I See the Rolling Hills of Green & Fences Made of Stone…Doug in Ireland

Dear Journal,

Doug here! And here is: Ireland! How exciting!

I began my journey in Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and therefore still uses the Pound for currency. It is a very nice city with feeling of people aware & proud of their history and yet still excited & working to move forward.
One of Belfast claims to fame is that both the Titanic and it’s sister ship the Olympic were built there way back in 1911-1912. I went on a tour to see the slipways where the ships were built (a very long concrete area they could setup scaffolding on) and the dry dock where the Titanic was finished (a very large hole that can be emptied or filled with water from the river).
My favorite part though were the Drawing Offices, where the plans of the ship had actually been made. Men had stood all day, 6 days a week, on this room drawing blue print after blue print by hand. I stumbled across a drawer that contained many of these actual drawings as I explore the exhibits in the room. I was in the middle of examining them when the tour guide noticed and shouted in alarm. It seems these were records they previously hadn’t been able to find! Looking at the plans it was obvious where the errors had been made that caused the epic failure of the Titanic, causing it to be not only the most famous sunken ship of all time but the most famous ship period! I pointed these out to the guide, who merely stared at me like I might be a crazy person…I most certainly am not! I just solved the mystery of the Titanic!
Those are the Harland & Wolfe cranes…I’ll need to email them about my discoveries.

As I was leaving the exhibit, having fixed ship building forever, I came across a crazy sight. The were just beginning some sort of event with large dumbbells, stones and men in tight wrestling type outfits. Naturally I had to ask what it was…an amateur strong man competition! Intrigued I started asking more questions about the events and competitors until it came out that there was going to be a delay because they were one man short. There was such a cold wind blowing up off the river that I worried about the crowd that had gathered to watch. So I did the only logical, kind thing: I volunteered to step in! I did not know what I was getting myself into at that point! All of the things I had to lift was so heavy and you had to do so many repetitions! Needless to say I did not win…however they did tell me I was the strongest man of my size they had ever met!

Ready to leave the mayhem of Belfast I went on down to Wicklow county. Wicklow is an area right on the east coast with small mountains surrounding it. Why, you might ask, would I choose to head out to the middle of nowhere when I’m usually up to such crazy things in such exciting places? Simple, I had a crazy exciting thing to do there! It seems my reputation already precedes me…I was offered a small part in a movie being filmed there! The small towns and large estates of Wicklow county have developed quite a resume in the film industry. They’ve been used in countless movies and TV shows to depict a wide variety of different countries and time periods.
I’m not allowed to disclose much for details on the project but I will tell you this: it will be big (I got to meet another few big names!), it is a period piece based (back in the past), and I did get to carry a sword. To sum it up in a word, it will be awesome!
In the end though I also enjoyed the country charm I found in Wicklow town. It was a nice break from the hustle & bustle of my travel adventures!

The other main city of the Irish island is Dublin. Dublin is not in Northern Ireland. It is located in the Republic of Ireland, which is not part of the United Kingdom. It instead associates itself with the European Union (EU) and therefore uses the Euro for money. It was interesting to see the subtle differences between the North and the rest of Ireland.
The main sight in Dublin is the Guinness Brewery & Storehouse. It was opened in 1759 by a man named Arthur Guinness who was so confident he would succeed that he signed a 9000 year lease on the property! I was very curious about how beer is made as I had no previous knowledge on the subject. I was reading each exhibit carefully when I literally ran into a gentleman. After apologizing profusely I found out he is actually a Guinness master brewer! He took me on a tour of the brewery and taught me a lot of tricks about making my own beer. Maybe I’ll have to try that when I get home! Here’s a photo of me with a Doug-sized pint of Ireland’s favorite beer:

That’s all from Ireland…next will be an exciting tour through jolly old England! I just can’t wait!

Keep Smiling,

It was probably from Greenland…We’re a peaceful nation!

