Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 8 (aka Xena 1st Time Viewing)

Robert got up early this morning with Thomas who took him to the bus station. Robert is heading to Dublin for his flight over to London for his week in England. I still have a few more days here in Northern Ireland with Thomas.

Today was a day of relaxation. We've been on the go for the past six days so we opted to do nothing but hang out, watch TV and enjoy each others company.

Thomas is a HUGE Xena fan and I've seen the show on and off over the years. So we decide to start at the beginning and see how many episode we could watch in a day. Since Xena is first scene in Hercules: The Legendary Journey we had to watch a few of those episodes starting with...

S1 Ep9 "The Warrior Princess" : Iolaus is seduced by the cunning and cruel Xena, Warrior Princess, who aims to use him to destroy Hercules, leaving her free to take over the world…

I enjoyed this episode but was a bit confused as Xena is a bad, bad person. And I know from the few episodes I have seen of the Xena series she is not bad. Figured there had to be more to the story.

Next was S1 Ep12 "The Gauntlet" : Xena is betrayed by her lieutenant, Darphus, and forced to walk "the gauntlet". Determined to get her revenge, she forms an alliance with Hercules, who tries to make her see that there is more to life than vengeance and evil.

Yep.. I knew that she had to turn good and this is the beginning or her journey. I really enjoyed this episode. 

And the final Hercules episode she was in was S1 Ep13 "Unchained Heart" : Hercules, Salmoneus and Iolaus team up to fight Darphus, who has risen from the grave and plans to feed Hercules to Ares' dog of war Graegus. In the end, Ares loses his most valuable pawn as Xena turns her back on evil once and for all.

And finally Xena's redemption. Thomas told me that Xena was suppose to die in this episode but she had become a fan favorite so instead of killing her off they spun her off to her own series.

We then moved on to Xena.

First was S1 Ep1 "Sins of the Past" : Xena renounces her warlord past and begins burying her weapons. She later retrieves them to save a group of villagers from being sold into slavery. Gabrielle convinces Xena to allow her to travel with her.

I nice continuation for her redemption from the last episode of Hercules. Of course I like the addition of her sidekick Gabrielle. She's a good comedic foil for Xena. 

Then we watched S1 Ep2 "Chariots of War" : When Xena is injured during a fight, the widowed Darius and his children look after her. Xena is left with the dilemma of whether to settle down with them or continue her fight to protect the innocent.

I really enjoyed this episode. We got to see a completely different side of Xena. A more motherly side and it was a nice change.

We continued with S1 Ep3 "Dreamworker" : Morpheus kidnaps Gabrielle so he can make her his bride. In order to be married, Gabrielle must lose her "blood innocence". Using her wits, she manages to avoid causing any blood shed. Xena enters the dream world so that she can save Gabrielle, but while there she must battle her own evil side before she can accomplish her rescue.

Another really good episode, this one really focused on Gabrielle and her innocence. I liked how far Xena was willing to go to save her.

Fourth episode of the season, S1 Ep4 "Cradle of Hope" : When a baby is prophesied to inherit the throne, King Gregor and his councilor, Nemos search for the newborn babe. Meanwhile, Xena and Gabrielle meet Pandora, while searching for the mother of an abandoned baby.

Another fun episodes, I liked their take on Pandora's box and that they discover that the box is empty. Xena tells Gabrielle The box was empty, but Pandora was still carrying our hope, they agree to tell her the truth, that Hope has been and always will be safe, that it's inside every one of us... nice message. I liked the struggle the King went through and in the end accepts the baby as his heir, rather than as a usurper. 

Next up is S1 Ep5  "The Path Not Taken" : A weapons dealer kidnaps a princess so he can profit from the resulting war between two feuding kingdoms. Xena pretends to be the ruthless warrior she once was, in order to gain access to the dealer's base. While there, Xena meets an old lover, Marcus. Marcus prevents Xena from rescuing the princess, but later sacrifices his own life to save her.

So many good episodes in a row.. here is another one. Enjoyed the story, action and character development. We continue to see different sides of Xena.

And the final episode for the evening S1 Ep6 "The Reckoning" : Ares plots to get Xena back into his fold by framing her for the murder of some villagers and organizing a lynching. Xena is put on trial and Gabrielle sticks by her throughout. Xena fools Ares into thinking she is joining him again, and he brings the dead villagers back from the dead.

