Belfast City Hall in January

I started off my New Year with a bang by spending a weekend in Belfast. A 40 minute plane journey from Birmingham airport and we were there.

Victoria Square Shopping Centre

Saturday was about exploring the City and doing a bit of shopping. We went to St George’s Market which was mainly full of small independent food stalls. It had a lovely quiet atmosphere and was fairly busy. We also had a gander around CastleCourt Shopping Centre and Victoria Square. Victoria Square has a dome for a roof and you can go up to the top and see great views of Belfast.

Image of a St Georges' Market stall with cheese

Image of a St George's Market stall selling mugs and postcards

St George's Market

In the evening we went to Granny Annie’s. It was a place that we happened to walk past and we were attracted by the outdoor decor and the inside certainly didn’t disappoint. There was live music and food. It was had a great atmosphere and was so busy. Definitely book if you want to go there. Granny Annie's Cocktail Bar

Granny Annie's Cocktail

On Sunday, I booked a coach trip to the Giants Causeway. I had booked the trip through Allen’s tour. The tour left South Donegall in the morning and snaked its way up to the Causeway. We stopped by Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. This bridge is part of the National Trust, and was erected in 1755 to reduce the reliance of a boat reaching the island as salmon fishing was a industry there. The island and the views were lovely but I didn’t find crossing the rope bridge that scary!

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

The Giants Causeway itself was lovely. I thought the basalt columns would be taller then they were but the fact that lava settled into those shapes is interesting (Geography geek coming out there!). Finally on the way back we went to the Dark Hedges – famous from being in Games of Thrones. Although by then it was dark so it was a bit pointless.

Giants Causeway

Hexagonal Blocks of the Giants Causeway

View from the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge

At night we ate at Little Wings Pizzaria. The pizza was lovely (I had the Formaggi Caprini which is goat’s cheese, red onion, rocket and garlic oil). I had to get the nutella pizza for dessert – which is essentially nutella and chocolate ice cream on a base. The pizza’s are cooked in a wood stone oven. They were gorgeous.

Little Wings Pizzeria

On the last day we went on a famous Black Cab Taxi Tour around Belfast. The tour I took was the political tour where I learned about the The Troubles and the history of Northern Ireland and saw the murals on the walls and the Peace Lines. It was very interesting

I think Northern Ireland is lovely and I am glad I went for the weekend. Have you ever been to Northern Ireland, let me know what you thought or any suggestions on where I should go next!

New York Cityscape

Recently I spent ten days visiting New York and Toronto. It has been my first bit of time off this year for me (other than the Bank Holidays) so it was long overdue. I have always wanted to visit New York and usually when I go on holiday I never do ANY of the planning. This year I wanted to make the effort, so I did a lot of the planning before I went. Todays post is going to be a little bit about what I did, what I ate and how I planned the trip – so if you fancy going to NY or are making a trip over the Atlantic soon then read on!

Pinterest and Trip Advisor was my friend for planning. I used Trip Advisor initially to write down all the main attractions most people visited so I didn’t miss any out. Pinterest really came into it’s own for the food and ‘hidden’ parts of NYC that you may want to see but wouldn’t really be written about on TA. I would not have known about Black Tap milkshakes or the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM (written about further down) otherwise.

In terms of booking tickets, we managed to book everything that we wanted to see about a week in advance of the trip but especially if you are going at peak time I would book them as soon as possible. We couldn’t go up to the top of the Statute of Liberty (the crown) because all the tickets had sold out. We only got tickets to the pedestal level (there are different levels of the Statue of Liberty that you can visit) and that was because we caught the ferry at New Jersey and not from Battery Park which meant we had to travel over to NJ which wasn’t the end of the world but was time consuming.

So Becky, what did ya see?

Empire State Building – I didn’t really know what to expect and the art deco interior really reminded me of The Great Gatsby (not surprising since it is from that era) very smart and classy. The views of NY from the top was well worth it. I went right at the beginning of the day so there were no queues. The pictures speak for themselves really.

9/11 Memorial – upsetting but informative.

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty – Need I say more? If you are getting the ferry at New Jersey leave plenty of time to find the port as there is no signage once you get off the tram. I found this out the hard way and was so close to missing the ferry, I was sprinting from the tram stop to the ferry terminal and its longer than you think! Anyway the views of NY from the ferry are absolutely stunning.

Times Square

Times Square – Again one of those need I say more! One tip I got off Pinterest is that in the middle of Times Square there is a sound installation on the floor by Max Neuhaus. It is so odd to hear this calming music over the hustle and bustle of people moving around the square.

glass waterfall tunnel

There is also nearby a glass waterfall tunnel nestled on one side of the McGraw-Hill building, its a cute thing to go and see.

