A Travellerspoint blog

Iceberg ho!

History day.

sunny 70 °F

May 23rd, 2012

It's time for history class. Do you know where the famous Titanic was conceived and built? Yes you guessed it, Belfast, Northern Ireland! I think somewhere in the recess of our minds, Nicole and I both knew this, but when we saw the brochure we were both surprised. I learned that Nicole has a passion for the history of the Titanic, and no, not just the movie. We had grabbed a brochure for the Titanic exhibit two days ago and were both excited to head out there today. We had to catch the bus from our B&B to the city center, and then walked out 15 minutes to the Titanic Quarter. 

The building itself is like this huge prismatic four sided spike, all shiny and silver. We went in and purchased our tickets. The first room we walked in to was slam packed full of information and history. This center must have been completed very recently because it was very modern and high tech. There are several touch screen panels in most of the exhibit rooms that give you a lot of concise interactive content. We learned the history of Belfast. How it started to grow as they were able to produce linen and ship it worldwide. Belfast linen was a huge industry for the area. Also, ship building was huge employer. The company that built the Titanic employed 65,000 people at one time.  The working conditions to build the Titanic, as well as the linen work was terrible.  People would die in accidents at the ship yard, or get tuberculosis from the dust when separating the flax. On the Titanic, they showed how rivets were put in.  It was done by a crew of five. Three on one side and two on the other. The heat boy would heat the rivet and toss it to the catch boy, who would insert it in the pre punched hole.  Then a man would hold that end of the rivet with a tool while two others pounded on it from the other side.  The best crews had a left and right handed man to pound more effectively. The Titanic had over 3 million rivets! Something I didn't know, is that another ship was built right alongside the Titanic at the same time.  It was the Olympic. These ships were sister ships. The Olympic actually had a long life, serving in WWI as a medical ship and was scrapped eventually.  The Titanic however...  The exhibit had all sorts of facts telling about the all the ships that were built in the area, how the canal was widened for growth, how the ships were built, how the Titanic took a year to be outfitted with all its luxury, and a ton more. It was a very very interesting exhibit. It would recommend it as a must see if you are in Belfast. 

Nicole and I have really enjoyed the time that we spend window shopping and walking around new cities.  Belfast is extremely modern. It actually bothers me how modern it is.  I know that is horribly narrow sighted of me to wish cultures to stay in the past, but it's what I love so much about Ireland.  I have decided to call Northern Ireland, not real Ireland. We shopped around a bit and had some lunch. From here, not finding anything we wanted to buy, we headed back home for a little nap. We decided that we would see what the not real Ireland had to offer in the way for night life and headed out, after a grocery dinner, to down town Belfast. Talk about a ghost town! Are you kidding me! It's 9pm and the streets of Belfast are empty! This would never happen in real Ireland to the south. We couldn't believe it. We had planned to catch some music in a pub, but all the pubs we found were closed. What kind of place is this? Not real Ireland, that's what. We decided to head back. Down a street my ear caught the sound of a fiddle. Music! We walked into the pub and ordered some cider to sit an enjoy actual music! However, over the course of the next 2 hours, the band played only 3 more songs taking really long breaks. Not real Ireland. We left to catch our bus.  Unfortunately, the busses were done at 11:30. Fabulous. Even better, I forgot my phone, so we didn't know exactly where we were. We decided to start walking. My memory of the area was good and we were in the right direction soon enough with a 45 minute walk ahead of us. The bad news? A pint of liquid can hit you hard and fast. Poor Nicole thought she was going to die.  I think by the time we made it home, Nicole was 5 minutes from a containment breach! I tried distracting her the whole walk home, but I don't think it helped. That was probably the longest walk of her life!

Posted by hangtime41 10:40 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Tom Jones is Irish?

Who knew?

sunny 70 °F

May 22nd, 2012

The exploration of Northern Ireland will now commence, directly after breakfast. Best thing about a bed and breakfast? Yup you guessed it. A full Irish breakfast. Egg, bacon, sausage, yummy bread like somethings and Nicole's leftovers! We will be getting picked up today by McCombs luxury tour busses for a tour of the giants causeway. I'm particularly curious about how much I will like northern Ireland and this tour will determine that. 

