28 June 2012

24 Hours in Belfast

So it's my birthday today. I didn't really do jack shit for my birthday except go shopping and make myself a birthday cake. I also listened to my 1 year old throw the mother of all tantrums in Mothercare because he wanted to take every single toy off the shelf in random toddler fashion and I wanted him to sit still in his stroller while he told me how pretty I am (it's my birthday after all). Lest you think I am the most pathetic birthday celebrator ever, my husband did give me a birthday trip to Belfast. A 24 hour trip to Belfast no less, which we arrived back from yesterday.

Belfast all came about as I, as always, wanted to go somewhere for my birthday. My first thought was Dublin. We needed somewhere that was both incredibly cheap and incredibly quick to get to from Liverpool and at 50 pounds round trip and a half hour long flight, Dublin fit the bill. It was looking at accommodations in Dublin that made me change my mind. Basically, if we didn't mind staying in a hostel with 4 other people in our room, we could have afforded to stay in Dublin. But since I'm neither 25 nor have a problem with noise when I try to sleep, Dublin was right out. Belfast hit our radar because it was still cheap to fly to, quick to get to, and neither Andy or I have ever been there. Not to mention, we have a couple friends from Belfast (who now currently live in CA) so it was easy to get suggestions on what to do and see when we were there.

Now, when you only have 24 hours in a place, you really have to prioritize what it is you all want to do. The most important thing, I feel, was seeing as many pubs as we could.

We went purely on recommendations when choosing our pubs. OK, there were some exceptions – like the hotel bar in the Premier Inn because I had an emergency toilet situation – and the rum bar because I liked the pirate on their sign - but otherwise, it was all places our friends told us to go. Some were good, some weren't, some were fantastic. I think hands down Kelly's Cellars was the favorite as noted that it was the first pub we went to and also the last. A note to Bernadette, the lovely young lady who was having her 2nd date with Stuart a whole year after having the first, hope it worked out for you – Stuart was pretty fit.

You'll like it here.

Worth going just for the architecture.

I may have stolen a Bushmills jug from here.  Maybe.

So many pubs, so little time.

In whiskey we trust.

That does bring up a thing about Belfast, the people there are super friendly. From the bus drivers to the bar patrons to the guy who sold me a bottle of water from Spur, everyone seemed really open to talking to strangers and get this, they even told us their names. Fuck, it was so nice to introduce myself, I think I seriously had forgotten how to do it at first.

Now, don't get me wrong, we did a few other things besides drink. We saw City Hall for example and we saw the Big Fish. I personally loved the Big Fish as it's becoming increasingly clear to me that I like seemingly pointless statues of over-sized animals...and poultry...and fish. Anyhow, I liked the Big Fish so much I gave it tongue.

City Hall

Yes, I know where that fish has been and I don't care.

The next morning was a bit brutal as far as the head situation went. Our flight was leaving at 2 PM so I wanted to cram some Belfast history in, if I could manage to open my burning eyeballs enough to do so. On yet another recommendation, we decided to do the Black Taxi Tour of Belfast. For 30 quid, a very knowledgeable taxi driver will take you around to the sights and give you a bit of history about The Troubles. While I thought the tour was fantastic and pretty neutral in regards to Catholic vs. Protestant, it was a lot to get your head around. Overwhelming, I believe is the word. Sad, is another. I'm posting some pictures from the tour very unbiasedly, as I do not support one side or another. I think what is amazing is the people of Belfast who live under these murals every day.

Andy and our tour guide.






So that was our 24 hours in Belfast. It went too quickly and there was so much more to see so I hope I can back one day. If nothing else, I really need to find out what happened with Bernadette and Stuart...and give more tongue to that lovely Big Fish.

 "Secret Lovers!  That's what we are!"