The good episodes continue. We get the introduction of Aries, we find out that Gabrielle is extremely loyal to Xena. I really like how Xena tricks Aries in to saving the men she is accused of killing.

So we managed to watch 9 episodes of Hercules/Xena and I have to say I really enjoyed them all. I can see me continuing to watch this series on my own. Thanks Thomas for sharing your love of this series with me.

Tomorrow we head into Belfast for more sightseeing...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 7

Today is Robert's 30th Birthday... so happy that I'm able to celebrate it with him here in Ireland.

Woke up to a full Irish Breakfast being made for us.. courtesy of Thomas' mother Caroline. This was my first experience with a traditional Irish Breakfast and I have to say it's alot of food and if I ate like this every morning I'd be over 300lbs. But with that said it was so good and I did eat almost everything on my plate.

As we were packing up Thomas realized that he lost his Vlog camera. It's the camera he's been using to do daily video blogs. He thinks he left it at the restaurant last night but they aren't open this early so his parents are going to check for him later.

We continued our journey of Northern Ireland to the city of Derry, officially Londonderry, it's the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Irish name Daire or Doire meaning "oak grove". In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and the "London" prefix was added, changing the name of the city to Londonderry. While the city is more usually known as Derry, Londonderry is also commonly used and remains the legal name.

This was one of my favorite cities in Ireland to visit, as there is so much history surrounding it and alot of it is still standing. This is a "walled" city, or it once was a walled city as the city has grown so much that most of it is now outside the walls, but the inner city and walls still stand. You can actually walk around to the top of the wall, which we did. It's about a mile in length. Along the walkway there are cannons and various other defensive devices. There are also a lot of cool plaques explaining the history of the on going battles between the Protestants and Catholics.

While we were driving up to Derry Thomas' parents called and informed him that they did find his camera at the restaurant and because they are awesome they drove the hour long drive north to drop it off to him in Derry.

So when we finished our walk around the wall, they arrived in Derry and met up with us. After we got his camera we went over to the Peace Bridge. It's a very cool looking bridge that spans the River Foyle.

We left Derry and was heading to the Giant Causeway when it started to rain/pour. Along the way we came across another castle ruin that we just had to check out, Castle Dunluce. I really like things like this.. we had no plans to stop by this castle but I'm so glad we did as it's was one of my favorites ruins. It was on the cliff side but you were able to walk down to the beach and check it out from below. The rain did let up just enough time for us to take some pics but did start to heavily rain which cut our visit short.

Back in the car we made our way to the Giant Causeway but it was still was raining cats and dogs. So we opted to go to a local restaurant to grab some lunch and hope that the rain would subside. It was a nice lunch but the rain was still coming down so we opted to not go see the Giant Causeway. It was disappointing as this was one of the things on my "must see" list. But it was raining so bad that we would have gotten soaked.

Our next stop was a beach cove area where they shoot Game of Thrones. I don't watch the show but we have alot of friends who do so we grabbed a few pictures to share with them.

The next planned stop was Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was still raining but not as bad as it was at the Causeway and I wasn't going to do it at first but both Thomas and Robert planned to do it and kind of talked me into it and I'm glad they did. The rain actually stopped while we walked over to and across the bridge. You could see lots of beautiful coastline from across the bridge. Once on our way back the rain started to fall and it's a long walk from the bridge back to the parking area. It was a slow and steady trudge through the down pour. By the time we got back to the car I was drenched but it was well worth it.

We got back to Belfast and to Thomas' house and unloaded everything and rested for a bit before heading out to go pick up some food for dinner as well as Robert needing to pick up some clothes for this travels to England.

Back at Thomas' I made spaghetti, meatballs and garlic bread in celebration of Robert's 30th's birthday today. We also got him a birthday cake.

While we ate dinner and cake we watched Buffy's Once More With Feeling to end our night.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 6

Once again we were up early.. Travelodge offered a reasonably priced continental breakfast, so we ate before making the trek further north. Our next stop was in Donegal. We were staying at Thomas' parents house tonight.

The drive up was nice. As I have come to expect, beautiful countrysides and so much green and sheep.. lots and lots of sheep.

We just happened across a ruin, it was the Claregalway Friary. Of course we had to stop and take some pictures. This entire time Robert has been wanting to run out into the middle of one of these green fields and get his picture taken, well the opportunity arose and he ran out twirling around in the middle of this giant green field next to the friary as we took his picture.