Leaving the tour station, we first drive to Carrickfergus castle. This will be Nicole's first experience with a real life fortress. It's quite a large castle sitting on the edge of the water. It's really cool because it looks just like a castle out of Robin Hood or something like that. Unfortunately we only get ten minutes here which is a huge disappointment. We really wanted to go in. Our next stop was in a little village, I believe it was called Larne. This is a fishing village that also happens to have the building that Sir Winston Churchill used as a summer home. It is now an inn and pub. We took some picture of the cool little boats in the tiny cove. The next stop was actually really cool. We stopped at the worlds first licensed distillery. Bushmills is the name of the place and it was so awesome! It was licensed in 1608 and had several of the old original buildings still used today. We actually stopped here for a bite to eat. I had some super yummy Irish stew and Nicole had the steak and Guinness pie. I tried it and it was twice as good as my stew. From here it was only a five minute drive to the causeway. For those that don't know about the giant's causeway I will tell you. The story goes that an Irish giant by the name of Flynn McCool had a rival in Scotland. He had never seen this rival giant but he would stand on the coast and bellow vows of battle and victory across the gap to Scotland. Finally he decided to build a bridge across that gap to once and for all vanquish his foe. He gathered these huge six sided pillars of rock and built the causeway to Scotland. Once he reached the other side he searched for his enemy. He came upon the Scottish giant asleep and trembled at the knees, for the Scottish giant was twice the size of himself. Flynn ran home to his wife as fast as he could and told her what he had seen. They were both afraid that the Scottish giant would soon cross the causeway and defeat Flynn. Being a smart woman, Flynn's wife dressed him up as a baby and put him at the front door. No sooner had she done this than the Scottish giant came lumbering to their home. He bellowed for Flynn McCool, to which his wife said Flynn was out jogging laps of Ireland. The Scot then noticed the baby and began to tremble. He thought to himself, " If that be the baby, I do not want to see the size of his father!" With that thought and fear in his step he ran back across the causeway tearing it up as he went all the way back to Scotland. What we can see today is just the start of that bridge. And let me tell you, it is extremely odd. You must look up pictures of the place. It's like a giant board game with these six sided pillars all fitted exactly together. It completely blows my mind and is something that must be seen in person to truly grasp. We walked all over the causeway for an hour. From here we drove to a famous castle, Dunluce Castle, on the coast, right on the cliffs. It is said that a storm came one evening and took the edge of the cliff out. With it went the entire kitchen and staff. And you know what? We weren't allowed to go inside. We were only allowed to take pictures for about five minutes and leave! Boo. 

When we made it home we were absolutely starving. We decided to go the Fish Cafe that our host had mentioned. We seriously were starving when we walked in. When we read the menu we saw there was a regular size and a large size. Nicole and I both wanted the large, no questions asked.  Oops. You know how a large in the states is really a medium? Well a large in Ireland really means one step bigger than supersize me. We each got a fillet a foot long. The box was just big enough to hold it. It was six inches wide and two deep. Under the fish were chips! We knew we weren't finishing this meal very easily. Something they do here which I really like is they ask if you want vinegar and salt. With a yes they pour vinegar and salt over your whole meal.  Mom you might notice your mouth watering as I write this. It was so good! We ate till we were sick and then went home. Being fat and full, we checked our Internet and popped off to bed.

Posted by hangtime41 14:04 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

A new adventure!

Northern Ireland

sunny 68 °F

May 21st, 2012

Rainy. Wet. Cloudy. Fitting weather for leaving a place with so many good memories. It's a really handy thing we bought that umbrella too. It's coming down good as we say goodbye to the Carini guesthouse and make our way to the bus stop. Though our flight is at 10:55, we are leaving at 6:30 to the bus just to be safe. Nicole and I are sad to leave, but also happy we are going to a country that speaks and writes in English.  The language barrier is exhausting. Case in point. At the train station we needed to find out how to catch the bus to the airport. I knew from my research the night before that it was here somewhere but in usual Italian style, it wasn't marked anywhere. We were also at the station early enough that none of the stores or information desks were open. We still had plenty of time, but it is very frustrating not finding help and not being able to read. After 20 minutes of increasingly stressful search, I asked a police officer who spoke english well enough to get the meaning across. We bought tickets and were able to get to the airport an hour early. 

As we were approaching Ireland by air, I remember a strange feeling that came over me.  Nicole liked Italy so much, and Ireland was my favorite place last year. What if it did not live up to last year's fun? What if all my talking about it is proven wrong? This is how much I want Nicole to love Ireland. The trouble is that we are going to northern Ireland first, which is part of the United Kingdom. I know from reading that they are more modern up there and less traditional. This has me worried, but we'll just have to see how it goes.  When we landed and were in the Dublin terminal, all the memories of the trip Casey and I took washed over me.  I started dancing a little jig and singing nonsense songs about how much I love Ireland. We found the bus no problem thanks to an ENGLISH speaking help desk lady and were on our way to Belfast. We have been so blessed with good weather. The forecast shows dry and sunny for our stay. 

