WORK TRIP // Belfast, Northern Ireland

Less than two weeks after our weekend trip to Dublin with my family, I found myself back over on the island of Ireland to visit the north. I had the opportunity to visit Belfast in Northern Ireland for work, and my manager conveniently backed on the trip to a weekend so we could all stay on to explore the region. Of course I jumped at this opportunity, and Chris managed to organise some flights and join me for the weekend as well.

The trip started off well, with me waking up in the hotel work had booked be to the below view!

I managed to get a quick walk in before the work day ahead, to see exciting sights such as… the salmon of knowledge! Actually, it was more of a hobble than a walk, as I unfortunately broke my toe the weekend before and shoes were proving difficult to wear.

In the evening the sun stayed out, and a colleague and I set out to wander around the Cathedral Quarter, which felt like a slightly smaller version of Temple Bar in Dublin. The area was also filled with some amazing street art.

After dinner we returned to our hotel, which turned out to have a top floor bar with spectacular views of the city! The overpriced drink was worth it for the amazing sunset.

The next day was another whirlwind of work (and sadly rain), before Chris arrived in the evening and we check in to our Airbnb for good night of sleep. We woke up to more rain, but not to be deterred we made our way in to the city and checked out the local indoor market.

Admittedly before coming to Belfast neither of us knew very much (if anything) about the history of Northern Ireland and the UK. Seeing as the rain had set in, my foot was sore, and we were interested in learning more about the region, we booked a tour with a local black cab company. We were incredibly lucky and called just in time time get a tour guide, and within 10 minutes we were off in a cab with the most honest and frank tour guide I had ever had!

The tour was quite intense and I lot to take in. We drove to West Belfast, where we could see the two neighbourhoods and the ‘peace wall’ separating them. You can see the wall behind the below hour – a massive, touring wire fence.

I honestly had no idea about the walls, let alone that they were still standing and in use. The above gate was closed between the two neighbourhood as it was the weekend – and it also closed every night.

On the Irish Catholic side of the wall, it was adorned with street art in solidarity of other communities, alongside other political statements.

On the Unionist side, the wall art focused around militant heroes, and flags for the UK and Northern Ireland were everywhere.

The tour flew by, leaving Chris and I feeling quite overwhelmed with the information we had taken in, and the knowledge that this segregation still exists in the 21st Century.

To lift the mood, we had a delicious lunch back at the indoor market, and drove over to the botanic gardens to visit the most beautiful greenhouse.

On our way out of Belfast, we drove past the famous Titanic Museum. Neither of us had any interest in seeing it (admittedly I have never ever seen the movie!) but I was keen to see the building.

I also snapped only one crappy photo from the moving car of on the iconic cranes from the shipyard – the huge yellow cranes dominate the skyline in Belfast, and are aptly names Samson and Goliath. Sadly the shipyard has just gone into the administration, so I wonder what will happen to these landmarks.

From Belfast we set off to do a quick roadtrip around the green countryside and coastline of Northern Ireland!

– Reanna


GOODBYES AGAIN // Howth, Ireland

Our final day in Ireland was spent venturing back out of Dublin to explore the village of Howth, located on the Howth Peninsula. It was a short train ride from the city, on board the (very green!) local train.

The sun was out in full during the morning, and Chris and I took full advantage of this by walking along the pier and sitting in the sunshine.

My family joined us shortly after, and we walked around the village some more, enjoying the views of the marina and the nearby island of Ireland’s Eye.

My step dad and siblings even ventured down to the water to dip their toes into the Irish sea. Despite the sun I thought the water would be very cold, so stayed on dry land.

In true tourist fashion we had fish and chips from a local shop for lunch, before parting ways. It was strange (and very sad) to be saying goodbye to loved ones again and not knowing when I will see them next, as they head home to Australia.

Chris and I still had the afternoon to explore before catching our flights home, so ventured out along the cliff walk around the Howth Peninsula.

The views along the coast and back towards Dublin were stunning, even when some clouds came over and hid the sun.

Before too long we had to make our way back to Dublin and head to the airport home.

The time my family were visiting went be so quickly, but I am so grateful that they made the trip to the other side of the world to see Chris and I. It was fantastic just to see them, let alone explore some more of Europe with them. Hopefully it is not too long before we all see each other again.

– Reanna

A DAY FOR GUINNESS // Dublin, Ireland

Our second day in Ireland was equally as sunny and beautiful. Irish summer certainly exceeded my expectations!

Chris and I stayed near the Dublin port, so we had a lovely morning stroll into the city.

We met up with my family, and with my mum’s Irish friend as tour guide we set off for a day of sight seeing in the Irish capital.

We walked past some main landmarks, had some excellent coffee, and sat in the sun at a park, before eventually ending up at Trinity College.