As we drove up we stopped by a few beaches that Thomas use to surf at. Bundoran Beach and Tullen Strand Beach, both have some great waves. We were lucky and the sun came out for a bit while we were there.

We got into town and stopped at a place that Thomas had to have for lunch. I guess he eats at this place everytime he is in the area. It's called Four Lanters, and they had so many different kinds of chips (fries). Curry and Chips, Garlic and Chips, Cheese and Chips and so on.

While we were there it started to rain and then suddenly hail, luckily by the time we were done it was a light rain.

Thomas then took us to a place that is off the beaten path. I don't think I would have ever have found the place and if I did I don't think I would have gone through a gate. There is a gate blocking the road you have to go up. There are no signs other then "please keep this gate shut". As with many places in Ireland I couldn't tell if this was private property or open to the public.

Well we made our way up this windy road and finally made it to our destination, Slieve League. Slieve League is a mountain on the Atlantic coast of County Donegal, Ireland. At 601 metres (1,972 ft), it has some of the highest sea cliffs on the island of Ireland. Although less famous than the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Slieve League's cliffs reach almost three times higher.

When we got there it was gray and overcast, but we walked up a path and took some pretty amazing pictures. It soon started to rain so we jumped in the car and got ready to leave but Thomas said he thinks it's a quick downpour and that we should wait. So we waited. While we waited we watched this family drive up and get out of there car. Mind you it's pouring down rain, windy as all heck and these people are out there with a toddler buried in the arms of his dad.. it was crazy.

As Thomas predicted the rain passed within 20 minutes and suddenly rays of sunlight started to show themselves and hit the side of the mountains. We quickly got out and started snapping photos. It was truly one of the most beautiful and breathtaking sights I have ever seen. I don't think photo can do it justice. I'm so happy Thomas made us wait out the storm.

After the League we headed to Thomas' parents house. Loved his parents, they were so kind and very sweet to let us crash at their house. We chatted with them for an hour or so before heading back into town for dinner. Thomas' mother wanted to treat us to a nice dinner so we went to a place called The Harbour and had an extremely nice dinner and dessert.

Back at Thomas' we chatted with his parents for another hour before calling it a night and getting the best night sleep of my trip so far.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 5

Was up early and headed out to Blackrock Castle Observatory. Blackrock Castle is a 16th-century castle located about 2 km from the heart of Cork city, Ireland on the banks of the River Lee. Originally built to defend the port and upper flows of Cork Harbour, the castle is now the site of an observatory, visitors centre and restaurant. Because we got there so early it was closed and since we were on a time table we couldn't wait around for it to open. We grabbed a few pictures of what we could and headed north on the westside of Ireland.

We were heading to the Cliffs of Moher, it was a three hour drive. Lots and lots of green valleys and beautiful scenery. While we were heading up we stopped for Robert to send out some postcards. We made three attempts to find a much needed bathroom and finally on our last attempt at this very old school gas station we succeeded. While there Thomas bought us some homemade chocolate marshmallow candies that the little old lady who ran the gas station had made. It was some of the best marshmallow I have ever had.

We made it to the Cliffs of Moher (or as I started to call them, The Cliffs of Mordor). Of course you had to pay to see them, but I've come to expect to pay for everything here.

It was cold 3 degrees Celsius and a bit windy but that didn't take away from the beauty of the cliffs. The cliffs stand 300 to 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Because they didn't want to obscure the land with a visitor center building they actually built that and adjoining stores into the side of a hill... very Hobbit like.

We spent a good few hours walking both south and then north on the trails. It was definitely one of my many highlights of my trip.

Next we headed to Doolin, birth place of Irish music. When we got there everything was closed in this very tiny city on the sea. It was a winter season and there were only two taverns open.

So we headed a bit north to Lisdoonvarna were we grabbed lunch at this Irish pub The Ritz Pub. This pub was exactly what I had pictured in my mind when you think of a traditional Irish pub.

On our way to the Burren we stopped in Kilfenora for information and I found this fantastic Irish t-shirt that I just had to get.

We then drove into The Burren. The Burren is a karst-landscape region or alvar in northwest County Clare, in Ireland. It is one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe. Burren is rich with historical and archaeological sites. There are more than 90 megalithic tombs in the area, portal dolmens (including Poulnabrone dolmen), a Celtic high cross in the village of Kilfenora, and a number of ring forts - among them the triple ring fort Cahercommaun on the edge of an inland cliff, and the exceptionally well-preserved Caherconnell Stone Fort.

