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A Weekend in Belfast

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I visited Belfast at the end of May, and surprisingly, the weather was nice for the majority of my time there. Exploring the city was the first part of our nearly two-week long holiday (a road trip vacation) in Ireland. There's quite a lot to do and see here, and I could have spent about one more day here, but this holiday road trip was mainly about spending a little time in each place and seeing as much as possible before heading off to the next place. 

I have separated some of the attractions into various posts as there is so much to see. You have probably already read these, but if not, the list is below:

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Belfast along the river from the Titanic Quarter

The first place we headed for after dropping our bags off at the hotel was the Titanic Quarter. Our hotel was on the opposite side of the city centre, so we walked down the main street and over the bridge, catching glimpses of several attractions along the way, including the tiled blue and white fish located on the banks of the river. This tiled sculpture is actually a salmon, and it is named 'Bigfish', and the artist is John Kindness. On closer inspection, the fish is made of tiled images and newspaper clippings that celebrate Belfast's history.

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'Bigfish' by John Kindness 

'Bigfish' is located near Custom House Square. In the past, Custom House Square was a busy quayside and filled with moored ships; it was also used as a "Speaker's Corner" and attracted large crowds. Today, the square is a meeting-place where events are held sometimes, and it is an attractive place with jumping fountains, beautiful old pubs, a clock tower, and an attractive-looking Custom House (built in 1857 and the building which the square is named after). In fact, the River Farset lies underneath the road and under the jumping fountains. At the river's end of the square is Belfast's oldest drinking fountain, and it was used by people and horses.

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Custom House Square

The clock tower, named the Albert Memorial Clock, is also located in Custom House Square. The clock tower was built in 1865 to commemorate the death of Prince Albert. As you may be able to see in the photograph below, the tower does lean slightly, and it has been corrected so that the lean does not get any worse than it already is!

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Albert Memorial Clock

A small footbridge over the river leads to the Titanic Quarter, the site of Belfast's historic dockyard. The footbridge has many locks of love chained upon it. One of them read a lady's secret in that she planned to propose to her boyfriend in June and he had no idea! I wonder how the proposal went.

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Locks of Love

From the Titanic Quarter and in many places in Belfast, visitors can always spot the two giant yellow cranes. They are a prominent fixture of the city. They are located in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, and they are named 'Samson and Goliath'. Unfortunately, I was not happy with my photographs of the cranes to include them, but I did get several photographs on the river banks. This was a pleasant walk along the river, and there are several tourist information boards dotted around to read up on Belfast's history.

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Titanic Belfast

The Titanic Quarter has been regenerated recently, and there are some new flats and a large entertainment complex known as Odyssey. More plans with offices and housing seem to be in the pipeline, and in my opinion, the area could use restaurants to cater for the tourist trade. A tourist can easily spend a whole day in this area of Belfast, and after our time there, we opted to locate a restaurant in the complex for supper, but the few restaurants that are located there were shut. 

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The Custom House (left) and Belfast

After no luck with restaurants in the Titanic Quarter, we walked back across the footbridge and opted for the closest restaurant that looked reasonable with the help of our mobile phones. The restaurant, McHughs Bar & Restrauant, was a great find. It is located in the Custom Hopuse Suare that we visited earlier and is one of the oldest buildings in Belfast. The food was great (pity about the pint glasses being dirty with the previous drinker's lipstick though!). 

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Chicken and steak on a hot stone

The next morning, we explored the city. Belfast City Hall was one of our first stops. It is a beautiful building. This building started to be built in 1889 on the site of a smaller city hall building. The population of Belfast had quickly increased in the late 1800s, so the new and much grander City Hall took its place.

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

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Belfast City Hall exterior 

Unfortunately for us, there was an event or something taking place in the City Hall, so we were turned away. However, the interior pictures we saw online later looked amazing. It is a pity to have missed seeing it for real. However, we continued to look around the gardens around the City Hall.

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Queen Victoria statue in front of City Hall Belfast

A memorial to the Titanic, designed in 1920 by Thomas Brock, is located in the grounds of the City Hall. Near the Titanic Memorial Statue is the Titanic Memorial Plaque, which bears the names of all of those who perished in the tragedy. According to an information board at the memorial, the lives lost included 124 first class passengers, 166 second class passengers, 530 third class passengers, and 692 crew (not including the captain). We read the names of those who did not make it, and this was sad to see whole families had been obliterated. One of these families had several children.

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Titanic memorial by City Hall, Belfast

After this quick stop, we walked to George's Market and the Botanic Gardens and explored them before continuing to the Ulster Museum. The museum has several exhibitions covering history, science, and art. Human history throughout the ages in Ireland was one area, and we saw tools and artefacts that early humans used as well as information on burials and the chambered tombs. This led into Christianity and medieval times. Included were hoards of gols that were discovered. There was also a room dedicated to the Spanish Armada ship treasures that was sunk off the coast of Ireland. In the entrance area is a celtic cross, and other areas were dedicated to natural history and science. We saw meteorites and fossils and gemstones.

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Ulster Museum - gold hoards, celtic cross, pottery, museum exterior

Queen's University Belfast is located in near Ulster Museum, and the area is filled with trendy-looking restaurants and cafes. We walked back to the city centre via Sandy Row to have a look at some of the murals, and we passed the university before heading onto Sandy Row.

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Queen's University Belfast

After visiting the murals on Sandy Row, we continued walking up the street and came across one of Belfast's most famous pubs, The Crown Bar. The Crown Bar is unique because it maintains its 19th century "gin palace" interior. 

