A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: geoffboulton

Belfast

Our journey up to Northern Ireland from Galway took us back through Dublin, where we switched buses en route to Belfast. We got there in early evening and had a quick walk to the hostel. Dallan had started to feel sick so he stayed behind and watched movies, while I went to get a quick bite (and a beer, of course!). That night, I played poker, ping pong, and pool with other people at the hostel. This hostel was one of the most social hostels that I have stayed at, and had great facilities for people to hang out.

The next day, Dallan still wasn’t feeling great and again decided to stay in, so I headed out to explore the city by myself. I decided to create my own walking tour with the map that the hostel had provided. I started by heading to Queen's University and the Botanical Gardens, both of which were very beautiful. I was planning to go into the Ulster Museum, which is the national museum of Northern Ireland, but it was closed on Mondays. I ended up on a trek to the other side of the city, which took me through Victoria Square and past the City Hall, which is a beautiful historic government building. I then headed to the Titanic Quarter where I went into the relatively new Titanic Museum. It opened in 2012 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ship. The building is absolutely stunning as it is clad with silver panels and is designed to imitate the angles of the prow of the Titanic. It also kind of looks like an iceberg, and in fact that is what the locals call the building. It is located on the site of the original Harland and Wolff shipyard where both the Titanic and the Olympic ships were built. They left the Titanic's site untouched and have drawn an outline of the ship so that you can get a real feel of its size. The museum itself was great as it took you through the history of Belfast, the building of the Titanic and its failed voyage, along with the aftermath of the sinking of the ship and its discovery underwater in the 1980s. It was a great experience! After that I took the long walk back to the hostel, where I met up with some other people there who were heading out to get something to eat (and maybe a beer or two!)

Dallan started to feel better on Tuesday so we decided to go on a tour to the famous Giant's Causeway. The tour bus took us on a beautiful coastal drive, about an hour and a half in total, and we stopped at a couple of places along the way that had good photo ops. We then headed to the Bushmill’s Distillery for lunch, followed by a 45 minute tour. This tour was much different than the Jamieson's one as it not only takes you through the distilling process, but it's an active distillery and you can actually watch the process unfold. We tried a 10 year old and a 12 year old reserve after the tour and both were delicious. I considered buying my old man a bottle of the 12 year old as it is only available at the brewery, but it was really pricey and I'm poor. But it's the thought that counts right? We then went to the Giant's Causeway, which is a really sweet bunch of rock formations – there are 40.000 interlocking columns of basalt, mostly hexagonal. They are of varying heights but the top of most of them is about the size of a dinner plate, and you can walk on them like stepping stones. They were formed as the result of an ancient volcanic eruption and the site is now a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was pretty cool and I got some good photos, and then we headed back to Belfast. That night we played pool and ping pong before heading to bed.

On Wednesday afternoon, we headed to the airport for our flight to Lisbon.

Posted by geoffboulton 16:46 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

Galway

Dallan and I got to Galway late in the afternoon on Friday, June 12. By the time we got settled in at the hostel and got out to find dinner, it was pretty late and all the bars were packed. Since the pubs were full and weren't serving food, and the other restaurants were quite pricey, we got McDonalds for dinner before calling it a night!

Our next day was a tour devoted to the Cliffs of Moher, about an hour and a half south of Galway. The tour started with a scenic drive through the Irish countryside and a photo stop at some other cliffs that were along the way. We then stopped at a pub for a good lunch of beef stew, which unsurprisingly went quite well with a pint of Guinness! We then went on to the Cliffs of Moher, which are giant towering cliffs at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. They range from 300 to over 700 feet high and are quite spectacular. We did a nice little walk around and took a few good photos before heading back to the bus to return to Galway. That night we had dinner and found a pub with good Irish music. They did an Irish cover of Blink 182 songs which was hilarious and pretty awesome.

The Sunday morning, I woke up early and headed out to meet my Uncle Greg's friend, Father Barry. They met when Uncle Greg was in Rome getting his doctorate. He picked me up and took me on a wonderful drive around town that took us through the National University of Ireland (where he is chaplain), to the Salthill Promenade and the Spanish Arches. We got a quick coffee and headed to 11 o'clock Mass at the beautiful Galway Cathedral. He dropped me off back at the hostel, where I collected my stuff and Dallan, and we headed out to catch our bus for the 5 hour trip to Belfast.