14 June 2012

Everything else that wasn't cheese rolling

So now that its been over a week since the Jubilee Weekend and no one gives a shit about it anymore, I think I shall talk about it. Your welcome. Actually, I'm not going to say much about the Jubilee itself, there isn't much to say. Queen sits on throne for 60 years, the people of Great Britain go ape shit over wearing Union Jack garb and attending crowded parades, flotillas, concerts and street parties where they serve little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The End. What's really important is that we all got two days off of work (including me, since we dropped the kid off at his nan's those two days). That's cause for celebration right there.

Now, Andy and mine's original plan for our two wonderful days off was to head down to Stonehenge, then double back and go to Gloucester for the cheese rolling. Well, the original ORIGINAL plan was to take the entire week off and hit Cornwall and the Isle of Wight as well but our finances just didn't allow it. Obviously cheese rolling was a must and I've been wanting to see Stonehenge since we moved here so we cut it down to just that. However, on the day we left, neither of us had gotten much sleep (thanks Henry) and the drive down south was painful to say the least. I personally gave myself a panic attack by drinking caffeinated coffee to wake me up, then irritated the crap out of Andy by changing the radio stations every 10 seconds. In an effort to take my mind off of not freaking the fuck out, I started looking up the parking situation at Stonehenge on my smart phone. It was then that I ran into this very helpful article. After reading it and realizing that we had over 3 hours to go until we were able to look at some old rocks, I decided to change the plan. For clarification, I still do want to see Stonehenge one day, I just think that it's something to see if you happen to be passing through to somewhere else, that's all.

I may never see you...please open a pub near these particular stones and I may make the effort.

With the Stonehenge plans scrapped, we started looking at other places that we could go to before we went to Gloucester. And when I say 'we', but I really mean 'I'. It was when I was looking at the map that I decided that we would go to Cardiff. Being a big fan of 'Dr. Who', especially during the Eccleston/Tennant years, and consequentially 'Torchwood' to a lesser degree, I was really excited to see Cardiff.

I would be a damn liar if I told you I didn't squeal like a little girl the first time we drove past the main site in Cardiff.

Like all things television vs. reality, there was a bit of a disappointment seeing it all up close and NOT having the Doctor, Rose, Captain Jack and the like running around chasing aliens (or even impersonators, I would have accepted impersonators!) but that is sadly television vs. reality. It was still cool to see and we even found the entrance to Torchwood – both of them actually.

Television vs. Reality:

 TELEVISION

REALITY

 TELEVISION

 REALITY

 MORE REALITY

 TELEVISION

 REALITY (with Lady Boys)

What really was the highlight though was that we met Iggle Piggle. From here on end, we can torture our child and say that Andy is Iggle Piggle's best friend and here is the proof.

BFF's

After having a pint, a walk around, a chat with Iggle Piggle and lunch, we finally headed out to Gloucester. I would like to state for the record that unless you plan to go to the cheese rolling (which I have already stated that you most definitely should) or if you are a big Beatrix Potter buff (and I mean, a seriously addict for all things Peter Rabbit) there is no logical reason to ever vacation in Gloucester. After being there for two days, I honestly started to wonder why we didn't stay in Cardiff and just jot over to Gloucester for the cheese rolling. Poor planning on my part I think. Gloucester is nice, but it's no different from any other medium sized village in the rest of England. There isn't much to see there on the way of attractions (cheese rolling aside). I think for my Wisconsin peeps, it's the equivalent of deciding to stay in Waukesha for two days...just because.

Beatrix Potter Fans, I've just saved you a trip.

That said, we did happen to have the best pub food I've ever eaten in England thus far. I don't know if Gloucester in general has really great pub food or if we just got really fucking lucky, but the food was excellent. If you go to Gloucester (for the cheese rolling) make sure to stop at the Fountain Inn and Cafe Rene for food. Both are located down little cobblestone alleys but have plenty of signage out front so they aren't hard to find.

So what else did we do in Gloucester besides the cheese rolling? Why drink and make asses of ourselves of course.

 I believe that drink was called 'Sex on the Docks'

Help!  I'm stuck in a phone booth on Jubilee Weekend!

Or maybe you can go to Gloucester just to hang out here.