It's a huge area so we only were able to see a few things but the landscape is amazing. While in the Burren we saw Leamaneagh Castle, Mullaghamore (aka the pancake rock), a few of the megalithic tombs and protals. But I have to say my favorite was when we were walking down this trail and it dipped into a valley and everything was green.. the ground was covered in moss, the trees extremely green and over grown.. it was as if we just walked into fairy land. Another great site were this fields of cracked limestone, looks very other worldly.

After the Burren we made our way to Galway (today's stopping point). We were staying at a Travelodge this time so we had a nice hotel room with extremely comfy beds. We checked in and asked the front desk guy were we could hear some traditional Irish music, he said there were two places and showed up on our map where they were. After walking for what felt like forever, we found the main city centre where the bars and stores were. We first grabbed some dinner at fast food place that's only in Ireland called Supermac's.

There were two places that were doing Irish music. Both were packed but we opted for Taaffes Pub. We hung out, drank some beers and listened to these amazing artist perform some very cool traditional Irish music for about a hour before we called it a night and headed back to the hotel to crash.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 4

Around 3am I woke up with a sore throat... Thomas had been sick the past few days and I think I caught whatever bug he had. I hope this doesn't spoil my vacation. I really tired hard to not get sick for this trip. Officially woke up around 7am, got up, showered and left the hostel at 7:50am. We stopped by a local Tesco (local supermarket) and picked up some breakfast and snacks for the road trip.

Today we are heading south to Cork, our first stop on our trip was to Rock of Cashel. But since I had such a hard time finding a place to stay near Dublin we actually had to backtrack to Dublin and then south again. It wasn't ideal (an hour out of our way) but it was the only way to get to Rock of Cashel from where we crashed.

A few hours later we made it to the Rock of Cashel, but as we were looking for a place to park we came across this ruin so we had to stop and check it out.  Come to find out that it was an Abbey. Hore Abbey (sometimes known as St.Mary's) it was a ruined Cistercian monastery. The former Benedictine abbey at Hore was given to the Cistercians by Archbishop David MacCearbhaill (in 1270), who later entered the monastery. He endowed the Abbey generously with land, mills and other benefices previously belonging to the town.

There was a gate and pathway leading right up to the Abbey. It surprised me when Thomas said let's go check it out. I had no idea that you can just walk around these old ruins.  So that's what we did. It was gorgeous. I spent quite a bit of time checking it, taking pictures and video.

After the Abbey we found a place to park and walked up to the Rock of Cashel. According to local mythology, the Rock of Cashel originated in the Devil's Bit, a mountain 20 miles north of Cashel when St. Patrick banished Satan from a cave, resulting in the Rock's landing in Cashel.  Cashel is reputed to be the site of the conversion of the King of Munster by St. Patrick in the 5th century.

The Rock of Cashel was the traditional seat of the kings of Munster for several hundred years prior to the Norman invasion. In 1101, the King of Munster, Muirchertach Ua Briain, donated his fortress on the Rock to the Church. The picturesque complex has a character of its own and is one of the most remarkable collections of Celtic art and medieval architecture to be found anywhere in Europe.  Few remnants of the early structures survive; the majority of buildings on the current site date from the 12th and 13th centuries.

This is a very impressive Medieval castle, when we were there part of it was being renovated, so you had scaffolding all over the place, but you could still see the beauty of the structure. Because this is such a well maintained structure they charge you to enter it (6 euros). It was cooli walking through this very old castle.

We continued our drive south to Cork.. along the way there was beautiful green countryside as far as the eye could see.

When we got to Cork, we found our hostel and unloaded. This time it was a eight person mixed room and we were bunking with four girls.

After dropping off our stuff we went to near by city of Blarney. Here we had Blarney Castle with the famous Blarney Stone. When we got to Blarney Castle it was much more then I expected. I thought it was just a Castle but it's an entire ground of beautiful rivers, green fields and trees. You could probably spend all day walking around that place.  We had a few hours before it closed so we did Blarney Castle first. As you walk up this very old castle you get to check out various rooms along the way. You are working your way to the top of the castle where they have the Blarney Stone. At first Thomas wasn't going to kiss the stone but Robert and I talked him into it. You have to wait in line and when you get there you have to lie on your back and hang your head over the side of the castle to kiss the underside of this stone. Now I know it's not the most hygienic thing to do and I heard rumors that the locals pee on the stone but I didn't care. It was one thing that I wanted to do while I was down here. And I have to say that the stone is very cold and kind of damp from all the kissing.. still it was a fun experience. 

