On our recent visit to Belfast we decided to make the most of the mild summer weather and take a walk around looking at the sights of Belfast.
We were staying close to the Belfast City Hall and decided to book into the Tour of the City Hall and it was well worth it.
The building is amazing construction started in 1898, and took 8 years to complete. Opening in August 1906. The time effort and skill level of this building was amazing. They just don’t make buildings like this anymore. At the time it cost £360,000 (equivalant to £128,000,000.00)
The marble, the stone work and the pure volume of Stained glass windows is inspiring and we only saw such a small amount of it.
So come along with me with a collection of my favourite images from Belfast City Hall.
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Since the launch of Netflix and Stan in Australia in 2015. Streaming services have really taken off.
There is now a huge selection of shows available at the touch of a button.
Streaming even with Australia’s sub standard internet speeds is the best way to watch Tv in Australia. All the main free to air channels have even got in the action and have on demand catch up tv available.
Here we look at the Paid Streaming services available in Australia.
On demand streaming at $7.99 a month
You can download shows to watch later
6 simultaneous screens.
All Apple shows are Apple originals, notable shows, The morning show with Jennifer Aniston, Reece Witherspoon, See (Jason Moama), Dickinson (Hailee Steinfield), Oprah’s book club.
10 all access
On demand streaming at $9.99 a month
No 4K / No Ultra High Definition
Needs internet – no offline viewing
3 simultaneous screens
You can sign up for a free 30 day trial
Notable Shows – Survivor, NCIS, late show with James Corden, Bachelorette, The Good fight, Hawaii Five-O, Neighbours.
We recently got back from a trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland and it was only with my researching into Ireland that I found out that they are two very different countries.
I would like to think that I am a fairly well traveled person, and although in Australia we have heard of Ireland’s struggle for independence I didn’t realise that in the end they ended up two very distinct countries.
Ireland is a country of its own located in Europe that has managed to gain it’s independence from England with a very long battle for freedom and independence. With familiar towns like Dublin, Galway, Sligo, Cork.
Ireland is a Republic, with a President, A population of about 4.9 Million. Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, it is a member of the European Union.
Whereas Northern Ireland is a member of the UK and commonwealth. It has a population of about 1.8 MiIllion, and most notable towns are it’s capital Belfast and Derry.
Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom, has the queen as their monarch.
Northern Ireland still has a real political divide, between unionists, who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom, and nationalists, who wish to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. This is something that is evident even as a tourist in their beautiful city.
Northern Ireland capital is Belfast, and recently has been getting even more media coverage due to the huge HBO hit Game of thrones choosing many of the iconic landscapes and castles of Northern Ireland as film locations, as well as many of their main sets being filmed in Titanic studios in Belfast.
5 things I learned when visiting Ireland and Northern Ireland.
1 – They have different currency.
As Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, they utilise Pounds and English Currency.
Ireland is a part of the Europe and use Euros for their currency
Many people in our group actually got caught unaware on this one with many people rushing to the currency exchange at Dublin airport to swap their currency over.
2- The mailboxes are different colours
In Ireland the postboxes are green and I found that really fascinating, when I wandered over the ‘border’ to Northern Ireland the post boxes went back to the traditional red postboxes that we are used to, as a member of the commonwealth.
3- There is no real border crossing
Whilst Ireland and Northern Ireland are two distinct countries, you can easily travel between the countries without needing to show your passport and go through immigration.
However the towns on the border definitely have a different feel to them.
In the Town of Derry buildings were full of amazing and poignant street art showcasing the fight for independence as well as memorials to lives lost in the independence.
4- The political undercurrent is still there
What surprised me the most is how current the tension is still in the air in towns like Belfast. Whilst we were in Belfast there was a huge amount of people waving the English flag and others firmly against it.
As you walk around the streets daily we saw anti riot police trucks in the area.
5- The Architecture is very different
Dublin is a much older city, and so is the architecture, the buildings range from 14th century onwards. It had a real relaxed feel. Cobblestone paths, old bridges, and you can really imagine the city hundreds of years earlier.
