Titanic Museum – Belfast Northern Ireland

While planning our Ireland trip with my parents I knew I wanted to take them to Northern Ireland.  I hadn’t been to the North since I visited with my brother approximately fourteen years ago.  I had a few must see items on the list but The Titanic Museum kept creeping up in my travel books and online.  It’s a reasonably new museum one, to be honest, I didn’t have much interest in seeing.  I figured I had seen all I needed to see of it from watching the Leonardo DiCaprio movie and a few documentaries on TV over the years.

Andrew Petcher from Have Bag, Will Travel recommended it SO highly that I gave it another thought.  I knew we would be passing through Belfast on our way to the far North and figured it might be a nice place to stop one my parents might also enjoy.  Thanks Andrew for the recommendation because all three of us really enjoyed it!

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The museum is located on the grounds of the actual shipbuilding yard the Titanic was created on.  The museum building is an architectural masterpiece mimicking the lines of the ill-fated ship.  It is surrounded by a pool that mirrors the beautiful lines and bright silver exterior.  The front of the building has a very cool and very large Titanic sign framing a stunning feminine sculpture.

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Once one is done admiring the outside of the building and enters the museum they are treated first to a history of Belfast and what made her a great city during the time of the Titanic.  Shipbuilders decided to build the infrastructure to build large ships before even having any contracts.  Kudos to them for having the guts!  Later in the museum visitors can better understand exactly how the ships were actually built.  They can even take a short amusement park style ride that explains each step.  (Sounds cheesy and maybe it is but it was fun!)

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The museum describes throughout each exhibit people associated with the Titanic from those who built the ship, to those who worked on the ship, those that purchased tickets, and those who helped rescue passengers.  This small and unassuming sequence of displays really makes the visitor connect with the human aspect of the tragedy in a way that is easy to ignore when we see or hear about the ship now.

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Next, visitors can see the interiors of all of the rooms of the Titanic with recreations of the actual furniture, ceramics, silverware, textiles, clothing, etc.  It was enjoyable to see the difference in the large staterooms versus the smaller rooms shared by lowers class passengers and employees.

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Later the museum moves in to the accident and its response.  It highlights the heroes and rescuers who saved many lives and those who were cowards and saved themselves while they let women and children die.

“…as the smart ship grew in stature, grace, and hue

In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.” – Thomas Hardy

The museum had another section on the discovery of the Titanic ship wreck and the technology required to find it.  It even simulates, via video in the floor, the actual shipwreck as it looks today if you were floating over it in a glass bottomed submarine.

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Finally, the museum focuses on the pop culture of the Titanic and its music, literature, theater, and movie history.  You can be certain Celine Dion is belting out her tune probably much to the dismay of the staff who works there and listens to it over and over to the point of insanity.

This top rate museum does a fantastic job of exploring every single aspect of the Titanic from before it was built all the way to today.  They do it in an interactive and interesting way where the visitor’s interest never wanes for a moment.  I couldn’t recommend this museum more.  As my mother put it, “This is the best museum I have ever been to!”  Take it from my Mom because that is big talk.

To read about some of my other Irish shenanigans please click here…

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin Ireland

In honor of the Pope’s visit to the United States I thought I would take the opportunity to share some photos of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  Dublin is full of churches.  No church is more important or impressive than the historic Saint Patrick’s.

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The church was founded in 1191.  1191!  It has seen a lot of history including King James and his Jacobites before losing in the Battle of the Boyne, Church Dean Jonathan Swift and his Gulliver’s Travels, and a choir school founded in 1432 which is still in operation.

A “door of reconciliation” is on display where it is said the 8th Earl of Kildare during a Butler/Fitzgerald dispute, where one of the group sought refuge in the church,  cut a hole in the door so the rivals could “chance their arm” by shaking on a truce.

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Be sure to visit the west end of the nave, the choir isles, the ladies chapel, the Saint Patrick’s statue, the Huguenot Bell, the staircase to the organ loft, the celtic grave slab, and the Swift Memorial and graves.  Do be sure to take a moment to enjoy the garden while overlooking the architecture.