Central Park

Central Park – I hired a bike and went around Central Park. I didn’t appreciate the sheer size of the park and it was well worth getting the bikes so you can experience it all. We hired the bikes online on the day which was a good idea as there are some pretty good discounts around.

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge – Unfortunately I went when it was raining so didn’t stay long on the bridge as I wanted but you cannot go to New York and not stand on Brooklyn Bridge.

The Highline
Art at The Highline

Art at The Highline

The High Line was an attraction that I had not heard of until I stumbled upon Kate La Vie’s post about New York attractions. The High Line used to be an old train line that has been regenerated into a public walkway and gardens that it suspended above the city.  It is beautiful peaceful way to view the city and a good example of sustainability in practice (if any of my old Geography lecturers are reading this they would be proud).

Chelsea Market – Is a great little indoor market full of food ranging from burgers to pizza amongst others and cute little vintage shops and a great independent bookstore that is worth a visit for all their cute notepads (Posman Books).

Love Sculpture

The Love Sculpture was one of those things that I happened to stumble across in New York (I do think New York is one of those places where you stumble across random but cool things!). At the time I was there, a cute couple got engaged right in front of the sculpture – they had a choir singing and everything! Find it on 55th and 6th Avenue.

Grand Central Station

Grand Central Station – This famous train station is great place to take photos and for having a nosy round the shops. There is also a ‘whispering arch’ located on the lower concourse of Grand Central where if a friend stands on one side and you stand on another you can hear what your friend is clearly saying – even when they are away from you!

Macy’s – The Debenhams of the US – need I say more!

Bloomingdales was a shopping centre where it was nice to have a browse but I couldn’t seriously ever afford to buy anything in there!

Sprinkles ATM

I cannot recommend too many food places because a lot of the time we either ate at the hotel ( breakfast came with the price) or ate on the go. However, I had to visit the Sprinkles ATM (close to Bloomingdales) at the time I went the ATM was closed however I did have a chocolate brownie ice cream which was awesome.

Black Tap Milkshake

Black Tap is another cool place I found on Pinterest which I certainly would not have been too otherwise. Black Tap is a burger and shake place but their milkshakes are seriously amazing. As you can see below I had this cookie milkshake and it is nothing I have ever had before. This place is becoming so popular that there was a queue up the street when I visited! If you don’t want to be waiting in the queue long just go for the milkshake instead.

I did struggle to find somewhere healthy to eat in NY. I did go to Wholefoods which I had heard about but never been to on my previous trips to America. There is a literally a canteen where you can get tonnes of healthy food to takeaway – it was awesome 🙂

Have you ever been to New York? Has this post been handy? I would love to know in the comments below 🙂

Like this post? How about reading…

What to pack for a Trek America Trip
Trek America Westerner – Part One
Trek America Westerner – Part Two

A few weeks ago I went to Dubrovnik Croatia, with my partner as part of a trip that he was rewarded with at work. I had never been to Croatia before so wasn’t sure what to expect, but Dubrovnik was lovely. I have included some snippets if what I got up in the four days below:

Cable Car
All of us got on a cable car which gave us stunning views of the Old Town above. The cable car was relatively new, the last cable car being destroyed in the 1991 war.

Cable Car
(Image Source: Tripadvisor)

Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Shimmering limestone pavements in Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Old Town
We had a guided walk through the town telling us stories about the 1991 war and how it affected the Old Town (Dubrovnik is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the few examples of walled cities). Dubrovnik was under siege for seven months which meant a lot of properties within the walled city were damaged. An example of this was the roofs, the majority of roofs on properties in the Old Town had to be rebuilt from scratch in the same style per UNESCO guidelines.

The walk down Stradun (the main street in Dubrovnik) was lovely. The streets in Old Town are limestone paved therefore really slippy! My partner and I loved the old town so much we went back a few days later and explored it further, we even brought back a painting (there were many sellers selling paintings create by local art students).

Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
 Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Old Town Dubrovnik BecBec
Harbour in Old Town
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Rib- boats and Water sports
On one of the day’s we all piled into rib- boats and just powered our way round the coast. We stopped at a small island for a three- course lunch then did some water sports. I went on a jet- ski (the first time ever on a jet- ski and loved it!) and kayaking with my partner.

Rib- boat Dubrovnik Travel Review BecBec
Rib- boat fun
(Image Source, AddingValue)

Eating Mussels
Not one for eating seafood myself, our first full day involved eating mussels on this boat. I wasn’t keen on the mussels but glad I tried it, I did wash it all down with wine after!

