Adventuring The Giants Causeway

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On my recent adventure to the Emerald Isle I had a bunch of places I wanted to visit along the East Coast of Ireland and researching how to  see them all I found one company who were a good fit for me, Paddy Wagon Tours.  I’d heard about previously heard about them from some friends while backpacking Europe a few years’ ago and had liked their line up for the Giants Causeway tour.

On the morning of the tour I’d been running late. I’d over-slept my alarm despite going to bed crazy early the night before and was really regretting that as I ran to the meeting place. Sadly for me, the bus still left about ten minutes late and I arrived about ten minutes early so I really didn’t need to rush after all.

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On their big green bus I passed through what felt like a huge swath of the country. Having a cheeky nap seemed a great idea after days’ and days’ of early mornings and late nights.

I awoke to our chatty driver Sean giving a quick drive-by tour of Belfast on the way through (we would return here for a short stop on the way back). He told us about the troubles briefly pointing out that there are plenty of places that he couldn’t go “espehsally in a big green bus” knowingly I smiled to myself, remembering friends from Dublin telling me that they didn’t fancy visiting the Northern Irish capital because there were places they couldn’t go with their thick Southern Irish accents.

Tourist Central: Some Old Trees That Have Taken Everyones Fancy

Tourist Central: Some Old Trees That Have Taken Everyones Fancy

We passed through towns that were said to inspire the Game of Thrones series and Sean would talk about how he could see clear parallels between Irish history and The Game Of Thrones itself however, the dragons confused him.

We saw the three hundred year old trees used for filming the Game of Thrones. This photo stop for me was a bit of a disappointment as I would have liked photo’s with just me and the trees as everyone would, it’s a shame none of us could get ourselves worked out so the photo’s could be taken and everyone had run around in everyone’s photo’s making all photo’s taken at the site while I was there look too touristic.

Dunluce Castle looking particularly photogenic (as it does every single day!)

Dunluce Castle looking particularly photogenic (as it does every single day!)

After that photo stop there was another outside Dunluce Castle, the famous ruin on the side of the ocean cliffs that I’d been dying to see on my last trip to Ireland but had missed. The stop was brief but as all I wanted was a photo to show my grandmother I’d been there, that was fine.

The highlight of the tour and what myself and some of the girls’ on my bus agreed was more beautiful than the cliffs of Mohr was the Giants Causeway. It’s really breathtaking to be there. The pictures cannot do it any real justice (although of course I’ll share mine with you!). this has been a well-touristed site for a long time and for good reason! I walked over the apparent ruins of the giants causeway (really the remnants after a volcanic eruption). And was totally in awe. I never paid much attention to geo-sciences (sorry geo-sciences!) but this site would be one to spark many a scientists (and artist and poets) imagination. Although it’s beauty is not traditional, symmetrical beauty as people so prize in nature the causeway had its own swagger, like the ugly duckling who’d grown into a beautiful swan and still had that attitude of “I don’t care how I look, this is who I am”. After visiting the causeway I was pretty quiet on the bus to lunch, just thinking about the place.

Taken inside the pub where we had lunch (yeah... I don't think locals use this pub!)

Taken inside the pub where we had lunch (yeah… I don’t think locals use this pub!)

Lunch was pretty fab, not just because a busy day makes you hungry! I had the Irish stew and would recommend it if you took this tour as the other traditional looking steak and Guinness pie didn’t look very exciting). All of the meals are around eight or nine pounds sterling (this is Northern Ireland remember they don’t use the Euro here). Although it’s better to pay by cash in sterling you can also pay by card. Try not to pay in euro’s as the rate is crazy high.