Towns like Galway have done a fantastic job of keeping the history of the area with many new buildings having to keep the old structures as well.
Belfast is much younger and for those who have travelled to Melbourne and seen buildings like royal exhibition buildings, flinders street station it is very reminiscent of that. whilst the buildings are still a couple of hundred years old, there are also a lot more modern buildings, shops scattered around.
5. Pubs are everywhere.
The one thing that stood out in both Ireland and Northern Ireland was that they both love a good pub.
In Both Dublin, Galway and Belfast the main place to have a meal would have to be a pub.
Traditional restaurants were few and far between and instead every second or third store front was a pub.
As we walked through the streets of Belfast we happened across an amazing art installation called the Glass of Thrones.
Glass of thrones was created by Tourism Ireland to celebrate ten years of filming of the iconic show in Northern Ireland.
Starting with Jon snow and the Starks in the centre of Belfast, just near the Belfast town Hall, there are 6 stained glasses located through the city and ending with the Iron throne at the Titanic studios were many of the scenes were filmed.
The 6 stained glass of thrones windows showcase pivotal scenes of the series and each one focuses on a family, villain or legacy of the series.
Starks, Lannisters, Baratheons, Targaryens, White Walkers and finally the Iron Throne.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Stark
Location – Outside Belfast Town Hall
It was only fitting that the first window showcases the heroes of the show. The Stark family.
The stained glass window is overlooking Belfast City Hall, which also has an amazing collection of Stained Glasses Inside.
The focal point of the Stark window is Jon Snow, the King of the North at the iconic battle scene from the Battle of the bastards, however all the other Starks also get a mention.
Some of the great details are Arya about to stab Little finger, The heartbreaking red wedding, Sansai about to get her revenge on Ramsey, Hound and Brienne fighting over Ayra and of course what started it all, The Patriach of the family Ned about to lose his head.
For true fans of the show there are other subtle references to the Starks and their storyline’s with Direwolves, the Three Eyed Raven, and the weeping Weirwood tree also on there.
We were staying nearby so I was able to walk past this window multiple times and I spent ages looking at the glass window as the detail was amazing.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Lannister
Location – Located beside ICC Belfast
Featuring so many iconic scenes that make up the storyline’s of some of the villains of the show, from the wildfire explosion, to Jamie’s charging on horse back towards Daenerys during the Battle of the Goldroad.
The real focal point though is Mountain carrying Cersei after her walk of shame.
I was also pleased to see some of Tyrion Lannister’s storyline on display. With his revengeful murder of his scheming father Tywin.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Baratheon
Location – Beside Lagan Weir
I found this one the most interesting window whilst it is called House Baratheon its focal point really is Melisandre.
I guess it is quiet fitting as those who watch the show, understand wherever Stannis went, she was there pulling the strings.
The window also highlights Hound and Beric’s fight, Briennes revenge, Gendry and his Hammer, not to mention two kings dying. King Robert and King Joffrey.
But my favourite part of the window, probably because he was one of my favourite characters is Ser Davos and his boat.
Stained Glass of Thrones – House Targaryen
Location – Outside Odyssey
This window could really be called Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen,First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea,Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons, as the Window really is a huge tribute to her.
The focal point is Drogon as he breathes a twister of fire that runs all the way down the length of the window, with Danny riding atop him.
Other notible scenes include the birth of the dragons, Drogon rescuing Daenerys from the fighting pits of Meereen. Ser Barristan Selmy and Greyworms fighting the Sons of Harpy. Not to mention when her brother was crowned with Gold.
Stained Glass of Thrones – White Walkers
Location – Alongside SS nomadic
Hodor holding the door is the real focal point of this window, taking up centre position. Another large part of the window is the Ice King destroying a large section of the Wall on top of his Ice dragon.
There are lots of other parts to the window as well, Jon, Jorah, the Hound, Beric and Tormund stranded in the middle of the ice lake.
