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Days Out: A Visit to the 'Cutty Sark'

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Can you imagine England without its national beverage - tea? Tea first became popular after King Charles II's wife brought it with her from her home country of Spain in the mid 1600s. In 1669, the East India Company broguht its first shipment of tea from China, and in 1706, the first tea room in London opened. By the 1830s, teas are then shipped from India for the first time. The tea trade is actually what brought about an important part of history of the ship 'Cutty Sark', which was known as a 'tea clipper'. 

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'Cutty Sark' below deck

In late 1869, the 'Cutty Sark' was launched. The ship was named after the cutty sark, the Scottish name for a short night dress that women used to wear. It was also said to be inspired by a poem written by Tom O'Shanter about a witch named Nannie who was wearing a cutty sark. The figurehead on the ship is supposed to represent the witch.

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The ship made eight voyages to China. The quickest time to Shanghai in China was 89 days. The ship would usually stay about a month in China, so the ship would be on its voyage for about ten months. 

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Tea was shipped in exotic and colourful boxes with Chinese writing on them. Replica tea boxes were located on the ship so it appeared that they were stacked in the ship and visitors could walk over them. How the tea was packed onto the ship was also illustrated.

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As the ship is very old, a lot of restorative work has been done to her, including building on her steel frame. To inform people about which parts of the ship are new materials (and which are original), the original ship's metalwork has been painted white. In the photograph below, the evidence of the wear and tear of the ship is obvious.

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Below deck are interactive exhibits and artefacts from the ship, including a star of India and the ship's bell. The exhibit also describes other items that were shipped on the boat, in addition to tea. These included other goods and items from the far east, sheep, and furniture. 

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One of the interactive exhibits was to 'pilot' your own 'Cutty Sark' electronically using a mock ship's wheel and a map that detailed the currents of the ocean, and the objective was to get the ship back to its London destination in the quickest time that the 'Cutty Sark' achieved in reality (and without being ship-wrecked)!

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The 'Cutty Sark' did not have too long of a career as steam-powered boats started to be in use to collect tea shortly after the ship was built. The Suez Canal was opened, and this cut the number of days it took to reach the east from Europe. The 'Cutty Sark' then turned to other trade, such as sheep and other goods and luxuries that were shown in the exhibition below the deck.

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The top decks could also be explored, and these included living quarters, the captain's room, and other areas for the crew and captain. Cards next to the equipment on the deck told what the item was.

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There are also some nice views from the top of the deck, and we were fortunate to have a beautiful sunny day. Canary Wharf could be seen from the deck. It is amazing that this ship is here, after its fate led it to different countries and places in the world as a working and tourism ship for some time, before eventually coming back to London to be displayed as a museum.

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The shape of the hull is what made the ship so quick. It was plated with copper. In fact, the ship resting on the ground and gravity was beginning to warp the shape of the hull, so a lot of time and money was spent on suspending the ship in mid-air so that it does not rest directly onto the ground. This is why there's a large steel structure with buttresses around the ship so that visitors can walk underneath it. On this level is the ship's longest wooden plank. It is part of the original ship and is shown in its fragile condition. Burn marks can also be seen on this piece of wood from the fire that happened a few years ago. (After a large restoration project, the ship was finally reopened to the public in 2012.) 

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The scale and length of the 'Cutty Sark' is evident below. There is a restaurant here, and there's also a few more exhibitions, including how the alcoholic drink 'Cutty Sark' got its name; it was, of course, inspired by press about the famous ship. One of the most interesting exhibits on this level is the figurehead collection, known as the Long John Silvers Collection. This is the largest collection of ship figureheads in the world and was given to 'Cutty Sark' by Captain Long John Silvers (Sydney Cumbers). This collection and the 'Cutty Sark' is dedicated to the Merchant Navy. 

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Figurehead collection

A plaque is located in the area to identify each figurehead; some of them are modeled after famous people. One was Abraham Lincoln. Figureheads were regarded as important, and the crew would always keep them clean and look after them as they believed that the ship's soul was embodied in its figurehead. Not all of the figureheads are human.

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After our exploration of the 'Cutty Sark' ship, we went across the street to the Gipsy Moth pub, which we could see from the top deck of the ship. The restaurant/pub was busy, and all of the seats outside in the garden were taken, but we were lucky to grab a table and enjoyed our lunch. I had the chicken pie, and everything tasted nice.

