Friday, 6 December 2013

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty - The Coastal Causeway Route

Brace yourself for a massively long post...

Northern Ireland, especially the Coastal Causeway Route, is one of the most outstandingly beautiful places on earth (in my humble opinion). 

Our driving expedition started in Belfast where we made our way to Londonderry via the Coastal Causeway Route. 

The Coastal Causeway Route

Our first stop was at Carrickfergus Castle. Mel, Tim and I had an amazing time exploring the 800 year old history of the castle.

Carrickfergus Castle

Surveying my lands

Tim getting ready for a fight

Apparently Mel was on the other side!
Carrickfergus has been in the hands of the Scots, Irish, English and the French (the old castle gets around!) and was used during the First and Second World Wars as a garrison and an air raid shelter respectively. 

After spending about 2 or so hours in the castle we finally started on our way toward Bushmills.

The scenery along the coastal roads are amazing. Here are a few shots taken during the car ride.

We ended up getting a wee bit lost trying to find the hostel in the dark as it wasn't really signposted all that well. 
The hostel we stayed at (TripAdvisor reviews found here) was called Finn McCool's Hostel.
Us three were the only ones staying that Friday night so we were offered a free meal of spicy Pork belly. The meal, served with veg, was DELICIOUS! But, even if it wasn't, who can pass up a free meal?! 
William and Irene made us feel very welcome and just like a family we played a game of darts to see who would end up with the dishes.

I am sure all of my housemates in London will be very surprised to see this bloke at the sink!
Dart game loser!

One of the main tourist attractions along the Coastal Causeway is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. 
The bridge is 20 metres across and 30 metres high above some real nasty looking rocks.

Tim looking back at the rope bridge
Now, I am possibly a wee bit (read: shitloads) scared of heights. So, naturally, I needed proof that I am actually amazing! Luckily, the National Trust offers Completion Certificates for just a £1!! 

damn proud of my achievement!

The bridge is open all year round, depended on weather, for about £6. 

Next on our to do list was the Old Bushmills Distillery.
You can't go to Northern Ireland and not go see how whiskey is made. 

 The Old Bushmills Distillery produces single malt whiskey, which means that the WHOLE FRICKEN PROCESS happens in the one place. It is also one of the oldest distilleries in the world.
The tour goes for around 40 minutes. Unfortunately it is a bit loud inside the factory so it is difficult to hear, but on the plus side a shot of whiskey is included at the end of the tour!

12 year old Irish whiskey
I tried the 12 year old Irish whiskey, which you can only buy on the premises, but as I am not much of a spirits drinker, it didn't go down all that well - however it did taste quite delicious mixed with Coke!

The night before I did enjoy a nice drop of Bushmills Irish Honey Whiskey, compliments of William (who pretty much poured the bottle down our throats!) Again mixed with Coke. 

The Distillery tour was a good experience, but I probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone who wasn't all that interested in the makings of whiskey. 

Next on the to-do list was the Giant's Causeway.
Even in December there were quite a few tourists around. 
Tim at the top of the Causeway
 The Giant's Causeway was made a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986 and it the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. 

Now, who hear is a Game of Thrones fan?

You might recognise this avenue - 

The Dark Hedges is seen in the scene (see what I did there?) where Arya, dressed as a boy, escapes King's Landing. 

House of Greyjoy

Dunluce Castle is represented as the seat of Greyjoy on the Iron Islands. 

The final attraction we saw before hitting our destination of (London)derry was Downhill Demesne and Mussenden Temple. 

Downhill House

Mussenden Temple
The first photo is of Downhill House. Now, by looking at that it seems that the old digs had been in ruins for years! However, it's last occupation was during World War II - just over 60 years ago!
The temple was built by the Earl in memory of his cousin. It was actually used as a library (my kind of place) and back in the day a horse and carriage could make it's full way around the temple. 
Unfortunately, with erosion of the coast, you can barely fit two feet across on the coastal side!

Have you traveled the Coastal Causeway Route? What was your favourite experience?

The Belfast Black Taxi Tour Experience

I just recently returned from an amazing 6 day holiday to the Emerald Isle. 

Myself, and two of my housemates Mel and Tim, decided that we would embark on a P.I.Y (Plan It Yourself). And I must admit, Mel and I planned an awesome adventure! 

Scouring Skyscanner for some cheap flights, we found an Aer Lingus and a return on EasyJet for £30 each. 

One of the things we decided to do (after getting ourselves settled in the hostel) was a Black Taxi Tour.

