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This summer I had the amazing opportunity to travel abroad. My plans were to visit a friend who lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland and explore from there. I love any chance I can get to travel, so having friends all across the world is a nice perk. Plus, while I’ve been many places, I’ve always wanted to see Ireland and England (specifically London), so I jumped on the $350 Norwegian Air ticket to Belfast and headed there! I spent a total of 11 full days over there exploring, and we ended up going all over the place very spontaneously which made it incredibly fun! So, instead of giving you a day-by-day synopsis of the trip, I’ll include my recommendations for each city below along with some “fancy camera” pictures from my trip! It was so fun putting this blog post together and reliving my trip. And I can’t wait for my next adventure! Can you guess where I’ll be headed next?
Belfast, Northern Ireland
There’s something pretty special about Belfast. It’s a city (and country) rich with history, and a unique, troubled past. An amazing city for sure and easy to overlook, so if you ever have a chance to visit, you really should add it to your list! Here are some of my favorites from a few of the days I spent exploring this charming city. Head to the Ulster Museum first to get educated on just what Northern Ireland has gone through in the very recent history. And make a stop at the beautiful Botanic Gardens on your way out.

Many don’t know that the Titanic actually was built in and set sail from Belfast. There is an amazing museum that you must visit if you’re in town. City Centre and the Mall are both fun places to go. The Mall has an amazing 360 degree view at the top of the glass dome. and there are plenty of cute coffee shops along the way. St. George’s market is a great place for some locally crafted goods and food. Also, make a stop at Maggie Mays for breakfast or lunch and head to Five Points for snacks and drinks accompanied by live Irish music in a very authentic atmosphere in the evening. For the more adventurous types, there are plenty of outdoor excursions like hiking Cave Hill or visiting the Belfast castle. Be sure to stop at the local Tesco (grocery store) before you head up for a £3 meal deal to take with you! I ate a lot of these!!

Probably my favorite part of Northern Ireland, though was exploring the North Coast for a day. Buying a rambler (bus) all-day ticket lets you get to places like Giant’s Causeway, Dunluce Castle, and Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge easily and quickly. You could easily spend more than a day exploring along the north coast, but it’s an amazing experience even if you have only one day to hop around.

London, England
We got to spend three full days in London after we bought spur of the moment tickets aboard RyanAir for $30 a pop. Best. Decision. Ever. I have been dreaming of going to London for a while, and it was all that I imagined and more! Truly one of my favorite cities in the world, and I got just enough of a taste for it in three days and can’t wait to go back!

If you only have a couple of days in London, the best way to see the most things is…you guessed it…those very touristy double-decker tour buses!! It was actually really fun riding around London on top of one of those, and it really wasn’t a bad price for the time it saved us from walking around. Plus, having a live guide on the bus really makes it interesting and fun! We basically just rode the bus around both days to get an overview and then stopped where we wanted to explore more. Also, our ticket came with a river cruise as well! So that really was a great value! Here were some of the highlights.

Definitely do the London Eye. It’s a little pricey, but it’s a once in a lifetime experience you shouldn’t miss if you can help it. Hyde Park was beautiful! And we got fish and chips at a restaurant in the park for lunch. Big Ben was under construction, so that was a big bummer! But we got to attend Evensong at Westminister Abbey which is a really cool experience, AND you don’t have to pay admission. Visiting the outside of Buckingham Palace and watching the changing of the guard was fun, but I liked the night before when we walked down the road toward the Buckingham Palace and witnessed none other than PRINCE WILLIAM himself riding down the street in his Range Rover and within a couple steps from me. I had a serious fan girl moment, and it was totally unexpected!! But one of my favorite parts of London by far was the London Dungeons. Definitely an experience like none other. You go through the Dungeons as actors recreate parts of London’s not-so-nice history for you, and it was an experience I’ll never forget!

The Irish Coast
For the last leg of my trip, we flew from London to Dublin to meet up with a couple other friends who had arrived a couple days prior. We spent the rest of the trip in our little rental car, driving along the southern Irish coast, hopping from Airbnb to Airbnb, and it was just the best! 

Some of my favorite sites included the iconic Cliffs of Moher, Killary Fjord, Connemara National Park- The Diamond Hill Hike, Dunamase Castle, and Kylemore Abbey. One of my favorite memories of this leg of trip, though, was when we headed to Dog’s Bay a beautiful white sand beach in Ireland of all places! The water was crystal clear and the sand was pure white. You could have easily mistaken your location to be a Caribbean island, which seemed so crazy to me! But as soon as we all jumped in, we realized we definitely weren’t somewhere tropical with the 40 degree water. It was freezing!!! But honestly one of my favorite memories of the whole trip!

We ended our last night in Galway at an authentic Irish pub/restaurant called The Quays. It was the BEST time! The band was amazing!! They played a mix of Irish traditional music and American music with an Irish twist, so we knew a lot of the songs, but it was really a unique experience! Even just wandering around Galway was a highlight and definitely my favorite city in Ireland! A great end to an even better trip! Bonus points if you sing Ed Sheeran’s Galway Girl in the car as you drive around! Good times!

This part of the world was truly amazing, and it was also so nice going somewhere we spoke the same language. But they all had super cool accents! If you ever get the chance to venture to either Ireland or the UK, I highly recommend it!

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October 8, 2018

Belfast, London, and the Irish Coast | Travels

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Nichole Lauren is a photographer & business coach in Greenville, SC & available for travel worldwide.

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