We are very lucky to have amazing family in Belfast. J, Jill and I hopped a train from Dublin and were in Belfast in a Leprechauns leap (which, in case you aren't a leprechaun expert, is super fast). We were greeted at the train station by our all time favourite host- Aunt Eileen!
We never go to Europe and not stop in Northern Ireland. Its not because we feel a nagging family responsibility - its because we genuinely love visiting Pappy, A Eileen, U Trevor, David, Holly and Jake. Of course, it doesn't hurt that A Eileen is a gourmet chef with a Red Seal in pavlova. Everything we've ever eaten in Belfast has been extra delicious. Belfast itself is a great place to have family. This visit we finally made it to the Titanic Museum, we walked along the ocean, the waterfront downtown and Jill and I went on an exhilarating shopping excursion.We were in Belfast when the Royal baby Charlotte was born and were excited to see pink balloons tied to the doors of the Belfast City Hall. It felt like we were part of history!
The drive up the Northern Coast of Ireland is all about the scenery. We rented a car at the Belfast City Airport, which turned out to be a bit of ordeal.. and about $300 more than what we had reserved it for online.. but after some huffing and puffing, and eventually finding our way out of the city, I vowed to leave my angry thoughts (and the significant amount of coin we had just dropped) in the dust and just enjoy the ride north. Plus, I had downloaded a Game of Thrones Driving Guide that, I was convinced, would at the very least lead us to all the spectacular set locations and more than likely having me hobnobbing with Jon Snow before the day was out. Regardless of what Westeros sightings the day had in store, heading out of Belfast along the coast was a spectacular drive. So what if the weather didn't really cooperate either. As someone, somewhere said: Life is like a cup of tea- its all about how you make it. In Ireland, both rain and tea are in seemingly endless supply, so we figured why not drink it all up, however it might be served.
From the first time I had seen Dunluce Castle looming on a cliff edge back in 2003 I was in love. It is crumbly and imposing and just standing there, abandoned and oh-so atmospheric. Now when you visit you get an audio guide free with your admission. Its uber-interesting to walk the grounds and listen to a voice gently guide your imagination through the ruins. The guide explains what all the different spaces in the castle would have been used for, how they would have been decorated and how experts think daily life would have been for the community's inhabitants. Fascinating.
Recognize this gorgeous spot? It's Ballintoy Harbour, AKA: The port of the Iron Islands!
How about this? You probably would with leaves on the trees: It is the Dark Hedges, where Arya takes the King's Road to escape from Kings Landing all those seasons ago! Crazy cool!
Huge hugs and many many Thank Yous to our always gracious Belfast family! You spoil us, drive us around, feed us delicious food, welcome our friends into your house, let us stay in your caravan and generally make us very happy! Thank you for making us feel so at home across the Atlantic. It is always a pleasure to see you and its never often enough! We can't wait until we are able to come back to Ireland!