Mussels- Dubrovnik- Croatia- BecBec
Mussels, an acquired taste!
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Sand Buggies
On our last full day, we decided to go on a sand buggy. We drove across land which in the 1991 war had been occupied. The guide showed us some relics from the war including shrapnel and a gas mask. He also told us about the war from his perspective as he was a seven when it happened. The guide said as a child he didn’t go to school very often because the war made normal life very difficult and that sometimes he would ask a member of the army for a ride in a tank and occasionally they let him! He spoke about landmines from the 1991 war that in certain areas were still active and that had blown people up in mid-2000. As I was born in the early nineties it brought home really how recent the war was.

Sand Buggies Dubrovnik BecBec
Our sand ‘buggies’
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Dubrovnik Review Becbec

View of Dubrovnik
(Image Source, Authors Own)

Yachting
In the afternoon on the last day we went yachting around the coastline of Dubrovnik. I felt really sea sick (too much sun and good food I think!) so ended up laying down on the boat as the sky was the only thing I could focus on!

Franjo Tudman Bridge
Franjo Tudman Bridge
(Image Source, Authors Own)
Dubrovnik
I saw a pirate ship!
(Image Source, Authors Own)

So that was a little snapshot of what I got up to in the four days!

This post is about the second part of the Trek America Westerner 2 trip that I went on at the end of March/ beginning of April. Read what happened in the first seven days here 😀

Going on a trek but not sure what to pack? Read here.

Day Eight (Death Valley)
The next stop after Vegas was Death Valley. It was an awesome place to say that you have been there but I didn’t really think it was that hot! (we did go very early in the morning so that may have been why!) Not a lot happened that day due to it being another long day of driving. We stopped at a campsite (Lake Isabella/ Kearn River KOA) which was in the middle of nowhere! However, that gave us a chance to chill before Yosemite!

Day Nine (Yosemite National Park, California)

After a long day driving, we arrived at Yosemite and went straight to Mariposa Grove which is home to the giant sequoia’s. These tree’s being true to their name were huge and the whole place had a whimsical feel to it. Afterwards, as it was late, we put our tents at the campsite and just chilled.

Day Ten (Yosemite National Park, California).
All morning it snowed. It was so thick, it is quite hard to believe that there was snow in California. I trekked up to Nevada Falls although we didn’t quite get to the falls before we turned back as the snow was falling thick and fast. We stayed in a hotel that night as it was so cold. It was that cold that the next day the camp leader informed us that the coolers had retained there ice! Although it was pretty special that we saw Yosemite in the snow, I wished that it hadn’t snowed because we didn’t get to see the park in its full glory.

Day Eleven (San Francisco)
We were all excited as we were heading to San Fran! Before the trip, I had heard others rave about San Francisco however it wasn’t a place I was thinking ‘yeah I really want to go there!’.
We headed over to the IHOP for pancakes American style. It was such a disappointment, as the pancakes tasted really soggy. bleurgh. Once we were all fed we travelled over to the Golden Gate Bridge for the obligatory pictures. We stayed in a hostel which was in the Tenderloin district which is one of the poorest parts of San Fran. One thing which I wasn’t prepared for in san Fran but also California was seeing the amount of homeless people on the street. A lot of them were high on drugs as well and I didn’t feel safe at times. On the first night, my partner and I along with some of the trek decided to go on the sunset cruise around the Golden Gate bridge. It cost roughly $45 dollars each and was really good value for money with unlimited drinks (including alcoholic drinks) and nibbles. It was a really special moment that I will remember for a long time.

Day Twelve (San Francisco)
My Birthday! My partner and I went to Alcatraz for the day. Alcatraz in a round about way was an unexpected highlight. The history of the island (I knew it was a prison but didn’t know about the native American Indians occupying the island after). We went on the tour where you are given a headset. Again I recommend this as you learn so much about Alcatraz and the tour was spoken by people who had lived on Alcatraz- this ranged from prisoners to guards to children of the prison guards. I had a nice Indian meal in the evening to celebrate my birthday.

Day Thirteen (Monterey Bay and the Coastal Highway).
This day was quite sad because we all knew we would be leaving soon! We started the morning leaving San Francisco early and heading to Monterey Bay. Monterey Bay is famous for cannery, fishing and John Steinbeck’s famous books such as Cannery Row. It was very quiet and a world away from the West Coast I have gotten to know. Our route was down Big Sur on Highway 1. I had never heard of Big Sur before but the whole route contained stunning sea views. We took a walk across the path to McWay falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The McWay falls were gorgeous. It is essentially a waterfall falling onto a beach which is inaccessible to the public. It is one of those little places where you would never go there as it isn’t a tourist must see you hear about.

