Belfast, Edinburgh, York
Belfast is a really fascinating city and i wish i had more time to spend there, but i did get to wander a bit and this is what i saw. Belfast is a shipping city that didn't not gain city status from the Queen until 1889, so it is relatively new and this can be seen in the mostly well planned street design (in blocks like most american cities) and the architecture which tends to be more in the georgian style in the old parts of town (think large marble and granite buildings, not unlike TCNJ but with more copper roofs and statues). There is also a large redevelopment plan by the river that has created residential buildings, malls and offices that are in the same style as the NJPAC, with large walls of glass, shining copper and brick. Very nice.
I did not see too many signs of the sectarianism that has divided the city for so many years, but there was an Orangemen Rally (Protestant Royalists) the day i left to drum up support for the 7-year vote in which the citizens of northern ireland decide whether or not they want to remain part of the UK.
I had fish and chips for the first time in Belfast. they were really good and really filling. I am trying to justify the amoun of fried greasy food i am eating in two ways 1.) i am walking a ton every day 2.) frying food must be a national pasttime over here.
I woke up at 6 am so that i could shower and then walk all the way across town (about 5km) to get to the Stena Line Fast Ferry (7:35). When i left my hostel i really didn't know how far away it was because on my map it ended before the harbor and just had an arrow pointing north. well of course it was much further than i thought it would be and my watch read 7:25 when i turned a corner and saw stena line office about 300 yards away. i broke into a sprint, got into the office at 7:27 and was told i needed to be there at 7 to buy a ticket and board. needless to say i was a little dissapointed. The next ferry was at 12:20 so i spent a few hours wandering, got some breakfast at subway, joined what i thought was a tour but turned out to be British version of antique road show, and finally got on the ferry.
Stena Line Ferries
Europeans really know how to travel in style. i was expecting a small cafe and prob a bar. what i got was a HUGE sports bar, burger king, 2 star restaurant, movie theatre (watched herbie: fully loaded), slot machines, etc. AND it was one of the smoothest rides ever on a boat.
was fantastic. prob my favorite city so far. The heart of the city is the Royal Mile, a street that connects The Royal Residence with Edinburgh Castle, a mediveal fort that has been expanded over time. Along the mile are tons of little shops and museums where you can learn about closes (the small alleyways that developed off of the royal mile as the city expanded (vertically for the most part) The most famous close, which you can visit, is the Real Mary Kings Close, an alley where most of the houses have literally been built over and now provide the foundation for the city municipal builing. The rooms are still intact however, and you can see traces of wall-painting decorations on plaster that was made from horse hair and human ash (which was abundant during the plague years) It is supposed to be haunted but i saw little evidence of that. speaking of plague victims, most were buried in pits that have now become the Meadows, large playing fields near the many universities. in the winter a man goes around and pushes down the bones that are forced to the surface by the frost. i tossed a frisbee on top of said bones. :-)
I also got a chnace to go hiking in Andrews park, an area that was formed mostly by volcanic vents which left outcroppings of basalt which would become the basis for defensive fortifications. I scaled the 220 meter "peak" of andrews seat and got some great views of the city and sea.
oh and i stayed with luke and his wife, Haley for 3 days and we had a blast. home cooked meals, real shower, real towel, and real ats to play with = welcome respite from hostels. oh and me and luke played worms 3d on playstation. great game. i am eternall grateful to them for taking me in.
My favorite city so far to just walk around, literally. They city walls, which were built on top of norman earthworks, which were in tun bult on Roman walls, still surround the city and you can walk on them. really neat. Seeing evidence of Roman habitation almost 200 years ago really shows how phenomenal their engineering skills were.
I met up with a coupletexan girls and a guy from RI, and a guy from brazil. we went out to pubs and i got to try new beers.
Carling = light beer with a hoppy kick. good and cheap
Kronengburg = real good lager
John Smith = cheap excuse for guinness
Really cool museums/attractions in York. Jorvic, or the viking museum, is kinda disneyfied but does a great job of telling the story of nordic occupation of York. The DIG, an archelogical exhibit designed to get kids interested in archeology. really fantastic. it was also there that i got to touch the largest specimen of viking poop in the world. needless to say after that i left for london. and that is where i am now.
Brian (in London)
ps. miss you guys, but if i don't see some more comments i'm not coming home...just putting it out there