The making of the Ice King.
Stained Glass of Thrones – Iron Throne
Location – Overlooking the Titanic studios in the grounds of Belfast titanic experience, at the Titanic Slipway
This window is definitely trying to portray A song of Ice and Fire, with fiery Orange up top and icy blue below.
At first look it looks like it is just a beautiful window of the iron throne with a chair on it to sit so you to can Sit on the iron Throne, but at closer look you see that it also contains house sigils, cogs and gears like the opening scene.
The other great thing about this is the interactive nature of this window with people able to sit on the Iron throne for a picture.
The other awesome thing we worked out afterwards is that each of them have a very funny warning on the side. We only took a photo of a couple of them.
I have dreamed of visiting Giants Causeway for a very long time, and on our way to Belfast from Dublin, we dropped in with only a small amount of time to wander down and take some photos.
With my camera in hand ready to take some iconic images of the 40,000 interlocking basalt rocks we arrived at The Nook and disembarked our bus, ready to wander down the path to the famous area, made from ancient volcanic fissure eruption, that I have seen so many times on Instagram.
As we wandered down the path the scenery was spectacular, rolling green hills, old rock walls.
But as we got closer something else became apparent there would be no Instagram photos with empty rock foundations, because as we got closer the crowds begun to appear.
Every year over 1 million people visit giants causeway. With the success of Game of Thrones and the huge increase in tourism due to the great marketing of Northern Ireland’s tourism department highlighting all the film locations around the areas, these numbers are just increasing every year. The fact we also arrived in mid-afternoon and only had thirty minutes to look around also added to the rush.
People scurrying everywhere trying to get a shot, It really was a case of what you expect to see and what you actually do.
I had to adapt and change my expectation, and take the time to find an empty patch but it was well worth it.
If you keep wandering past the Basalt rocks you come to large columns that are amazing, they give you an opportunity to see what the structure would look like underground.
Just past the towering rocks is where the path meets up with the Giant Causeway Walking trails, and if we had more time (when we go back :-)) we will definitely wander these paths. The view from the ground of the Amphitheater was inspiring. These trails follow the cliff-top and will give a totally different perspective on the giant causeway.
With our time nearly up we turned back to walk up the path to our awaiting bus at the visitor centre. There is a shuttle bus that runs up and down the hill during business hours, however, the walk back up is only about 15-20 minutes and is not strenuous, so we wandered back up with a memory card full of inspiring pictures, ready to head into Belfast.
But before we hopped on the bus I had to take one more picture, a picture to me that was what I was expecting Northern Ireland to be like.
Have you been to Northern Ireland before?
Or arrived somewhere and realised your expectations were very different from reality?
Experience Westeros with a visit to Winterfell, located only 40 minutes out of Belfast, Northern Ireland in County Down.
Immerse yourself in the world of Game of Thrones with a visit to Old Castle Ward, the film set of the iconic Winterfell. Castle Ward is the location of Winterfell, the whispering woods and many more iconic scenes. Now that the series is wrapped up, you can live the Game of throne experience, dressing up in Character and walking where the cast walked.
Earlier this year we took a trip to Ireland, and then headed north to Northern Ireland. To visit some of the iconic Game of Thrones locations, and visiting Winterfell was a priority.
Winterfell or Old Castle Ward has gone from a small tourist castle to one of Northern Ireland premier Visitor attractions.
8 things I learned about the Winterfell tour
Winterfell really is an immersive experience, and before I went I didn’t realise how much.
1. Get Involved
There is nothing like dressing up in costume with your own cloak to really immerse yourself in the experience. Wandering down the site of many iconic scenes dressed up as a stark, in your black cloak really puts helps you really feel a part of it.
2. Book into the Banquet
If you get a chance to book into the Medieval Banquet night, you won’t be disappointed.
On arrival, guests are greeted by the Grand Maester and escorted to the courtyard to receive their costumes and then the immersive experience begins. Live Band entertainment, amazing food, and Winterfell Ale. The Banquet table is set up with candle lights flickering, bench seats draped with fur skins and Winterfell ale to drink.