At the bus station in Belfast, we decided to just walk to our bed and breakfast. It was only 2 miles and we seriously are experts. It's so interesting to see orange on all the churches instead of green. I have read that not even 20 years ago, it was dangerous to travel to Belfast with all the religious violent outbreaks between Northern Ireland and the Republic (south Ireland). It was a straight shot to our place and easy to find. The owner talked to us for quite a bit about how the young Irish were leaving in droves to work in booming Australia. He directed us to a fish and chips place that we knew we would have to try eventually. After Nicole asked, he also let us wash our clothes. We are saved! We were on our last bit of clothing and all was starting to smell a little stale. When that ran and we had hung up our clothes to dry, we laid down for a little nap. This little nap lasted until the following morning :)

Posted by hangtime41 13:34 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

The last day of Italia.

What time is dinner?

rain 67 °F

May 20th, 2012

It's a drizzly morning on our last day in Rome. The plan is to be as relaxed and unrushed as possible. Our guesthouse has a morning breakfast that we were glad to join before taking off for the day.  I met a really nice Kiwi (kiwi: someone from New Zealand) that is living in London, and travelled to Rome for the weekend his friend from Holland. We had a great discussion on the best places to visit in New Zealand and I think Nicole and I are sufficiently inspired to go there.  We even talked about the Lord of the Rings! New Zealanders have a very similar accent to Australians and I had almost blurted out that he was Australian before he said otherwise.  I'm glad I kept my mouth shut! That could have been awkward. 

Because we had caught the wrong bus only the day before, we knew exactly where to go to catch the correct bus. This found us in downtown Rome to do a bit of shopping. We headed to the Palestine Hill entrance to the same vendor that  I had bought my shirt from when we were here last. Nicole has been talking for a week now about the hat she wanted to buy. He had exactly what we wanted and Nicole was so excited to get it! From here we realized that sport jackets were really cheap in Rome, and decided Nicole needed one of those too. For an idea, as you walk around the popular sections of Rome, there are souvenir stores on every street, and alway more than 2 or 3. We knew we'd buy a jacket when we found the deal we wanted.  K, so I must let you in on a secret. Today is going to be our last visit to the Bruschetteria, and to be honest, that really is what the day is about. It's terrible and awesome that a restaurant can impact you so much that you look forward to it as the highlight of the day. I was determined to enjoy all of Rome, but we couldn't stop talking about the evening we would have. Thankfully, we found a map and decided to see the pantheon.  This building completely forced dinner out of my mind. The pantheon is the most complete structure in Rome. It has massive pillars supporting a dwarfing entrance. The main building has a dome roof that completely dumbfounded Nicole and I. How in the world did these people move stone and build in such a lasting, but also beautiful and artful way? Even though the proof is before my eyes, I just can't wrap my mind fully around it. Raphael the artist's tomb is here also in the pantheon. From here we decided to see some of the famous piazza's and squares in the area.  This led us to more beautiful fountains and buildings.  By this time we realized we were getting close to the Vatican that we had been so foiled in reaching.  Since we needed to pass some time until seven and our glorious feast, we made the walk. The Vatican and Saint Peters square is so huge! I reckon, without looking it up that they could fit over half a million people in that square. My scrutiny found cameras everywhere. Apparently the pope himself had been out to make a blessing that very morning, but we did not know that until later. Still not enough time burned. We had now seen a ton of Rome and all the big sites and it was only 4:30. We decided to stop into, what we thought, was a coffee shop. Oh quick backtrack. The rain had started to fall lightly, and I said to Nicole," Those little men should be selling umbrellas. At least that would be useful." About ten minutes later, every five feet, there was a little Indian guy offering umbrellas! K, back to the coffee shop. We planned to sit down while Nicole enjoyed a cappuccino.  Upon buying it we headed towards the tables.  Just before we could sit, we were told that we could not sit and had to back to the coffee bar. Apparently, there were three restaurants in this one little area and we were not part of the seated side.  Lame. We began again to find something to do. Finally the rain was coming down so hard, that we took refuge under some big leafy trees. We came to the conclusion that we would need to buy an umbrella if we wanted to get around the city. As luck would have it, we could not find a little man anywhere. Up this alley? No. This? No. A shop! Three euros to stay dry and mobile and we were happy. I was happy that we didn't have to give in to the little men but bought one from a legitimate shop. We still had a few hours before dinner.  This found us jumping in a shop to eat a piece of pie. Only burning 20 minutes, we decided it was time to eat early. I know what you may be thinking, because I thought it myself.  How can you possibly have good conscience enough to BURN time in Rome! It's sacrilege is it not? Well I'll tell you. It was raining to start. Secondly, we really did see quite a bit that day. And third, you've never eaten at the Bruschetteria, , you just don't know. So there :). We happily skipped along to the best place in the world! The lights were off. It is closed. Noooooooo! Hold the panic, it says italian words and 12:00-3:00 and then more Italian words and 7:00. We put our hope in this. It was difficult put putting away 2 more hours, but we did and stood waiting by the door for opening.