Our hostel booked our tour for us and we were lucky enough to get Paddy Kane, who has been on 60 Minutes! (Claim to fame!)
Besides a brief interlude in Liverpool, Paddy has lived in West Belfast all of his life and lived through the Troubles he gave a great insight as to what really went on. 

The first stop we made was to see a fence. 

This isn't an ordinary fence. It is known as the Peace Line and it separates the Catholics from the Protestants. As an Australian who doesn't practice religion (besides the obligatory Christmas and Easter church visits) it's kind of like, Catholics/Protestants - pretty much the same thing! But the issues went well deeper than just a religious thing. The way it was explained to me, I found it to be more of an Irish/British thing (Catholics on the Irish side, and the Protestants on the British side). 

What was interesting was that there was a linen factory built in the middle of the Peace Line, with entrances on both sides, and women working there who became the best of friends. 
However if a Protestant woman came across a Catholic work colleague on the street, they would be ignored for fear of family or friends seeing them getting 'friendly with the enemy'. 

Next we stopped on the Falls Road to view some of the Catholic murals displayed. 

This mural was my favourite. In July 1970, after a gun battle between the local youths and the British Army, the army imposed a curfew giving permission to shoot dead anyone who left their house. 
Two days later the curfew was broken by 3000 women from another area of Belfast marching into the area, pushing strollers and carrying fresh milk and groceries. 

In the '70s the IRA (Irish Republican Army) decided that a better way to make change come about was through the political route. Probably one of the most famous IRA members to join British Parliament is Bobby Sands.

In 1977 Sands was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for his involvement in a gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

In prison Sands became Commander of the rest of the IRA jailbirds and they organised a series of protests to regain 'Special Category Status'. 
First the 'Blanket Protest', beginning in 1976 where prisoners refused to wear any prison clothes and went about in blankets instead. 
This didn't work so in 1978 the 'Dirty Protest' begun. The prisoners refused to empty their chamber pots or to wash AND they smeared all their poo on the walls. 
Again, this didn't work. 
In 1981 the 'Hunger Strike' began. 

During his time of starvation Sands was narrowly voted in to the House of Parliament. Unfortunately he died a month later of starvation.

Needless to say, the Brits quickly introduced the Representation of the People Act 1981 barring people who served prison time of more than 1 year in the UK or Ireland to be nominated as candidates for election. 

Moving to the other side of the wall we saw more murals that had a definite Loyalist attachment.
This bloke, Stevie McKeag, was a member of the Ulster Defence Army (UDA) and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF). 
Stevie was the commander of a hit squad and he was responsible for at least 12 killings. Most were civillian Catholics, including one pharmacy-shop girl who he shot in the face 5 times, as well as Republicans.

The tour stopped at many more places, but for me, these were the highlights. 

For anyone travelling to Belfast I would HIGHLY recommend doing a Black Taxi Tour.

me, Paddy, Tim and Mel

All of the tour guides are very passionate about their jobs and Paddy threw in a couple of jokes to make you feel very comfortable. 
Tours can be booked through or give Paddy a call on 07 779 928 135 (UK number). 

If you are a little bit worried about getting caught up in any of the ongoing issues, Belfast is one of the safest cities in Europe! 

Have you done the Black Taxi Tour? Would you recommend it?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Exploring London: Camden and Regent's Park

Today I finally ventured into the world of London markets. 

Camden Markets are huge! The Adelaide Central Market ain't got nothin' on this baby!

We went a wee bit further on the Northern Line (tube) and got of at Chalk Farm to walk through the Stables Market. Although there were no ACTUAL horses galloping around the place, the Stables Market is the site of the old Pickfords Stables and was a Grade II listed horse hospital. I did find many horses of the bronze variety though. 

Horses are coming for ya!

Smile for the camera!

Wandering through the labyrinth of stalls was hungry work, so of course our next stop on the Market train was the food stalls! 

I had a delicious chicken fajita (yes, I know I'm gonna suffer for the gluten intake later) from a local Mexican stall and it was DE-LIC-IOUS!! Betraying my inner foodie, I unfortunately did not get a photo of the deliciousness. 

Camden Lock eating area is unlike any of your usual eating areas - no picnic tables or such, just old Vespas as chairs looking over the canal. YES, London has canals! (I only found this out today) The view from the benches is lovely..

                                                                                     ... even with the seagulls trying to get some. 

The scrumpdiddlyumptious fajita filled my tummy and required a walk to burn it off. 

