I have always dreamed of travelling the world city by city. And as all of you know by now I am a nurse- a Filipino nurse. It is hard for me to spend money just for leisure personally because I have to save money for myself. Also, I have to support my grandma and grandpa back home. They suffer financially. I try to juggle between pleasure and saving money just to help as this was my promise to myself if God will give me this UK opportunity. (Which He obviously did)
The past months have been difficult for me because I’m close to being depressed for the fact that I work too hard and aside from that, to be honest I don’t want to be a nurse. I easily get afraid deep down and I am afraid of people. I am weird in this way,I know. But, it’s life isn’t it? But yeah, it seems that I am sociable but to be honest sometimes I still feel horrible, not all the time but sometimes. However, generally life’s been great and so I thought hey I am off for 2 weeks for my birthday why not go to another place (despite not having much money, and I am not joking!) Me and my friend (a friend from the same cohort of nurses, his name is Jonathan) whom I came with is also off on these weeks. So I said hey why not we go to another city. Another city in the UK that doesn’t need a visa obviously. Then came the idea of visiting Belfast of Northern Ireland.
Well, in reality, I only know Belfast because of friends who went there. And now the time has come for me to visit this lovely town. So I booked tickets. The duration of the trip will be 5 days! Because I overbooked our stay. I suck at planning trips I tell you. So from October 5 to 9, 2017. Our flight went from Gatwick to Belfast International. Two airports are near Belfast. One in the city centre which is the George Best Airport and the other one kind of away from the City proper which is the one we have. So we arrived in Belfast at 11am after a delayed Ryanair flight. And we rode the bus to the city near Europa hotel paid 15p pounds but it is open return because we will still go back there going home to London soon. Then we hired a value cab taxi to our lovely airbnb. Our airbnb is hosted by our lovely Helga. It cost us 150 quid for 5 nights so not bad for 2 people. And that’s how expensive travelling sometimes is.
The first day we met Helga our host she offered us a lift to the City Centre and from there we kind of got our feels of the city by walking by foot with our lovely guide, google map. We were so hungry we went for the search for a glorious Chinese resto which did not disappoint. And then we literally just went around the city. The city isn’t that big but it isn’t that crowded as well unlike London. The funny thing about this trip is we never had an itinerary. So we just went with the flow.
While we were walking we saw the Northern Irish tours ticket centre accidentally so went in. By the time we got there, we always had in mind of the Game of Thrones tour and voila there was the GOT tour plus a trip to the Giant’s Causeway. So we decided to do this trip. Also, I pre-booked a ticket as well like the night before we left London for a free walking tour. And yes it is free.
So on the second day, we woke up late because we were knackered but we went to this walking tour. Our tour guide is Claire. She is an archaeologist as well. She toured us at different sites in the City. There were a lot of information that she gave us. Like how Belfast was famous for Linens, then Ship building, the Titanic memorial, the Guinness, the conflict of religion, and much much more. After that tour we went back to one of the sites and went to this lovely pub and restaurant. The name is Yardbird. The ground floor is the pub and above it is the restaurant with the nicest chicken I’ve had in a long time with just 5 pounds! Ain’t that amazing? Plus the place is cozy too. After that we had a pretty chilled out walk around the city the second time around which I think is nice just to have a feel and soak in the city.
We went inside malls and we accidentally went into this place called Victoria Square and inside the mall there is a weird structure that looks like a stairwell with a viewing deck at the top attached to lifts as well. We decided to go up and then we had a decent view of the city up above for free. Took some photos and we are happy. This was Friday night so at night we decided to eat somewhere nice. So we went to some steak house near the Duke of York pub it’s called the Grill which is a poshy restaurant we just both went straight to the mains and devoured our medium rare steak. And after we had a pint of Guinness and listened to music at night in the pub. It was nice for me to see Belfast locals enjoy their friday night quite cozier than the nightlife in London. It is more laid back and fun. Many good looking guys and gals are around and they had fun. It’s just weird because we were the only asians around but I (almost) really didn’t care.
I was just enjoying my drink and music. And then we went home after a drunk Irish lad came to us and spoke gibberish and Irish English. It was so hard to understand but I was trying my best. It was surprising he mentioned about how he likes Filipinos because we just work and he felt we weren’t really competing with them. I feel him because you know of all this Brexit and all. They have issues with outsiders. That’s the thing with not being in home, sometimes you feel alienated. But nevertheless if you just do the right thing, I always think there will never be a problem.
So that’s the end of the second day. The next day, the whole day is alloted to the Game of thrones tour. Our tour guide’s name was Adrian, he is a skinny guy with a long beard. He has this beard in order for him to be an extra in the series itself Game of Thrones. Now mind you, I am not a super fan of Game of thrones but I did watch and loved and had my share of hype while watching this way way back. That’s why I did this tour.
So the tour involved visiting the filming locations across Northern Ireland. We were in a bus in a group of 40 people coming from across the globe, Canada, USA, Denmark, Poland, Spain, UK, India and many more. First short stop is Garrick Fergus castle. Then we visited Carnlough village where there is a harbour and that is where Arya taped for 6 hours. It is the Bravos Canal. We passed by the woods where Bran was lost in the woods after riding the horse and met a wilding. Tip if you are going to join this trip. Ride on the right side of the bus if you want to see the side of the coast. It is voted as the 4th most wonderful coast in the world. Then we went to this cave where Melisandre gave birth to the Shadow Lord. And then we went to the hanging bridge which is also a filming site but we didn’t manage because of the weather conditions.