Posted by geoffboulton 13:43 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Dublin

Dallan and I arrived in Dublin on the afternoon of Tuesday June 9 and headed straight to our hostel to check in. The town was riddled with Scotsmen as there was a big football match between the Scottish and the Irish on the weekend. The Scots brought out their best hooliganism and were quite annoying! The night before in Edinburgh we'd said what we thought was our final goodbye to our Aussie friend Luke, but we got a message from him once we got to our hostel letting us know that he'd decided to come meet back up with us in Ireland. He was arriving a little later in the night, so we went to watch the movie Mad Max while we waited for him. Once he arrived, we headed straight to the hopping Temple Bar area to watch some live music and drink some Guinness. We were a little disappointed by the music as it was mostly rock covers instead of more traditional Irish music. We made it our mission to find the good stuff the next night.

We had a bit of a slow start the next day, but once we got up and running we headed straight to the Old Jameson Distillery! We had to wait about 20 minutes before our tour, so we warmed ourselves up with Irish coffees and a glass of 12 year old Jameson's Reserve. The tour of the distillery was great as they took us through the history of Jameson's and their distilling process. It was capped off with a taste test of Jameson's (an Irish whiskey), Johnny Walker Black Label (a scotch whiskey), and Jack Daniels (an unaged bourbon). Tasting these three whiskeys one after the other really showed how good a 12 year scotch and a triple distilled Irish whiskey are compared to Jack Daniels! The first two were so smooth and tasty and then you take a sip of the Jack and it just burns you as you drink it. After the taste test, they give you a complimentary glass of Jameson's. By the time the tour was over, it was well passed lunch time so we headed to what is apparently the oldest pub in Dublin, called the Brazen Head, which opened in 1198! We had some good pub food and a Guinness. I never drank much Guinness at home, but drinking it from a tap in Ireland really hit the spot. We then headed to the Temple Bar area for some afternoon live music and some more beer before heading back to the hostel for a nap. After a snooze and some eats, we headed back to the Temple Bar area, again, in search of some good live Irish music, which we would find at our first stop. I can't quite recall what the pub was called, but the music was fantastic. It was a two piece band with a guitar and banjo playing wicked Irish music as well as a couple covers of popular songs with an Irish flair to them. The banjo player sounded like he was plucked from the Irish version of Metallica, as he could shred with the best of them. Once their set was over, we made our own pub crawl and checked out a few other pubs.

I know drinking has kind of dominated the content of this blog post, but we were in Ireland, and we just wanted to fit in. We did take a small break from the "piss," as the Aussies would call it, when we went to the Kilmainham Gaol, which is a former prison built in the late 1700’s. It now houses a museum on the history of Irish Nationalism. The tour of the jail really gave us a lot of insight about the country and the history of prisons in Ireland. It was home to a few new methods and ideologies on how to house and treat prisoners so that they'd emerge as better people. The jail was also the location of the confinement and execution of several major leaders in the Irish revolution. It was really interesting. After that, we got our priorities straight again and headed to the Guinness brewery. The brewery was more of a museum on the history of Guinness, and the methods of brewing it. It also had a really cool video of how they built the casts and barrels back in the day, which was very impressive. It was capped off by pouring your own "perfect pint" of Guinness and heading up to the Gravity Bar on the top floor to see a nice view of a kind of ugly city. We then headed for lunch, and I gave my dad a quick call for his birthday. After chilling out for a bit, we headed back to the same bars as we did the night before and joined in on some Irish dancing.

Our last day in Dublin was a short one as we were grabbing a bus to Galway in the afternoon. We decided to go to the movies and watch Jurassic World, which was absolutely awesome. We then said what would truly be the final goodbye to Luke before heading to the bus.

Posted by geoffboulton 13:20 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Edinburgh

I flew from warm sunny Amsterdam to cold overcast Edinburgh on Saturday, June 6. I got to the hostel in the early evening where for the third time I met up with my Australian friend Dallan. Colby and I had met Dallan on our first day of our trip, at the hostel in Istanbul. He ended up tagging long with us when we headed out in our rental car to drive around Turkey (which included a stop after it snowed, so Dallan could make his first ever snowman!). We then met up again on Sail Croatia cruise. It was great o meet up with him again, although that night, he went to bed early and I headed to a Scottish pub to hear some live music and try some scotch. I ended up having a bit of a wild night, as I hung out with a couple of crazy but very drunk Scots, who kept on getting kicked out of bars, but it was fun to tag along to see what would happen next!

