Travel Wrap-Up and Summary

I was a geography minor back in the day, and I love a good map!  Plus, I really wanted to log all of the Km/Miles we logged on this trip.  We were definitely tired, and we are avid fans of walking, so this may not be for everyone.  Walking was a perfect solution for us to get exercise, see as much as possible, and get a feel for the cities we were in.  My impeccable sense of direction helped, too.  Next time I’m taking my FitBit to really log the miles!

Dublin Day 1 – December 26, 2013

Airlink Bus 747 from Dublin Airport to O’Connell Street.  An Adult single ticket is only €6, and it is a quick trip to City Center.  Worth it!

dublin airlink

Trying to stay awake, find coffee, and food:

dublin day 1 part one

After a rest, we headed out into Dublin again to do a little exploring:

dublin day 1 part 2

Dublin Day 1 Totals: 7.2 Miles

Dublin Day 2 – December 27, 2013

dublin day 2

*Note – we went to The Beer Club, JW Sweetman’s, not Messrs Maguire, but Google Maps wouldn’t let me choose that as a destination.

Dublin Day 2 Totals: 8 miles

Northern Ireland and Belfast – December 28, 2013

driving to belfast

Walked to Old Church to meet bus, and back after a stop for fish and chips!  Also spent a lot of time walking trails at the bridge and causeway Total Miles: Approximately 5 miles

Dublin -> Wales -> London – December 29, 2013

We walked to the ferry port, then took the ferry to Holyhead in Wales, then the train into Euston Station London, then to Waterloo:

house to ferry

ferry journey

We got slightly lost coming out of Waterloo, so I estimate our miles for this day at: 3 Miles

I got our tickets and information about this type of travel from The Man in Seat 61 – his website is FANTASTIC for travel in Europe.  He posts videos, pictures, maps, time tables, and everything else a true OCD traveler such as myself can enjoy.

London Full Day 1 – December 30, 2013

london day 1

We saw basically everything. Approximately 7.5 miles

London Day 2 – December 31, 2013

london day 2

 

Again, we saw pretty much everything.  Including fantastic fireworks and historic stuff and art. I added 1.5 miles to this day for our time spent walking around the tower and Tate and time spent wading through people after the fireworks. Approximately 7 miles

Last Day in London – January 1, 2014


last day in London

Last Day in London: Approximately 5 miles

January 2, 2014 –  another day of ferries, trains, and this time a cab from the ferry to the flat.  We only had one small mishap with the cab; our cabbie misheard us and we almost ended up in the opposite end of Dublin from where we were supposed to be.  The only time accents were an issue!  We walked maybe 1 mile this day, with train switches and a jaunt up the street to get a frozen pizza for dinner #exhausted

Last Day in Dublin – January 3, 2013

last day in dublin

This was the day all those miles were felt in my poor short little legs.  We worked through another 5.5 miles, and ended with a quiet evening at the flat so we could catch an early flight back to the states in the morning.

Back to the States – January 4, 2014

We woke up with ideas of walking to the Airlink, but this day was the only morning that there was a downpour of rain.  We opted for a cab instead, for which our legs thanked us.  To the airport, through customs, over the ocean and Canada, to Atlanta, and back to Knoxville – all in a day’s travel.  And I got my froyo fix in the ATL airport, which is always my #1 priority at an airport.

TOTAL TRAVEL SUMMARY

Total Estimated Miles Walked:  At Least 44.2 Miles

Sites Seen: All of the major ones.  Guinness, Christchurch, Kilmainham, Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, The Tower of London, British Museum, Tate Modern, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and so much MORE.

Costs:
Flights: Knoxville to Dublin, roundtrip $1895.00 total- $947.50/person
Lodging Dublin: $336.00 – 5 nights – $67.20/night – $168/person
Lodging London: $549.00 – 4 nights – $137.25/night – $274.50/person
Rail/Sail Tickets from Dublin->London->Dublin: $254.59 for 2 tickets – $127.30/person
All other costs – Meals, Souvenirs, Admissions, Et al: $1,379.46 – $689.73/person

Total: $4,144.05 – $2,207.02 / person = $220.00 per day per person for everything – not too bad!

