Travel

Exploring the Coast of Northern Ireland

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

Waaaaaaay back in August, my parents came for a visit. As I mentioned before, we spent a few days in London, but most of our time together was spent in Northern Ireland.

My parents had never been to the Northern part of Ireland before, and Richard still has some family living outside Belfast. It was a great excuse for us to visit family, while also showing my folks a part of Great Britain they had yet to see. We debated driving up through Scotland and crossing the sea on the ferry, but just didn’t have the time. The next time my parents visit, I want to do Scotland properly – I long to explore Edinborough and the Isle of Sky, but haven’t had the opportunity yet.

So, as we weren’t going to drive there, we took the quicker option and flew to Belfast. From there, we rented a vehicle and drove straight up the coast to see the many sights of County Antrim. A few years back, for our first Christmas together, Richard and I toured the coast of Antrim. Of course, it was rainy, windy, and horribly cold that trip, so I was excited to see the same places in a slightly warmer climate. It is Northern Ireland after all 🙂

Exploring the coast of Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

When Richard and I had visited before, we spent a couple nights in the Causeway Hotel, and rather enjoyed it. It’s right near all the main sights, and quite reasonable in low season (however, this time was a bit pricier). The breakfast had been excellent last time, and was the place I got my recipe for wheaten bread! The food wasn’t quite as good this time, but the location just can’t be beat. It’s right beside the visitor centre for the Causeway, and grants you free access.

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

I love the mosaic tile in their entry!

The Causeway Hotel, Northern Ireland | Hello Victoria

We decided to just relax that first night and grab dinner in the hotel, then wake up early the next morning to visit a couple of the sights. First up, was the Carrik-a-Rede rope bridge. It’s a beautiful little spot just a ways down the coast from our hotel, and plenty busy with all the tourists. The last time that Richard and I were there, it was closed and I never got a chance to go across to the little island. It used to have a proper rickety rope bridge, but now it’s pretty sturdy. But it’s still a scary crossing for some of the tourists there!

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge | Hello Victoria

Once you get across (which can take time with the lines of tourists in the summer), you can just wander around the little island and enjoy the views of the cliffside. Be careful, as there are no ropes or anything keeping you from falling off the sides of the cliffs! (more…)

Kenya: Nairobi Markets + Sanctuaries

Visiting the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi | Hello Victoria
After our time at Shaba National Reserve, and Mt. Kenya Safari, we made the drive back to Nairobi and dropped off our rental vehicle. We had a couple of days before our flight home, and wanted to see what sights Kenya’s capital had to offer. I had read about the various Maasai markets held around Nairobi, and Richard had researched some places we could go to see animals! Together, we had a jam packed two days touring around Nairobi.

Our home base in the city was the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel. Not as fancy or luxurious as the Fairmont in Mt. Kenya, but it was in a good location, right beside one of the markets that we were planning to visit. As we had dropped off our vehicle when we arrived in Nairobi, we hired a driver for the time that we were in Nairobi. It was a great call, as he knew all the best ways around town, as well as some places to eat along the way.

Visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi | Hello Victoria
Our first stop was the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, to see the orphaned elephants. I had been picturing some sort of romantic scenario, where I get to hand feed baby elephants, but the result was a biiiit different. The crowd at this place was massive, which meant that we ended up at the back of a group of school children, unable to get very close to the elephants. It was a bit of a let down, as those people in front were taking photo after photo and not letting anyone else have a turn up close. If you decide to go yourself, get there early in order to beat the tour groups.

Elephant orphans at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi | Hello Victoria

Visiting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi | Hello Victoria

However, the elephants were exceptionally cute, and it did feel good to spend money to help a group of orphaned elephants, rather than pay some zoo. Although why they are orphaned in the first place (ivory) is so sad. By the time I have kids, elephants might be something you only see in zoos.

Visiting the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi | Hello Victoria

Visiting the Giraffe Centre, Nairobi | Hello Victoria

After the elephants, we had lunch before venturing to the Giraffe Centre. Now, if you have Pinterest, you’ll probably be familiar with Giraffe Manor. (more…)

Kenya: Shaba National Park + Mt. Kenya Safari

Enjoying Sarova Shaba Lodge | Hello Victoria

Okay, so after we left Samburu, we started on our way towards Shaba National Reserve. We were headed for some relaxation after a few days spent driving around on safari. The two reserves are right beside each other, but it took longer than expected to get there due to the ‘locals‘.

Shaba National Reserve | Hello Victoria

See, we ended up caught in the thick of a massive herd of camels! The locals tend to herd their livestock through the reserves, which can often scare off the more exotic animals. In this instance, I didn’t mind too much, as I happen to love camels. On my bucket list is to do a camel safari through the desert, and stay in a bedouin style tent.