We switched hostels on Sunday morning as the one we had stayed at on Saturday night was pretty crappy. After doing that, we headed to the National Museum of Scotland. There we learned a good amount of Scottish history and economics, as well as interesting facts about animals and other general science stuff. A weird part of the museum was the exhibit on aboriginals from around the world, which consisted mostly of BC First Nations and Eskimos! The museum was huge so it took up most of the rest of the day. That night another Aussie friend, Luke, joined us. We had first met in Croatia and then he met up with me and Colby in Munich. We grabbed dinner and a beer before having an early night.

We woke up early the next morning to do a tour of the Scottish highlands. I don't have much to say about this tour, because it was rather boring and a pretty big waste of money! It took us to a castle, some fields, and a lake. When we got back, we had drinks and dinner at the hostel bar before playing some board games and going out. We headed to a cool boutique bar with a couple of American girls from the hostel, and then headed to the graveyard where JK Rowling got a lot of her inspiration for Harry Potter. We found Tom Riddle's tomb (Lord Voldemort) as well as those of a few other key characters.

We had a flight to Dublin booked for late afternoon on the Tuesday, so we snuck in a quick free walking tour in the morning before we left. It took us back to the graveyard we had gone to the night before (seeing it in the daytime was not nearly as cool!). It also took us to the coffee shop where JK Rowling apparently wrote much of Harry Potter. It then took us on a good walk around the city, up to the castle, and up to a good look out point. We had lunch and then headed to the airport.

Posted by geoffboulton 10:33 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Amsterdam

Noor and I got to Amsterdam pretty late on June 3rd, so we didn't have time to do much other than check in to the hostel and grab dinner. We decided that after our late night last night giving Colby a pretty good send off in Brussels we would hit the hay early. The next morning I found the Starbucks that I had eyed the night before, while Noor slept a little longer to get over her jet lag. On this day, we just wandered around the beautiful city, got lost (in a good way), and attempted to go to some attractions. We tried to go to the Anne Frank house and the Heinekin Experience, but the lines were HUGE so we passed. We got some good Indonesian food for dinner, and then went to a couple of bars with a French girl that we had met earlier in the day. We then took a good walk around the Red Light district, which was very creepy and offputting, but definitely an interesting experience.

The next morning we took the free walking tour around the city. It took us to the Oude Kerk (the Old Church), Amsterdam’s oldest building - it is over 800 years old. It was a Catholic church for 300 years but it has been a Calvinist church since the reformation. Even though it is no longer Catholic, each year Catholics arrive at the church on a certain date to celebrate the "Miracle of Amsterdam" that occurred in 1345. The story is that a dying man vomited after receiving communion and when his vomit was thrown into a fire, the host did not burn at all. This was proclaimed a miracle, and for 200 years the host was on display in a chest, but the chest disappeared during the reformation. We were also told that this is the church where all the sailors would go for confession after their "experience" with the ladies of the night. The tour brought us back to the red light district, where we learned about the origins and specifications of the legalization of prostitution. It also took us to the Jewish quarter, which consisted of much newer buildings than the rest of the city due to the need to rebuild after Nazi occupation. We saw the narrowest house in Amsterdam that seemed like it would barely fit a person lying down horizontally. The tour ended at the Anne Frank house, where the tour guide told us the story of Anne and her family, which was great because I needed a refresher. After the tour, Noor went back to the hostel and I went for lunch with a mish-mash of Canadians that had been on the tour. It was funny how a couple of guys from Kingston (who didn't know each other), a girl from Quebec, and me from Vancouver ended up flocking together. Noor felt like staying in that night, so I met up with the guys from Kingston and we went to a couple of pubs and tried some Dutch beers (other than Heineken!).

The next day, we met up with the French girl from the first night and headed to the museum district. While there, we found a park with the giant letters of " I AMSTERDAM," with the "AM" being a different colour than the rest so it's meant to be interpreted as “I Am Amsterdam”. We went and checked out the museums from the outside, but didn't end up going in, as they were ALL art museums, and expensive and I guess I'm just not cultural enough to spend money on that! We tried the Heineken museum again but the queue was still huge, so we did some souvenir shopping before getting dinner. After dinner, we headed to a pub with one of the guys from Kingston. We had gone there a couple of nights before, but felt the need to go back because the waitress was crazy and hilarious. We then wandered over to the bar district where we found a jazz club and a piano bar. It was a great live music night!

On the Saturday, I said goodbye to Noor and caught a flight to Edinburgh, Scotland!

Posted by geoffboulton 13:43 Archived in Netherlands Comments (0)

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