3. Try some new sports
Have you ever wanted to try your hand at Axe Throwing, Archery or Sword fighting? Then Winterfell is the place for you.
Stand in the spot that Bran, Robb Stark, and the King of the North Jon Snow stood. The Archery range film set is in the same spot it was used for filming. Practice your aim and fire straight.
4 – Old Castle Ward is more than just Winterfell.
A visit to Old Castle Ward is not just about Winterfell, there are so many more amazing places. Stand at the base of the tower that started it all, where Bran fell. Hire a bike and cycle down to the spot that Jamie Lannister was held captive in Robb’s camp. See the tree that Robb secretly marries Talissa at and so many more.
5 – It might come with unexpected guests
Whether it is an actor from the acclaimed show, many of the staff at Old Castle Ward, were extras in the film, as well as some involved in training the actors in fight scenes. Or a White walker staring you down as you walk around the paths.
6 – Iron throne
When we went we had the privilege of sitting on the Iron Throne, located in a dark room, with only a small window and candlelight to illuminate us, dressed up in our cloak, you can imagine what it would feel like to be fighting over the throne.
7- Expect to use your imagination
The one thing that surprised me the most was the pure volume of creativity from the film team, so much of what we see as Winterfell is actually CGI. Our guides were amazing who showed us pictures that showed the before and after and it was amazing.
8 – More than just castles, it’s a photographer’s dream.
We only had one day at Old castle Ward, but I will definitely come back and next time I will take advantage of the overnight accommodation, so I can take some photos at night. Old Castle Ward is a photographers delight with so many amazing places to photograph.
Yesterday I was talking to soletmeexplore about her bucket list, 101 places that are on her bucket list. Many of them that she has already been too and it inspired me to start writing down my own travel wish list, places I want to visit.
For those already a regular on our Facebook page and blog would have heard of our “Travel dream board” that we created with our children, full of places they want to travel, and yes, Disney is a focal point. But there are many places I want to visit that I haven’t added to the board.
As a traveller, and a Photographer some of the places on my travel wish list I have been to in the past, well before I had my DSLR camera, with my Olympus 3MB camera in hand, some I have been to and managed to take photos.
Together with my children, we have created a Travel Wish List, a list of places we want to visit or revisit.
Places around Australia
There is something magical about Australia, it really is a unique place. Australia is the world’s largest island, covering 7.692 million km. It is home to many different climates from the mild temperatures of Tasmania, to the tropical heat of the Daintree. It really is an amazing place to visit. We have been to the most northern tip of Australia’s mainland, Cape York. Travelled the Nullarbor, with the longest straight stretch of road in the country 146.6km without a bend or turn. But there are still so many places left on my list to visit
“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
As adults, we love to dream big dreams, dreams for ourselves, for our business, for our children. When we first got married we would attach photos of things that we were aiming for on the wall in our room, to remind ourselves what we were working towards. From holidays, cars, houses, jobs, qualifications even just inspirational quotes they helped drive us forward when we where busy renovating houses, doing the extra hours, so we knew that whilst there was a cost involved it was worth it.
Our children too have big dreams and a lot of them revolve around places they want to visit around the world. We decided to make a dream board with them so they could see what we were aiming for.
Now the thing when you create a dream board with your children it has to be what they want for themselves, not what you think they should want. For our youngest daughter, her number one travel location is Hamilton Island, we go there at least a year. But there was no way she was going to put anything on there until a large photo of Whitehaven Beach was on the board. For our oldest, her travel goal is to go to every Disney resort in the world. So more than half of the board revolves around Disney, with the largest picture being a Disney cruise.
Our youngest had one place he wanted to see, Toy Story Land… nothing else mattered. There was no point asking him for multiple places as in his mind nothing else mattered just walking into Toy Storyland and going on Slinky Dog Dash.
Important things I learnt when making a Dream Board with my Children.