We headed to Primrose Hill in Regent's Park. 

Regent's Park is one of the eight Royal Parks of London and is home to the London Zoo. 
At the moment the park is also home to lots of fallen leaves. I may have wanted to make a pile of leaves and jump into it - but I refrained because I am a mature adult. 

After a lovely stroll through the park we made our way up hill (I hate hills!) to the lookout at Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill has a wonderful view of the City. 

The photo is a wee bit dark, the sun thought it was bedtime, even though it was only 4.30pm. 
The big stick looking thing is the BT Tower and to the right of that you can just see the London Eye. 

Due to a quick Wikipedia search I found out that Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman and Harry Styles all live in the area, as well as many other rich and famous people! Unfortunately, I didn't get to see any of these British icons :(

It was near dark by the time we headed home, but on the plus side London will never keep us in the dark - 

Lights to guide our way

Although I didn't buy anything (besides the food - saving for the Northern Ireland trip!) I had a very chill day.

The last thing to top it off - as we were walking to the tube station we passed this bad boy -

For those of you who DON"T know who lives at 221b Baker Street...

It was the home of Robert Downey Jr!

Ok, so it was the home of a CHARACTER the sexy beast played, but still. 

One of the things I absolutely love about London is that you can go pretty much anywhere and found something amazing.

Have you seen anything iconically British lately?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Lazy London

Today was one of those days where I just couldn't be doing anything. This could partly be on part of the dismal, dreary weather that is encasing London at the moment, but I think it's more to do with my financial situation.

So there I was, kicking back, watching movies in bed, half asleep when I heard loud bangs! 
I jumped out of bed and looked out the window, half expecting someone to be laying in the middle of the road, surrounded by a pool of blood. 

Turns out someone has a stash of fireworks that they decided to let loose! 

click here to see my fabulous video skills capturing the moment. 

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

The Bucket List

Something that everybody should have and attempt to do is A Bucket List.

The good thing about a Bucket List is that it can be fluid, forever changing as you cross things of and add others.
Here is mine so far...

Places to Visit:

  • The Eiffel Tower (June, 2013)
  • The Colosseum (July, 2013)
  • Anzac Cove, Gallipoli (April, 2014)  blog post here
  • Niagara Falls
  • Cinque terre, Italy
  • The Palace of Versailles, France
  • Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
  • Taj Mahal, India
  • The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland (November, 2013)  blog link
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Uluru, Australia
  • Visit all 7 continents (Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Antarctica, Australasia)
  • Laze on a beach in the Caribbean
  • Harry Potter Studio Tour, England (September, 2014)
  • The Dead Sea
  • The Crooked Forest, Poland
  • The Grand Canyon, USA (September, 2016)
  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa (June, 2013)
  • Pearl Harbour, Hawaii (October, 2016)
  • Stonehenge, England
  • Dachau, Germany (2013)
  • Auschwitz-Berkenau, Poland (October, 2014) photo essay
  • La Sagrada Familia, Spain (July, 2013)
  • Red Square, Russia
  • Dubrovnik, Croatia (July, 2013)
  • Valley of the Kings, Egypt
  • See the cherry blossoms of Japan

Adventures to Have:

  • Walk the Kokoda Trail
  • Go to La Tomatina (2013)
  • See the Northern Lights
  • Skydiving (Switerland, 2013) Scariest thing ever!
  • Go sea cave canoeing (Phuket, 2012)
  • Stay in a treehouse (April, 2014 / May, 2014)
  • Do a Segway tour
  • Attend a football (soccer) match in England
  • Drive in a country where they drive on the opposite side of the road (Switzerland, 2013)
  • Go white water rafting (Phuket, 2008)
  • Go parasailing (Phuket, 2008)
  • Ride a helicoper (Australia, 2004; Switzerland, 2013)
  • Ride in a hot air balloon (Cappadoccia, Turkey, 2014)
  • See a play on Broadway (October, 2016)
  • See a play in the West End (Book of Mormon, January 2015, Jersey Boys, March 2015)
  • Ride in a gondola in Venice (2013)
  • Go on a safari
  • Ride a camel in the desert (September, 2014)
  • Go on a cruise down the River Nile
  • Go abseiling (Australia, 2009)
  • Go caving (Australia, 2009)
  • Go to Mardi Gras
  • Drive rather aimlessly around a foreign country
  • Sail the Croatian Islands
  • Sail the Greek Islands (2013)
  • Cage diving with crocodiles (Darwin, Australia, 2010)
  • See a polar bear
  • Take a Gap Year (2009)
  • Live in another country (moved to London, August 2013) 
  • Visit the Grand Bazaar, Turkey (April, 2014)
  • Drive on a race track (Monaco, 2013)
  • Go ski-ing (Bulgaria, March, 2014)
  • Go to a random festival (British Summer Time, July, 2014)
  • Travel on the TransSiberian Railway
  • Travel on the Ghan