But really: PRICELESS

London Day 2/2.5: New Years Adventures

1507445_10101545216840245_366034008_oAfter a full day of exploring the city followed by an exciting day at the Tower of London and Tate Museum of Modern Art, our third full day in London was a bit more low key. We slept in a bit to recover from the fireworks the night before…

New Years Eve in London

…is the craziest thing I have ever witnessed in person.  Here is the fireworks show, which was amazing in its own right (worth noting it features ELO, 1D (of COURSE), my favorite Coldplay song, and the Queen):

Some bloke getting knicked by the horseback coppers!

Some bloke getting knicked by the horseback coppers!

For some perspective, we were right behind the Eye, below the building with the countdown, on the south bank of the Thames.  Leading up to the show, we met a couple of really nice east enders, and bonded over the ridiculous drunken people camped out behind us.  We talked about the Olympics, One Direction, and the weather – they were great!

The real cultural experience began after the fireworks, though… Our usual route from the Southbank to the flat was less than half a mile.  Due to the crowds, however, the police had barricaded off all side streets to force the mass of people to go down one street.  The tubes all closed at midnight, and it was chaos.  We saw: teenagers street fighting, a man who I think was dead on the sidewalk, a lady trying to punch everyone, kids throwing fire crackers into the crowd, people in windows giving everyone a show, a man getting arrested by a policewoman who was on a horse… the list goes on. It. Was. Amazing.  We finally gave up, found some high ground, and just watched the show.

Eventually we made it along with the masses to The Cut, where I convinced a policeman that our beds really were just on the other side of his barricade, and that we weren’t up to any mischief.  Poor, silly little Americans, he probably thought.

Anyway, we got to bed, slept in, then headed out for our last full day in the greatest city I have visited (sorry Dublin, Toronto, and New York).

New Years Day in London

1502443_10101545219210495_1532383247_oSadly, the most interesting looking gallery, at Southbank Centre, was closed.  We looked around outside, and continued on to see a bit more of the city, and revisit our new favorites.  We caught part of the rainy and windy London New Years Day Parade near Picadilly Circus (lots of American high school marching bands – it felt like home!)

We saw the famous shopping districts, had MORE Cafe Nero of course, and had lunch at St. Martin’s in the Green Cafe in the Crypt.  This was the coolest spot for a lunch, and I had a most English lunch of treacle, tea, and a small meat pie.  We went up to see the church, where the creepiest baby Jesus statue ever was found outside (picture below).  The crypts were really interesting, and I loved the statue of the Pearly King!

Charles and I explored a bit more, saw the horses and military park, and decided to get dinner at the Sherlock Holmes!  They were out of a lot of things that night, including fish n chips, but I did get some delicious chicken liver pate, and Charles had yet another delicious meat pie.  It was a great atmosphere with the mist outside, a chill in the air, and the warm pub food and delicious pint.

Dinner at the Sherlock Holmes

Dinner at the Sherlock Holmes

We continued on to the southbank in the dark, where we saw our last glimpse of Big Ben, the Eye, and the city I grew to love.

The next morning, we got up and caught the tube to Euston, and back to Holyhead to catch our ferry to Dublin.  This was probably our roughest day, which an abhorrent man from the Tube harassing us about GMOs and America (like we don’t know there are problems) and a miscommunication with the cab driver in Ireland who spoke a strange Dublinese language.  We only had one full day in Dublin left, so we went to bed prepared to make the most of it before heading back to the states!

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So long, London!

So long, London!

 

So long, London!

I miss you, still!

The Tower of London: Preservation Conundrums

Better late than never on the blog!  I’ve had a crazy past month with work, traveling to Utah, and so much more.  Back to London:

After a fantastic day traipsing all over London, drooling over David Tennant, and visiting the British Museum, we were out for another day of history and art!

1008431_10101545160293565_11292607_oOne place in London that I absolutely had to see was the Tower of London – it has so much history!  I have to admit, as I walked through, I just touched all of the walls and doors and exposed material possible.  People have done that for a thousand years; don’t you judge me.  I remember walking down one spiral staircase and just running my hand down the wall the whole way down – I felt up all of the history.