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To read about some of my other Irish shenanigans please click here…

Dark Hedges – Ballycastle Northern Ireland

While motoring through a place I often find myself looking for interesting places to “stop along the way.”  I scheduled a lot of driving in our most recent Ireland trip and needed a break to get out and stretch.  Andrew with Have Bag, Will Travel suggested visiting Dark Hedges if I happen to be in the area.  It seems this location is one of many Game of Thrones filming locations in the area.

Well, with a slight detour, we traveled through Ballycastle, Northern Ireland and took a stop at the Hedges.  Gracehill House is a Georgian Mansion built by the Stuart family in the 18th century.  Beech Trees were planted along the approach to the house as a way to impress visitors.

The trees are mesmerizing and stunning in a simplistic sort of way.  No grand gardens were required here.  Just magical and seriously impressive trees growing over one another begging people to walk down their path.

I have always been drawn to tree lines driveways in Ireland, the American South, and anywhere the home owners have the patience and forethought to plant something they may not have the lifespan to fully enjoy.  I am grateful for the Stuarts to think of me, who might, two hundred years later still enjoy the spoils of their efforts.

I’m not kidding when I say I was so taken by this place we barely noticed the actual Georgian Mansion the trees led visitors to.

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The Dark Hedges are located along Bregagh Road, near Gracehill Golf Club, off the A147, approximately 2.5 miles from the village of Stranocum heading north.
*I also submit this entry to Cee’s Which Way Challenge!

Safari in the Sonoma Serengeti – Safari West Zoo

I was fortunate enough to attend a Safari West Photography Expedition Workshop.  I am pretty sure you could see the smile plastered on my face from space.  I spent last weekend with full access to all of the glorious animals lovingly cared for at the 400 acre Safari West Zoo in Santa Rosa, California.

The program was an instructional workshop on wildlife photography.  We were taken out all over the huge property for viewings of all of the animal specimens they have on site.  We were provided up close and personal access to the smaller animals and birds even able to enter in to some enclosures.

I spent the night in an awesome tent cabin which enabled me to listen to all sorts of “whoop whoop,” growls, beeps, and bumps in the night.  The cabins were incredibly comfortable and can be rented allowing visitors overnight access to the facility.

“Base Camp” provided a wonderful BBQ style dinner and lunch for overnight visitors.  And believe it or not they have spectacular collections of wine and craft beers.  (They even provide a beer tasting safari tour for groups! Sign up now!)

Visitors can walk amongst the animals while waiting for their scheduled three hour jeep tour.  On the tour or on foot one can enjoy Flamingoes, Cheetah, Giraffe, Rhino, Zebra, Ostrich, Antelope, Crane, Guinea Fowl, Hornbill, Ibis, Malayan Great Argus Pheasant, Spoonbill, Tortoise, Hyenas, Blue Duiker, Bongo, Cape Buffalo, Gazelle, Kudu, Impala, Hogs, Watusi Cattle, Wildebeest, Macaw, Colobus Monkey, and Lemurs. (Say that three times fast!)  And those are just some of the animals I saw!

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I can only hope that you get a fraction of the enjoyment from these photos as I had in taking them.  What a spectacular treat it was to be so close to these animals and to observe how magnificent they really are.  Kudos to Safari West for taking such fantastic care of the animals and for sharing them with the rest of us in a top notch way.

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I mean seriously? Look at this bird?

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Is this not the prettiest little face?

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Flamingo from a different angle

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Giraffe are the sweetest most awkward creatures

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The Rhino were running around like they were on a sugar high while I was there. What a treat it was to see them active.

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This ostrich was trying to tell me something? What do you think she was trying to say?

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Sweet little moment between mama and baby Zebra

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Gloriously beautiful Cheetah

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This guy just looks smart doesn’t he?

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back side of a pheasant showing his colors.

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Hyena but he wasn’t laughing

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Look at the colors on this guy’s face!