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Have you visited 'Cutty Sark'? What did you think? Leave me a comment.

London's Greenwich Foot Tunnel

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The Greenwich Foot Tunnel is located near the restored Cutty Sark ship in Greenwich Village, east London. The tunnel was completed in 1902 and it allowed people who lived on the south side of the river Thames to reach the north (by crossing in the tunnel under the river) where they worked in the docks. The entrance to the tunnels are large domes and can be seen on both sides of the river.

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South side entrance

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Green dome foot tunnel entrance with Canary Wharf behind

The tunnel is open 24 hours a day, and those that pass through can use the stairs or a lift. The lift is in the centre and can take several people and bikes. I took the stairs down, and it actually was not as deep as I was expecting it to be. I've climed up and down far more steps at times at various London underground stations. A sign near the entrance said that the foot tunnel is 33 feet deep at low tide and 53 feet deep at high tide.

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Entrance and the stairs

Once at the bottom, the journey could be completed up through to the other side. The tunnel looked a little too worn and unwelcoming for my liking, though it has recently been under refurbishment. This tunnel was the only tunnel built under the Thames for the sole purpose of pedestrians. Even though the tunnel looks a little unwelcoming, there are CCTV cameras in operation. Still, I'm not sure that I'd like to be there at night.

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The foot tunnels also have a list of rules for pedestrians, such as skateboarders and cyclists have to dismount, and busking and flash photography is not allowed. More information about the foot tunnel can be found here: http://www.royalgreenwich.gov.uk/info/200102/walking/693/foot_tunnels

Belfast's Botanic Gardens

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After a visit to St. George's Market, we walked to Belfast Botanic Gardens, located near Queen's University and Ulster Museum. The gardens consist of a Palm House, rose garden, Tropical Ravine House, and grounds. The park was popular with tourists, students, and office workers on their lunch breaks. This was one of the highlights in my trip to Belfast, and the weather was perfect for exploring the gardens.

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The Palm House foundation stone was laid in 1839. The structure, designed by Charles Lanyon, is one of the earliest examples of curved iron with glass. The ironmaster was Richard Turner, and he constructed this before the Great Palm House at Kew Gardens (London) in the 1840s. Today these gardens is the most visited gardens and visitors can get private tours. The displays change with the season. 

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After walking from the City Hall, we sat down for a few minutes in front of the beautiful Palm House. The weather was lovely. Once we had rested, we wandered around the Palm House, and I took several pictures of the plants.

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The cooler part of the Palm House contains flowers, and the hotter central area contains tropical plants and larger trees. I saw an orange growing on one of the branches in the tropical area. The cool area was filled with house plants (pictured below). 

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I tried to capture the height of the Palm House.

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There was also an ugly plant toward the back and central area of the Palm House. It had a name like Henry or Harry, but I cannot remember which. I am not sure what type of plant it was, but it looked ugly, and I thought I had a photograph of the sign but I could not find it. A photograph of Henry or Harry (or whatever his name is) is below.

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Outside the Palm House, we walked around the gardens that were filled with rhododendrons in all sorts of different colours. I love these flowers as they are always so colourful.

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There were bees attracted to some of the flowers.

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After a quick wander, we came upon the rose gardens. Unfortunately, only a few roses were out in bloom in the rose garden in the Belfast Botanic Gardens. I can imagine that it looks equally beautiful as Regent's Park rose garden when they are all out in full bloom. We were a week or two too early.

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We walked down from the rose garden and came across another hidden area that was completely unexpected. Different areas of the grounds were secluded with trees and a small spring.

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We followed signs to the Tropical Ravine House. The Tropical Ravine House is another conservatory in Belfast's Botanic Gardens. Instead of mingling with the plants, visitors walk up above them and look down onto the smaller plants or directly at the larger branches of the trees. The trees were dense here and very tall, so I did not get many good photographs, but there is one below of the interior of the Tropical Ravine House.

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After all the walking around, I had one of the fairy cakes that I bought in St. George's Market.

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Have you been to the Botanic Gardens in Belfast before?