Next, the isle of Carrick-a-Rede! Here I paid the extra eight euro and took the rope bridge across. Of course, I was terrified and my legs turned to jelly moments after crossing (the lovely Irish girl on the other side told me I didn’t look scared at all, oh… such a lie!) but I crossed, for you guys. So I could tell you how it was and you’ll be happy to hear that it was awesome! If you’re frightened of the 100 meter drop onto a cliff or the ocean if anything goes wrong with that terrible wooden bridge you might want to hold on tight to the railings and not look down, just look right in front of you like I did. And don’t stress about the bridge moving too much, it will move a whole lot but you’re here already and you’re not allowed to turn around, walk on now! The photo’s you’ll get on the other side are well worth it (and the bragging rights too!).

Heading back to the mainland after visiting the Isle.

Heading back to the mainland after visiting the Isle.

Later we visited Belfast for an hour or so. Although this doesn’t seem much time to do anything you might want to read a few of the things mentioned on my Belfast self-guided walking tour or you could just go to the top of the central shopping center’s tower for a good (free) view of Belfast for a few photo’s (view as seen on my Instagram) before taking some odd shots in other places, grabbing a coffee and jumping back on the coach.

The tour ends back in Dublin. You’ll be tired but remember to pick up all your things before you leave, thank your driver and smile to yourself, you did it! You did cross the bridge too right?

Checking out the view on belfast (last pic from today’s tour!) #belfast #Ireland

A photo posted by Stacey Farley (@adventurer.stacey) on

Throughout the day we would have different people arriving back to the bus late and this meant that the tour wound up being longer than it had been scheduled to be – if you decide to book this one you’ll want to keep that in mind – for me the tour ended thirteen hours after it began. Of course I was tired and didn’t end up doing anything after it besides packing my bag for my flight the following day (which I didn’t miss although I was tempted to!) Ireland has quickly become one of my favourite places in the world, besides Laos of course.

A big thank you to Paddy Wagon Tours who provided a free seat on this tour so I could review it. Please note also that all other expenses were paid for by myself (ie. Accommodation, flights, food, tour extras, etc.)

Over to you guys! What would you recommend to first time visitors to the Emerald Isle? Please comment below so others’ can read and follow your advice should they choose to do so.

How To Move To The UK

“Adventurer Stacey’s in the London, that’s awesome for her! How do I do that?” is what I hear behind every question I’m asked about my recent re-location. I used to ask those questions too before I took on a life of travel and adventure, now that things have gone full-circle I’m smiling to myself. I’ve created a list to break down the steps for a move to the UK (or any country for that matter) which I hope you can find useful:

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#1 Draw up a plan

Preparations for relocation can start up to six months before you move. For me this time, it was only three months however, many people take less time. It’s up to you and your personal needs.

#2 Passport check!

Do you have one? Is it valid for much longer? If you need a new one start going through the process of passport application ASAP as you need a passport to apply for visas. For some people who’re eligible for a UK or EU passport, they won’t need to worry about the next steps (and the rest of us are jealous of you, by the way!)

#3 Get the correct work visa

Most Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s under 31 will opt for a Working Holiday visa. These are easy to get and can take as little as two weeks however, if you’re highly skilled you may want to apply for the highly skilled migrant visas. Check with the British High Commission ASAP which visa type best applies to your situation.

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#4 Book Flights

I’ve written a bit about how to find cheap flights in the past but as a general rule, booking in off season or shoulder season to the UK is usually cheaper, you may also want to see if there is a big difference between business class seats and economy as sometimes the price is very close and being such a long flight for some, you may want that luxury.

#5 Purchase travel insurance

I’m with World Nomads who I strongly recommend because their coverage is so good – they even offer coverage for work-related injuries (lets hope that’s never a problem!) and cover you for more than just the UK. You can also renew your cover as you travel which is great for those of us who need it (like myself!)

#6 Sort out your home

If you own your place, you might want to consider renting it out to help with those mortgage repayments. If you are renting, you’ll want to find someone who can keep your stuff at their place or work out a storage option. Make sure you have this sorted well in advance to moving as you don’t need the stress.

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#7 Mail: what are you doing with it?

You might want to consider getting a friend or family member to open your mail at home and relay anything important to you. Or alternately you can get everything sent to you electronically through a service or from the companies themselves.