After kissing the stone we walked through the poison garden, we even came across a few Harry Potter plants like Mandrake and Wolfsbane.

We then walked around this large field of trees.. it was pretty gorgeous.

After the castle we headed back to Cork and our hostel. When then walked around and looked for a place to grab dinner. We found this diner type place and the food was decent. I'm still trying to get use to service at food places.. it's not like it is in the states.

After dinner we headed back to the hostel and crashed, unfortunately several of the girls who were staying with were coughing up a storm.. I knew I was doom and was going to get sick on this trip. At l had my ear plugs so I could sleep through the night. Tomorrow we drive north up the westside of the country to Galway.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 3

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

One of Robert's "must do's" on this trip was to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day in Dublin, so early this morning we headed south from Belfast and drove the 2 hours trek back down to Dublin to celebrate.  As we drove down Thomas explained to me the rules of the roads here in Ireland and the UK. I am going to be driving once I'm up in Scotland/England and roundabouts really confused me. But after he explained how to approach them and which lane to be in depends on which exit you are trying to leave at they started to make more sense.

Because it was early morning yesterday when we arrived in Dublin and drove up to Belfast it was still dark and we didn't get to see much of the countryside but on the say down back to Dublin it was much lighter so you could see the beautiful and very green countryside.

We got to Dublin and park at the mother's house of a friend of Thomas'. Once parked we made our way to where the parade was going to pass by. There were a lot of people there already. I grabbed some Euro as I knew I would need the money while in Ireland and I wasn't sure if my visa card would be able to be used since I didn't have a pin.

We walked around the "Promenade" type shopping area for an hour or so. Thomas already had a St. Paddy's Day hat and I wanted to join in the fun so after searching high and low I found the prefect hat.. with attached beard. Robert, who initially wasn't going to get any kind of hat wound up buying an Irish beanie cap.. so all three of us were ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

We then headed to the parade route and it was packed.. people lined both sides of the street. We searched for a spot but couldn't find one. After a half hour of trying to see over peoples heads we called it quits and decided to go grab some lunch.

When we first got there we should have claimed our spot but we waited to long, so we couldn't enjoy the parade as planned.

Lunch was amazing, paid about 12 euros and got a ton of yummy (and really bad for you) kind of food. Also got a huge piece of chocolate cake.

After lunch we walked around the city and went sightseeing. There were a few places that I wanted to see while in Dublin. Our first stop was Trinity Collage, there we saw the Book of Kell. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book, created by Celtic monks ca. 800 AD. But my favorite part of Trinity Collage is what they call The Old Library. The Library of Trinity College is a legal deposit library for Ireland and the United Kingdom, containing over 4.5 million printed volumes and significant quantities of manuscripts (including the Book of Kells), maps and music. It's simply one of the most incredible beautiful libraries that I have seen.

Next we did the Guinness Storehouse brewery tour. I'm not a huge fan of beer but the past few months I've been slowly learning how to appreciate it more. Learning how beer is made was interesting. After the tour there were several stations where you could get samples of various Guinness beers. The first one was a sample of Guinness Stout, this was paired with lox, cream cheese on a piece of bread. I've learned that I'm not a huge fan of dark beers so this was just okay. The second sample was their Foreign Stout and this was paired with a mini Quail Egg. Again it's a dark beer and not a favorite.

We ended our tour up at the Gravity Bar, it's the entire top floor of the Guinness Storehouse with a 360 degree view of Dublin, It was packed with people but it was St Paddy's Day and everyone was in a party mood. Here we got an entire pint of Guinness Draught. This I was looking forward to as it's the freshest you'll ever get of Guinness. And I have to say though it's a dark beer it was very tasty.

After Guinness we headed to the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to 1198 The Brazen Head Pub. The place was packed and so hot that it steamed up my glasses. We didn't stay long.

