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Category: Northern Ireland

Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

After being here since January, I finally made it out of Belfast and ventured out to the Northern Coast on a Game of Thrones tour. The tour was more amazing than I could have imagined.

While I really enjoy Belfast, I was beginning to feel stifled. With the constant rain, same views, and non-stop studying, I was in need of a break. The Game of Thrones tour was an event offered through the Queen’s residential life at a major reduced cost of most Game of Thrones tours. We were shown many filming locations along the North Coast and given insider secrets of the filming of the series.

The weather on the day of the tour was complete rubbish, but I didn’t even mind. Winds that almost knocked you over, rain that pelted your face, and cold that left you numb could not compare to the experience of the North Coast. The views were unbelievable and the smell of the North Sea is my new favorite scent. The tour lasted from 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, and it was well worth the money.

While we saw many amazing places, my favorite location was the Giant’s Causeway. While it is smaller than most pictures make it seem, it is not any less magnificent. There is a small walk (or shuttle bus ride for £1 each way) down to the Causeway, and the walk is half of the experience. There are costal views to see along the way and you can take a few minutes to really breathe in that coastal air and relax. As a college student relaxing does not come easily, but I’m learning to enjoy myself in this country.

Unplanned Tuesday

Unplanned Tuesday

I received an email late afternoon Monday saying that my Tuesday class was cancelled due to the strikes that have been happening at Queen’s. Due to pension cuts, professors across Queen’s University have been striking in protest. Some professors can’t afford to strike, some are not as affected by the strike, and some are taking action and joining the picket lines. Three of my classes in the last week have been cancelled due to the strikes, but I did not expect my Tuesday lecture to be cancelled due to having an essay due at the end of the week. To fill my time, I decided that I might as well try and get my hair cut.

I’ve been in Belfast for almost two months now, but it’s been probably close to five or six months since I got a haircut last. My hair was becoming long, tangled, and unmanageable, and I decided enough was enough and I’ll get a haircut to commemorate my time here in Belfast. I didn’t want to spend much on a haircut since there are so many more things I’d rather spend my money on over here, so I went on a hunt online for a cheap salon near me. I ended up finding a beauty school in center city Belfast that offered £6 haircuts, which is extremely cheap, the only catch was a student would be cutting my hair. Thankfully, I’m a poor student myself, so I figured what do I have to lose?! I originally planned to get my hair cut Monday after a class, but the salon was closed. I left and decided I’d come back later in the week, or next week after it’s supposed to stop snowing.

With my class being cancelled, I ventured out into City Center early Tuesday morning, while most of my fellow students were still asleep. I found a small door with the name “Academy Hair and Beauty Training School” leading to a narrow staircase that took me up to the hair studio. It was a nice studio with a lot of students, some working on people, others working on dummy heads. I was helped right away, and left with a lot less hair and a longing for summer.



Even though it was supposed to snow, the morning was bright and beautiful! I explored some of city center and went shopping while I was there. When you find yourself in Belfast on a sunny day, no matter what your plans are you just feel the need to explore and take pictures. On my way back to campus, I stopped by the student center to just get a look at the strikes happening. At the student center they were giving out free crepes, so I even got a small brunch for free!


I left for a haircut early in the morning, and got so much more than I bargained for.

Food for Thought

Food for Thought

Have you ever thought about how often you use Pillsbury Grands or Crescent Rolls in your regular life? You’ll most likely have some during the holidays at least or see a video recipe about them on Facebook at least once a week. They are so convenient and quick to make! Can you imagine a time in your life when you didn’t have a simple ingredient that was so convenient that you did not even think of it as being just that, a convenience? That is what it is like to go grocery shopping in Northern Ireland.

Don’t get me wrong, they still have common college staples like bread, Nutella, and cup noodles, but for actually making meals, they do not have so many common foods that you would naturally think they do.