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The color on this Ibis is spectacular

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Woah. Nice Bill.

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This bird looks like the back of a bald old man.

For more information on Safari West please click here.

For more posts on other Zoos or animals I have visited or photographed I would be honored if you would click here

Hop on Hop off bus tours – Love ‘em or leave ‘em?

Sometimes when I only have a short time in a city and no transportation I have bought tickets to the local hop on hop off bus tour, often the double decker type but never the Viking or duck tour.  (I refuse to wear silly hats people!  The line must be drawn somewhere.)  I feel like these tours can sometimes give visitor’s the quick lay of the land with the option to stop and visit sites along the way.  It has always seemed like a good value as compared to multiple taxi rides with ill-tempered drivers.  Part of me dies inside a little bit at the thought of such a “touristy” thing to do.  But, the other part of me cannot deny how fun and convenient these tours are.  My parents really enjoyed doing this in Dublin recently…

What are your thoughts intrepid friends?  Swear by the hop on hop off bus tour or scoff at the idea?  I promise not to judge you!  😉

For more Irish ramblings click here…

San Francisco – Coit Tower

Coit Tower is an important part of the San Francisco skyline.  Sitting atop Telegraph Hill it juts up 210 feet sticking out from the buildings around it like a beautiful sore thumb.  We will just pretend I am only 29 years old and say that I have been visiting SF for 29 years and have never gone all the way up to the top of the tower.  Why?  Who the heck knows.  Well, I finally did it.  And we did it right.  We parked the car and had Uber take us up to the tower so we wouldn’t have to fight the traffic and parking problem.  (There are about ten spots at the top of the hill!  Only ten people!)

The art deco style tower is filled with murals.  The murals were a public works project for local artists in the 1930’s.  The murals have been rehabilitated and are a wonderful spectacle while you are waiting your turn to go up in the elevator.  The murals tell the story of the bay area and California at large.  While the characters in the murals are sometimes creepy they are certainly entertaining.

Once up at the top of the tower one fights one’s way through throngs of people taking selfies but the 360 degree view is totally worth it.  Views of Angel island, Alacatraz, Treasure island, the Bay and Golden Gate bridges, and the City itself are to behold.  When you are up in this tower it reminds you that San Francisco is truly the most glorious city in the United States.  (Sorry NY but SF is pretty darn awesome on a nice warm, clear day.)

Put this on your SF must see list!  Check out my other posts on SF here.

Someone obviously painted Sylvester Stallone back in the 30’s… 😉

View towards the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island

View Towards Alcatraz

    
  

Where were you on September 11th, 2001?

In honor of Patriot’s Day on September 11th I thought I might reblog a post I did this time last year. May we all be above the politics for the day and remember those who were killed, those who were heroes that day, and those who fought and were lost afterwards. Cheers, Jenny

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It seems at one time in our history everyone could tell you where they were when President Kennedy was shot. Well, presently most all of us can tell you where they were when 9/11 happened.

My experience was unforgettable and enlightening. My friend Manuela and I were traveling from her home in Stuttgart, Germany through Switzerland and into Italy. We had spent the day in Monaco visiting their lovely castle, harbor, and casino daydreaming about being rich and famous. We took the train there from Italy and being the end of the day we were heading back. Near the train station we walked by a small television store where a small crowd had gathered. President Bush’s face was plastered on the front of every television in the window. One sees a President’s face on television on a daily basis but there was something strange in his expression and that of…

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Dublin’s Temple Bar – Not for everyone

All of the buses stop here.  All Dublin roads lead here.  Every guide book tells you it is a must see.  It seems even the river Liffey flanks it attempting to keep you from leaving easily if you try.  Every young person makes plans to meet here late at night.  The history of the place is palpable.

Prepare for blasphemy here.