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The Crown Bar

Stained glass, intricate wood carvings, decorated ceilings, and individual private drinking booths make up the interior of this pub. Unfortunately, the pub was extremely busy on a mid-afternoon weekday (too many other tourists), and we were unable to find a seat to enjoy the atmosphere of this pub. However, I did manage to capture a few photographs inside it.

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The Crown Bar pub

After the pub, we wandered around Belfast and walked to the Cathedral Quarter. Many of the streets around the Cathedral Quarter have nautical names, relating to the history of Belfast. In the older days, the river ran down the current location of the High Street, and boats would moor upon the banks of the river. The river was moved underground but some of the street names along the way retain nautical past. The Cathedral Quarter is one of the trendy areas in Belfast and is filled with pubs and clubs, and there is a lot of street art around the area. The Duke of York pub, down a narrow street off of Hill Street, gets a lot of business.

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We walked back toward the centre of Belfast after a walk around the Cathedral Quarter. Belfast was once filled with narrow streets, known as "entries", off its major streets (such as the High Street). These were used for trading and connecting major streets. The taverns inside these entries were frequented by sailors who had moored their ships upon the High Street when it was once part of the river. (We had dinner one evening at McCracken's pub in Joy's Entry.)

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History was made in the "entries" as well. Joy's Entry was the site of the first English-speaking newspaper. Wilson's Court was the location of "Northern Star" political newspaper, which was destroyed by the British to stop their publications.

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Joy's Entry

After dinner, we made our way back to our hotel. By this time, the shops were closed. Belfast main shopping centre at Corn Market seems to be the place to go for the youth of Belfast to hang out.

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Corn Market

Have you visited Belfast? What did you think? I felt that we needed about one more day in the city to see the remaining sights that we did not get to see (and to prevent being rushed). We arrived in Belfast at about mid-day due to a delayed flight and had one full day after that. I think Belfast can be rushed in approximately two days, but three days would have been better.

Belfast's Political Murals

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On our walk back from the Ulster Museum to the centre of Belfast, we took a quick diversion to Sandy Row to check out some of the murals. I did want to go on an advertised murals tour, but the black cab company were a bit abrupt/rude when I tried to arrange something on the phone. It was not the same, but we ended up having our own tour of the murals. However, it would have been great to know the background of some of these and to hear some of Belfast's history.

I do know that Belfast had some problems in the past; political groups who wanted to split from (or stay with) the United Kingdom, violence as a result of the political views, and religious differences. I am probably not doing this justice and it probably goes a lot deeper than that. However, the images below are ones I gathered in Sandy Row. Apparently a lot of the working class areas of Belfast have a lot of these murals. Not all of them are 'controversial'. Some of them are simply dedications to famous people, such as George Best (a footballer), the Titanic, or flowers.

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Other murals were dedicated to sports, such as the one below dedicated to Irish Football Association.

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At the corner of Sandy Row and a major road is the below mural.

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There were also murals located in the Cathedral Quarter. I saw a lot of street art around too, but I will be including this in another post. (Though the murals are also street art.) 

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The Duke of York pub had two whole walls and a ceiling covered in mural as well as some of the walls in their pub garden/parking area behind the pub. I am not sure who the people are in the murals, but I think they are based on real/famous people. Also note that this bar was extremely busy as was the alleyway outside it. Had it not been so busy, I think I would have convinced the others with me to pop in for a quick drink. The pub seems to have a lot of fame around it. Apparently the band Snow Patrol ('Chasing Cars') first gigged here.

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On the way to the airport in east Belfast, we happened to discover more murals. Again, they were for a number of causes. 

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The two giant cranes, Samson and Goliath, can be seen in the background. There were also a couple of murals dedicated to the Titanic's fate.

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There is also a "peace wall" somewhere in Belfast, but we did not discover where that was or drive past it. It would have been good to see it, though. Maybe if I ever go back to Belfast again I can find out where it is and also understand a little more about these walls.

London Travel & Food: Boundary Rooftop

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Rooftop cocktail bars / restaurants on a nice sunny day are worth finding in London. I visited the Boundary Rooftop bar in Shoreditch with my colleagues a couple of times early in the summer. The downstairs is the Albion cafe and shop on the corner of Redchurch Street, right behind the station. The views over Shoreditch in the sun are inviting, even if it was a little too warm in the conservatory-area (covered glass). We had cocktails and lunch. This was one of the first warmest days of the year.

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Boundary Rooftop bar

I had a peach bellini. The cocktails are not the best I have had in London, and they are a little strong. The previous visit, I shared a pitcher of cocktails with a colleague, and we felt the same way about the cocktails - a bit disappointed.

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Peach bellini

Steak, fish, lobster, and chicken are some of the mains. The food was pretty decent, but the prices for it are a bit steep. I think that you pay for the views, and it is a fairly prestigious place. When you enter, you are greeted a bit like you would be to check in to a hotel. I felt a little bit under-dressed in my jeans and t-shirt, and my colleagues felt they were as well, but there's no formal dress code as they did let us in and other patrons were very much the same.

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Chicken

I had the chicken, and it was tender enough and the vegetables were nice. I could have had a little more food, though, as it was not quite enough. Most of my colleagues had steak on our first visit, and they said that it was alright but the cost was steep. Service was also slower than we'd like, but it was fairly busy as the weather was nice and it was toward the beginning of summer. Many were out wanted to enjoy the weather, and one can certainly enjoy the weather in this rooftop restaurant/bar.

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

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