1490727_10101545159315525_933725071_o

The wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, with St. Paul’s ahead!

We walked along the Thames through the mist, saw the current London Bridge (I lamented the fact that it is totally lame compared to the Elizabethan version), and finally turned the corner to the ticket queues for the Tower.  Along our walk we also got to see St. Paul’s in the day light, walk across the wibbly wobbly Harry Potter bridge, the iconic Tower Bridge, lots of giant boats, barges, and bouys, and even the Globe Theater.

From a museum professional perspective, I do have to say their ticket process is ingenious – the cost of the ticket was, say  £17.99; the ticket person asks if you would like to round up to and even  £20 with the rest as a donation towards preservation.  Duh!  We did, of course, and I’m trying to implement the same among my staff.

my favorite monarch!

my favorite monarch!

Moving on, we walked through the gates, past the yeomen warders, and into the heart of 1,000 years of English history.  You can read about the entire history elsewhere, but historical highlights for me were: William the Conqueror, Richard III (allegedly) murdering the princes, and Anne Boleyn.

It was a bit crowded while we were there, but it didn’t dampen my excitement.  Charles loved the armor and weapons displays, I loved the animal displays and Traitors Gate, and we both loved the cooking demonstration, even though the stag’s head sat there and watched itself being butchered.  We didn’t bother with the crown jewels since the line was long, and I had promised Charles time to visit the Tate Modern across the river.  Another disappointment was the lack of info torture chamber – the yeoman laughed at me when I asked where it was; something about Americans and their love of violence.  The interactives, living history, and touch stations really made a difference, though.  Charles and I both tried our arms at the long bow – we weren’t too shabby at it!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

yummy. It really did smell delicious!

Reading about the Tower, I was a bit surprised to find out that sections were torn off that didn’t look “old” or “new” enough. I don’t know why I was surprised since this is a common practice, but it did still hurt my heart a bit.  I deal with the same type of things (on a MUCH smaller scale) at my own site, where the historic house has undergone MANY renovations, changes, and owners in its 200 years.  What period do you interpret?  Can you tell all the stories?  What color do you paint the walls – the color from 1200, 1500, or 1850?  Should you tear down a building from 1700 in favor of the view from a 1300 building?  I don’t have the answers, and I don’t know if there is a right answer.  Preservationists – what are your thoughts?

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

My general demeanor throughout the Tate

We left the tower to head to the Tate Modern.  I originally thought I would write a blog about that, but I enjoyed it so little that I don’t even really want to think about it that much.  I saw a Dali, which was ok, and I ate an ok muffin from the cafe.  Charles saw a couple things he liked, but over all, it just wasn’t that great.  As you know if I read this blog, I have feelings about art museums anyway, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.  I have nothing against art, obviously, since I’m engaged to an artist.  I like a lot of contemporary art and old art; something about modern art just irks me, though, in general.  I like van Gogh?  And now I’ve dedicated a whole paragraph to that place. Fin.

From the Tate, we tried to find a place for dinner, which we hadn’t anticipated as a problem, until we realized it was New Years Eve.  We went to the Sainsbury’s by the flat, watched the premier of Sherlock on the BBC online, and then headed out to Southbank for the fireworks….

london day 2

Our day in review

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London: A Walk Through History and Modernity

We woke up the next morning, December 30, after a pleasant night full of chicken curry and great sleep, ready to take on the streets of London.

LondonWe started the day with Cafe Nero (thanks for the suggestion, Kelsey!) hot chocolate and espresso.  Cafe Nero quickly became a twice-daily part of our time in London.  There was one right across the street from the flat, and the public restrooms in the cafes throughout the city were an added bonus.  We also stopped by a little bookstore to buy a pocket map of the city.  Luckily, I have an impeccable sense of direction, AND I was a geography minor, so we didn’t even come close be being lost (not that we could have been, since we were just wandering!).