You see, Ireland is famous for the weather. It’s weather is always mostly cloudy with always high chances of raining. That’s the main reason why they filmed most of the scenes there. It is almost always raining everyday. If you don’t fancy that kind of vacation then you should know this before even considering going to the whole of Ireland both in the Northern and the Republic.
So to compensate for the deal, Adrian the guide offered us that instead of spending an hour in the bridge doing nothing, why not go to the Old Bushmill’s distillery of Whiskey instead? If he gets a unanimous vote because it is not in the deal you see. But one Asian raised her hand when we voted and said she wants to stay to see the bridge (while it is raining wtf) but to be fair I think she just didn’t understand the instruction. And we were all like “Is she serious?”. I mean come on guys, as Asians, we have to be considerate of the other people. That was just totally selfish and I think can we pay more attention specially most Asians look gullible and we sometimes have difficulty in comprehending English. That was just stupid for me.
Anyway, everyone stood up and we eventually went to the Whiskey Distillery which is the first legal Distillery in the world. We were about to have whiskey tasting which will cost 8 pounds but they offered us a shot of Whiskey which can only be found and sold there for free. How cool is this! After that we went to the Unesco heritage site which is the Giant’s causeway. It is a 66M old basalt stone formation that looks man made but it’s not. It formed hexagons that rise from the seaside thousands of them. You play on the top of it. It is just amazing how nature formed this. It is quite intricate. Our tour guide’s name was Mark he is the third of the generation of his family who were originally living around the causeway. After that we went to the Dark hedges a film location in GOT as well. This is like a road that has trees on the side planted 200 years ago. It was fun because the guide had costumes and swords. I volunteered to wear it while walking there I looked stupid but I just didn’t care.
The day ended alright, then we headed home with a quiz on board the bus about Game of Thrones and they tally scores per country. Sorry guys, we didn’t even score a point. It was UK, Canada and US who had the most points. I just shut up really. It was hard!
The next day is the 4th day which we decided we will cross to Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. This is a different country from UK, which Northern Ireland is part of. We rode the bus and had the three hour journey from Belfast to Dublin. The fare isn’t that bad. It cost us 16 pounds return. Knowing that this is a journey to another country.
We arrived around 11am. We initially booked a walking tour at 11am but we didn’t manage so we postponed it by 2pm and re booked a Sandeman’s walking tour. Still a free tour.
Before we started the tour I had the pleasure and opportunity to meet my classmatesfrom nursing who now work as nurses there too.
We went a quick tour around as they guided us. I said sorry to them as this trip wasn’t really planned. Time is running so we just had an hour catch up but after many months and years of not seeing each other, it was just a relief! Best feeling ever.
And 2pm arrived we had to start the walking tour which started from the City Hall.
I just have to express how much I have enjoyed every single bit of the tour. I have Irish friends you see, and I never knew how Ireland fared through time. I am so bad at this and as I listen to our guide who himself is Irish and a Dubliner, I am moved.
He narrates the story with conviction and emotion, how the country struggled with independence from the British, how many have been killed throughout and the tension between the Northern part of Ireland. It was not pleasant to hear and while you hear the stories it is still obvious that the hurt and damage that this part of history has caused still pains the people. Ireland has been isolated from the world as it has been neutral with the world war 2, so mos of these people are very welcoming to other races that come and visit their country.
I would say the stories that I heard was the highlight of this trip to both countries. I won’t bore you with all the specifics but it would be really nice that you would travel here someday or maybe read about this painful part of the Irish history.
By the way, Dublin has some iconic bulidings such as the Spire, The Temple Bar, etc.but the real asset of the Irish Isles is what they call as the “Craic”, pronounced as crack which means fun. The real asset of Ireland is the people and the atmosphere. And I totally felt that in Dublin. #craicisreal People are welcoming to all cultures and I could always tell irish people I know are the kindest people I know so salute to all Irish people out there!
I am thanking God for giving me this opportunity really. This trip is actually my gift to myself. As I am writing this, I am 2 days away from my 25th birthday, so happy birthday to me! You see, I may not have all the money in the world but hey, I am happy and fulfilled. I feel loved, I feel satisfaction with my job, I have good health, I have my Faith, I have a little money in the bank, and I help my family. Joy, happiness, love and self- content are things money cannot buy. I know most of the things in this world are being run by money but it is absolutely not everything. My prayer is that God will continue to use me for His glory and thrust me to my full potential and develop me into a better person everyday , that He will give me the Faith that can move mountains and faith that jumps and leaps to greatness, the amount of courage to get out of my comfort zone.
I also want to thank Kuya Jonathan who was my buddy for this trip, he endured me and I endured him. (LOL) And he was very generous to me as on our last dinner together he gave me a pint of Guinness and a wonderful treat from a recommended pub in Dublin, O’Neills.
This month of October as well marks the second year of my journey here in London. And we are 9 in our cohort to celebrate this. I cannot believe two years have gone by so fast and now I am writing this. It seemed I just wrote the first article about the CBT exam. The two years were filled with dreams, adventures, misfortunes and lessons that I would never ever trade.