A Visit to Belfast Cathedral (St. Anne's)

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When I was in Belfast earlier this summer, I popped in to have a look at Belfast's Cathedral, St. Anne's. The cathedral is in the heart of the famous "Cathedral Quarter" (naturally...), opposite Writer's Square. It is a centre of artists and writers, and that is where it gets its name. The area was bombed extensively in the second World War, so many of the older buildings no longer exist and the cathedral took damage. Near the square was the headquarters of a newspaper that intercepted the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 and published it before England's king had word or sight of it. 

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Exterior of St. Anne's in Belfast with its large Celtic Cross, completed 1981

St. Anne's cathedral started to be built in 1899, so it is a relatively new cathedral. After the first World War, a new part of the cathedral was added in memory of the Ulster men and women who served. In addition, there are many plaques around the interior of the church to commemorate those and also to commemorate the victims of other wars. New architectural additions to the cathedral have been made throughout the 1900s and are as recent as 2007.

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Interior of St. Anne's

The Baptistery, located near the entrance to the cathedral, has a beautiful ceiling decoration and beautiful stained glass windows. 

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Baptistery

The most recent edition to the cathedral was made in 2007 with its modern steel spire; the spire is 40 metres in length. It is known as "The Spire of Hope" and is illuminated at night. Visitors inside the cathedral can look up from the nave and see it. There's a photograph of it from the nave in the photograph below, and you can see part of the metal spire in the first photograph in this entry. 

On the left-hand side as you enter the cathedral is the "Chapel of the Holy Spirit". It is dedicated to St. Patrick. In the photograph below, Saint Patrick is the middle figure, and the boat below is his with the Mourne Mountains in the distance on his way to bring Christianity to the people of Ireland. 

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"Spire of Hope" and "Chapel of Holy Spirit"

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Stained glass windows

The cathedral also has a reputation of charity at Christmas. This started many years ago when the Dean of Belfast started a "sit out" on the stairs of the cathedral in the week leading up to Christmas to collect donations for local charities. He was nicknamed "Black Santa" because of the outfit he wore to keep warm. The tradition is still held every year before Christmas, the those who collect the charity are still called "Black Santa".

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Facade of the cathedral from Writer's Square

I hope you enjoyed photographs of St. Anne's in Belfast.

Pretty Cuppa is one of the new shops that opened up in a new development under the railway bridge in the middle of Brick Lane earlier this summer. As I often passed by it during my lunchtime walks, I decided to nip in one day when I had a particularly late lunch. I was the only one about as the lunch rush had long gone, and I was not feeling particularly hungry so I decided to try a slice of cake and a couple macaroons. This was to be washed down with a bottle of rose lemonade.

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When I asked what the cake flavour was, I was told that it was a Swedish sponge cake. It is similar to Victoria Sponge with a layer of jam, but the sponge is lighter. The cake was topped with a thin layer of green icing and was moist and light. The cake was delicious. But...disappointingly, the love ended there for me.

Although I was impressed with the Swedish cake, I did not like the macaroons at all; they were stale and dry. Yuck! Also, even though I had ordered a drink and said I was going to eat in, somehow they expected me to leave and boxed up my cake slice in a plastic box and the macaroons in a bag. Perhaps it was because I was on my own or perhaps because they knew the macaroons were stale. Anyway, I did eat in the cafe. My photographs of the goodies are below, but I'm sorry that they are not presented too well because they were not served to me on plates.

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Despite the problems with the macaroons and the eating arrangements, I decided to give Pretty Cuppa a second chance a couple of weeks later. This time I ordered a cupcake. (I'm not about to give their macaroons another try because they were so horrible and I'm not confident in them being fresh.) I was told the cupcake was vanilla; in fact, it was lemon. That was a disappointment -- not that I don't like lemon, but I was expecting vanilla and prefer vanilla.

The photographs below were taken in the two visits I made to the cafe.

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I won't be giving Pretty Cuppa another try, unless I see the nice Swedish cake in the window again. However, I do love the vintage cafe style, the bunting, the flowers, and the shelving. The cafe is also on a prime spot on Brick Lane for a lot of people-watching, and there's nothing better than watching unique fashion statements in this area of London. It's just a shame that the service and food did not live up to my expectations. Although this is located well on Brick Lane, there are many other cafes in the area. Perhaps they will survive due to location, tourist trade, or perhaps I have just been extremely unlucky. I do hope that they will improve.