Food and drink to Try:

  • Es Cargot (snails) (France, 2013)
  • Frog's legs
  • Haggis (July, 2014)
  • Crocodile (Australia, 2012)
  • Kangaroo (Australia, 2011)
  • Cheese Fondue (Switzerland, 2013)
  • Jerk chicken (London, 2013)
  • Fugu, 'Pufferfish'
  • Stroopwafel (Amsterdam, 2013)
  • Pizza in Naples
  • Spacecake
  • Borscht (Poland, 2014)
  • Gumbo
  • Sauerkraut (Munich, 2013) 
  • Absinthe (February, 2014 - thanks housemates!)
  • Rosti (Switzerland, 2013)
  • Steak and Guiness Pie (London, 2013)

Remembrance Day in London 2013

One of the most important dates in world history is 11 November. 
At the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month the official ceasefire of the First World War was declared. 
The day is known by different names throughout the world - Veterans Day in America, Armistice Day in France, Belgium and New Zealand, and Remembrance Day in most Commonwealth countries. 

I, along with one of my housemate's decided to go to the Trafalgar Square Memorial Service. 

We just made it in time for the minute silence. The service had a great turnout, with hundreds of supporters turning up.

After the silence, people were then welcomed to throw poppies into the fountain. 

Many people elected to throw wreaths with personal messages. This one, from Bromley College Public Services Level 2, reads 'You fought the world to save our country! Which saved our lives. you are heroes, NEVER FORGOTTEN!' 

It is always such a poignant moment to see a crowd of hundreds of people fall silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives protecting us. Even if you do not agree with war -  Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, whatever you call it, is about remembering those who fought and gave their lives so you could live yours!

Sunday, 10 November 2013

A Few days in Perth

On my way from home to home (Adelaide to London) I stopped in for a few days to visit my friend Ruby in Perth. 

Ruby and I were able to spend a few moments - between sleep and Ruby's work - exploring the awesome city of Perth. 

We went down to the City of Fremantle and had a lovely dinner at the Sail and Anchor before heading to the Fremantle Prison for a Torchlight Tour. 

Fremantle Prison entrance

There were a few tense moments that were a little bit scary, but it could have definitely been a whole lot scarier. 
Our tour guide, Chris, was really good and full of interesting facts about the history of the prison. 

<<<<< This bucket is all the prisoners had to use as a toilet. The bucket was left in the 2x2 cell with the prisoner, who was in there for about 23 out of 24 hours of the day. 
The bucket was a part of the prison system up until it closed in 1991.

Cell 53, of the solitary division, is the cell that has the most deaths/suicides than all the other cells. 
The solitary cells have there own exercise courtyards, and they did have the luxury of a flushing toilet until ...

... Some bloke decided to take a handstand, giving himself a swirlie, then fall over to the side - breaking his neck! 
Needless to say, the toilet was then cemeted up and the prisoners went back to using the bucket system!

We also got to see the Execution Room. Western Australia was the last state in Australia to get rid of the death penalty. Fremantle Prison was the only legal place of execution in WA between 1888 and 1984. 
During that time 43 men and one woman were hanged at the prison. 

The last woman to be legally hanged in Fremantle Prison was Marth Rendell. 
Actress portraying Martha Rendell

 According to Wikipedia (home of the most reliant facts) Martha used hydrochloric acid to kill her de facto's three children.

Ruby and I also spent some time exploring the Swan Valley. 
The Margaret River Chocolate Factory has an outlet in the Swan Valley, which is awesome as the chocolate factory produce some delicious, delicious desserts!

We also visited Whistler's Chocolate Factory, which had an aquarium full of chocolate fish and candy coral. 

We visited many relaxing places such as the Cottage Tea Rooms ....

Pot of Rose Garden tea and a scone with jam and cream. 

..... and The Cheese Barrel ...

... Which had some delicious cheese and a relaxing view. 

While in Perth I also got to catch up with a recently-made new friend, Ameera.

This beautiful lady was part of my European tour with Topdeck.
We had a lovely meal of fish and chips on the beach down at Cottesloe.