Having the feelings

Having the feelings

The day started out perfectly misty and damp, just how London should be.  We crossed the mighty (brown) Thames to the Embankment where we saw a beautiful World War II memorial, a great view of the Eye, and Parliament and Big Ben.  This is a great intersection of the modern and historical sides of London.  The Thames has been the center of life in London from the time of Henry VIII,  William the Conqueror, and even earlier.  The Millennium Wheel, or London Eye, is a once controversial sign of modern London.  The timelessness (ha!) of Big Ben is iconic, and the history made in and around Parliament is also impressive.  Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with all the feelings about history.

An accurate depiction of me outside Westminster Abbey. Thanks, Sherlock.

By the time we turned the corner and saw Westminster Abbey, I was having even more feelings. Let’s just take a second here to recount just a few of the things that have happened here.

  • Construction on the present church began in 1245 by Henry III (he’s also buried there)
  • Before that, William the Conqueror and his successors were coronated on the same site
  • Survives the Tudor era and all the there and back again of Catholic/Protestant rule
  • Weddings: Henry I of England to Matilda of Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II to Phillip, and Will and Kate of course!
  • People buried there: kings and queens (excluding 2 of my favs: Henry VIII and Richard II),   Geoffrey Chaucer Isaac Newton, and  Charles Darwin
Charles and the Arch

Charles and the Arch

We didn’t pay the fee to go in, but I did fangirl appropriately outside, and buy a tiny gargoyle and some tea in the giftshop.

Next, we decided to go ahead and see Buckingham Palace and see where the day took us from there.  The weather cleared up, and the sun even showed itself!  We walked through the park, saw some geese, then turned the corner to the iconic palace.  I didn’t have as many feelings here, but I did try to keep an eye out for the queen!  We walked along the royal apartments, took a picture with the changing guards, saw Charles’ favorite spot up to this point, Admiralty Arch, and then continued on to Trafalgar Square.

and we'll never be royals.. that kinda lux just ain't for us.

and we’ll never be royals.. that kinda lux just ain’t for us.

In Trafalgar, we stopped at yet another Cafe Nero, saw the lions and Napoleon, and a big blue chicken.  Since we were already out and about, we made the quickest of stop at a McDonalds (reminiscent of our first morning in Dublin) for a cheeseburger on the go – no stopping for real food on this day of site-seeing! At this point, we figured why not go on and go all out – we walked up Drury Lane (of muffin Man fame!) to the British museum (where I again had all the feels – but that’s a topic for another blog, coming next week!). – Spoiler alert – I got emotional about the Elgin Marbles.

From the British Museum, we walked on to the Barbican Centre for one of the many highlights of the trip: David Tennant, the 10th Doctor himself, starring in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performance of Richard II.  Seriously – what a day of emotions, and I am not an emotional person (it’s the Britishness I inherited – stiff upper lip!). I mentioned in a recent blog that he is my dream guest blogger – still waiting on that call, Davy!  The performance was great, we loved it, then we waited out by the back stage door for him to emerge in all of his hair-extension-ponytailed glory.  I was so close, that had I not been so polite, I could have touched him.  The ponytail served as a great repellent.

Instead of a tackle or full contact hug, I just did a weak little wave.  Safe, but lame.

Instead of a tackle or full contact hug, I just did a weak little wave. Safe, but lame.

Walking on air, we went over to the Jugged Hare for the best dinner of all time.  Charles had the slow roasted rump of a Hertfordshire Fallow Deer, and I had a meat pie.  I don’t think this one was cooked by Mrs. Mooney or Mrs. Lovett, but it was certainly deserving of a song of how great it was.  The deer rump was the most delicious piece of meat I have ever tasted.

We started back to the flat around midnight, and passed Saint Paul’s Cathedral along the way.  This was one of the (if not THE) most impressive sights we saw on the trip – and we saw an awful lot of stuff. We had seen it in the distance earlier in the day, and it is an iconic part of the London skyline.  Seeing it in person, bigger than life, was something else.  None of the pictures can do it justice.

London-0630

St. Paul’s at Night

We continued along the Thames, which was the only time I was slightly uncomfortable in London – along the river, at midnight, under bridges.  Maybe we should have taken a different route.  Things were a wee bit confusing as the city was preparing to set up for the fireworks on New Years Eve.  Regardless, we made it back to the flat and passed out from a day full of excitement.