I have always been a fan of the Beatles, particularly their earlier work. In university and High School, I was inspired by the 1960s music, fashion, and freedom. When I came to visit and work in London for my work exchange internship for university, I made the pilgrimage to Abbey Road to see the famous crosswalk and the Abbey Road studios where the Beatles recorded their music and also sang on the rooftop late in their career. This was in the year 2000, and there was not really that much to see; I did not see any other tourists when I visited it then, and I did not see much Beatle-related grafitti.

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Abbey Road crosswalk

Last summer, I made my second pilgrimage to Abbey Road as we had dinner at a hotel not too far away from it. The atmosphere was much different than all those years ago, and the area was particularly busy with tourists. The tourists were getting their photo taken at the famous crosswalk used on the album cover. I also saw a classic Volkswagen Beetle drive by, but I failed to get a photograph. It would have been great if it had been parked up as there was one of these parked up in the original album cover where the Beatles were walking across.

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Tribute wall

Outside the Abbey Road studios, visitors now leave their messages and tributes to the Beatles and others who performed in the studio here. This was new as I do not remember seeing the grafitti in the year 2000 when I visited. I remember seeing some on an Abbey Road road sign, but that was all. I remember seeing a news article once about complaints related to visitors drawing on the signs.

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I read some of the messages and watched many others walk by and read and contribute to the messages. The messages were left by people from all over the world. The wall is also painted over regularly so that others can add their own messages.

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Visitors to the area are also informed that there is a webcam on the famous crosswalk, and they can visit a website to download their photograph taken in the crosswalk. When visiting, simply remember to look at your watch or mobile phone to check the time so that you know when you walked across.

I wonder how Abbey Road will change in the next thirteen years.

After an extremely gruelling nine-hour journey, which should have only been just over a three-hour journey from Basingstoke, we arrived in Liverpool. By the time we arrived, it was time to get some food and drink before heading off to our hotel. We stayed at Albert Dock, and so we were spoiled for choice with food and drink. For those who do not know, Albert Dock used to be a working dock but it now a thriving destination for visitors with museums and a Tate art gallery and plenty of places to get drink and food.

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I last visited Liverpool in 2008, the year that it won Capital of Culture, as I was doing some work for 'The Number One Project' and got to attend their concert that was performed by several of Liverpool's artists that had a 'Number One' song in the charts. Sadly, I do not have those photographs. However, Liverpool and Albert Dock were in the process of being regenerated. Albert Dock had a handful of restaurants and shops, and the museums were opened, but the majority of the dock was still under development. Upon visiting it this time, the place has come a long way and there are several new shops, cafes, and restaurants surrounding the whole dock. 

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We were spoilt for choice really, but we opted for "The Smuggler's Cove" restaurant as the menu looked quite nice. The main entrance to the restaurant is on the outside of the Albert Dock, though, so we were ushered there. We waited near the bar until we finally were able to get a seat. 

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The restaurant is part of the company 'New World Trading Co' and they specialise in themed restaurants. (There's currently one called 'The Botanist' in Leeds, but I have not been to it, and they want to open one in London next year.)

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The restaurant is decorated like the interior of a ship with large wooden tables or tables made out of wooden barrels, iron ceiling lighting, a skull on a mock fireplace mantle, a large 'ship in a bottle' decoration, wallpapered or dark-wood panelled rooms with pictures  and other nautical pirate/ship themeed items throughout the restaurant. The waiting staff were even dressed similar to what sea crew would wear in the 1800s and early 1900s. Our menus also looked like an old letter, complete with mock map imagery and a wax seal. They have obviously spent a lot of time on the graphic design elements.

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Another booklet on our table informed us of the bottled drinks that we could purchase, and each one was illustrated with care with a hand-writing font to describe the drink. A few of these are pictured below. 

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We opted for a couple of cocktails. I got the June Bug, which is one of my favourite cocktails because I love melon liquor. My partner got the 'Morning Wrays' which is a rum-based cocktail that came with a slice of pink grapefruit. 

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I ordered the rotisserie chicken, and it came in a mock wooden barrel end as a plate. It also came with a small bottle of hot sauce. My partner had the steak, and he said it was cooked perfectly and was pink inside.