The grounds were beautiful, and we were happy enough to see the outside of the famed Trinity Library (above). The lines on the otherside to visit to Book of Kells were ridiculous!

My little brother only does silly poses for the camera now!

After lunch it was more wandering of the streets, passing through the infamous Temple Bar area. Chris and I ended up with a pub recommendation list about a mile long!

Irish pubs are so beautiful!

The streets of Dublin hid lots gems that you wouldn’t know were there until you turned the corner, such as the Dublin Castle.

Chris’ priority was to get as much sun as possible before heading back to rainy Glasgow.

Our final destination for the day was the Guinness brewhouse, which in retrospect is a bit of an overpriced tourist gimmick. It was still worth it all the same, though I am sure a truly Irish experience would be much better had buying a pint at a local pub!

The view from the Gravity Bar at the top of the brewery made wading through throngs of tourists seem worth it.

After dinner we parted ways with my family, and Chris and I wandered back to Temple Bar to have a few drinks and take in the Irish nightlife.

One of the bars we ended up at featured some live Irish music, which was amazing to listen to, and I am glad we found a pub where it was so informal. The musicians were sitting among the patrons having a drink themselves!

It was fun night, and we had a peaceful walk back to our hotel along the river. Everyone I spoke to about Dublin before visiting sang praises about the pubs and nightlife in Dublin, and it certainly did not disappoint.

– Reanna

IRISH SUMMER // Malahide, Ireland

When my family decided they were going to spend part of their trip in Ireland, and it coincidentally fell on a weekend, I jumped at the opportunity to jump over to Dublin for a visit. Chris flew down from Glasgow as well, so I felt very lucky to be able to visit another country and see some loved ones all on the one trip.

After a late Friday night of flying over, Chris and I had a lazy morning in Dublin before catching a train out to meet my family at the village of Malahide. The village is known for Malahide Castle, a 12th century castle and surrounding gardens. Here we were met by a friend of my Mum’s, an Irish local who know lives in our home town in Australia and happened to also be in Ireland!

We bought tickets at the castle that granted us access to some beautiful gardens surrounding the building. We were blessed with very ‘summery’ weather for Ireland – mid twenties and sunshine!

Everything was just so green, it was slightly ridiculous.

Bumblebees in Europe are huge. Nothing like the humble little bee in Australia!

After lunch and some more exploring, we joined a short tour in the castle itself.

The building is quite small, as far as some castles go, and until quite recently was inhabited by the family who owned it. As a consequence a lot of original furniture was still inside. Oh, to live the high life!

Once we had our fix of castles and gardens, the summer weather prompted our Irish friend to take us to the nearby Portmanock Beach. Being from Victoria I normally scoff at the idea of getting in to the sea at temperatures below 30 degrees, but the beach we visited was busy with locals out in the water and enjoying the sun.

An ice cream van even ventured out on to the beach, stopping every 100 metres to make some sales.

To cap off our very summery day in Ireland, we returned to the village of Malahide and had take out dinner next to the water. The daylight hours in Europe are so long during summer, so before we knew it, it was far later than we anticipated and we headed back to Dublin!

Thankfully we were able to enjoy more sunshine for the rest of our weekend. Next up, exploring Dublin city!

– Reanna

UNIVERSITY OR TOWN? // Cambridge, United Kingdom

The last few weeks of life in the UK have been very special as I have been lucky to have some family visiting! My mum, step dad and younger siblings have spent a month visiting the UK and Ireland. Not only was it fantastic to see them, it also meant I had the opportunity to explore some more of the country!

In a break from exploring London, we spent a Saturday out visiting the university town of Cambridge.

We had no real plans for the day other than wandering through the town and seeing some of the colleges.

We were unprepared for how busy the town would be! The above photo is a cropped view of the famous Kings College, whereas below is the reality of all the other tourist.

Our favourite part of the day was sitting by the canal and watching all the punts go past. So other tourists had rented out punts to try their luck on the river and it was hilarious to watch their efforts (oh, and take in the beautiful scenery!)

It was hard to imagine that the town is also a university, as it really just felt like a busy tourist destination more than anything. I don’t think I could study with all the people around!

Newton’s apple tree (allegedly!).

My mum asked if I was inspired to go back to do further study… not yet!

Cambridge was an easy day out to explore a beautiful city! I wish we had gone at a less busy time, but it was enjoyable despite the crowds.

– Reanna

A COLOURFUL WEEKEND // Bristol, United Kingdom

I have been quite surprised that in our few months in the UK, we have far more of the country than I had ever planned. Whenever Chris and I discussed about our hopes for travel whilst living abroad we focused on Europe, but since being here we have had less time to organise an overseas adventure as we adjust to life.