To sum it up, looking back on the day’s events, this was possibly one of the very best days of my life (surpassed by the day before when I got engaged in northern Ireland and that time I graduated with a PhD).

Next time:

  • Actually go in Westminster Abbey
  • Climb to the top of St. Paul’s
  • Ride the London Eye
  • Museum of London
  • Go back to the Jugged Hare
london day 1

Day 1 in London

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Wales, Snowdonia, and Entering London

NIreland-mapAfter our full day in Northern Ireland, we returned to Dublin.  We grabbed some quick fish n chips, then rested up for our full day of travel to Wales and London.

Rather than take a cab to the port, we decided to walk from the apartment.  It wasn’t a terribly long walk, but it was early, and we hadn’t had our coffee or tea yet.  Dragging our backpacks, we finally entered the gangplank to board the Ulysses and cross the Irish Sea to Holyhead.  We booked our rail and sail tickets thanks very much to the advice of The Man in Seat 61. I was a little apprehensive at traveling by boat, train, and tube all in one day, but we did it successfully!

After boarding the ferry, we grabbed some seats and a quick breakfast.  We had all the best intentions to go out on deck and see the sea and the approach to Wales… but we took Dramamine and promptly fell asleep in our seats. I woke up just in time to see the British Isles from the window, and watch the boat maneuver into Holyhead Port in Wales.  We had a little bit of time to look around Wales, but being neurotic and worried about missing our train, we limited our selves to a quick view off the bridge and a jaunt around the giftshop (dragon key chain and ALL the tangfastics, wine gummies, and galaxy minstrels!).

The train from Holyhead to London was PACKED.  Apparently Virgin Trains overbooked, and we felt lucky to have seats, even if we weren’t next to each other.  People were standing in the aisles, and we didn’t even get trolley service (I really wanted some Harry Potter style roving snack cart action – so this was a huge disappointment).  Luckily we had stocked up on candy in the giftshop so we got all sugared up as we rode along the coast, through the mountains, and across the beautiful countryside.

The Man in Seat 61 posted this video, which shows the journey from beginning to end (only in the opposite direction that we went in):

As you can see in the video, it is a gorgeous way to travel, with castles, seas, and TONS of sheep along the way.  The Snowdonia Mountains were particularly gorgeous, and occasionally we would spot a ruined castle atop a hill – perfect. Snowdonia National Park is the largest in Wales, and one of the original 3 National Parks established there.  Wales is arguably one of the most beautiful places we saw in our travels, and I’d love to spend more time there off the train.

The weirdest part of the trip was definitely Will Ferrell/Ron Burgundy narrating the bathroom experience. We also passed what seemed like the world’s biggest trailer park.  We also heard some of the dumbest words ever uttered on the train: American Man: “What language do you think that is out there on that sign?”  American Man’s Girlfriend: “ummm, Welsh?”

I navigated this ish like a boss

I navigated this ish like a boss

Finally, we pulled into Euston Station, changed some Euros to Sterling Pounds, and headed down to the famous Tube stations to catch a ride to Waterloo Station in Southbank… we had no trouble navigating (or staying on the standing side of the escalators so as not to incur the wrath of angry Londoners) and made it to our home neighborhood for the next several days.  By this time, we were exhausted from travel, hungry, and not thinking terribly clearly.  Our host’s instructions were fantastic, but we managed to come out the wrong exit and get turned around.  Luckily, a kind Liverpudlian walked us to the correct street and virtually patted us on the head as he sent us on the correct path to the Cut (everyone was SO NICE there – if a bit snarky).