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Time for desserts! I ordered chocolate mousse. It is one of my all-time favourite desserts. The mousse was very rich and creamy and is worth saving room for. It was one of the best I have tried, falling short of mousse that I once had in Lille, France. My partner had the strawberry and marshmallow kebab, which came on this cool iron skewer. The chocolate sauce, in a pot on the top of the 'device' was poured down the top and coated all of the marshmallows and strawberries on the way down. At the bottom was a small dish of vanilla ice cream.

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At the end of the meal, we received the bill and comments, which were rolled up and looked like an old-style map or document. A nice touch.

After our meal and on the way back to our hotel, we stopped and got some photographs of the Liverpool Wheel. The Wheel was not built the last time I visited Liverpool as that area was still being regenerated, although the arena had just been built. 

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We got some more photographs of the Wheel and then decided to go on it to see some nice views of Liverpool at dusk. The price was a bit hefty though, and I forgot to look at my app for some discounts as I knew that there were discounts. D'oh! It had been a long day.

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There is a commentary in each capsul that describes the history of Liverpool and some of the attractions that can be seen while you go around. I got a decent picture of Albert Dock as the sunset was disappearing beyond the Mersey.

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I also got some additional photographs looking at the main part of Liverpool, and the large tower is the Radio City Tower. I'd been up that once before, but they were with those photographs that I sadly no longer have a copy of. Taking photographs of Liverpool when the Liverpool Wheel was moving was difficult, and they are not so great. I am also not so great with heights, so that also did not help matters. 

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Anyway, I hope you liked my photographs. For more information about "The Smugger's Cove" restaurant and bar, please see: http://thesmugglerscove.uk.com

This weekend marked a birthday celebration, so I was off to the OXO Tower (a Harvey Nichols restaurant and brasserie) to celebrate with "Not Afternoon Tea" and cocktails. I had previously been to the OXO Tower a few years ago in a night that I will not easily forget. A group of colleagues and I had reserved a part of the balcony area, and in order to do so, you have to spend a certain amount of money on drinks. That was a good night. The views are the best in the city of London; St. Paul's and the large skyscrapers in the City are just across the river.

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Not Afternoon Tea - OXO Tower

Fortunately, the weather turned out to be pretty nice after we got caught up in a downpour whilst waiting for our mid-day reservation at the OXO Tower. We had been sitting on a bench in front of Gabriel's Wharf, watching the people and cyclists returning from their cycle race and watching the hide tide on the river splash up against the wall, when we noticed the grey clouds moving in the distance. Pretty soon, we could see the rain obscuring the view of Centre Point and the BT Tower and we could start to hear it, so we ran to the OXO Tower. Of course, we were about twenty minutes early then, so we sat at the bar and shared a cocktail.

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Raspberry Gin Daisy cocktail

We had the 'Raspberry Gin Daisy' cocktail. It is made with London Dry Gin, raspberry and soda. I sometimes find the cocktails here a little too strong for my liking, and I was saving for the 'Not Afternoon Tea'. This was a good start to our experience.

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View from OXO Tower

We were shown to our seats next to the window, as I requested when I reserved. We had a really nice view of St. Paul's cathedral and the City's buildings. As it had been raining, the outside balcony area was closed.

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MOËT ICE champagne

We had a choice of four different "Not Afternoon Tea" plates. "Berry Frozen", "Penny's Herb Garden", "Chocolate Bars" and "Blooming Lovely" were the choices on offer. Each choice comes with a plate of four small desserts and a cocktail. The cocktail for each choice is suited to the desserts. Choosing was a bit difficult as I liked various options from most of the plates, but the "Chocolate Bars" was the least appealing one for me. In the end, it turned out being a toss-up between "Blooming Lovely" which boasts floral desserts and a floral cocktail and "Penny's Herb Garden", which boasts herb flavours. I choose "Penny's Herb Garden".

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Menu - OXO Afternoon tea

On top of the "Not Afternoon Tea" cocktail plates, an additional experience could be added. There were a choice of three, and we choose the "MOËT Ice Exclusive". In addition to our original selection, the extras in this experience is a glass of MOËT Ice, mixed berries with Limoncello, and a bag of treats to take away.

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Champagne and Limoncello berries

The MOËT Ice was served with a glass with ice and summer fruits (strawberry, blueberry, and raspeberry).

