Westeros, Finn McCool, and Murphy’s

Skipping out on Greece was a sad thing to do, but I knew I couldn’t handle the heat so I opted to go to Belfast and spend more time in Ireland. I have been to Ireland before, but Northern Ireland was a whole new terrain. I met a couple people from Northern Ireland while I was in Porto and they were giving me tips on things to do, like go to Giant’s Causeway and do a Game of Thrones tour of the filming locations, and they also gave me some tips on what to eat.

I got to Belfast after a layover in Edinburgh and was pleasantly surprised by how small the airport was and how rainy it was outside. Now, I love rainy days and I hadn’t seen rain in weeks so I was pretty excited about it. The airport had a direct link to the bus station downtown which wasn’t too far of a walk from the hostel. I was staying right near the university so there were loads of restaurants and bars along the walk to my hostel. Once I got there, they had tons to offer. I was feeling pretty lazy and they had a tv room where there were a couple of people hanging out watching Netflix and having some snacks. They also had a game room and offered a ton of options for things to do in Belfast and Northern Ireland. Since I had booked a rental car for the next day, I didn’t have to book any tours but it was cool to see them offer so much. If you can’t already tell, Global Village Belfast is one of my favorite hostels.

I watched countless movies, including one of my new favorites from New Zealand (Hunt For The Wilderpeople), and having food with people from all over the world. To be honest, I don’t remember anyone’s names, but it was kind of fun being anonymous. I had an early day the next morning.

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I had an early day the next morning and I rented a car. I decided to do this instead of doing a tour because it would kind of be on my own pace. I was able to see a bunch of filming locations from Game of Thrones as well as the Giant’s Causeway. There is a drive from Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway that goes along the coast and really has some beautiful views. I might have felt a little lonely but I wouldn’t give up those views for anything.

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I made it to the Giant’s Causeway and learned all about Finn McCool. That is something I love about Ireland. They have all kinds of stories to go along with things and places that are passed down through the generations. They could be stories about giants living in the seaside cliffs, but they still bring a smile to your face. I can just picture people telling that story in a pub on a rainy evening!

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After a cold and rainy afternoon there, I got in the car and headed back to Belfast through the wind and rain. It felt like a fall day when I got back there so I had a cup of tea and spent another night in.

The next day was also rainy and I was heading to the city where my (Murphy) family came from. Honestly, I didn’t do much in Armagh, but it was really cool to see the place that my family came from. I did find a little pub that came highly recommended by my parents called the Hole in the Wall. The owner actually remembered them and their trip around Ireland from when she first bought the pub. I got to talk to a few locals and got a few drinks bought for me simply because I was a Murphy (and not technically related to the other Murphys around me).

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My hostel in Armagh couldn’t even compare to the place I stayed in Belfast. Actually, it was pretty awful. I do not recommend staying in Youth Hostels in any city because I never had a good experience in any of them. It is really cool to see the places where your family comes from though because it gives you a weird connection to that place. I never knew the family that lived there, but I still felt connected to it.

The Flag Is A Big Plus!

I arrived fairly early in Zurich but having napped on the plane, I was pretty ready to explore when I got there. The airport was extremely well laid out and the train schedule was easy to follow. I had to walk a little bit to get to my hostel, but the bonus is that Zurich is absolutely gorgeous! The water in the river is a really pretty blue color (not sure if it’s good or bad) and the mountains in the background made it seem like something out of a fairytale.

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The air also smelled really fresh, which really is not that common in a lot of the cities I was in. I was quickly falling in love with Switzerland until I went to get something to eat. The street where my hostel was had tons of cool restaurants that smelled amazing as you walked down the street. I went to look at some of the menus outside the restaurants and the prices were insane. A Swiss Franc is almost the same as a US dollar…and a bowl of spaghetti was about 34 CHF. I don’t know about you, but that’s a bit high for me so I opted for a cheaper and less filling option from a grocery store. Everything in Switzerland is expensive, but walking is free.

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I walked along the river and found some really beautiful spots. Like most European cities, there are lots of churches. I had my fill of going inside churches a long time ago, so I didn’t go in any. I did admire the architecture though, and how calm the city felt. If it weren’t for the insane prices, I would love to call Zurich home!

The next day I had a fairly slow morning but got myself on the train to Basel. Basel is about an hour and a half train ride from Zurich and I really didn’t do much when I got there since I had an early flight again the next day. The whole reason I went there instead of stay in Zurich is that my flight was from Basel airport and it was so early that there was no way I was going to wake up at 1 am to get there from Zurich.