They often want to go back to the places they have visited before. A lot of the places that they put on the board were places we have taken them to before. Places like Canada, Disney, Whitehaven beach.
You can’t be worried about whether it is symmetrical, whether it is cut out correctly. Items will be cut out on angles, attached over the top of each. There will be spaces. Don’t worry, It needs to inspire them, not you.
It is often hard to get the ‘correct images’ for your child. The traditional way of going to get a brochure from a travel agent is a lot harder, especially if you want to go to a large number of places. So we used a mix of google images, our own images, we head into travel agents and get brochures. We also bought a couple of travel magazines to cut out as well.
It needs to be somewhere that your kids see it regularly, we put ours up on the wall beside our dining room table so every night when we sit down to eat, we can look at it. Be thankful for the places that we have already been to. Be inspired by the places we have yet to get to.
Your Children will surprise you. I never realised some of the places our children wanted to visit, places like the Great Wall, the London eye, Central Park, Statue of liberty, stone henge.
Have you created a dream board with your children?
To Travel is to Live – Hans Christian Andersen, And live we have.
I have always had a real wanderlust, a desire to travel, as Children though we never did, so I would dream of faraway places, adventures, travelling the world.
When we got married we decided to travel so in between work and renovations on our house, the years before our kids where born were spent travelling the high country of Victoria, relaxing in the Whitsundays and driving around the USA including a child-free trip to Disneyland.
I was hooked Disneyland was all that I had imagined as a young child living in a busy house in Melbourne.
Since then we have been back a couple more times, the first time when our older two were 4 and 6, then again when our four kids where 1,3,8 and 10. Our kids are caught up in the Magic of Disney too.
The minute we get back they start planning the next trip and after the trip in 2016, our oldest decided she had a goal.
Her goal was to go to every Disney Park / resort in the world.
She managed to tick the next item of her list when we went to the Disney Aulani resort in 2017, but her travel goal was still much bigger than that.
At home we have a Dream board that the kids have made, they cut out all the places they want to visit in the world and attached it to a board that sits near our dining room table. Every day as we sit for dinner we are reminded of where we have been and where we want to go. As you can see Disney is a huge part of this.
One of the best thing about being a parent is watching your children dream big dreams. Whether that is academic goals, sporting goals, theatre goals or even travel goals. What is even better than seeing them dream big goals is being in the position to help them achieve that. Whether that is being the taxi each week as they run from after-school commitments, whether it is helping motivate them to study for that next trip, or to plan the epic Disney trip so your kids can visit not only Disneyland on New Years Eve, but then also go a Disney Cruise before finishing off the trip with two weeks in Florida and Disneyworld.
Our Epic Disney trip didn’t start off that way though. It started much smaller.
We had wanted to visit the East Coast of U.S.A again we had visited back in 2011 and had some work commitments that meant we were heading over. We decided that as we had to go there for work we may as well bring the kids and visit Disneyworld. Then we decided well if we were heading all the way over there spending almost 24 hours in an aeroplane with four kids we may as well do a Disney cruise as well. As who knows when we would get back over there.
We remembered how exhausted we were after our last trip with the flight to LA and sitting in a crowded airport before our flight to New York and decided with kids it would be better to break it up and spend a couple of days in LA before our flight to Orlando. Allowing us to fly directly into LA and spend a few days there.
Now anyone flying with a big family knows it is often hard to get accommodation to fit all of you. Hotels can never guarantee interconnecting rooms, so you are often forced to look into apartments or hotels with family suites.
As we were going over New Year’s Eve meant our search got even harder and the only available accommodation we could find was in Anaheim. Now tell me if you are staying in Anaheim how could you not visit Disneyland?
Over 85% of all Australians live within 50 km from the coast, making the 50,000 km of coastline, 10000 beaches a huge part of Australia’s identity.
Going to the beach in Australia is probably the most iconic part of our culture. It is what we are known for, and Trip Advisor have put together a list of the best beaches in Australia.