Day 14  (Venice Beach and Hometime)
Home time 🙁 We got driven to Venice Beach and had a couple of hours around there. I wasn’t sure what to expect with Venice Beach. It was very busy with street groups and people selling items everywhere. On the beach, people were continuously roller blading, running or walking. I also got to see Muscle Beach. I have always been intrigued with the area after seeing it on Don’t Tell the Bride and I can tell you I wouldn’t get married there! We stopped off for doughnuts and then we all bid farewell and got dropped off at our hotels.

What did I think of the trip?
I am really glad I did the Trek America trip. I never did the ‘Gap Year’ experience so to have a taste of it for two weeks was fantastic. I didn’t find the camping too bad- at the end of the day it’s camping it’s not going to be comfortable or glamorous. It is camping with tents and not hostelling, Trek America do make it clear on the website, but some people on our trek did not know this.
I definitely felt that I had experienced the west coast.

A couple of things I do wish I saw was the Neon Sign graveyard in Vegas, Had another day to experience San Fran (I was poorly throughout San Fran and stayed in bed the afternoon of the second day) and stayed at the very tacky Madonna Inn!

I will go into the experience of camping in another post but felt that the logistics of the trek were fine. In terms of we didn’t spend horrendously long times in the van or too long in a rubbish place. If you do want to experience Los Angeles properly however I would book either an extra day or two before or after the trek. I didn’t do this and wish I had as we literally drove through LA, Beverly Hills and Hollywood and I wanted to go on the famous star’s home tour and try and get closer to the famous Hollywood sign.

Are you booking a Trek America tour or heading to the West Coast?

Golden Gate Bridge-ness
(Photo Source: Authors Own) 

Recently I have come back from a two-week trip along the west coast of America (Westerner 2 FYI) with tour company Trek America.

Before I went I spent a while busy googling what I need to pack. Bizarrely considering the number of people that have done Trek America there are not many posts on what to pack so I have added my thoughts below:

Head torches
An idea I got off one of the blogs and I did find the torch extremely useful at night in the tents when I was getting changed or trying to find something (usually my glasses!). An addition to the head torch was a small light that you could hook to the loop at the top of the tent. This provided enough light for the whole tent which was perfect for being able to look at the other person without blinding them in the face with the head torch! 
Extension Cable
Genius idea from the other half. Perfect for charging numerous appliances at once at the campsite. All the Brits used ours. 
Decent sleeping bags 
My last sleeping bag being a purple one from Woolworths circa 2004 wasn’t going to cut it in America. On the Trek America website, there are instructions on what type of sleeping bag you should take. James brought extra large versions which were so big that we both managed to fit into one with loads of room to spare. Not only did we have extra room but we were more comfortable than some others on the trip who had summer sleeping bags. 
Normal sized toiletry bottles
Considering you will be sleeping in tents for the majority of the holiday and will be here there and everywhere. You will definitely shower so often that you will save money by buying just normal sized bottles. A toiletry bag that you can hang up is also a plus. I just bought a cheap one from Morrisons.
Baby wipes
An item I nearly didn’t bother to bring and I am so glad that I had. I used baby wipes all the time as they came in handy with all the dust that was around at the campsites. Also at certain stops where there was nowhere to wash your hands hand sanitiser comes in handy.  
Walking Shoes
Walking shoes were a must in Yosemite and the Grand Canyon. Normal trainers just don’t cut it especially in Yosemite where depending on what walk you do ( I went to Nevada Falls) it is so rocky and parts so steep with no handrail that is safer with sturdy shoes. 
Paracetamol, plasters and cold and flu tablets.
I had a horrendous cold and felt rotten on the second week of my trek. I actually used all the cold and flu tablets up and in CVS I found medication to be so expensive so it’s worth taking some from home. 
A bag with wheels
My bag was so heavy that there was no way I would be able to carry it in my hands. It just takes all the hassle away from lugging it around. 
A pillow
I brought this in Walmart once we arrived in LA. The pillow really helps get the best night sleep you can in the tent. 
A battery charging unit for your phone
I forgot to take mine and although there was ample opportunity to get your phone charged at the campsites they are always handy as long days in the van listening to music drains the battery pretty quickly.
There we go all the little extras you wouldn’t think about buying. Has anyone been on a Trek America trip or is thinking about going on one?