Hello all! Sorry we couldn’t get this up last night! We do have wifi at this hostel but it is extremely temperamental and didn’t seem to want to work before bed! Anyways, here it is…

Belfast is wonderful! It may not be as exciting as London…it may not be as picturesque as Edinburgh…it may not be as charming as Cambridge…but it is a city that just feels real. It doesn’t have that “every building is a million years old” thing going for it but it makes up for that. There is a wonderful mix of old and new that just seems to work. The ancient buildings sit next to ones that may only be 10 years old, but the design of the new buildings fit seamlessly into the existing city. You get a feeling of people connected to their history and yet determined to grow and move forward. It’s really contenting. This is the first city since London where we have both said we would actually truly consider living.

Our current hostel doesn’t do a complimentary breakfast so we were left to our own devices this morning. We had meant to let ourselves sleep in a bit but our bodies didn’t seem to agree with that. Even with stopping to use the Internet we were out of the hostel at about 8:30am. Well, Belfast is pretty quiet at that time on a Sunday. But we managed to find a place open for breakfast: The Bridge House. This is only our second time having breakfast out (we usually only eat out one meal a day…then have a picnic lunch/snack) so we were able to justify it to ourselves. We had pancakes and coffee/tea. Yummy!

On our walk to our first attraction of the day the weather changed 4 times. To make this more impressive we should note the walk was only about 45 minutes long. It was sunny…then raining…then cloudy…then sunny…then raining…then sunny…then raining…and so on for the whole day! Oh and we forgot windy, but that was all the time. Northern Ireland weather is craziness!

This morning we got an official diagnosis on Justine…she is a Titanarac (and proud of it). Like someone who watches trains is an anarac, Justine likes to know everything about the Titanic.
I don’t even know where to start, the Titanic Walking Tour was wonderful (and yes this is Justine talking now so Kristin doesn’t edit it!). The Titanic was built in Belfast and they have kept all of the original structures associated with the Titanic for 100 years. Throughout the tour the guide showed us numerous original pictures of the Titanic and it’s building process. Then she would point out the exact location it was taken…which was often right where we were standing! The tour guide labelled me a Titanarac right from the start and let me open the door to the original offices of the people who built the ship. Inside this building we saw the original spot where men drew the blueprints by hand (Kris thought this was ridiculously tedious work without a computer). Next we saw where the ship was held while being built and where is was released into the ocean for the first time. We actually got to stand and look at the water one way and where the bow was held the other and be amazed at it’s length! That was one long ship!
The final Titanic location was the dry dock. This dock was built especially for the Titanic & its sister ships. This is where they could dock it, drain the water and perform the final touches before setting off for England. It’s was here the pictures we were shown had the most effect.

We just couldn’t imagine a ship being in this ginormous dock and still being higher than the highest building nearby. Completely surreal. This was the last time Titanic was on dry land.
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(The second picture shows a cardboard cut out of a man in the dry dock…and remember the Titanic stuck out of that hole by a lot too!)
Next year is the 100 year anniversary of the sinking, to commemorate this date, Belfast is building a Titanic visitor exhibit. This exhibit is being put on the exact location where the Titanic was built. We were shown a picture of both the ship and the building and they are the same shape & line up exactly. As well, Belfast has big plans to turn the slipways of the Titanic and it’s sister ship, the Olympic, into city parks in the design of the ships. You can guarantee I will return in the next 20 years to see both of these!!
PS. Kristin did edit & approve this section…she apologizes for the length but Justine did do a good job keeping it in control and not running away with the subject!
Kristin’s favorite part of the tour was when the tour guide claimed “The ship was fine when it left here in Belfast…that’s just what you get when you hand your ship over to an English Captain, a Scottish ———- (something we can’t remember…?) and a Canadian Iceberg.” At which point Justine leaned over to Kristin and said “The iceberg was probably from Greenland.” Kristin replied with “We’re a peaceful nation! We don’t send icebergs at poor unsuspecting ships!”

