Returning to a place you didn’t like the first time

I’ve always said I love (or at least like) every place I’ve ever travelled to. With one exception: Belfast.

I spent one week in Belfast in 2011, which is definitely a big part of the reason for my dislike for Belfast. One week is too long to spend there as a tourist. It wasn’t all bad – the history is fascinating and I Couchsurfed and met some lifelong friends. It was just so different from anywhere in the Republic of Ireland and to my 22 year old self, not in a good way. At 22, when I travelled, I liked to constantly be on the go and do and see as much as possible. Belfast is not a good place for this because it’s not much of a tourist attraction – there isn’t all that much to see. At 27, I’m a very different traveller and prefer to get to know a city the relaxed way through its cafes, bars and restaurants. Belfast is absolutely wonderful for this and I am so glad I gave it another chance. I’ve felt terrible expressing (or at least thinking of) my dislike for Belfast all these years!

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I have a good friend, D, who is currently living in Belfast and is studying at Queen’s University. He’s been there since September 2014 and I’ve been meaning to visit him ever since. I finally had the opportunity to do so and spent all of Wednesday and Thursday there. He gave me a tour of Queen’s and I am envious of their library! It is so much nicer than Trinity’s and I’m obsessed with the C.S. Lewis room. We had lunch at Maggie Mays and I definitely want to try one of their massive milkshakes next time!!

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Queen’s University Belfast

I had the best time and now have so much love for Belfast. I stayed at a stunning boutique B&B called Maryville House off of Lisburn Road and I couldn’t possibly recommend this B&B enough! It is gorgeous and felt like a home away from home. We explored Lisburn Road which is my new favourite area of Belfast, just a 10 minute bus journey from the city centre. So many lovely cafes, restaurants, bars and boutique shops.

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Maryville House

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We lucked out with the weather and it was very sunny, so we sat outside for coffee at Miel et Moi. I enjoyed a cappuccino and an almond scone – really lovely place with super friendly staff.

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Miel et Moi

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Miel et Moi

We then popped (literally) next door to The Albany – a stunningly elegant bar. I had the New York Sour:  rye whiskey, roasted orange sherbet, fresh lemon juices, Cabernet Sauvignon, served with a camomile foam. Gorgeous cocktail and I’ve never had anything like it before.

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The Albany – New York Sour

We then walked around the city centre for awhile before eating dinner at the Crown Liquor Saloon. We shared the nachos and the wild boar & chorizo burger (combining chorizo and its spices of paprika and chilli with lean and flavoursome wild boar meat) which was unreal!!! This was my parents’s favourite bar on the whole island of Ireland so I had to try it. After eating, we went downstairs and were able to grab a snug for me to have a pint to toast to my parents. Such a cool place for a group of friends to go and a really beautiful bar!

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Crown Liquor Saloon

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Afterwards, we went to Kelly’s Cellars and enjoyed some Irish music, followed by Maddens, where we had a long chat with a lovely local. Loved the buzzer on the door to get in – remnant of Belfast’s troubled past.

On Thursday, I had a long, leisurely breakfast at my B&B, followed by an apple and cinnamon scone the size of my head. No exaggeration. I then (finally!) went to the Titanic experience and was happy to avail of the student discount because the prices are fairly shocking (understandable though, since Titanic is now Belfast’s biggest tourist attraction and I know the city spent loads to build it).

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Maryville House Breakfast

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Massive apple and cinnamon scone

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The exhibit is absolutely gorgeous and was a very informative, enjoyable experience. My only disappointment was the fact that there weren’t many artefacts recovered from the Titanic. I was expecting it to be more of a museum, but it really was more of an “experience”. They did a fantastic job though. There were many different ways to learn – a ride, voices from survivors, reading, artefacts of letters, china, menus, set-ups of what different rooms looked like on the Titanic, a simulator which made you feel like you were on the boat, a discovery theatre, interactive computer programmes, etc. and it’s all visually stunning. I spent 2 1/2 hours inside and then had a look at the SS Nomadic (included in the admission price) and the outside where the Titanic was built. I then met D for a light dinner- we ate at Stix and Stones and I was very impressed by this place.

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I’d like to send an apology to the universe for my previous dislike of Belfast. I am happy to say my opinion has completely changed and I have a lot of love for this city now. I had forgotten how friendly the people are! Belfast natives make Dubliners seem rude – and I think Dubliners are very friendly. The lesson here is:  if you travel somewhere and do not like it, give it a second chance a few years later. You might be surprised.

 

Positive Outlook

I’ve decided to take a new mental approach to my life as it is now, specifically in regards to being a student.  I officially only have 7 months left of being a student and the realisation of that is actually devastating.

Let’s face it:  being a student is stressful.  Very stressful.  Deadlines, starting over and finding your groove once again every time you start a new chapter, editing, reading a whole bunch of information your brain refuses to process, paraphrasing, referencing, not to mention the financial aspect of being a student.

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Surrounded by dissertations – intimidating!