#8 Consider power of attorney

This is not a must-do however, many long-term travellers or expats give their power of attorney to a trusted friend of family member back home. This is an extension of someone just reading your mail for you however, you might want to look into it and see if it’s an option for you considering you do plan to be away for a while.

#9 Health checks

You will want to ensure any vaccinations are up-to-date, your dental checks out and your doctor has had a good look at you before you go. You’ll also want to ensure any medications you are on are also available in the UK and take a note from your doctor about any medications you’ll be taking with you on the plane. It’s also important if you have contact lenses or glasses that you take an optical prescription with you as well.

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water... hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you'd like to know...

Apparently the horse had a hole drilled in him to drain water… hole is in his penis so he looks like he is weeing when it rains. Cannot verify this story, but thought you’d like to know…

#10 Pack properly and on time

I am an experienced backpacker but for sure, there were packing mistakes I made the first time I moved here. I left some things at home that I sort of needed and had to buy there. I would prefer to go that way than the other way though. You should start packing no more than a month before you leave (in order not to over-pack) and no less than a week before you leave (because you don’t need to stress about packing last moment). I have a general packing list for backpacking too that is a good starting point.

#11 Photocopy important documents

Make copies of important documents before you go: passport, travel insurance, visas, credit cards, hotel/hostel reservations and tickets. You’ll want to leave these at home however, some people make several copies and carry some with them, leave one copy at home and email another copy to themselves so if something goes wrong they can deal with it then and there rather than having to call that person at home and ask for their credit card numbers when they need to cancel them.

#12 Get some spare passport photo’s taken

Generally with travel this is a good idea – I’ve had to use spare passport photo’s a number of times for things like visas. I’ve never been unlucky enough however, I’ve heard some police in some countries want them for police reports if you have to report theft.

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#13 Get your CV sorted

I’ve previously mentioned this on the blog however, UK employers prefer two-page CV’s with dates of each job (starting and leaving). Make sure yours is UK ready before you go as this will save plenty of time and hassle once you arrive.

#14 Contact your UK-based mates

This is super important! Sure, a whole lot of Aussie’s, Kiwi’s and Canadian’s move to the UK every single year and it won’t take much for you to make new friends but it’s much, much easier to have those familiar friends around you when you arrive and it’s never been easier to do this. Shortly before you leave (I left mine to a month before I left) you can change your city on facebook to the one you will be moving to in the UK and then search for other people in your friends’ list who’re in the same city. Surprisingly, you will find people who you didn’t know had moved. I found some old university friends which was great because they already knew what professional jobs were like here, employers expectations, etc. and could help me out. Also, joining facebook groups is a great way to hit the ground running. There’s a bunch of more formal ways to do this too like university alumni organisations, clubs and groups you’re a member of back home, etc. however, this is becoming the more popular way to connect so why not?

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I hope that break down has helped you guys’ who’re thinking of making the big move and I sincerely hope this method of breaking things down encourages some of you to chase those travel dreams. I’d love to hear about others’ experiences with moving to the UK and any advice they would have for people considering it in the comments below. Keep adventuring guys’!

Four Of My Favorite Things About Dublin

I’m in Dublin this week for St. Patrick’s Day and am very excited to be here! It’s a great little city and very hard to get lost in (although, I do try!). The atmosphere this time of year though is what I came here for. Everyone’s Irish, even those who’re not and the city is full of revelers having a good time and spreading the Irish cheer.

My favorite things about Dublin though, are not the cliché one’s or the tourists, from my last trip here I had four favorites I wrote about in my travel journal. Actually, there were more but four seemed an appropriate number for an Irish story (like the four leaf clover, its lucky!) so I picked my favorite four and here they are:

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Pub Culture

Ireland has some of the best pub culture in the world. You can walk into a pub in the middle of the day and find local people drinking and shooting the breeze. Unlike in many other places in the world where a pub is a bar or a venue you go to dance, in Ireland they’re like public lounge rooms and people pop in for a drink and to catch up with their neighbors, the local gossip and politics.