I don’t really like Temple Bar.  It pains me to say it because I love everything about Dublin and Ireland in general.  I love the energy and the color and the music of the Temple Bar district.  (There is live music here every night in most of the pubs.)  But, I can’t stand the crowds and I don’t like the mood of the people after dark.  If your wallet is going to get lifted it will be here.  If you are looking to get in to a fight with some drunk American college students this is your place.  I much prefer the dark pubs with local people to talk and laugh with, great hot food, traditional live music where you can actually hear it, and bars where I can actually order a pint without getting elbowed by a co-ed on their 18th birthday drinking for the first time.

I’m sorry Dublin. I am glad it is a tourist draw and I want people to keep coming and I want them to spend all their money in your city.  Maybe I am just getting old… Slante.

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THE Temple Bar both a bar and a district. The place to come and have fun and drink and get crazy. Or the place to avoid if you want the real Ireland.

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With energy and drinking in Dublin comes live music on the street everywhere one walks…

For more of my Ireland musings please click here

Irish Peat & Bog Men – Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge

As part of Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge for this week I am taking the opportunity to show you what Irish Peat or turf from their bogs looks like.  I took these photos at the Hill View House Farmhouse Bed and Breakfast in Tulla, County Clare Ireland.  The owners of the Farmhouse enjoyed spending the day with their neighbors and their children cutting peat which is decayed organic matter used to fuel fires.  She mentioned that originally it was done out of necessity due to the expense of gas and wood to heat their home.  But, now she says they do it for community and to teach their children of their history.  I hope this Irish Peat/Turf will warm your in box on a hot California afternoon.

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Irish Peat/Turf

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Irish Peat/Turf

At the Irish Museum of Archaeology in Dublin visitors can view Bog men that have been recovered from various Peat Bog locations throughout Ireland.  They are remarkably maintained considering their age, 400-200 BC due to the natural mummification process culminating from a lack of oxygen and a combination of specific chemicals found in the bogs.  The bog people are in various states of condition considering how they were found with heavy equipment or by hand in the bogs.

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Clonycavan Man

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Old Croghan Man

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To read more about my shenanigans in Ireland please click here…

Trinity College and the Book of Kells/Library Great Hall

I have a sentimental love affair with Trinity College.  In 1999 I embarked on my first international journey attending a summer college course here learning of Irish history, politics, linguistics, archaeology, literature, poetry, theater, art, geography, music, and so on.  The program was meant as an outreach program to forward international interest in Ireland beyond U2 and Riverdance.  It was within the walls of Trinity College that I experienced the Book of Kells, a talk on Poetry by Ireland’s Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney, private archaeological tours of Newgrange and other sites, talks by current politicians, Dublin political history lessons, tickets to the theater and the Irish Movie festival, and more.  It was Irish immersion at its best.  During this time I fell in love with Ireland’s 16th century Trinity College whose history oozes from its every cobble stone.

The College houses the famed Book of Kells where visitors can see a top rate museum culminating in the viewing of the actual Book itself.  (Sorry no photos allowed!)  One could visit every day for years and still not see the entire book as a page is carefully turned each day.  I have visited this museum multiple times and can never get enough. Almost as interesting as the viewing of the book is the study of how these ancient texts were created and by whom.  One can also see the Book of Durrow and the Book of Howth.

Once visitors have had enough of the book they are led to the great hall through Trinity College’s impressive research library.  I am a book lover and there is something about historic texts housed in a gorgeous environment that warms my heart.  The library often displays some of its more interesting texts for visitors to pine over.  On this visit they were highlighting fictional heroes.  The library also displays the Brian Boru harp a prized possession of Ireland and its romantic history.  My favorite part of the library is the metal circular staircase directly to your left as you enter the library surrounded by dusty texts.  (If this could only be my study!)

Once visitors are “museum’d out” they can walk amongst the grounds of the College pondering the work of its many graduates and the thought of what is to come with its future graduates.  Graduates of interest from Trinity College are Samuel Beckett, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Mary McAleese, and Mary Robinson.  If you are lucky you can pick up a game on the gorgeous sporting grounds in the rear of the college property.

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Hercules

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Heroes of Asgard for our Thor lovers out there

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My favorite view in the library

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For more on my many trips to Ireland visit me here…