However, I’ve recently realised it’s less stressful (or maybe just a different type of stress) than “real life”.  I’ve recently started to appreciate the variety being a student brings to my life.  Two days a week, I work at my part-time job.  One day a week, I do work experience.  Three days a week, I am in the library with the flexibility of being able to take a lunch break whenever I want and for as long as I want, as well as take a coffee break to meet a friend if I should so desire.

In seven months time, I am hoping to finally be working in my chosen field, which is amazing and scary at the same time.  In the mean time, I am going to enjoy the routine I have now, because the variety and flexibility is pretty amazing.  Life is pretty amazing.

Obligatory nostalgia post

I will stop with the nostalgia posts after this one (for now), but this one is very much obligatory. One year ago today, I began my round the world trip. I left Tampa on March 1st, 2014 and flew to Delhi, India (after stopping in Detroit and Amsterdam first). I simply cannot believe it’s been a whole year since I began one of the greatest adventures of my life. I am thinking of all of the wonderful people I met in India.

Today, I spent the day in Brighton, U.K. with my sister. It was a gorgeous day and I’ve had an amazing few days visiting my sister here in the south of England. Back to Dublin tomorrow.

How do I know I’m officially an adult?

At some point over the past couple months, I crossed into adulthood. I officially became an adult. I don’t mean I turned 18 or 21 or 25, it has nothing to do with my age. My mentality has started to change. I never thought this would happen to me.

I once again live in Ireland, home to some of the best beer in the world (and certainly home to the best pubs). And I love beer. And I adore pubs. When I last lived in Ireland, I was 22 and went out an average of 6 nights a week. I drank a lot of beer and sat and danced in a lot of pubs. I was looking forward to doing this again and, don’t get me wrong, I still do but I don’t have the desire to do so very often at all. All I want to do is sit at home and drink my wine. This was the biggest shocker to me – never in a million years did I think I’d be that person. I couldn’t imagine sitting at home drinking alone, never mind wine over beer?! Yep, it’s happened. I’m a wino and nights out have become very infrequent.

I shake my head at the young ones who drink multiple times a week and are always “out” as if I’m elderly, and I smile to myself and think “that was me only 4 years ago”. I am here to tell you, four years makes a world of difference.

I also can no longer imagine staying in dorm room hostels. I (not very long ago) used to love staying in hostels and said even if I could afford to stay in hotels, I would probably still stay in hostels. My, my how things have changed. I recently went away for a bank holiday weekend with a friend and could not sleep in a dorm. We booked a private room. Who am I?! (and how will I be able to afford to travel in the future?!??)

I look forward to spending my money on brunches, lunches, dinners, drinks or activities with friends or cute little household items for myself whereas previously, I couldn’t imagine regularly spending my money on such things. All of my money would go towards traveling. I was obsessed with saving so I could spend it on one thing only: travel. Travel is still very much my biggest passion and something I will never stop doing because I know I will never want to stop, but I’m now finding a way to enjoy my daily life while I work hard at university and at work – and I will of course still save for traveling (once I pay off my debts – Side note: I finally recently got a job!! I am working as a receptionist at a hotel in the city centre). I am actually enjoying having a home and creating a (relatively) new life for myself. I am so excited to know that I am carving a path to my career and in less than two years, I will actually be qualified to have a “real” job. A job career that I will actually enjoy.

The only thing I am really struggling with is this: how to settle my natural nomadic mindset and calm the wanderlust. I am, without a doubt, living in my favorite city and in my favorite country in the world and I am really and truly enjoying every second of my life here. But I am desperate to travel again. I dream of jetting off for another four months (the exact amount of time I figured out is ideal for me to travel – any longer and I get burned out and need a break) to new places to meet new people and eat different foods. I returned from my first round the world trip only four months ago but I feel like it’s been way too long since I’ve traveled and am beyond ready again. Sadly, I cannot afford it at the moment and I have big girl responsibilities here. This is something I am worried I’ll always struggle with – will I ever be able to calm the wanderlust? I don’t think I will.

I am also struggling with this: I am exactly where I want to be, but my family is not here with me. I need (and want) to create a life for myself and live my dreams but I hate being so far away from my family. I’ll never be able to afford to go home more than once a year (and truthfully, I’ll be lucky to be able to go home that often) and that is nowhere near enough. I painfully miss the little things about home. I miss going out to dinner every Friday night with my parents. I miss grocery shopping with my mum and making sandwiches with my dad and laughing until we cry with my sister. I hate that I don’t feel at home in Florida and I really wish I did. I tried to, but I was never able to come remotely close to how I feel when I am in Ireland.

In the meantime, I am living my life and loving every minute of it here in Ireland. I am more-than-words excited for my entire family to visit me in Dublin next summer. I am also planning to do a road trip around Iceland in July. Stay tuned!!

Moving back to Dublin

Quick update – I am moving to Ireland in two days – on Saturday!! I have been extremely busy getting things ready for the big move (am I am nowhere near ready), catching up with friends, eating lots of amazing food and spending time with my amazing family. I am currently so stressed out over packing and getting everything done in time. I will check in soon from my new home!