At night though, pubs are full of great music, dancing and slightly awkward local boys’ trying to chat up local girls’. They’re fun places to be full of laughter and good cheer. Something I wish there was more of everywhere in the world.

Dublin Chippers

I was introduced to Dublin chippers by a local the first time I was in Ireland. Everywhere in the world seems to have its after-drinking food and a 2am trip to the Dublin chipper to pick up some fish and chips (or likely just chips) is as good as any after-drinking food in my book. Plus, you always seem to find someone you know in there, even if you have only been in town a few days’. Small place, very friendly.

Irish Directions

The first time I was in Ireland this happened to me and I thought it was just one weird guy but apparently it’s not uncommon (says Irish comedians, one shown below on youtube)

In my story, young pre-backpack Adventurer Stacey had over packed her suitcase and had broken it. She had to find a shopping mall to buy a new suitcase but got lost on the way (as always) and had to ask for directions. Most of the places in the world where I have asked directions I get something boring like, “Turn left at this set of lights and keep going, it’s on your left.” But not in Ireland. In Ireland the directions were more like, “Go left here and walk for ten minutes, then turn right and walk another five minutes, it’s on your left.” I laughed, surely he wasn’t serious. Did he know the pace of my walk? If I was likely to get distracted on the way and stop? Wind speed? Direction? I told him to stop taking the piss and tell me for real, how I get there. He laughed and told me he’d already told me before walking away. There was no-one else around so I decided to try it and you won’t believe, I got there. (the part about directions is at the two minute mark)

Irish Slang & Humor – You’ll Never Get It, Even When You Think You Do

I’ve had Irish friends and I think at this stage I mostly understand them (even though sometimes they do seem pretty alien) but when I was first in Ireland, often slang would go straight over my head and locals obviously didn’t want to tell me that they didn’t mean what they were saying.

One of my more vivid memories was when two older Irish men were at the pub, one asked the other what he wanted, “Oh, just a half Guinness” “Only a half?” asked his shocked friend before leaning closer to me and uttering, “He’s not well you know.” I thought he meant his friend was genuinely unwell, maybe he was about to go in for surgery and shouldn’t be drinking. As a result, I asked the first guy about his health and if he was okay, really. Did he need to go home? Some water? He just stared at me in confusion. Neither talked to me for the rest of the night. I later heard from someone that someone being “not well” was slang, a dismissive way of saying someone was crazy. I wonder if these guys’ thought I genuinely was crazy after the event.

Those are my four – now, if you excuse me I’m off to enjoy this wonderful little city!

Travel Fails: How I Always Miss The Party

I recently booked a flight and while talking to the travel agent* I told him how much I was looking forward to this trip as I’d previously been to Dublin in March of 2012 and had left the city before the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and now I was looking forward to a St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin 2016!

That’s right guys, I’m having a proper St. Patrick’s day this year!

But before you get all jealous and start telling me how unfair it is that you don’t get to be at the party, let me tell you a few of my own stories about how I’ve missed more than one big party because of poor travel planning. I’ve never been a great planner, but sometimes you really do have face-palm moments when you realise you could have, should have done something differently.

I loved how excited people were for the national day - Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

I loved how excited people were for the national day – Chilean flags EVERYWHERE!

Missing Chile’s National Holiday

This was painful! Not only did I miss the great day, but I flew out of Santiago on Chile’s national day. Poor form by me not only because I missed this wonderful day but also because I missed it, almost didn’t make the airport because nothing was running for the national holiday and experienced an earthquake (perhaps unrelated, but I wanted to throw that in!). What was I doing!?

Missing A Genuine St. Patrick’s Day In Dublin

Okay, so I touched on this already. But it still hurts to know how much green beer and craic I missed out on. Especially when I consider I’d made some decent local friends when I backpacked Ireland who could have shown me all the awesome things about Dublin – and Ireland – on their national day that weirdly, seems to be the only national day of any one nation celebrated by everyone in the world. Perhaps this is a testament to the charm of the Irish that everyone wants to celebrate their national day or perhaps it’s their huge world-wide migration with something like 70 million people all over the world having Irish names or maybe just good marketing. Not sure, will tell you after March 17th.