As we were walking back from our tour into central Belfast we came upon an event they had been setting up for when we had walked the same route in the morning. It was the 2011 UK Junior Ultimate Strongman Competition. Now this may sound crazy but Kristin had watched these competitions on TV and was quickly enthralled with the event (Justine wasn’t that far to follow!). We missed the first event but showed up in time to watch the men lift a 64kg (140lb) weight over their head with one hand. That’s almost as much as we weigh! The first guys only got one lift, if any, but the last pair to go got 7 and 9 lifts! Craziness!
Next was the Car Dead Lift…lifting a 280kg car! This one varied from 2 to 15 lifts!
Finally was the Stones! They had to lift these circular rocks onto the pillars. The pillars got shorter as you went but the rocks also got heavier…not even the guy who won got all 5 stones into their spots. The guy on the right was named the 2011 Jr Strongman Champion!
This event was far more entertaining than you would think. We stood in the freezing cold wind for over an hour and a half watching! This is us freezing (& actually one of the better photos of Bean we took at this time… :S)

In an effort to warm up we wandered quickly through the streets seeing the various high points of Belfast. We stopped at St. Anne’s Cathedral (very pretty), City Hall (very old!), the Grand Opera House (a neat looking building) and the Crown Liquor Saloon (a really fancy old pub that has been bombed a lot). At City Hall we saw the Titanic Memorial statue. It listed the names of the Belfast men that went down with the ship.
We also walked through the craziest shopping mall. It was set up like a regular mall with all of the stores on levels, etc except it only had a half attached glass ceiling over part of it and was otherwise open to the sky. It also had no ends, and by that we mean there weren’t walls enclosing it! That would not fly at home! Imagine the snowdrifts we’d end up with!

We stopped for supper at the same place we had breakfast…the menu had looked so good when we’d peeked at it earlier. It turns out they had a Sunday deal going that we took advantage of. Here’s the menu description: Roast Beef…Slices of beef silverside, slow-roasted to develop flavor and tenderness, in a rich gravy. Served With roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, sage & onion stuffing balls, a selection of vegetables, gravy and a drink. For the drink Kristin tried a pint of Carlsberg and Justine got a pint of Strongbow. All this for just £5.99 each ($9.77 in Canadian dollars).
Our verdict on the meal…Justine wants Yorkshire pudding with every meal now on for the rest of her life and Kristin wants stuffing balls with everything!
As a side note, some of you may have noticed we often have the same thing to eat. This is called the Kelsey Padget Syndrome: you don’t want to get something different and then look over and wish you had what the other person has.

We grabbed a hot beverage after supper before our evening tour. Some of you (aka all of you) may recognize this logo…
Yes that is Timmys! They have then in random convenience stores here in a gas station coffee like way. They don’t seem to hold the name of Tim Horton up to the same standard here that we do at home.

With Timmys in hand we set off into the night for another Ghost Tour…this one though with a fun twist: the Pub Ghost Tour! Yes this is exactly what it sounds like, a pub crawl of actual Irish pubs that all have ghosts! And with a pint at each bar it becomes quite the experience! We heard stories of hanging & beheadings, grave robbing and being buried alive. Spooky! And then we drank. Brilliant! This was Kristin’s preferred tour of the day 😉 (not Jusine’s) We visited the oldest pub in Belfast (from 1630) and one where the ghost of an ass-pinching politician can be found…really a well rounded evening! Definitely a fun night!

Random Observations:
– Toilets in the UK suck..or don’t suck enough…either way you often lift the lid to find the toilet didn’t flush fully…yuck!
– the Walkers brand chips here have the exact same logo/packaging as Lays back home. Did one steal the packaging from the other or did they just think we were really too lazy in North America to associate with a chip about walking and had to instead make it about laying down?

What we Learned Today
– Kristin learned a lot about the Titanic…Justine learned a little bit…
– Titanic is the second most marketable name in the world after Coca Cola! (a lot of people have heard and are interested by that ship!)
– In the past there wasn’t sufficient medical breakthroughs to be able to distinguish between narcoleptic comas and death so people were sometimes buried alive. This became so common at one point that people started holding wakes after people’s deaths. Basically you laid out the body and had a 3 day party, because if you’re going to wake up for anything it will be a party! Others would bury their dead with a string tied to their finger. The string would run up through the ground to a bell on their gravestone. People would then have to sit by the graves waiting for the bells to ring…imagine how much that job would suck (especially o a windy night!). Gruesome but actually the origin of both the expressions: Graveyard Shift and Saved By The Bell.