For Superbowl Sunday, I wanted to make some of my flat mates some traditional Superbowl foods like Philly cheesesteaks (Go Eagles!), buffalo chicken dip, and a quick dessert like biscuits coated in cinnamon sugar. Easy foods that I could make simultaneously in an hour at two at most. Unfortunately, those 15 minute recipes become 1+ hour recipes in the UK because you have to also make the “pre-made” foods that we don’t consider pre-made. For a Philly cheesesteak I would have to buy a steak and cook it and cut it super thin, there is no Steak-Umm here. Buffalo chicken dip is still fairly easy to make, but the local grocery stores don’t sell canned chicken, and I don’t have a crockpot to use over here. Finally to make a simple dessert, I would need to buy four other ingredients that I will hardly ever use again just to make some biscuits. In the UK they don’t even have what we call biscuits! The closest comparison is a savory scone, but even that is not the same food since scones are more dense.

So next time you go to make pigs in a blanket or when you’re eating buffalo chicken dip this Sunday or you walk into Walmart and see a selection of everything you could really imagine, think of how privileged you are to have so many options.

Welcome to Belfast

Welcome to Belfast

Queen's University Belfast
Queen’s University main campus building

I have been living in Belfast for two weeks now, and I’ve been learning little by little how this city operates. Changing from a small campus like LVC and moving to a city-wide campus like Queen’s University of Belfast has been quite a change. With a large campus, I now have a fifteen minute walk to class, which means that I can’t wake up ten minutes before my class and still be early. Most of the time, it feels as if nothing has changed and I’m just going to class… until I walk outside and see century old buildings and double decker busses.

Belfast Gardens
The local Belfast Garden green house with the library in the background

Most of the time the it’s raining in Belfast, but on the rare occasion there is a little sun, and sometimes, like yesterday, even some snow. Out of all of the weather I’ve encountered, rain is my least favorite. I’m not much of a fan of snow, but I prefer Belfast snow to Belfast rain, simply because I’m not drenched from head to toe by the time I get to class. When they say it’s always raining in Belfast, they are not exaggerating. Belfast in the snow is beautiful though!All of the old buildings covered in a fresh layer of white. Belfast and most of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are not equipped for the snow and people mostly stay inside when it snows. The country does not have much salt for the snow and they do not have snow plows, so it’s hard for most people to navigate in the snow.

As for classes, I only have four classes, instead of five to six, and they meet less frequently, so I have a lot more free time on my hands. Classes only meet once a week for about two hours instead of two to three times a week for an hour.It will be nice when I finally venture out and explore more!


written by: Stefanie Davis

Back in Belfast.

Back in Belfast.

So I have been “Back in Belfast” for a good two weeks now since my EuroTrip and upon returning this was running through my head: “Ugh, great sights, great weather, great food, great cities… now back to the horribly cold, rainy, Northern Ireland weather and boring city of Belfast for the next 6 weeks…”




This is what I returned to.  55 degrees, sunny, and finding a huge park right in Belfast.  This park runs along both sides of the River Lagan, with dogs hoping in and out of the river, joggers, and musicians litter this park.  This made coming back to Belfast much more enjoyable and lifted my spirits.  This is the Ireland I had been expecting from the start, green rolling hills, winding rivers, and wood flautists playing in the fields.

Since finding this grand location, I have returned for runs and walks 3 or 4 times a week never taking the same paths because the park is just that enormous!  Though it has rained a few times since being back, the weather has remained bearable, sometimes reaching mid 50s.

I have also been enjoying a week called “Sonorities” which is put on by the Sonic Arts School at Queens.  It is a week full of contemporary artists “performing” their pieces, majorly in the Sonic Lab.  The Sonic Lab is a sound space that has 48 speakers surrounding the audience on all sides.  The floor is just metal grates, allowing the space to put speakers underneath the audience.  All pieces performed here are Electroacoustic, avant-garde, academic pieces which only interest the average listener in such a spectacular listening environment.

However, there have been two performance which took place in one of the Queens’ clubs/pubs on two separate nights.  These were more based on electronic, techno, drum and bass genres of music.  These were loud and intense musical experiences which were two of my favorite nights while in Ireland.  One performance was included a drummer and singer alongside the DJ.  Here is a photo:



I will be back to post about my time spent along the coast, Dublin, and “proper” Ireland (what the majority of Irish people call the Republic of Ireland).  These ventures will be taken with my girlfriend for a week and another week with my family.  I will be back stateside in just over a month!