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Missing The Boat And Other Asian Disasters

I didn’t plan my first trip to South East Asia very well at all as testament to the fact that I seemed to miss out on all the great backpacker experiences. Instead of being able to spend 30 days’ in Thailand and traveling the whole country in one go, I flew from Bangkok to Phnom Phen just four days’ after arriving which meant I had to keep leaving Thailand and going back in for two-week long visa sprints. I also missed the rocket festival in Laos by a few hours, missed taking the slow boat into Laos and flew (doh!) which meant I missed all those great ‘slow boat friends’ everyone else had and was travelling with not to mention the fact I spent stupid money flying about because I didn’t want to book with local airlines and would book last moment. Yeah, total fail.

I hope that perhaps in all my travel mistakes, my reader’s can learn from them and not repeat them themselves. They would easily save money and have a better time themselves. You’re welcome.

How about you? Do you have any great travel timing fails you’d like to share? Please comment below so the rest of us can learn from your mistakes, cheers for being awesome enough to do that in advance too!

 

*I don’t always use agents however, when I do I use STA Travel. They have great deals and are totally understanding when you tell them you only want to book a few things (like flights and insurance) through them and want to do the rest independent. I recommend them and plenty of other great travel brands to my readers.

I visited Ireland to kiss a wall and I liked it!

I was planning a big trip to Europe: I would spend a few weeks’ backpacking the continent with a girlfriend from university before heading over to Ireland where I would have two weeks’ to see the whole country. Ireland’s a small country so that was easy done and gave me more of a chance to see the whole place rather than just sample a few cities as I had done on the European Continent.

I hadn’t chosen to spend two weeks in Ireland for any reason you’d think of yourself: it wasn’t the Irish people who’d drawn me in with their friendly yet conservative ways, it wasn’t great whiskey and it certainly wasn’t the food. I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone. That’s the only reason I spent my final two weeks’ of my trip in Ireland: a stone. No, I’m not kidding. But I didn’t regret it one bit and would recommend Ireland to my friends for a visit.

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While I was in Ireland I saw pretty much all of the tourist places: the Cliffs of Mohr; had a feast at a castle where I had no other utensils but my “dagger” (I just picked up my soup and drank it, awesome!); I experienced Dublin nightlife and explored the city as well as a day in Belfast; I spent a very long time looking at castles and trying every whiskey, ale, beer, cider, whatever I could get my hands on. I even met a local who I’d later end up dating for a year. I had such a wonderful time and learned plenty of history (with a very obvious Irish bias) as well as enjoyed a culture that wasn’t quite what I expected.

A few weeks ago I read a book by a marketing genius (I won’t specify the book here as this is not a marketing blog and I don’t want to bore you), she stated that sometimes if you wrap something up in an attractive way, people will buy and you’ll get your message out there even if it’s not exactly what the person thought they were buying. This was true for me in Ireland. I went to cross something off my bucket list and I learned so much about Ireland and the culture of her people. I thought they were similar to me for a long time as much of Australia’s early cultural influences were from the British Isles (Ireland, England, Scotland and in smaller part Wales as well). I felt like a fish out of water when interacting with locals more than a few times and I think this was a great lesson in culture for me. It’s good to feel foreign sometimes, even when you assume it won’t happen.

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Later the same year I did a semester abroad for university on Prince Edward Island, Canada. I found the culture alien and was unsure of it. After having a similar albeit milder experience in Ireland, I knew it came in part because I expected the Canadian’s to be like me, how could they be like me when they were Canadian’s not Australian’s?

I love the Ireland taught me some valuable lessons about culture and people. The whiskey was nice too.

Have you experienced unexpected culture shock or the feeling of being a fish out of water somewhere new where you didn’t expect it to happen? Please leave your story in the comments below.