We got in the flat, threw our stuff down, and headed to the closest pub, the Windmill Tavern for some pints and chicken curry.  Rather than explore, we settled in to prepare for a full day of London the next day…

Belfast: More Difficult Histories and Recent History

Respect | Remember | Resolution

Respect | Remember | Resolution

*** Well, I was really hoping to have more than a recap on our trip to Belfast, but at this time that’s all I’m able to offer.  We only spent about 2 hours there, but the recent history there surrounding “The Troubles” really impacted me; even in the few months since I’ve been back, I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it all, and I’m hoping to come up with a bigger blog series on difficult histories, reconciliation, and more.  As my good friend Abigail Gautreau found in her dissertation research, Public History has a HUGE role to play in reconciliation with recent historical events.  ***

So as we wrapped up our great day traveling to rope bridges and giants’ homes with Wayne from Extreme Ireland tours, we headed back south towards Dublin with a stop in Belfast.  Wayne set us up with his friends from a Belfast black Taxi Tour Company to learn more about the politics of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Britain, and the Republic of Ireland.  If you want a good, quick synopsis of the Troubles, please check out this Wikipedia link (don’t hate – Dr. Robert Connolly writes of the scholarly values of Wiki here).

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

Important for ALL historians to remember. Mural in Belfast.

At the very smallest, most basic level – Irish Catholics and British Protestants fought for years with various terrorist groups on both sides wreaking havoc in Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, and even in England and other places;  this time is called “The Troubles” and officially lasted from the late 1960s until 1998.  Violence has still occurred since then, and during the weeks leading up to our visit to Belfast a car bomb exploded.

The tour started in the City Center by the City Hall.  We had 2 guides, who both grew up during the Troubles in Belfast; they didn’t tell us which side they grew up on, so as we went through the tour we tried to guess from their biases which side they were on.   We hopped into the cabs and were off to see the city.

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

How terrifying would it be to see this every day, and know it was aimed at you or your ancestors?

We started in the “English” section, which is dotted with memorial murals commemorating the English heroes of the Troubles and religious conflicts.  We talked about the Hunger Strikes, the various violent conflicts, and others calling for peace and reconciliation.  There are memorials on both sides, and for just about everything.  There are many sources online that document each mural.

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Even accounting for my shortness, these walls are HUGE

Next we went to the Peace Wall, which was an incredible sight to see.  The wall is up to 40 feet or more in some places – high enough to prevent people from throwing grenades or shells over to the other side.  The violence that occurred here (and still does) is astounding to me.  This blog, “WTF Wednesdays: Belfast Peace Walls” by the Everywhereist really does a good job of explaining how I felt seeing the walls and on the tour in general.  We wrote our own messages on the walls, reflected on their purpose and the fact that they still exist, and moved into the Irish neighborhoods.

There is a lot of talk about whether or not the Peace Walls or the murals should remain, and I hope to tackle that question from the preservation/reconciliation side in the future.  In the meantime, read more about it here, here, here, and here.  There is also a lot of talk among residents, found here, and here. Another good article about architecture and conflict is available here.

One we passed through a gate in the walls to the Irish side, we visited a memorial on Bombay Street.   Here, the neighborhood had constructed a memorial to those killed, just in that one neighborhood, as a direct result of the Troubles.  The Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden lists each name and stands directly in the shadow of the walls.  The Conflict Archive on the Internet posted a video tour of the memorial on youtube here.

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

A “non-lethal” rubber bullet; at least 17 people were killed by these during the Troubles (or after, from the effects)

While we were at the memorial, the guides showed us the “non-lethal” rubber bullets that killed so many people in the Irish neighborhoods.  Dominic Marron is considered the most recent death as a result of plastic bullets.  He passed away in 2004 from complications related to being shot at the age of 15 in 1981.  The memorial and all the names of those killed or injured or otherwise impacted by the Troubles made a huge impression on us. 

At the end of the tour, we guessed which sides our tour guides grew up on; based on the tours, we guessed that one was English and the other was Irish – turns out both were raised on the Irish side!  They did a fantastic job telling the whole story without letting their own personal biases show, which shows an incredible amount of forgiveness and/or professionalism.

The presentation of such recent and fresh difficult histories brings any problems and questions;  I hope to address these more soon. Another public history aspect of the murals is Belfast has to do with preservation of the murals: can they be preserved, and should they be?  What feelings do they still stir among residents or visitors?

