Monthly Archives: June 2014

Discovering Belfast

After spending a couple days in Glasgow, we flew to Belfast with Flybe.  To get to Glasgow International Airport, there is a direct 15 mins bus ride from the city centre to the airport (6GBP for one way) that comes every 10 mins.  This flight was the shortest flight I’ve ever taken – 30 mins in the air and you’re in a different city! This may not have been the most economical form of transportation but it definitely was the quickest. It was a small plane that’s similar to other smaller airlines (2×2 seating per row). No complaints about it. When we arrived, we found the bus/coach area and hopped on the #600 bus and got off at the final stop, Europa Bus Station (10 Glengall Street).

From the Europa Bus Station, the hostel, Belfast International Youth Hostel is about a 10 min walk. We walked straight down Sandy Row until you get to Donegall Road and turn left onto Donegall Road and the hostel is right there. I’ve been using the KFC on the corner as a landmark. We got there early and couldn’t check in yet so we left our luggage with the reception.

We went on a search for food since we hadn’t eaten much that day. we came across a place called Bishops Restaurants (on Botanic Ave.) where we got some of the largest chicken burgers I’ve ever had! It was good but so much food since we got it as a meal. The chips (aka fries) were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, which were surprisingly tasty. Afterwards, we checked into the hostel and settled in. Simple layout – two sets of bunkbeds, storage lockers (you need to bring your own lock) and a sink in the room (toilet and showers were just outside of our room). No roommates yet.

We wandered around a bit and found a church and Queen’s University Belfast, which had a beautiful campus. It’s right next to the Belfast Botanical Gardens that included a greenhouse in it.  There was a variety of flowers and plants – it also kept us out of the rain! Next we wandered “downtown” and saw that there were signs for the Giro D’Italia bike race. Lots of roads were blocked off and there was a big stage set up in the parliament building garden –  also blocked off to the public. It was really exciting to see a lot of cyclists getting ready for the race; first time the race being held in Belfast! Having seen some of the city centre, we made our way towards the river and despite it being rainy on and off, it was a great walk.

For dinner, we wanted something different, possibly with vegetables. We found Falafel (on Botantic Avenue, across the street from Lee Garden). L and I both wanted kofta (grilled minced meat on a skewer) so we ordered the chicken and lamb kofta plates, which also came with hummus, baba ghanouli, salad and homemade garlic sauce: it was so delicious!! A great way to end the day.

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Our first castle visit – Stirling, Scotland

As a little girl, I had always dreamt of being a princess and living in a beautiful castle. Now as an adult, I understand fantasy from reality and can live through the history of kings and queens who once ruled the land.  With this dream in mind, one of my goals for this Europe trip was to see as many castles as possible. So, while we were in Glasgow, we decided to take a day trip to Stirling to see the Stirling Castle.

We looked up train fares and entrance fees to see if it was worth doing it on our own or going with a tour group. In the end, we went on our own since it only cost us 8.50 GBP per person for a return trip on the train (we booked it online and printed it out at the station). For some reason, it was cheaper to buy two tickets online, in advance instead of tickets in person.

The rain doesn’t stop, you only get some breaks and unfortunately, this was not one of those days.  We arrived at the Stirling train station and went straight to the information desk to get a map of the city. We headed to the Cambuskenneth Abbey (AKA Stirling Abbey) first, not really knowing how far it was going to be. We tried to follow the map and asked for directions, we eventually got there and it was in the middle of a green field and the gate was closed 😦 I was so sad and it was raining pretty hard. L decided to go investigate and trek through the wet grass up to the gate. It was actually open, there was a sign that said “please close the gate behind you.” We wandered in and realized what we were looking at was actually the watch tower. The abbey itself was in ruins. We saw the tomb King James III of Scotland. I’m glad we explored it and the rain stopped temporarily.

We retraced our steps back towards the train station and found our way to Stirling Castle. It was at the top of the town and quite the trek. Along the way, we found the Church of the Holy Rude that was a nice visit. There were beautiful stained glass windows. We past the Old Town Jail and was super excited to visit it, only to find out that it ceased being an attraction two years ago 😦

We explored the Castle and it was everything I hoped visiting a castle would be and more! The Royal Palace has a great hall where it entertained guests and had fireplaces that were taller than me.  There’s a wall walk you can take that leads you around the perimeter of the grounds and there are some great views of the city along there.  It was a gloomy day but overall, it was a great first castle visit. I can’t wait to see other castles!!!

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