Belfast Bound

Francesca Mouery
December 12, 2017

Shortly after we went on our trip to London, the IES Abroad students took one last trip before starting our various programs at Trinity, Gaiety, and so forth. A trip to "The North", as many Dubliners and other Irish alike call it. Specifically, we took a long bus ride to Belfast to see what this country's divide was all about (and to have some amazing experiences along the way).

When you arrive in Belfast, you realize that it is smaller than you think. It's even smaller than Dublin! Everything is walkable (which seems to be a trend in Europe, in general) and everything was quaint as can be, whilst still throwing in a bit of a cosmopolitan vibe. I was already intrigued by the city just from the sheer fact of it being so unique in it's own style. As soon as we arrived, my friend Reilly and I decided to drop all our belongings at The Hilton and went exploring around town.

We stumbled upon St. George's Market, which is apparently rather famous for it's variety of trinkets, baked goods, and market fresh foods sold every Friday from 6am-3pm. I loved seeing all the vendor's putting out their own individual styles of baked brown breads, brightly colored fruits, and old Celtic arts and crafts. Shortly after, Reilly and I naturally made our way to Victoria Square, which is quite literally a shopping mall (but a nice one, at that)! We couldn't help it, since we both really love fashion, makeup, and window shopping. Passing by high end boutiques and European named stores, I realized how different the stores were in Europe than in America. I mean, sure, they looked the same! They sold clothes, shoes, and beautiful dresses in trendy styles. However, there was more of a culture to it that couldn't really be explained. Shopping wasn't to just make money, it was to offer really unique clothing to the people visiting their stores. I've found that in Ireland (and later when I visited Italy and Scotland) that people really do care about quality of the goods they're putting out and the service they are giving their customers. And, honestly? That's kind of incredible.

We ended up buying some sunglasses, some makeup from this really affordable Italian makeup line, KIKO (we are obsessed), and then headed off to a pub or two with some friends that night! We had a lot of great fun the first night in Belfast, but the really interesting bits of history of the city came in the days to come.

In the coming days, we all ended up traveling to Giant's Causeway, which is one of Earth's natural wonders. It's a bunch of rocks that formed over time to look like stepping stones (or even teeth!), at the bottom of a cliffside. There's many legends about how there was a Giant who had lived there and had many an adventure. There's a lot of rocks and landmarks there that have magical Celtic histories, which is something I'm really fascinated in. The folk lore is so strong in Ireland and I am in love with how stories hold so much value in this country.

We also visited The Parliament Building which showed us that even though it seems there is peace in Northern Ireland at the moment, the government has completely shut down at the moment. The beautiful building, with it's ornate detailing and architecture, contrasts so much with what the country is going through politically. I thought this was fascinating. We ended up sitting down for a nice lunch in the building and looked at the view of the pristine front lawn. So much care for one building, yet nothing was going on.

The last day of the trip, we did the most, I think. We started off with a bus tour around the city, where our tour guide pointed out all the important political murals around that remind the residents of Belfast (and tourists alike) how much history there is in the divide between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country. Though there is much tragedy in these stories' narratives, the art made out of such troubles are a testament that art can be used to express humanity's state of being in a moment in time. These paintings still make such an impact on the people who pass by them today, which was a gentle reminder to me that what I would be doing at GSA was a part of this neverending chain of art making a difference on people continuously.

My favorite part of this trip was going on The Game of Thrones Bike Tour. Admittedly, I have still to watch the show (I've seen one episode a longgggg time ago, so I think it's about time I get on that). But, I love bike riding and everybody who wanted to go to ride their own bicycle in the countryside of Belfast; down dirt paths, ancient woodlands, and lovely curves and bends. Everywhere we turned there was another beautiful sight, an old castle, or a beautiful body of water. And, the cherry on top of the whole ride was the fact that we got to put on crazy-accurate Game of Thrones cloaks and have a sword fight with foam swords at this gorgeous old castle tower. It was definitely a memory I'll never forget (How could I? The scenery was just breathtaking, to be fair).

Belfast was a trip to remember (among many during my time abroad). A week after this, I would be starting at The Gaiety School of Acting... which was a whole other adventure in itself!

Gorgeous sights at Giant's Causeway. I could not believe how green the cliffs were and how cool the air was against my face. And the ocean? Could you find a truer, bluer blue?

Just a glimpse of the sights at Giant's Causeway. This was right at the bottom of the cliffs, where all the stepping stone rock formations settled. You could hop from one to another across the crashing sea right below your feet. The air down there was so fresh and clean too. Ugh. Beautiful.

Isn't this lovely? A random heart shaped rock, that was just sitting in the midst of all the other "Giant's footsteps". It was naturally formed too, which is just the most simply beautiful thing.

I got up to a really high point on the Giant's steps and hung my feet off the edge. Fun times.

A little pose on the rocks!

Pretty little shallow tidal pools... the moss giving little hugs to the tiny rocks in the water.

A lovely sunset on the first night of Belfast. We were on our way to this amazing buffet restaurant that had pretty much any type of food anyone could ever ask for. They even had a sushi bar and individual, little boxes of dumplings to take!

The Parliament Building from the outside. It's pretty much picture perfect, and it's not different on the inside. The history though is where things get a bit interesting.

These chandeliers were hanging in the main hall of The Parliament Building. I loved the color scheme of the whole building... lots of creams, blues, and yellows... a bit of gold. Very ornate, all around.

The view of the front lawn from the room we were eating in. We had really delicious bread and main courses, but they also kept bringing around pots upon pots of tea, which was my favorite part.

A famous mural where people write their names, what they want in life, and sentimental things like that. We stopped off and wrote our own messages on the wall to leave our mark.

My friend, Elena, about to set off on her own bike during our Game of Thrones Bicycle Tour! Isn't her jacket amazing?

Our witty tour guide (who has been on Game of Thrones) cracking some jokes about how the show super-imposes this one huge tree that we saw into multiple shots of the show. Even though I haven't seen the show, it was really cool to see all the actual locations where filming for the show was completed. There's a lot of magic that goes into creating the perfect scenery for the show.

My friends, Peter and Evan, getting ready for their post-cycling sword fight. They are very ready to duel.

A nice painting that was hanging in a local Belfast pub we visited one night.

A picture of me at The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, which was a really famous shooting location in Game of Thrones.

A better look at The Dark Hedges... Aren't those trees unreal?



Francesca Mouery

<p>Hello all! My name is Francesca Mouery, but a lot of people call me 'Franny'. I am a rising Junior at Denison University, which is located in a quaint, historic town called Granville, OH. Though I go to school in a very Midwestern area, known for it's farmland and pleasantly cloudy days, I am originally from sunny Orlando, FL. Now, I am ready to journey on my next adventure to Dublin, Ireland to seek out an amazing education in conservatory-style performance and theatre making.</p>

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