Cheers for now,


EuroTrip ’13: Where I’ve Disappeared To…

EuroTrip ’13: Where I’ve Disappeared To…

Hello all!

I have been away from my computer for over two weeks so I was not able to update this blog for some time.  The explanation? Europe.

Mike and I took a tour of Europe, hitting the most famous of cities in Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, France, and England.  Our course was locked into a bus trip to Dublin, a flight to Rome, and train to Venice, a train to Geneva, a train to Paris, an UNDERWATER train to London, and a flight back to good ole’ Belfast.

Many will ask me, “How was your tour of Europe?” To that I will respond, “Well now… That is a very big question.” Here I will briefly ATTEMPT to describe my travels with the use of some pictures (each = 1000 words, right?)



We were actually only in Dublin for a few hours. We went into a Burger King for a quick, cheap bite (as all backpackers become accustom to).  We quickly came to find ALL fast food restaurants are much cleaner and nicer than USA’s version.  Any way, this is a picture of the Dublin Spire.  It marks the center of Dublin and was what we looked to to find our way to the airport.  We began our 2.5 hour walk to the airport and were able to see many typical Dublin parks, neighborhoods, and locals.




Rome was incredible.  We arrived in the dead of night and struggled finding our hostel because the street signs were barely readable.  We quickly came to find that 95% of Rome has not been renovated, that the city takes pride in its antiquity.  EVERYTHING is Rome in picturesque.  I had to limit the amount of pictures I took because every corner we turned was another beautiful garden, building, back alley, quaint cafe, or enormous iconic ruins… like the Colosseum.

Mike and I indulged in the local cuisine at every meal, as it was the cheapest and the most delicious: pizza and pasta. These are two of my favorite foods, as most college students can attest to, but the Italians make them 10 times better than I have ever tasted.

We were able to see the Colosseum, gardens, ruins, the Vatican, St. Peter’s Square, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and much MUCH more in Rome.  A note about the Sistine Chapel: it is jaw dropping, ceilings much higher than anticipated, colors more vibrant and well preserved than ever seen before, an experience I will never forget.




“The City of Water” is much smaller than I expected.  This is a good thing.  We could see the entirety of the island in one day, and we never got lost because every street eventually led back to the Grand Canal which winds its way throughout the city.

This city is rich with culture, friendly people and atmosphere, and glorious weather.  Though there is not many “historic monuments” in the city, we found PLENTY to do.  We took boat rides around the Grand Canal, ate tons of pasta and pizza and gelato, and witnessed TONS of street musicians.  As a musician, I always gave them a euro or two. Street musicians are the BEST musicians. They are forced to play well because they need to to survive day to day, and in Venice there is so much competition that EVERY street musician was worth stopping and listening to.

Because Venice is such a secluded city, being that it is an island, it was very comfortable.  We felt very much at home, never feeling in harm’s way at all, and welcomed by all locals.  The man we stayed with, being that the hostel we stayed in was simply a man’s house that he rented out, was incredibly nice and was a pleasure talking to.





Geneva… let’s just say we used it as a place to rest up from our first week of travels, and were HAPPY to move on to our next stop.

Geneva was only on our list of places to go because it was a good half way point between Venice and Paris, and Switzerland just sounded like a cool place to go.

Geneva is nice. It is clean.  It is not a crazy city with cars trying to run you off the road.  There is nothing to do or see in Geneva.  The exchange rate is 1:1 with the American dollar… but everything is TWICE as expensive.  McDonald’s cheeseburger, small fry, small drink = 13 swiss francs. All in all, it was small and quaint.  Looking for a place to relax and spend twice as much as you would anywhere else? Geneva is the place for you!




Paris was AWESOME. Though we missed out on the Louvre because it was closed on the day we planned to go… our last day in Paris… (worst tourists ever).

Besides missing out on the Louvre, we were able to do many things in Paris.  The first day we just kind of roamed around the area around our hostel.  Ate at little cafes that were wide open for the ease of smoking inside, on the porch, or out on the patio.  EVERYONE in Paris smokes. EVERYONE in Paris drinks wine outside, facing the streets (to blatantly people watch I suppose?) There were little cafes everywhere for these types of activities.  We also climbed the Eiffel Tour by stairs, made it half way to the top and were warned to exit the building because it was NOT SAFE AT THIS TIME. Needless to say, we got the heck out of there as quick as possible.