Highlights of the Day:
1. Justine – Titanic Tour 🙂
2. Kristin – Experiencing a real Irish pub kinda like an Irishman would 🙂

Until tomorrow…
Love, Luck & Landmarks of an Obsession,

They’re like wearing fuzzy dreams!

If you have been waiting all day for a super exciting post well…this isn’t it. Sorry but to be honest today wasn’t very big day to talk about. We did meet some interesting people though.

We started in the rain in Glasgow. For everything to run smoothly for today’s travels we ended up having a rather late train out: 11:42 am vs a normal 8 or 9 am train. Our bus tour ticket from yesterday was actually good for 48 hours so we used it to get ourselves to the train station. Todays train was quite full one so we didn’t get our 4 person table seat to ourselves like we normally do. We ended up sitting with a really nice couple. He was from Edinburgh, she was from London and now they live by Glasgow. He was really awesome about pointing out things to look at out the window and she had some interesting insight into the differences between Scotland and England (and Scots & English people). They however got off at a stop halfway to Stranraer (our destination). After that we did our usual train things: journal writing, mahjong, drop 7 and sleeping in Beans case (that girl just can’t stay awake in moving vehicles…she should have no trouble on our night trains later in the journey).

In Stranraer we transferred over to the ferry. It was super easy…literally walk out of the train station and your pretty much in the ferry terminal. Our rail passes didn’t give us a free trip but they did provide an excellent discount. Our 2 tickets combined ended up costing less than one full price ticket! The ferry boats were crazy nice! There was a cafeteria, a bar, a coffee shop, a kids play place, an arcade, a casino & a nail saloon. That’s without even mentioning the ample seating, where every seat was super cushion-y, and 3 areas where they had movies playing. Like we said, crazy nice! We did have one negative though…the ship severely lacked outside deck space. There were 2 tiny balconies at the back of the boat (one smoking and one non) and that was it! We are the girls who spent the whole ferry ride from Vancouver to the island doing laps around the boat in the rain in January…we like deck space!

Upon arrival in Belfast we found our research into which buses to take was all in vain. The buses don’t run to the ferry terminal on Saturdays. Lame! But the man standing next to us asked we and another lady if we wanted to share a taxi to the same bus center we had intended to go to. This time he was from a small town by Belfast but had been living in Edinburgh for the last 6 years and she was from the Dublin area but had just moved to Edinburgh this month. Again they were super nice and very curious about our trip and how we were finding things here.

Our Belfast hostel is probably the smallest place we’ve been in so far when you look at the number of beds it has. But in contrast, it’s the largest room we’ve been in so far with 8 beds. And its looking like it might be full tonight. Lucky we have earplugs and are such good sleepers!
(Kels, we know you’re waiting for hostel pictures and those are coming soon…just be patient!)

Now by this point you’re probably thinking, “At least I’ll get to hear about their awesome supper”… Well, now we must admit we actually had Chinese food for supper. The whole ferry ride we could smell Chinese so it became an overwhelming craving. We ended up going to China China, a place right by our hostel, and having an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. Back to exciting British food tomorrow…we promise!

After supper we had to work off a little of our ginormous supper so we went for a wander around the Queens University, the Botanical Gardens and the other areas surrounding our hostel. The parks here make us laugh. Instead of football goal posts or dried up hockey rinks you find courts/set-ups for funny games like cricket & lawn bowling. We also walked by a posh party that had something to do with polo. Oh the sports they play here! Anyway, our first impression of Ireland: it’s green and the people speak in awesome accents (Kristin thinks it’s her favorite accent!). As a happy update Justine wasn’t feeling in tendinitis pain during our walk! She was however feeling like her shoes were rubbing the skin off her heel.
(You might think that photo is just a reused one from Glasgow, but no they just have the same structure in their Botanical Gardens…that’s why we took this picture.)

Basically to sum up the day: we entered country #3, Ireland! Stay tuned tomorrow to find out how it goes…

Love, Luck & Lawn Bowling

PS. If you were bored by us we have one word of comfort…a little friend of ours was using IgPat to do some typing of his own today…