Shaba National Reserve | Hello Victoria

Once we got through the camels, it was pretty quick up to the Sarova Shaba Game Lodge. The terrain here, despite being so close to Samburu, was far more rocky, and looked fairly volcanic. As we got closer to the lodge, the rocks gave way to trees and then the river that runs alongside the resort. Shaba Lodge was a lot ‘fancier’ than Samburu, and we wanted to make the most of our two days of relaxation. So we checked in to our room, and headed for lunch.

Enjoying Sarova Shaba Lodge | Hello Victoria

Enjoying Sarova Shaba Lodge | Hello Victoria

Enjoying Sarova Shaba Lodge | Hello Victoria

We pretty much spent the next two days in and around the pool, reading our books and snoozing. It was quite lovely! There were more people at this lodge, and yet we pretty much had the pool to ourselves! Most of the groups staying there were taking safari tours each day, while we had already spent over three days doing just that. So instead, we ate and got all kinds of lazy for two days… (more…)

Kenya: Samburu National Reserve

Exploring Samburu National Reserve, Kenya | Hello Victoria

Okay, be prepared for a reeeeaaaalllly long post (with way too many photos) – I’m not quire sure how to condense it anymore than this 🙂 As I’ve mentioned before, Richard had to go away at the end of May for a month, for work. But, unlike most jobs where maybe you go someplace boring, his sent him away to Kenya! Not exactly great, being on my own for a month, but it meant that we could do a Kenyan safari at the end of his trip!

See, Kenya is surprisingly expensive! We were probably the only young people we saw at any of the places we stayed, other than a few couples on honeymoon. Everyone else seemed to be either there for work, or retired. The only way we were able to afford the trip was because Richard’s flights were already taken care of, and we got discounts at the places we stayed.

Exploring Samburu National Reserve, Kenya | Hello Victoria

I loved this cactus, it was seriously massive!

But enough about that, let’s talk about the actual trip!

I flew in to Nairobi airport in the afternoon, and Richard came to collect me. He had rented a vehicle through work for most of our trip. See, while there are national reserves in and around Nairobi, some of the best ones are a fair drive away. Our first day was pretty much all travel as we drove from Nairobi to Nanyuki. It was a sort of halfway point from Nairobi to the Samburu National Reserve, which was our first safari destination. During his previous month there, Richard had found a nice little hotel in Nanyuki called Le Rustique, where we could spend the night. I’ll be honest, I was pretty tired after my long indirect flight, and crashed pretty quickly.

The next morning, we drove to the reserve, and I began my new favorite game of “find the animals”.

Exploring Samburu National Reserve, Kenya | Hello Victoria

If you know me personally, and especially if you knew me as a child, then you know I love animals. I wanted to be a veterinarian for the first 13 or so years of my life, as it meant being surrounded by animals. I asked to visit the pet store like most kids ask to go to the candy store. I may have also convinced my dad to buy a few pets while in said stores… (more…)

Two Days in Brighton

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

For a while now, Richard and I have been talking about spending a couple days down in Brighton. It’s so close by, which makes it perfect for a quick little weekend, or even a day trip by train! And of course, ever since watching the original A&E Pride and Prejudice as a kid, I’ve wanted to go. Just like Lydia!

https://i1.wp.com/media.giphy.com/media/3oKIPx5XAIfWNMowP6/giphy.gif?w=660&ssl=1

A little bit of sea bathing would set me up too, Mrs. Bennet. 😉

But other than seeing the ocean (I miss that), I wanted to go because Brighton is a smaller, younger feeling city. It’s got the sort of hippie-meets-hipster vibe that you find in places like Seattle or Portland, with lots of small businesses. Most of them are centered around a few small streets, called the Lanes. They can be quite busy and a bit touristy at times, but still lots of fun. In a weird way it reminded me of Coombs, if Coombs was a proper city with a university et al.

Two days in Brighton | Hello Victoria

Richard had been wanting to take me there because it’s where he went to University! He mostly wanted to show me where he used to live, and have a pint in an old pub down the lane, but it was closed when we tried to go. Darn.

Now, I mentioned that you could take the train down and do Brighton in a day, but when we tried to book our tickets a few days before, they were so expensive!! We did the math, and it would be only £20 more to drive down and get a hotel room for the night than the train! Of course we decided to choose that option, as it would give us more time to explore Brighton.

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

isn’t that brick wall and tufted headboard gorgeous?

Artist Residence in Brighton | Hello Victoria

Not only would this option give us more time in Brighton, it would also give me the option to stay at the Artist Residence!! I first heard about this chain of boutique hotels when we were traveling around the UK in December. We were looking for a cool place to stay in Cornwall, but unfortunately, they were fully booked for new year’s. Ever since then, I have been looking for a reason to stay at one of their locations in Cornwall, London, or Brighton (with more opening soon). (more…)

Day Out in Belfast

Shopping in Belfast | Hello Victoria

Sorry, this post is kind of light on the photos (even though I brought my camera with me)!