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Champagne

The Limoncello with mixed berries came with a slice of shortbread. The Limoncello is chunks of jelly served in a shotglass with the fruits underneath. The fruits included mashed strawberry and raspeberry and whole blueberries. After drinking the champagne, I could not taste the Limoncello, but I could taste the berries. 

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Limoncello jelly shot with berries and shortbread

The "Not Afternoon Tea" plates were then brought over after the Limoncello shots were devoured. The "Chocolate Bars" one is photograhed below. From left to right in the image below:

  • Blonde chocolate and butterscotch parfait
  • White chocolate coconut cherry mousse
  • Milk chocolate peanut nougat
  • Chocolate raisin hazelnut crisps bar

Also included on the plate are roasted nuts and chocolate-covered honeycomb pieces. The cocktail served with this plate is called "Not For Boys", and it contains coconut rum, normal rum, coconut milk and dark chocolate liquer.

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"Chocolate Bars"

I was allowed to try a little bit of the "Chocolate Bar" sweets. The peanut nougat and the coconut cherry mousse were delicious.

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Not Afternoon Tea

"Penny's Herb Garden", the plate that I had ordered, was brought out on a wooden board. The items on the board below, from left to right include:

  • Lemon verbena and sour cherry mousse
  • Thyme panna cotta, apricots
  • Mint cake, blackcurrant ice cream
  • Peach and bay leaf trifle

This was served with the cocktail "An English Summer", which contained wine, elderflower liquer, green tea and hibiscus liquer and bitter lemon.

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"Penny's Herb Garden"

The desserts were nice. My favourite was either the mint cake with the blackberry ice cream or the trifle. The blackberry ice cream was delicious. Each of my desserts had a slight herb taste. The lemon and sour cherry was not as strong for my liking, however, but the others were spot on. These complemented their accompanying cocktails well.

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Cocktails

The "An English Summer" cocktail was served in a copper cup, which I absolutely loved. I really wanted to take this home with me. The "Not For Boys" was served in an old-fashioned milk glass with candied coconut slices on the top. I loved my cocktail and it accompanied the herb taste so well. I was not too keen on the sip I had of the "Not For Boys" cocktail, however, as I am not a big fan of rum. "An English Summer" was not too strong at all, and I could have happily had another.

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"An English Summer"

At the end of our meal, we were presented with our "pink chocolates to take away", which consisted of three different types of truffle tied with pink ribbon.

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Pink truffles

But, that was not all. When I went to the washroom, I mentioned to one of the waitresses that it was my partner's birthday, and I left a message for her to include on the birthday dessert plate. She was really nice; in fact, all of the staff that I interacted with were friendly and helpful. After a short wait and attempted to deflect several badgerings from my partner to ask for the bill, the birthday plate was brought out. My partner was surprised!

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Happy Birthday

Of course, no visit to the OXO Tower is complete without obtaining a few photographs. I managed to get out onto the balcony and take a few photographs.

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St. Paul's

And the Dazzle Ship (Dazzle Ships Commemorate World War 1) is 'parked' below the OXO Tower, so there was a nice view of it from there.

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Dazzle Ship

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St. Paul's

We had a really nice "Not Afternoon Tea" and I would visit again. Have you visited the OXO Tower for "Not Afternoon Tea" before?

A Visit to St. George Market in Belfast

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While visiting Belfast in late May, we visited St. George's Market, a Victorian Market built in the 1890s. St. George's Market beat other popular UK markets to become to best indoor market earlier this year, beating popular markets such as Spitalfields and Borough Market in London. The market is opened on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. (We visited it on a Saturday, which is the food and craft market. There are slightly different themes on the other two days with Sunday focusing more on crafts and Friday focusing more on food and antiques.) 

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St. George's Market

During World War II, St. George's Market was used as an emergency mortuary and over 250 bodies were taken there to be identified. Many could not be identified, so there was a public funeral with Catholic and Protestant services. The market was refurbished with lottery money in the 1990s. Today, Belfast City Council runs the market.

