One of the benefits of living in the UK is how easy it is to travel. We decided to make the most of Bruce's leave with a quick trip to Northern Ireland before Christmas. On Thursday 19th we flew out of Bristol. We caught the coach from Cardiff and it dropped us right at the airport. It's only a short flight across to Belfast and on arrival we collected the tiny hire car that would take us around for the four days.
After a lovely dinner with one of my work mates, we headed to the hotel. We arrived at 11.10pm and found a sign on the door that said "Check in by 11pm or your room will be re-sold"!! We phoned the manager and our room had indeed been re-sold!! However, after some discussion and a half-hour wait, we had somewhere to sleep that wasn't the car!
Our day in Belfast started with Paddy's Black Cab Tours - our driver, Sam, was great. He told us about the troubles and took us to some of the main areas - Protestant murals near Shankill Road, the Peaceline (a wall longer and higher than the Berlin wall with gates that are still shut at night and weekends), and a Catholic remembrance garden. He dropped us off near the town hall and even gave us an umbrella (because the weather was damp). There was a Christmas Market at the town hall, so we had a look around before wandering around the city centre. It's much the same as any other city - shops, cafes, a sight-seeing dome on the top of the shopping centre(!).. There was lots for us to see.. and that was without going anywhere near the Titanic!
From here it was more narrow and winding roads to the thatched cottage which was our bed for the night. Beautiful building with slate floors and an open fire. We ate at Leo's Tavern - a pub owned by the father or Enya and Clannad - and chanced upon Rudolph enjoying a pint. :-)
More photos here: Pre-Xmas Trip 2013