Of particular interest was a shop called ‘Fresh Garbage’ which was selling all sorts of bizarre shit, including the sort of masks you’d see in Hotline Miami and some bra’s outfitted with metal spikes.

 

We came across the Belfast cathedral, which was rather big and had some nice mosaics inside, unfortunately they were being a bit greedy and trying to charge £5 per person for entry, and having been to significantly larger and nicer churches for the price of ‘free’ in the past, this £5 charge just felt a little bit insulting.

We started walking south a little, and came across what I can only assume is the bar quarter,  there were small archways leading to alleys filled with bars and pubs, and some very large elaborate pubs as well. Being that we arrived on Saturday night, they were all pretty busy, too busy for us to want to walk into –  but I imagine we’ll be back at some point in our stay.

More towards the west, to the docks and river, we saw belfast’s famous (?) big fish thing, and beacon of hope, we walked the riverfront before doubling back towards the city.

A little more south was a really nice outdoor shopping centre – above the centre is a big dome which actually doubles as a viewing platform of the city, sadly closed at night time.
We ended up having dinner in the shopping centre –  a fancy restaurant called ‘The Ivory’.
Now, tripadvisor said this was in the ££ to £££ range so I wasn’t really expecting anything ridiculous, but as it turns out, the Ivory is actually a fine dining establishment. The food was way Overpriced and honestly not even that great, though I imagine the price would have had a big factor in my perceived enjoyment of the food. I had seared duck on a bed of spring onion,  spinach and sweet potato mash.

Finished our dinner, had a bit more of a wander and then ended up heading back to the hotel to chill, as we had quite an exhausting day of travel, even if the flight was only an hour and a half.