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A fishmonger at St. George's Market in Belfast

As soon as we entered the market (from May Street), we found ourselves in the fish section. I always love looking at the fish section because they are so exotic and different (even if I have to hold my nose because it is not the most pleasant-smelling part of the market). I grew up in the middle of the country, and fish were not a common sight. Crabs, squid, lobsters, and octopus were among the finds. I even saw some (crabs or shrimp/prawns) moving. The cold ice just sedates them. I feel a bit sorry for them.

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Fish, squid, octopus, crabs, oysters

Bread is another common find in markets, and the Irish have their own special types of bread that we do not get in England/Scotland/Wales. Soda bread is common in Ireland. We saw some homemade pot bread and soda bread and also these other loaves. 

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Irish soda bread

I also saw a stall selling several (about fifteen) different types of pizza breads with different toppings. 

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Pizza breads

Baked goods were also popular at St. George's Market, and there were pastries, fudge, cupcakes, chocolate, brownies, cookies, flapjacks, and so much more. There were a couple of stalls only selling cupcakes in many different flavours. However, I opted for these small fairy cakes pictured below from one of the stalls selling a variety of baked goods.

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Fairy cakes

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Flapjacks

One of the most colourful stalls was selling spices. There were three tables filled with colourful containers with different types of bulk spice in them. (Let's hope none ever drop onto the ground because that would be an expensive mess.)

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Spices

Many stalls sold craft items, clothing, photography/artwork, and jewellery. I did not photograph any of these stalls.

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Fish 

There were a handful of stalls selling produce as well. Some also sold beverages or meats. We bought a bottle of spakling lemon squash to mix with water.

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Lemons

The middle area of the market had several stalls selling cooked food, such as burgers and curry. In this area there was also a small band playing traditional music and chairs to sit on and watch them perform.

Also in the middle of the market is the market clock. I was not unable to get a good photograph, but it was made in Clerkenwell (the place to buy clocks in the 1800s) in London. It was originally the Belfast Fish Market's clock (Smithfields), and parts of it were badly worn but restored.

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Vegetables

St. George's Market is not as large as Borough Market or Spitalfields. (Spitalfields does not sell food items except for some baked goods and it specialises more in fashion and crafts and antiques.) The market is comparable to Borough Market except that Borough Market specialises in food items more. However, Borough Market is nearly always too busy to properly browse anymore (even during off-peak times, and it is especially busy with tourists anymore) and we found St. George's Market to be quieter with less tourists.

On my recent visit to Belfast, we spent a day exploring the Titanic Quarter of the city. There are several sights to see here, including the SS Nomadic, the Titanic museum, and the Titanic Dry Dock and Pump House. Additionally, we walked past Titanic Studios, where the television series Game of Thrones is being filmed, and we caught views of the two massive yellow cranes nicknamed Samson and Goliath. We arrived straight from Belfast City airport and dropped our luggage off at the hotel on the far side of the city centre before walking to the Titanic Quarter and exploring this area of Belfast. 

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The Titanic Museum and SS Nomadic in Hamilton Dock

One of our stops was to Titanic Belfast, a museum dedicated to the RMS Titanic. The museum opened in 2012 and is a new addition to Belfast and explains the story of the Titanic and shipbuilding in Belfast. The exterior of the building is meant to mimic a ship, and it is placed between the slipways used by the Titanic and its sister ship the Olympic, and others refer to it as "The Iceburg". The height of the building mimics the Titanic's height.

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Titanic Belfast

The bronze figure (pictured below) in front of the museum is meant to represent the figures that were placed on the front of ships. 

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Titanic Belfast 

Inside the museum is a museum is an interactive ride through a fabricated shipyard that explains how the ships were built. There's also stories about some of the notable people aboard the Titanic when it sank. There's also a viewing gallery where you can see video of the wreckage, and just below this is a representation of how the Titanic currently looks on the bed of the sea, but there were some technical difficulties with this when we visited.

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Viewing gallery (video of the Titanic wreckage)

There are also replica rooms for first, second, and third classes in the museum as well as the White Star Line cutlery and plates that would have been used in the Titanic. There's also a first class menu of the final meal that they had the evening that the Titanic sank. The grand staircase used in the 1997 Titanic film is also in the museum, but sadly general visitors cannot access this; it is only accessible with booked afternoon tea.

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Menu, replica dishes and a first class cabin on the Titanic

Just behind the new Titanic museum is the Olympic Slipway, where the RMS Olympic was built alongside RMS Titanic. This whole area (known as the Titanic Quarter today) used to be busy with ship-building.

