There were so many things that were cool about the airport, including this sculpture. "We gathered everyone together and took quite a walk to the "coach" or bus. We got boarded and met our driver Tom." Tom would also become a well loved and missed (now that we are home) member of our group. We stopped for lunch on the way to Belfast in Northern Ireland where we were starting our trip. Our lunch was at a service station that has a bunch of different types of food and coffee as well as some shopping.
When we got to the hotel I had some issues with the room keys, and when I got them fixed my roommate, Sara, had problems with her key. We did finally get it all figured out but it was a bit of a struggle to get everything worked out so we both had working keys. "At 3:30 PM we had a walking tour with Katie where she showed us Ulster Hall, the post office and shops, a couple of pubs, the Opera House and City Hall."
The statues and architecture of city hall in Belfast were very beautiful and I enjoyed photographing them a lot. It was an absolutely beautiful day and there were people sitting all over the grass outside of the building enjoying the sun. The city hall is open to the public and has some very nice stained glass windows. One example is the left photo above.
Katie was amazing in sharing a lot of information about all kinds of topics regarding Ireland and Northern Ireland. She gave us some of the history of Northern Ireland and the different groups, the types of crops they grow and some of what happened to split the Republic or Ireland and Northern Ireland. I did find it interesting that the most important crop is grass. It makes sense, with all the cows and sheep that are raised here, but surprised me a bit. I would have thought potatoes.
"Kaite also told us the story of The Crown pub. Apparently the couple who started it were not of the same group (nationalist/loyalist). They wanted to name it The Crown, but wanted the nationalists to still come, so they put a crown on the ground in front so you can either step on or around the crown." The Crown was a very ornate and beautiful building. I only took pictures outside, but on our last day in Belfast mom and I had lunch there and man they made a good stew.
I made sure to take time that first day to just wander around and take lots of pictures. I wanted to get a feel for the city, and get as much "Ireland" as I could. I loved all of the different styles of architecture mixed together. The building above has actually become a mall, although if I remember correctly it used to be the headquarters for one of the groups.
We also got to hear about this hotel. The Europa has the, slightly sad, distinction of being the most bombed hotel in the world, as well as Europe. Many important and famous people have stayed here. The hotel was a very short distance from where we were staying and is quite a tall landmark in the city.
The first night we had a welcome dinner in the hotel. There was so much good food, including a leek soup that I just fell in love with! The food just kept coming though, so I was stuffed by the end, and I'm not sure I even tasted everything. My dad got the main course for me as I was somewhat trapped in a corner of the table. Crawling into bed that night felt wonderful! Not only was I very tried, but I was finally and officially in Ireland.