Next Thomas' wanted to take us to Temple Street. He said it was a very popular area, lots of bars and people. Well I don't know if it was extra busy because of St. Paddy's Day or what but I have never seen anything like it before. It's one stretch of cobble stone road that runs a few blocks and it was packed.. and I mean wall to wall people. It was crazy. We walked/pushed our way through the crowds to get to Temple Bar (the center point of this area). As I mentioned it was packed. There was no way we were going to stop there for a drink. We made our way to the other side of the area. I video taped the entire experience and man drunk people are funny when they are being video tapped. Also I wouldn't have wanted to be a pretty girl in this crowd, we walked behind a young girl and the attention she got, I'm sure she was grabbed multiple times. As I walked behind her I felt like if anything would go to far I'd have to step in to rescue her.

After Temple Street we made our way back to the car and drove south for 45 minutes to the city of Wiklow. This was the closest city to Dublin I could find a hostel with some available beds.

Made it to the hostel fairly easy and unloaded our stuff, we then walked to a local fish and chips place. This is where I had my first official fish and chips (and defiantly not my last).

This would be my first hostel experience. It was a mix room with twelve beds. It was split into six beds per segmented rooms. It had two bathrooms but they were inside the room with us. For the most part this hostel wasn't bad. The beds were  somewhat comfortable and it had a security box that would could use for our valuables. Luckily for me I brought ear plugs as I'm a light sleeper and the other "roommates" were going in an out of the room and bathroom all night.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Dream Vacation - Day 2

So we got to the Dublin airport and had to go through their customs. It was fairly easy and I finally got a stamp in my passport. We picked up our luggage and made our way out to find my buddy Thomas waiting for us.

We loaded up his car and made the 2 hour trek north to Belfast (or just outside Belfast where Thomas lives). We stopped by a McDonalds to pick up some breakfast. I also found out that they use "chip & pin" with their credit cards and I don't have a pin for my card as we don't use that system here in the US. So I had to pay with my debt card which of course accrued a ton of fees so this 11 pound breakfast turned into a 25 dollar crazy expensive breakfast.

Anyways we made our way to Thomas' place and crashed for a few hours. I didn't want to sleep as I was hoping to stay up all day so I wouldn't be hit so hard from the jet lag. I did take a shower/bath at Thomas and that helped a bit but I was already very tired.

We wanted to take advantage of every minute of our trip so after we rested for a bit we went sight seeing. Our first stop was Carrickfergus Castle. Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman castle in Northern Ireland, situated in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim, on the northern shore of Belfast Lough. Besieged in turn by the Scots, Irish, English and French, the castle played an important military role until 1928 and remains one of the best preserved medieval structures in Ireland. This would be the first of many castle that I'd get to see in my travels.

Next was Knockagh Monument, which is a war memorial in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is located on top of Knockagh Hill, above the village of Greenisland with a panoramic view of the city of Belfast.


The monument is cool looking but the views are amazing. Even with the grey cloudy skies the views were still incredible...

We then drove up to Belfast Castle, The original Belfast Castle, built in the late 12th century by the Normans, was located in the town itself, flanked by the modern day High Street, Castle Place and Donegall Place in what is now Belfast city centre. It was burned down in 1708, leaving only street names to mark the site. Rather than rebuild on the original site, the Chichesters decided to build a new residence in the city's suburbs, today's Belfast Castle emerging as a result. The building that stands today was built from 1811–70 by the 3rd Marquess of Donegall. The castle boasts an antiques shop, a restaurant and visitors centre and it is a popular venue for conferences, private dining and wedding receptions.

My favorite part of the castle are the stairs on the outside, which were a gift from another country (I can't recall which country at the moment).

After Belfast Castle we headed down to city centre where they were celebrating St. Patrick's Day (a day early). There was a parade and a concert. By the time we got down there and parked the parade was over (we caught the tail end of it) but we did get to enjoy some of the traditional Irish music at the concert.

We walked around the city for a bit, I loved all the old churches and cathedrals. We met up with Thomas' sister Stephanie as she lives down in Belfast. We got to see City Hall and St. Anne Cathedral, both are beautiful. We walked across the river and headed to the Titanic exhibit. I did not know this but Titanic was built in Belfast.

Afterwards we said goodbye to Stephanie and headed back to Thomas', we picked up some pizza for dinner before calling it a night. Tomorrow we begin our long five day road trip around the coasts of Ireland.

And after 34 hours of being awake I was finally able to sleep.. Tomorrow we drive to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day... gonna be fun.