Exploring the UK has been fantastic so far, we have already been to Wales and Scotland, ventured to the coast, alongside regular countryside walks. And last month we were able to tick off one of the few UK cities that was on my list to see – Bristol!

To make a long story short, our trip to Bristol was planned around me attending an introductory rockclimbing workshop. However, it was rescheduled, then cancelled, and stuffed me around a lot. It was infuriating at the time, but we still were able to enjoy a great weekend away in this city.

We arrived from London late on Friday night, and on Saturday morning awoke to sunshine and headed straight over to one of the main attraction of the city – the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The bridge offered amazing views over the Avon River (and Avon Gorge, where I was meant to go rock climbing!).

From the bridge, we followed to river around in to the city centre and along the harbour.

Alright, so the reason we really wanted to visit Bristol was due to a television show Chris and I watched as teenagers – Skins. The show was filmed in Bristol, and anyone who loved that show would recognise the bench in the below photo from Brandon Hill!

We spent the early afternoon exploring the harbourfront and enjoying the sunshine. Bristol is a popular city for some Australians living abroad, with some quoting that it feels a bit like Melbourne. It certainly did have some Brunswick vibes in places!

Unwittingly, we had planned our trip to Bristol on the weekend of the infamous St Pauls Carnival. It is a yearly African Caribbean festival that takes part in the neighbourhood of St Pauls.

I have honestly never experienced anything like it! Streets were closed off and people were drinking on the street, locals had set up informal food stalls and bars on their door steps, boom boxes were set up on every street corner. Some parts of the festival had more formalised DJ set ups and food vendors, whilst on others I was able to buy hot potato chips out of someones front window (best pound I spent!).

We managed to catch the end of the street parade whilst we aimlessly wandered the street. It was a colourful procession that was struggling to get much speed as it wound its way through the heaving city streets.

After an eventful afternoon at St Pauls, we had a slow Sunday morning, taking in some of the quieter parts of the city and enjoying a Sunday roast.

Whilst not turning out how we planned in the slightest, it was a fun weekend away in a fun and colourful city. I can see why some Aussies are drawn to its charm, but London still holds my heart!

– Reanna

THE COBBLER // Loch Lomond National Park, Scotland

I feel like every time I come back to write here I am talking about how busy I am, but things certainly have not changed! We are finally in a bit more ‘routine’ during the week, but weekends are a constant change, being weekends alone at home in London, Chris visiting London, or weekends away to somewhere completely different! It can feel a bit overwhelming at times looking at our calendars, but this is the lifestyle we came here for and it is all worth the busy weeks.

A few weeks back I managed to sneak in a weekend trip up to Glasgow, to save Chris yet another train trip and to also explore some of the Scottish countryside! For once rain was not forecast and we hired a car to drive out to Loch Lomond National Park, which is only an hour from Glasgow.

It was a bit grey when we started on our hike up to the Cobbler (Ben Arthur). The Cobbler is the jagged looking peak you can see in the distance of the above photos, and more clearly below.

It was a gradual incline for the first couple of kilometres, before the track turned in to a steep rock scramble for the final ascent up to the Cobbler itself. It was fun to finally get in to some ‘proper’ hiking after all the leisurely country rambles we get down south.

We stopped a picnic lunch at the saddle between the two peaks of the Cobbler, enjoying the amazing views around the mountains. How lucky we are to get to see such places!

After lunch we climbed the final few hundred metres to the ‘needle’ that marks the summit of the Cobbler. The needle is the rocky outcrop below, and to properly summit the Cobbler one must ‘thread the needle’ by climbing through a hole in the rock and scrambling to the top. Given the sheer drop down the side, we decided to just admire the views instead!

The sun faintly came out, but even with the clouds the views were amazing.

We climbed down the other side of the mountain, which was a slightly easier path of rocky steps. From here we had the option to take the path back to the carpark, but we decided to add on a few extra kilometres and climb to the neighbouring summit of Ben Narnain.

The climb was short and sharp, and offered a great view back across the Cobbler and nearby mountains, as well as across Loch Lomond to the well known peak of Ben Lomond (another hike for another day!).

Ben Nairnan was also our first ‘Munro’, which is any Scottish mountain over 3,000 feet (914.4 metres). The activity of Munro bagging is popular among hikers, which involves climbing all of the 200+ listed Munros. I don’t know if I would have the time!

The descent was long and tough on the knees, involving a lot of rock scrambling and steep paths. Thankfully we had non-stop views the entire way to distract us from our knees giving in.

After a good hour or so of climbing downhill we finally arrived back at our car. Our legs were sore (and were so for the next week) after our first serious hike in awhile, but it was totally worth it. The Scottish highlands have certainly grabbed my attention, and I am excited to get back up to Scotland for some more hiking later this summer.

– Reanna