Ah the Bruschetteria! The owner came in just about ten minutes after us and with a huge smile at the recognition came and shook our hands! He then had the waitress bring us a bowl of green olives that had not been pitted. Yum yum yum! He was in and out while we made our way through the best bruschetta, Nicole's pizza, and my pesto pasta. Nicole had red wine, included in the meal, and enjoyed it very much.  Then, for my final course, they brought out sausage. Let me tell you, it was like drinking sausage. Not in a gross blended up with water way, but the meat was so savory, so succulent, so juicy and flavorful' I can't describe it any other way. On the owners orders, the waitress brought us each some Limoncello.  We did not want to leave yet! What's the best way not to leave after dinner? Order creme brûlée and tiramisu! Holy goodness on my tastebuds. About this time, a German couple came in that were apparently regulars to the restaurant.  They had even brought another couple who had just come to Rome! They hugged and kissed the owner and then gave him a gift. We felt an immediate bond with these people.  Here were people that knew and were fond of the place we had grown to love. I made eye contact with them, and through our smiles we had communicated this to each other. Sadly we had to leave to make room for others coming in. We asked the owner for a picture and his name.  He said it was Johnny.  He doesn't look like a Johnny but was happy to take the picture. On the way out, the German couple made it a point to wish us a good evening. We literally pouted the entire way home. It's so sad to leave a place you love so much, and never know for sure when you may be there again.

Posted by hangtime41 11:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Momma said there would be days like this.

I'm tired.

rain 67 °F

May 19th, 2012

I was wondering if we would have a day like today on this trip.  It all started the night before. There was a group of Italian students that had just checked into our campground. We had to be up at 4am. Insert recipe for no sleep. These students stood outside our cabin and carried on with the laughing and the yelling until 1 in the morning. This made our wake up time very miserable. We slung on our packs and went to drop off our keys.  Another hitch was met here.  Though they assured us someone was working 24 hours, no one was there.  Well I guess that's no big deal, we can just leave the keys there. However, when we tried to leave, massive gates with huge locks blocked both entrances. Oh brother. Nicole did a little scouting and found a place where we could hop the ten foot wall. I jumped, turned and caught her, and we were on our way to the train station.  Upon arrival, we found that our prepurchased tickets were not for the train, but for the bus. Sweet.  To the bus stop we go. Our bus took us the 2 and a half hours to Rome. We walked to the nearest Metro station, which was very close, and hoped our day of troubles was over. Oops, we took the metro two stops too far. And imagine that, we exited the metro area and had to purchase more tickets. We made it to our desired stop and noticed we had to catch a different train line. We searched and searched and asked directions and searched. Nothing. By this time my patience-o-meter was on empty.  I suggested we just walk. Little did I know we would have to scale another 7 million stairs, in the heat. We stopped for a Gatorade quickly and continued.  We had to be fast because we were scheduled at the Vatican for 2pm. By this time it was nearly 11. We found the street that claimed to hold our hostel, however it was not marked at all,  we walked up the block, and down the block, and up the block, and down the block. Finally, we asked a fellow who showed us a button on a wall. There were actually several buttons to many condos and suites in a building on the street.  Our hostel happened to be one of them. Thank goodness! We are tired, but we will just pop in, clean up and head out.  No again.  They didn't have our room ready for half an hour.  I figured I would pass the time on the internet.  Of course not. My iPad would not connect. Well there's nothing for it.  Let's go to our tour of the Vatican.  The hostel guy said to just go catch bus 44, get off at the last stop, and then catch another bus to the Vatican.  Forty minutes tops. Well, we could not find the bus stop. We didn't even know what it looked like.  By this time it was 1:10pm. No problem, we'll ask someone where the stop is. Just up the road? Okay. So we catch the 44 bus. Wrong direction. We travelled for 30 minutes the wrong way to the last stop as far from the vatican as you could be. Then, it leaves you and you have to sit on another bus, whose bus driver is having lunch with the engine off. 15 minutes later we are heading in the right direction. I figure since we will be so late, maybe they will let us in at the 4:00 time.  We make into the last stop, and jump off.  We have both been here before, but do not recall there ever being any other buses to take.  We did not want to give up without trying, so we did.  Alas, we could find no bus that was going to the Vatican.  Barely able to keep our eyes open, we decided to go back to our place and go to bed.  Maybe this is what God wanted for us all along, because as soon as we made this decision, everything went smoothly and we found ourselves passed out like the dead until 7:45. 

Famished when we woke up, we walked around briefly in search of a grocery place, but could not find one.  We settled on a hot dog deal, with fries and drink for 8 euro total. It tasted oh so good.  After that we finally got on the internet for a bit and resumed our much needed sleep.  I give today a grade of F+. The F is for the amount of site seeing we did, and the plus is that we at least can say we tried.

Posted by hangtime41 11:30 Archived in Italy Comments (2)

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