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One day, when I’m rich, I’ll go back to Switzerland and actually be able to do more. I wish the prices weren’t so high because I adored Zurich and Switzerland in general. I did get to have some Swiss chocolate (I splurged for that) and it was divine!

Putting the Port in Portugal

After a long day of traveling, I made it to my hostel in Porto around 9:30 at night. I liked the area already. It wasn’t too big of a city but there was plenty of nightlife and restaurants. The hostel was nice so I felt pretty good about this.

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The hostel offered a free tour so I took that and met some pretty fun people to spend the day with. Porto is beautiful. So many buildings have tiles on the outside which is apparently to help with the humidity, but it adds so much color and character to the buildings too. Porto wasn’t a major tourist destination until Ryanair started flying there a few years ago. Since then, the city was opened up to the world and there were a ton of tourists roaming through the city streets. It was Sunday so a lot of things were closed, but it was so pretty I hardly noticed.

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There are a lot of places in Porto for good food, good views, and good Port. Along the river, there are some bars with views so I went for lunch and Porto with some new friends before heading back to the hostel. Because I had a 6 am flight the next day, I was definitely trying to go to sleep a little bit earlier.

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The next day I went to Madrid, but sadly I was so ill that I couldn’t even make it there. Instead of my hostel in the city, I got a hotel next to the airport where I was able to take care of myself. It’s tough when you’re not feeling well when traveling. You have to make the choice of whether you are going to push through or if you’re going to stop and take care of yourself. I made the choice to take it easy, but I don’t regret it. I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the next few days of my trip if I hadn’t.

(ROME)ing My Way To Pompeii

Rome is a place that I never really needed to go to when I started planning this trip. I had my key places I wanted to see in Italy (Venice, Florence, and Pompeii) and I figured Rome was going to be too busy and too crazy. But the more I thought about the trip, however, I started thinking more and more about it.

The most important thing to keep in mind about Rome is that it is HUGE. It is a big walking city too. Because of my ankle, I was rethinking Rome as soon as I got there. Most people thought I was crazy for only planning one day there, but it was all I could probably handle. The trip was getting a bit exhausting and the more I kept going, the easier it was to get through. I did have a moment where I nearly lost my nerve and went home. No one fully understands how difficult traveling like this is until you do it. I was tested in every way.

Since I was trying to see as much as I could and there really wasn’t any way for me to do it all in one day, I booked an open top bus tour. Plus, it was hot so I was welcoming any amount of breeze as possible. The bus actually worked out pretty well because I was able to see a lot. It also talked about some of the history of Rome.

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The weird thing I found about Rome was that the food was all really expensive. Italy itself has some expensive food, but everything was more in Rome. You can get two scoops of gelato anywhere else in Italy for about 3 euro, but in Rome, it is more like 5 euro. Since it was so hot, that’s all I ate and spent a bunch of money on gelato. I’m not complaining though!

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Rome was great but I was really looking forward to the next city in my journey. Since I was a kid I was fascinated by the story of Pompeii and when I started planning this trip, I knew I was going to make a trip to Naples to see it. I spent a couple days in Naples so I could take a day and have a little bit of relaxation and laundry before starting to travel pretty rapidly. My main reason for going to Naples was to go to Pompeii so I decided to spend my money on that experience instead of some random things around Naples.

I woke up in the morning, ready to go and excited for the day! The bus picked me up for the tour and drove us down along the coast so we had a perfect view of Mount Vesuvius. The tour guide was telling us some of the background information of Pompeii and how it was a major city until the explosion. she also told us that it was not a volcanic eruption like we would think of with lava flows. Basically, the entire volcano exploded. What we see now of Vesuvius is only a portion of what was there before.

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It was thankfully a little bit cooler of a day so there was some breeze and I didn’t feel like I was overheating. It made it so much better to take everything in. My tour guide (who walked around in heels) was really knowledgable about Pompeii and everything that has happened since they started uncovering the city. She showed us the major areas of Pompeii like the port, the brothels, and the bakeries. It is really incredible to see the inventions of the people that were in Pompeii. I was almost in tears because I was so happy to be there. The best part? The whole city has not been dug up yet. There is still a large chunk of the city that they have not uncovered yet. I will definitely be following this closely, especially now that I’ve been there and walked the same roads that the people of Pompeii did nearly 2000 years ago.

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I rode the high of seeing Pompeii for the rest of the day as I got some pizza and gelato to celebrate a full 12 days in Italy. The next day I was about to go to Portugal so it was my last night in Italy. My thoughts? Lovely country, some really beautiful cities, but maybe go in April instead of August.