We took a FREE 3 hour tour of Paris on the second day.  It was a great experience, learning so much about the history of Paris, starting from Henry IV through the Louis’, and up to Nazi occupied Paris.  We went to the Notre Dame, the “Latin Quarter” which is the original city of Paris before its expansion, found the market place and the steps from “Midnight in Paris,” and accidentally ran into the Moulin Rouge (yes, we are terrible tourists).




London is HUGE. There is SO MUCH to do and see in London.  We were there for two and a half days, were out for 14 hours a day, and probably only saw and did 2% of what there is actually to do and see in London.  There are two things London has a TON of… pubs and theaters. There must have been a pub every thirty feet. Posters for different theatre shows everywhere. We decided to eat cheap in London because we were feeling very poor at this point and the only “English cuisine” is tea and toast…

Our first day was spent seeing many historic sites such as Big Ben, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, the London Eye, and so on.  Our second day was spent searching for Harry Potter filming locations such as platform 9 and 3/4, the Leaky Cauldron, Millenium Bridge, Diagon Alley, Piccadilly Circus, and London Bridge.  We also went to the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221 b Baker Street (the actual address of the fictional Londoner), TOWER Bridge (which is the one pictured above), and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre.

We spent our final day in London eating.  We found a HUGE fresh food market selling cheeses, breads, pastries, meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, chocolate, wines, juices, sandwiches, and much more.  Everything there was cheap as well. We tried everything we could until we could hardly stand from food coma!


(Mike and I… exhausted)

Finally, we made it back to Belfast at 11:30pm, two weeks later. Though this post is extremely long, there is so so so much more to say about this incredible experience. For more pictures and videos (street performers), check out my Facebook:

To actually understand these experiences, you really need to experience it for yourself.  I highly recommend that anyone that has the means to travel, travel. This experience will be with me for the rest of my life and I will tell my grandchildren about how I backpacked through Europe as a college student!


Thats all for now!



Finally, Sun!

Finally, Sun!



Well the sun finally came out in Ireland, 30 days into our stay here in Belfast.  This called for a well overdue walk around the entirety of Belfast.  I ventured along the River Lagan, which is where the photo above was taken.  This river runs through Belfast, which is opens up into the bay where the Titanic was built. I walked along this for about 3 miles until I reached the center of Belfast.  I have been to the city centre many times, but not on such a beautiful day.  I saw street performers, tons of shoppers and some very notable landmarks:

IMG_0396City Centre Clock Tower

IMG_0323Victoria Square

That weekend, the sun stayed out and Mike and I were able to visit the Titanic museum.  This was suppose to be something pretty amazing and eye opening… don’t hold your breath.  We went to the museum expecting realistic restorations, artifacts, and the like.  Though the building itself was rather impressive, the museum was dull and artificial.

IMG_0292Titanic Museum

This past week, the weather has been very sunny but very cold.  This kept Mike and I indoors mostly, catching up on our school work.  A few days ago I was fed up with being stuck indoors, bundled up, and went for a walk on the less “city-ish” side of Belfast.  I was able to see some wonderful monuments, murals, and landscape.

IMG_0468Queen’s University – Lanyon Building

IMG_0469Graffiti – Overpass

IMG_0473Rise (Sculpture) – Belfast

IMG_0465Titanic (Life Boats) Mural – Belfast

IMG_0470View of Belfast hillside

Mike an I will be touring Europe in a few weeks during Easter break, traveling through Rome, Venice, Geneva, Paris, and London over a two week period. Hopefully following this trip we will be able to see more of Ireland when it warms up, and hiking/ biking trips are more appropriate.

Until then, cheers.

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Well I have been in Belfast 21 days, as of today, and it has rained 21 of those days.  Some days it is off and on light, off and on heavy, light mist all day, or a down pour all day. As Forrest Gump would say, “One day, it started raining, and it didn’t quit for FOUR MONTHS.” Luckily my parents were thoughtful enough to get me a brilliant insulated raincoat before I left, and needless to say, I’ve made good use of it.