Take a self-guided walking tour in Belfast

When I first visited Sothern Ireland I was curious about the North. A small country with a rich and turbulent history all I knew was glimpses of the place, mostly from mutterings of old drunk Irishmen in the pubs around Dublin. I knew enough however to know I wanted to see the city for myself so with a new friend, a Dublin local I took the trip to Belfast for a day. I saw the city simultaneously through my own eyes and those of my Irish companion.

This self-guided walking tour starts at the botanic gardens. I realise that there are likely a few other places that are worth seeing however, this is how I saw Belfast and what I loved about it and is as much my guide for you as my showing you the things I loved about a place as your trusted travel companion

Botanical Gardens, Belfast. The tours starting point. (Photo credit:  Nicolas Raymond)

Botanical Gardens, Belfast. The tours starting point. (Photo credit: Nicolas Raymond)

Botanic Gardens (starting point, between College Park and Stranmillis Road) were laid out in the mid-19th century and are very pretty. There are exotic plants to be found at Palm House and Tropical Ravine and there is also the Ulster Museum for those among us who’re interested in the biological, geological and industrial history of Northern Ireland.

Exit the gardens by the Strandmillis Road exit and walk along University Road. On your right you will see Queen’s University which has over 100 listed buildings, if you want to visit the university there is a welcome centre that organises free tours around the university.

Leave university road via university square and admire the Victorian terraces as you walk. You’ll arrive at College Park which leads to the student-filled Botanic Avenue where you can do some people watching, rest your feet or just keep walking on.

At the top of Botanic Avenue you’ll find Belfast’s “Golden Mile” which was developed during the Troubles to boost tourism in the city. You’ll be following Dublin toad to your right however which leads into town.

No. 30 Dublin Road is Ulster Hall, one of the city’s oldest buildings. It was built in 1862 as a music hall and now hosts sporting events and beer festivals in addition to its traditional use as a music hall.

I met my first Irish Gypsie/Traveller in these gardents (photo credit:  Iker Merodio)

I met my first Irish Gypsie/Traveller in these gardents (photo credit: Iker Merodio)

100m north of Ulster Hall is Donnegall Square, which of course is home to what most visitors look for in the Belfast Welcome Centre where you can get free tourism info on the city. There’s free internet both here and at the Linen Hall Library which is in the same square and is also Belfast’s oldest library. You’ll also find the City Hall and its famous gardens that are used for the “Titanic – Made in Belfast” festival each April.

When you’ve had your fun moseying around the square it’s time to leave in the direction of waterfront along May Street. About 250m along you’ll see the neoclassical Royal Courts of Justice and facing them on the right hand side, George’s Market a good little spot to stop for lunch or a snack as it’s cheaper than a pub lunch in town.

"She was fine when she left here" Say the Irish of the titanic. (Photo credit: Cliff)

“She was fine when she left here” Say the Irish of the titanic. (Photo credit: Cliff)

When you exit the market turn left onto Oxford Street and continue until you’re riverside. Along the riverside there is the Queens Bridge, the 1999 Big Fish which was placed here to commemorate the areas rebirth with tiles depicting Belfast history. There is also the old Custom House which was in operation in the 19th century. This is also where you’ll find Belfast’s “leaning tower” the Albert Memorial Clock Tower. While you walk around try to keep the titanic in mind: this is where it was built. Imagine what it was like back then. It’s interesting to walk in those footsteps, no?

I will admit that I stopped my tour here. We made a trip to two more landmarks: The Europa Hotel (Great Victoria St. Belfast BT2 7AP T), which was what my travel companion said to be “the most bombed hotel in Europe” being continually bombed in the Troubles by the old IRA. We also made a side trip to the Opera House (Also on Victoria Street) before grabbing some cider in a city bar and having a craic with some locals. It’s a great city for that after all!

Now it’s your turn! Please comment below with any info you’d like to give Belfast visitors who may be reading this. If you have not been yet, let us know what you’re looking forward to seeing or doing most.