At least 4,000 men were involved in building RMS Olympic. Three White Star line ships were built here: Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Olympic was the first of the three. The Olympic was also a luxurious ship and contained a swimming pool, Turkish spa, a palm garden, and several different first class cabin decor styles.

We also visited RMS Titanic's little sister ship and the only surviving White Star Line ship, SS Nomadic. The SS Nomadic was based in Cherboug, France. It was used to ferry passengers from the harbour to cruise ships (like RMS Titanic) that were too large to come into the harbour. The ship was used to ferry passengers, luggage, and other items to the Titanic when it stopped to collect passengers at Cherbourg before heading off to its fateful voyage to America. (It also stopped in Queenstown, Ireland; Queenstown cannot be found on a modern map as it has changed its named to Cobh.) One of the famous passengers that boarded this ship for the Titanic in Cherbough was Molly Brown.

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SS Nomadic

We had a guided tour of the ship and were told that the different classes never mingled in that day. First class passengers would never see third class, and even the third class area was considered grand for the time. First class used expensive floor tiles, panel decorations, and a grander staircase. 

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First class passenger area

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First class bar

Considering this ship was passed around and a restaurant and a casino at one point, it is amazing that it has survived as much as it has. They also had done a great job of restoring it and souring any bits that were missing from the original suppliers, such as the windows. The rennovation had taken awhile, and there was an exhibit on this, and the ship only opened to the public last May.

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SS Nomadic

The decks were also separated for each class of people; we were told on the tour that different classes just did not mingle in those days. And the passengers would never see the crew working below the decks. We went up onto the deck and saw the wheel and Titanic Belfast museum.

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On board the SS. Nomadic with Titanic Belfast in the background

SS Nomadic is moored in a dry dock, Hamilton Dock. It is near to Titanic Belfast museum. The dry dock's gate (known as a caisson) has been kept and detached and is also located in this dry dock and in front of the SS Nomadic. This was a gate that closed off the dry dock. It is shaped like a ship's hull and is hollow inside so that water can be pumped out of the dock once sealed or drawn back in.

We also went to see Titanic Pump House and Dry Docks, which is located about a fifteen minute walk from Titanic Belfast, and this is where we walked past Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones is partially filmed. The real name of this dock is Thompson Graving Dock, but the Titanic used this dry dock, and the name of the famous ship is used to publicise it. Visitors can imagine the scale of the Titanic by looking at the scale of the dry dock.

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Titanic Pump House and Dry Dock

The Thompson Graving Dock was the largest dock in the world in 1911. The length of the dry dock is over 850 feet, and the Titanic and other large cruise ships used this dry dock when they were being fitted out. The pump house could drain the dock (23 million gallons of water) in about 100 minutes. The first ship to use the dry dock was the Olympic.

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Titanic Pump House

We took a tour of the the Pump House, which is Victorian in architecture, and watched the video shown inside it to understand how the Pump House works. The video also showed scenes of Titanic in the dock.

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Pump House

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Pump House

Thompson Graving Dry Docks would have been very busy, and when we walked around the docks, we could hear 'sounds' of an audio recording coming from the dock to try to get a feeling of what it would be like to be there when the docks were a working place.

Belfast was the fastest-growing British city from 1821 to 1901, and the city's population grew three times larger than it was to over 21,000. Linen manufacturing and ship-building were popular industries. In fact, the River Lagan's course was straightened in the 1840s, and this increased ship-building. 

The iron keel blocks that the ships would rest on while in the dry dock remain to this day and are on display. There was a sign next to them, and one block would weigh as much as three cars.

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Thompson Graving Dock

There is another dock near to Thompson Graving Dock. It is known as Alexandra Graving dock. Inside this dock is another ship, the first World War cruiser HMS Caroline. It is the second oldest commissioned warship in the Royal Navy; the first is HMS Victory. She was the fastest ship ever built; it took 9 months to build. Most of her time at war was spent in the North Sea and Scapa Flow (Orkney islands) where she was in the Battle of Jutland and is the only surviving ship.

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HMS Caroline

Have you visited Belfast and the Titanic Quarter? Let me know what you thought of it, and what was your favourite attraction?

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