Unfortunately, the rain has put a damper (<–pun?) on sight seeing plans that I have made, including the Titanic Quarter and the Peace Line.  I did get the chance to go to the Ulster Museum and see what has formed the Irish culture. From pre-historic Ireland to most recently “the Troubles,” Ireland’s history and culture is rich.

IMG_0247Great Vintage War Time Poster

IMG_0158Ulster Museum


Botanic Gardens’ Greenhouse


Though I have not had much of a chance to travel around Belfast as much as I wish to, this has given me time indoors to begin planning the three weeks I will have off from school starting the end of March.  Mike and I plan to visit England, Italy, France, and the rest of Ireland.  Flights are relatively cheap and we are eager to see what the rest of Europe has to offer!

What we actually came here to do? STUDY abroad? Thinking this would be quite the relaxed semester, the classes have proved differently.  While there are not many hours spent in the class room, much of the class time is spent outside the classroom on recording projects and practicing.  The instructors are extremely informative, helpful, and motivating.  And just like everyone else I have met in Ireland, the instructors are some of the kindest, caring people!

Thats all for now! Maybe the rain will hold off for a day this week! (I can dream…)


Finally Here!!

Finally Here!!





Welp, I have arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland!

This being my first time on an airplane, I was very nervous before take off, while in the air, landing, and finding my connecting flight! Needless to say, I’ve made it! I was also extremely jet lagged, being awake for over 30 hours certainly takes a toll! Though Mike (my travel mate) and I did not have any bedding so we couldn’t exactly hit the hay right on arrival.  We walked a mile and a half and found a nice pub to eat in.  We then made a way another 2 miles into Belfast’s City Centre where we hoped to find the necessary bedding. City Centre was, as they say here, “a bit posh.”  We found cheap pillows and sheets but no blankets!! I slept the first two nights without a blanket, just a simple skimpy throw! Finally we made it to an IKEA and were introduced to the concept of a “duvet.” This is the warmest blanket I’ve ever slept with!!!

…Anyway, My “block” (the dorm building I am living in) has approx. 30 people in it, mostly Irish, some English, one Scot, and one Bulgarian.  They are the most accepting, welcoming people I have ever come across! They took me out the second night I was here (the first night I went to bed at 6pm and slept for 14 hours!!!). They got me “sorted out” with taking me to the supermarket to get food, offered me kitchen materials such as plates and pots and pans and all that, and “a spot of tea” every half hour it seems!

Mike and I have not started classes yet, but we are slightly overwhelmed with Belfast about how to get around and what we should be doing other than going to class and eating.  Hopefully we will be able to explore all of Belfast this week and begin to plan traveling to the country side in Ireland.  Time for a spot of tea and a bit of supper!

Cheers for now,




PS: This is a traditional Irish band that played at the “Cieli,” a traditional Irish party for Live Music and Dancing.  We all danced different Cieli dances which are similar to a form of line dancing, but much for “Irish.”

Are you ready to Study Abroad?

Are you ready to Study Abroad?

Studying Abroad was a factor in my decision to come to LVC.  I knew I wanted to travel at some point in my life, and LVC’s Study Abroad program seemed to be the perfect fit.  I am approximately 50% of Irish descent. My parents took their Honeymoon in Ireland. My father, one of the most reserved people I know, hung upside down to kiss the Blarney Stone.  Studying Abroad to explore my Irish descent has been a long anticipated journey which I am about to embark on in less than 5 days.

So many things have to be prepped before leaving the country to live in a foreign place for over 4 months.  Passport, credit cards, debit cards, copies of important documents, backup copies, luggage requirements, airline tickets, contact information, electricity requirements, currency, and the list goes on. Then the nerves set in as to how one is to live away from everything one has ever known without a convenient “chicken exit.”

Currently I am at the excited state.  I have begun to accept leaving my current life behind and am ready and excited to experience an entirely new, fresh one (don’t worry, I’m not fleeing the country on account of some mix-up with the law).

This blog will be my way of venting all of my experiences I have.  If you have an interest in Ireland, studying abroad, or my experiences as an American student at Queen’s University Belfast, stay tuned, I will begin posting from Europe in a few short days.