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

View out the foggy window at Belfast City Hall all lit up for Christmas

I was only 12 when the Good Friday Peace Agreement was signed,  so I can barely remember seeing some of the violence on the news.  This tour, the information I learned from Wayne, the tour at Kilmainham, and during my travels around Ireland really struck a chord with me.  As I said at the beginning of this post, I really hope to explore this history more.  There is DEFINITELY another trip to Belfast in our future to learn more. The question of safety in Belfast always comes up among tourists and concerned friends and family.  Our tour guides assured us that it is one of the top destinations for tourist, and the Visit Belfast website (albeit a obviously biased site!) lists all of the awards and lists they have made over the past several years.

I will admit that hearing about the car bombing the same month I visited, the topics of the tour, and the general gloom of the evening when we were there made me somewhat uneasy. That won’t stop me from coming back, however!

If you have any personal stories related to the Troubles, please comment below or contact me – I’d love to learn more about it.

Things to see next time:

  • More time in Belfast in general
  • More time in Northern Ireland in general
  • City Hall
  • Titanic Museum!
  • Europa Hotel

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Northern Ireland: Giant’s Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

Walk down to the Causeway

After the bridge, lunch, and cute ponies,  we continued on to another National Trust site, the Giant’s Causeway. Wayne from Extreme Ireland Irish Day Tours told us some of the history and mythology associated with the geological phenomenon along the short drive to the site.

I'm not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

I’m not sure what this is, but it is terrifying and probably exactly what it looked like when Fionn and Ben met.

Legend has it that the rock columns that make up the formation are the remains of a road built by giants.  Wayne told us that the Irish giant and hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, sometime called Finn MacCool, was the rival of a Scottish giant called Benandonner.

Ben challenged Fionn to a duel, and built the causeway across the Channel so that they could meet. When Fionn saw Ben coming across the causeway, he realized how large his opponent was and decided to hide from him to avoid the battle.  Fionn’s wife, Oonagh, disguised Fionn as a baby and put him to bed in a cradle. When Benandonner came to the house to find Fionn, Oonagh told him he had gone out, but would soon return.  Ben saw the ‘baby’, and got curious about the size of Fionn.  He reckoned that the baby’s father, Fionn, must be a giant among giants, and he was frightened back to Scotland. As he ran back across the causeway to his home, he destroyed it behind him so that Fionn could not follow to give him the business.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

While this is a fantastic story, the geological reasoning for the formations is almost as thrilling. Sometime 50 million years ago,Northern Ireland experienced a lot of volcanic activity.  Molten basalt leaked through the chalk creating a lava plateau.  The lava cooled, and when the rocks contracted they created hexagonal pillars that we see today.

Regardless of how it was formed, this is a BEAUTIFUL site, and truly a national treasure worthy of protection by the National Trust.

The visitors center was nice looking, but we were warned it was way over-priced so we skipped it and decided to walk down to the stones. It was super windy, and a little bit chilly, but again, the beautiful views along the way made it worth it.  The path down to the rocks wasn’t too long, but the weather made me long for a quick stop then a jaunt back up the hills to the pub!!  We got to the bottom of the hill, saw the causeway, and I said, “ok, let’s go!”

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Gorgeous Northern Ireland

Luckily Charles convinced me to sit a moment, and then he asked me to marry him!!  I’ll spare you the details, but it was great, and I can’t imagine a more beautiful and inspiring place to get engaged.

We looked around a bit more, took pictures, then headed back up the hills to the pub, The Nook.  The pub was perfect, we had a Guinness, and then stopped at a little shop to buy some delicious honeycomb candy along with MORE postcards.  I also took the requisite phone booth photo, since we were in the UK, after all, and I wasn’t so uncool to do something so touristy in London.

Back on the bus, Wayne asked if everyone had a good time, and if anyone happened to get engaged at the Causeway – we did!!  On the way from the coast to Belfast, we stopped by Dunluce castle.  The castle is over 500 years old, and is in serious disrepair.  This is

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

one of those cases where “ruins” rather than conserved sites are the most beautiful.  The castle is right on the edge of a cliff, which is great for defenses but not so safe, as it turns out.  Parts of the castle have fallen into the sea, and part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea during a party One story says that when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.  This castle is also said to be the inspiration for C.S. Lewis’  Cair Paravel in the books Chronicles of Narnia.

