Travel – 15 Quick Tips When Visiting Belfast, NI

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Recently, an acquaintance of mine left for a trip to Ireland on a group tour. Her travels were taking her to Ireland as well as Belfast in the North and as far north as the Giants Causeway. She had been asking for advice, and I thought it would be helpful to share some of those tidbits here.

1. You will not receive a bag with your purchases. 

Not even at the grocery store. You will need to bring your own reusable bag or pay 5p to receive one. I did notice that there weren’t plastic bags swirling around the streets in the breeze.

2. Bring an umbrella and a lightweight jacket.

We visited in August, and we wore our jackets every day. It was colder than I expected. As for rain, it will rain every day. Sometimes it’s no more than a mist that you would feel at a waterfall, but we had at least two downpours, and without an umbrella, we would have been soaked to our skin.

As I joked with my brother-in-law: Ask yourself if you’re still in Ireland. If the answer is yes, then you need to bring your umbrella.

3. Across the street from City Hall in Belfast is a large information center with great pamphlets, maps, and a gift shop. If you can’t get to that one, try and find an information center before you start wandering around. They are very helpful. Visit Belfast Welcome Center.

4. Around the corner and down the road a tiny bit is Carroll’s, an Irish gift shop with clothes, magnets, mugs, candy, everything and anything at a price range that makes something affordable for everyone.

5. The candy selection is amazing.
Even if you find something similar to what we have in the States, the use of local water and milk in the candymaking makes it spectacular.

6. Toffee. Eat all the toffee.
We can’t get good British toffee in the States. It is my go-to when I can get it.

Also, eat all the cheddar. 

7. Visit Titanic Belfast. It is an incredible museum dedicated to the building of the Titanic. I think they did a really wonderful job balancing their pride for building the great ship and the respect for the lives lost in the disaster. They also have plenty of on-site parking at a reasonable price, a cafe, and a gift shop.

8. St. George’s Market.

9. Botanic Gardens. One word of warning, there is very little parking in this area.

10. Wear comfortable shoes. There will be a lot of walking regardless of your prime mode of transportation.

11. Download maps to your smartphone or prints them out. If you can’t do that, get them right away, especially street maps, if only to get your bearings. We tend to drive in circles the first couple of days.

12. Carry cash. The general consensus is £200 to start and then use an ATM as needed.

Visa and MasterCard are taken at most places. 

Notify your bank that you will be traveling and for how long, so they don’t freeze your cards when you need them. (This includes your Debit/ATM card as well.)

From personal experience, I would not recommend Discover. In the two weeks we were there, we found two places that took them. Not even the petrol stations did.

13. £ Stores. Poundland, Pound World, All for a £. The same as our dollar stores, but everything’s £1.

14. Petrol is in litres; road signs are in miles. I have no idea why. If you find out, please let me know.

15. Leave space in your case to bring things back without having to pay baggage fees.

Titanic Belfast. Museum. (c)2018

Spiritual Sites

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What I call my “relics”. These are not historical or sacred in any way except to me. 1. (Top left): Dried flowers and rock along with holy water from St. Elen’s Well in Wales. 2. (Bottom left): The top and bottom of a rock from what is still standing of my mother-in-law’s uncle’s house in Northern Ireland. 3. (Top right): A shell and a rock (or a fossilized rock) from Ballintoy. 4. Middle right): Holy water and pebble from St. Olcan’s Holy Well and a rock from the Cranfield Church ruins as well as the top and bottom of the rocks from the site. 5. (Bottom right): The dried flowers and rock from St. Elen’s Well without the holy water pictured. (c)2017

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September 11th

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Every year I try to reflect and write something meaningful for today. I’m not sure that any of us who were witnesses to the events of 9/11 will be able to just let this day pass unnoticed.

While touring Northern Ireland, I was very much surprised to see a tree and plaque commemorating September 11th. I do understand that many faiths and nations lost people in those attacks. However, I was moved that this wasn’t a remembrance for their own citizens, but in mourning, memorial, and solidarity with us. It is directly across from the Northern Ireland War Memorial, and within the gates of Belfast City Hall.

The text on the plaque reads as follows: This tree was planted by Belfast City Council on 11th September 2002 to commemorate all those who so tragically lost their lives in the horrific events in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania on 11th September 2001 and to mark the special relationship which the City of Belfast enjoys with the United States of America. (c)2017

Glimpses through Instagram, Part 2

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I found a few more photos that I shared through Instagram and Facebook while I was in Ireland and Wales. They’re really quite eclectic, and show the variety of things that I enjoyed doing as well as some of the local tastes. Continue reading

Glimpses through Instagram

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I had much less time than I originally thought I would have in order to share photos and happenings on social media and here while I was on holiday. 

These are some of the Instagram posts I managed to share during my two week holiday or upon my return. They are in no special order.

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All Was Well

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That title has dual meaning. After a prolonged absence, I expect it will take me a bit of time to get my bearings again as we greet a new season. Our travels to Ireland and Wales were more than I could have expected or hoped for, and there is so much to write about. Not only travel pieces, but I encountered so much in way of soul-seeking, and the blessing of findng spirituality and pilgrimage in several unexpected things and places.

However, I couldn’t let today pass unnoticed.

Today is the First of September, the traditional beginning of the Wizarding School Year. Today all the young witches and wizards who received their attendance letters from Hogwarts are busily arriving at Kings Cross Station in London to catch the Hogwarts Express.

Today’s Express is a little different, though.

This is the last day – the official last day of the original Harry Potter series.

1 September 2017

Nineteen Years Later.

Harry, Ron, and Hermione, Ginny, and Draco all arrive to put their children on the Hogwarts Express. They give parental advice, hugs and laughter abound among the childhood anxiety of something new, a nod here or there to their old classmates.

Nineteen years ago I read the first book, and I was entranced. It was everythng I wanted in a book. My oldest son was a baby, and it was my reading material for that year’s Rosh Hashanah.

When I finished the last book, the seventh book, The Deathly Hallows, I remember sitting in my cozy overstuffed chair, my mother-in-law on the sofa across from me. We’ve just returned – it’s barely been a week – from spending the last two weeks visiting my mother-in-law’s home and family, and putting her ashes to rest in Belfast. Time is a delicate mistress. I remember that day relatively clearly, or at least a moment of that day, trying to keep myself composed as the book took over.

No spoilers, but Fred.

This could not be over! What do you mean all was well? I wanted more.

I needed more.

And through some googling, I found Live Journal, and that opened up an entire world of reading, and then writing fan fiction, and brought me into this amazing, exciting, creative place called the Internet. It began another chapter in my life that is continual and continuing today.

Nineteen years later…all was well.