Side Note – Does anyone else feel super awkward and embarrassed taking photos? It’s something I am working on, as I often look back and wish I had taken more photos… hopefully this blog can help me get over that! As Richard often reminds me “you are a tourist” – so I need to stop worrying about looking like one.

Last weekend was Richard’s birthday! I had asked the head baker at work if I could have that day off, and not only did he agree, but he offered to rig the schedule and give me a four day weekend!! The one thing Richard kept saying he wanted for his birthday, was to go home (to Northern Ireland). His sister Katherine still lives not too far from where he grew up, and he wanted to visit her and her husband, as well as see his wee nephew (who is growing so fast!).

So Saturday morning, we caught a flight to Belfast and spent much of the weekend simply relaxing and playing with his nephew. (Our previous weekend was spent doing much of the same with Richard’s Aunt. Apparently family oriented, stress-free weekends are our thing?)

On Monday, with Richard’s nephew at daycare, we decided to venture into Belfast and spend the afternoon doing a little shopping, lunch, and visit a couple of pubs. We started off just outside Victoria Square, as Richard wanted to buy some clothes for his nephew as a belated birthday gift. This area is mostly full of brand names and chain stores, but there were a couple of shops nearby on Ann street, that caught my eye. (more…)

Visiting Lindos by Boat

The hillside town of Lindos, Rhodes | Hello Victoria

The hillside town of Lindos

Last post about Greece, I promise!

On our final day in Rhodes, we managed to book a day trip out to visit the town of Lindos by boat. We had tried to arrange the same excursion earlier that week, but it had been booked solid by the time we made up our minds to go.

Luckily for us, since our flight left late on our last day, we were able to pack first thing, check our bags, and spend the day in Lindos before our flight back to London. Seeing as how we would have had to check out early that day anyways, it worked out quite perfectly!

Boat trip to Lindos, Rhodes | Hello Victoria
I wish our boat looked like that…

Now, I will say, the whole ‘boat trip’ part wasn’t exactly how I imagined it would be. For some reason, when we booked it through our Thompson Cook hotel representative, I was imagining a small boat with like 15-20 people. No, no, no, it was a ferry of a boat with like 100 people, or more!

Not only that, but our bus group got there almost last, which meant that all of the seats out in the sun or on the deck, were taken. We ended up by a window below deck. Now, this suited Richard just fine, as he burns easily and wouldn’t have wanted to be out in the sun, but if I’m honest, I spent the first 30 minutes to an hour feeling kind of ripped off…

See, I had imagined the boat trip there to be one where I laid on the deck and got a tan, enjoying the warmth of the sun… not stuck inside. But, then that 30+ minutes turned into hours (who knew it took so long to get to Lindos?!) and before long people were dying to take our seats out of the blistering sun! Turns out being last meant we actually got the good seats (for those who dislike hours in the sun) (Me = cat laying in the sun rays through the window). (more…)

Old Town Rhodes

Old town Rhodes | Hello Victoria

One of the two day trips that we took while staying in Rhodes, was to the old town. A walled part of Rhodes set along the water, it’s the oldest inhabited medieval town in all of Europe!

Bougainvillea in Old town Rhodes | Hello Victoria

beautiful bougainvillea vines growing all over the place!

We spent the day roaming the streets (getting lost a few times), looking in the shops, and enjoying some halloumi and greek beer! (I’m pretty obsessed with halloumi, as evidenced by its constant appearance in my fridge.) I quite enjoyed some of the older architecture, as well as all of the bougainvillea growing around the city. (more…)

First Days in Rhodes, Greece

Traveling to Rhodes, Greece | Hello Victoria

Now seeing as how Richard and I both had three weeks off from work, we didn’t spend the whole holiday painting! A week of that was more than enough, so we jetted off to relax a little on the Greek island of Rhodes.

When it comes to our vacation styles, we both enjoy visiting places with lots of cultural stuff to do… but this trip was all about doing nothing. Richard’s work means he sometimes has to go away for huge chunks of time (he was about to go away for 6 weeks), so we saw this as a great excuse to go somewhere and just relax in each other’s company.

what we woke up to each morning… sigh

Rhodes, as we discovered, doesn’t look like the Greek postcard we had in mind. Most of the older architecture on the island could be described as medieval in style, so it’s not the island to visit if you want to have lots of pretty photos of little white hillside villages with blue accents (darn). What it does have are cheap flights and lots of all inclusive beach-side resorts!

We spent our week at the Ixian Grand, which was in a nice quiet location. No one ever came to bother us at the beach, selling trinkets, and the water was beautifully clear and warm. I’m pretty sure we spent half our vacation just sitting under umbrellas, reading books, and drinking piña coladas. (I know, I know… that’s not a Greek drink… but I am a sucker for the combination of pineapple and coconut.) (more…)