We didn’t have NEARLY enough time in the north of Ireland, and we need to make another trip soon.

To See Next Time:

  • Bushmills – Distillery and town
  • Rathlin Island
  • Dunluce Castle
  • More ponies

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Cultural Geography: Toronto, Ontario

Woo Canada!

In the summer of 2011, I was lucky enough to get a MTSU Study Abroad Scholarship to study all the way in… Canada! Through a bit of coordination I was able to create an Advanced Projects in Public History course to get PhD level credits for the trip by doing additional work with the professor who led the trip to the Great White North.

For the main part of the trip I and the other students journeyed all around Toronto. It was a blasty-blast, and we learned so much! Toronto is extremely culturally diverse, so this was the perfect way to learn more about Cultural Geography, heritage tourism, history, and of course history. The undergraduates were required to explore several ethnic neighborhoods and complete a scavenger hunt for various things such as national colors, ethnic food, signs in another language, and other things. I joined in on this and was able to learn a lot from the neighborhoods, have some great Greek (lamb), Italian (gelato), Asian (fried rice) and other foods and drinks (bubble tea – blech), while at the same time working on my own advanced project.

Click for better image of Walking Tour

Street Car

My extra assignment was to create a walking tour of downtown Toronto. This is a huge assignment, but we walked approximately ten hours a day for two days so I had plenty of content to contribute. The best way to experience a place (and stay healthy at the same time) is by walking and observing the various areas you encounter that you wouldn’t see from a car, cab, train, or subway. We did have to take the subway a few times to make the most of our time. The student group that I was with did not specifically plan a route for our exploration but instead wandered to various districts. This was a great way to see the city and the different historic and cultural districts. However, perhaps time could be better used with a loose plan of action. Therefore I created a walking tour brochure for future students.

Here it is!

This guide serves as a guide to several culturally and historically interesting places but also encourages students to make their own route. I chose places for this walking tour that would appeal to a variety of students. The sites visited include government buildings, universities, ethnic and cultural neighborhoods, a museum, a historic house, and city parks. The brochure also includes official links for the sites that are included so that when the guide is distributed online students and others can learn more about the places they will visit on the tour. The distance and time that it would take to visit these sites may seem excessive, but the group of six that I was a part of managed this and more in our time in Toronto. Public transportation is also an option for students who may not want to experience the entire city via foot.

Click for PDF

My favorite places that I visited were the University of Toronto, Kensington Market, The riverfront and boat tour, and most of all, the Riverdale Farm.

...and they had the cutest baby goat I've ever seen...

Riverdale is a part of the Toronto Parks and Rec department, and is a fully functional farm open to the public.  They had all kinds of farm animals, trails, outbuildings, produce, and flowers.  We were lucky enough to be there on a warm day, and I thoroughly enjoyed being able to walk through Cabbagetown into a farm in the middle of a huge metropolitan area.  Visitors can buy produce from the farm, and there is also a cafe on site.  While we were there, we accidentally walked into a barn classroom where young students were attending a camp.  Admission to the farm is free, and the site has a farmers market, public programs, and various events.

We estimated that over 2 days we walked approximately 30 miles. In that time we saw trees growing in cars, innumerable Tim Horton’s-es, and countless pleasant, helpful, and kind Canadians.  In the future I will most likely post more about our trip to Canada and the things we encountered.

Toronto is an amazing place to visit for cultural, historical, environmental, and healthy activities. I didn’t get to see even half of what I wanted to see, and I look forward to going back again soon to walk another 30 miles in two days.

Click here to watch the video of students talking about eating PB&J in Niagara, Poolside

During our northern excursion, we also visited Niagara Falls where we ate PB&J poolside, saw the Falls at night in lights, and saw the rest of the Gatlinburg of the north, the Niagara countryside where we took our group band photo, and we had a myriad of adventures in the van including writing a song about our fearless leader, Doug.

All in all, it was a great time, and I would recommend the trip to anyone interested in cultures, geography, history, or any combination of the above.

Doug and the Dougie-Doug-Dougs