1. Manly Beach – Sydney, New South Wales
Manly Beach is located on Sydney’s North Shore. Manly beach consists of three areas, South Steyne, North Steyne and Queenscliff. South Steyne has a year-round lifeguards. Queenscliff and North Steyne are patrolled between October and April. Volunteer lifesavers also patrol on weekends and holidays during the busier months. Within walking distance, there is a selection of shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs
2. Surfers Paradise – Gold Coast, Queensland
Not just a beach, but Surfers Paradise is a suburb and the heart of the vibrant Gold Coast. Surfers Paradise has a population of almost 24,000 people. It’s main feature is the busy Cavill Mall, which is a great entertainment and shopping area. The beach is 3km of beautiful sand, clear water and plenty of tourists. Surfers Paradise is home to lifeguard tower 34, that is manned 365 days a year, however, times vary day to day.
3. Turquoise Bay – Exmouth, Western Australia
1270 kilometres from Perth sits Western Australia’s Turquoise Bay, Located only metres from the Ningaloo Reef, this beach is a known Snorkelling location. There are over 500 different species of fish at Ningaloo Reef, as well as Coral, Turtles, and squid.
4. Mooloolaba Beach – Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Mooloolaba is located 97kms north of Brisbane. Home to Mooloolaba Surf Club. Mooloolaba is known for its lovely white sand.
5. Whitehaven Beach – Whitsunday Island, Queensland
Whitehaven beach is a 7km stretch of amazing white silica sand, and clear turquoise blue waters. Located on Whitsunday Island, accessible via helicopter or boat from Hamilton Island or Airlie Beach. This is a magical sight to behold. Hill’s inlet is located on the Northern end which is where many amazing photos of the white sand and blue hues of the inlet blending together as the tides shift to create an amazing mosaic that changes on a daily basis. The southern end is where most of the tourist boats end up.
6. Bondi Beach – Sydney, New South Wales
Bondi Beach would be one of Australia’s most iconic beaches, located only 7km from Sydney. Bondi Beach is listed as one of Australia’s top visited tourist sites in Australia. It is only 1km stretch of beach, but has two Life Saving clubs, Bondi Surf Bathers life-saving club, and North Bondi Surf Lifesaving club, and is manned 365 Days a year.
7. Noosa Main Beach, Sunshine Coast, Queensland
Located 136 kilometres from Brisbane is Noosa Main beach. Noosa main beach is great for swimming and relaxing on the beach. Noosa main beach is one of the few beaches in Australia that faces North. Patrolled year round by Surf lifesavers, it is a favourite spot for families. Protected by headland the waves are a bit smaller, so great for beginners learning to surf. Noosa Main beach is located within moments of Noosa’s iconic Hastings Street. Main beach has a boardwalk that runs down it and there are also restaurants that line the boardwalk.
8. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast, Queensland
Burleigh heads is located between Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta on the beautiful Gold coast. Known for its Surfing closer to the headland, and swimming in the more protected area. Located nearby to the Burleigh Heads national park. Burleigh heads is surrounded by Large towering trees, which give you good areas of shade making it a popular picnic spot in the summer sun.
9. Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia
Located at Broome is the beautiful 22 kilometre stretch of beach. Known for its beautiful white sand. Located on the Eastern Indian Ocean. Cable beach is famous for its Camel rides, offered at sunset and sunrise.
10. Mindil Beach, Darwin, Northern Territory.
Mindil Beach is located near Darwin’s central business district. Mindil Beach is famous for its iconic Mindil Beach sunset markets that run in the dry season. Mindil beach is located only 2kms from Darwin’s city centre. Whilst you might occasionally find people swimming there, it has a high chance of jellyfish and crocodiles so is not recommended.
What do you think of Trip Advisors 2019 list of best Australian beaches?
I have to admit I have made it to nearly all these beaches, only three left to go and I would agree that all of them each bring something different to the list, and deserve to make the top ten Whitehaven Beach would still top my list.
Let me know in the comments what your favourite beach in Australia is.