I was minding my own business, binge-watching a bunch of crime produral dramasfrom like, a decade ago, when my OneDrive account reminded me of my time working in Dover, Kent two years ago. Which reminded of mytrip to the local castle about two years before that. Which somehow made me homesick all of a sudden.
I miss living in the UK.
Specifically, I miss having easy access to historical sites and not having to worry about language-based miscommunication all the time. While I try not to get too hung up over yearning for “home” because I chose a semi-nomadic lifestyle and I have no regrets…
Home is where your phone automatically connects to the WiFi.
-me, butchering an Internet adage
…however, thinking about a proper cottage pie or a Sunday roast is like getting sucker punched when you’re just trying to binge-watch TV shows in peace.
According to my OneDrive account, I took some lovely pictures of Dover Castle while I was assigned some work in the city back in 2018. Dover College, a further education institution where I tutored some mature students in preparation for the Maths GCSEs, had a perfect view of Dover Castle from the third floor upwards.
I love a good castle silhouette.
I’m a sucker for a good outline.
I also have a guilty pleasure for black and white pictures, and the picture above hits the trifecta. No wonder homesickness blindsided me like that yellow school bus from Mean Girls.
Aside from working in Dover and having that fantastic view every afternoon, I’ve also visited the Castle proper on a day trip back in 2016. Day trips are very easy to do, considering how tiny a country England was!
LiberaTarts Recalls Another Castle
Dover Castle was built in the 11th century and it, apparently, is one of the largest castles in England. I certainly believe that fact, given how long it took me to reach the castle by foot. As some of you readers might know, I can’t drive nor do I wish to learn how to in the near enough future, which meant that travelling to Dover from home involved an early morning train, a quick brunch at a local restaurant to quell any hunger pains, followed by a sweaty treck up a very steep hill to reach that damned castle.
The hour or so effort it took me to climb to the top was well worth the (metaphoric) blood, sweat, and tears. The fact that The Climb by Miley Cyrus was playing on repeat in my head helped, too. Purely for motivational purposes, of course.
The view from the castle grounds was simple breathtaking. I wish I had the wherewithal to bring my DSLR because the pictures I took using my phone simply did not do the view justice.
Anyway, the activities and self-guided tours inside the castle were very interactive. Perfect for family and school trips, if I’m being honest. There was plenty of medieval and WWII history to be learned, and it’s not wonder that Dover Castle really was a strategic stronghold for England, given its close proximity to the coast and to mainland Europe.
It looks like a medieval knighthood was not in the cards for me. There goes that daydream.
Visitors to the castle also had access to the roof – a fun experience, for sure, but I didn’t spend too much time there given how I have a fear of heights. I took a few quick snapshots and then hightailed it outta there.
By the end of the day trip, I was worn out from the hike up that large hill and the subsequent trek back down to the town centre. The day was not a waste, though, as I had plenty of fun and enjoyed the blindingly bright summer sunshine.
Man, I miss summer.
Tell me: What’s your favourite season? Have you ever been to Dover Castle? Would you want to visit, if you could? Let’s talk in the comments below!
I self-identify as a millennial. I, therefore, speak in memes from time to time.
And by ‘time to time’, I do mean most of the time. But as with life and how it soldiers on, I’m aware enough to realise that my meme knowledge is aging, and no longer can I see a new Internet fad and automatically understand what it means. I’m not too sad about it, seeing as I have other prirorities now other that being ‘cool with the kids’, but it’s still a little upsetting when my thoughts occasionally stray towards it.
Anyway! Yesterday, I re-posted a list consisting of 25 Things a twentysomething should do before, well, they hit thirty. I’m in my mid-twenties and am in no rush to reach my third decade of living, nor am I dragging my feet for the good ol’ days. I actually love my life right now. The only problem, however, is that I have no clear goals to speak of (aside from, you know, eventually getting promoted at work or something like that). And so, The List was born!
Do something scary.
Learn to cook.
Ride a plane.
Party all night.
…and so on. I won’t list them all out again; you can read them here if you wish to take a look.
Aside from being a millennial, I’m also a Sagittarius so yeah I can’t stay in one place for too long. Which is why! I can cross off some things from that mighty list above.
LiberaTarts Likes to Travel
It’s Day 1 of this not-quite-a-challenge and already I am itching to tick off a few points from that list. Continue below if you want to read about it.
#3 Travel Alone
Solo-travel was something I embraced during my year abroad in Japan. Around late spring to late summer of 2017, you could find me dragging my little cabin-sized wheeled suitcase from ドン・キホーテ (a discount chain store) around the Kansai, Chugoku, and Kyushu regions.
I learnt so much about myself as a person, travelling alone. I’ve learnt that I much preferred having one hundred percent control over the itinerary, and that asking strangers to take pictures of you isn’t that frightening at all! Always go for the family tourists or the ones who look like retirees.
#4 Ride A Plane
Clearly I’ve no patience (or the stomach) for long-distance sea travel. I flew on a plane to get to the countries I’ve been to!
#9 Change The Script
Take an extended vacation to a new town (or country!) where you don’t know anybody.
I can’t say it was entirely my idea, but moving to England at the age of six with my family kind of counts as “changing the script”… right? I sure as hell didn’t know anyone; making friends as a shy, brown-skinned introvert was difficult enough without all the drama that was happening in my family. Suffice to say, stability was not A Thing during my childhood and early teens.
#15 Go Overseas
I’ve semi-permanently moved to China. I live, work, and spend all of my free time in Chengdu, where I’m based. Despite the chance to travel during the Spring Festival / Lunar New Year holidays, I decided to stay in Sichuan so that I can fully immerse myself in this new chapter of my life. So, have I been overseas? As a British-Filipino, the answer is an absolute hells yeah.
Over to you: What can you check off from the list? Tell me in the comments below!
I love a good castle. I’ve been told that I must have been a vampire in a previous life with how obsessed I am with them.I’m also interest in all things Gothic – literature, architecture, the fashion aesthetic… you name it, I have at the very least a passing interest in it.There’s something amazing about the romanticism of it all.
I envy you your peace of mind, your clean conscience, your unpolluted memory. Little girl, a memory without blot of contamination must be an exquisite treasure-an inexhaustible source of pure refreshment: is it not?
Mr Rochester, from Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Jane Eyre’
For a book I’ve only read once as a teenager in high school, I seem to quote – or at the very least allude to – Jane Eyre a lot. Every time I say “Readers, I…” in a post or a tweet, my mind automatically recalls Jane confessing “Reader, I married him” because, quite frankly, how much BDE is that?! This governess turned lover turned wife married the guy and not the other way around.
Anyway, this post isn’t about Jane Eyre (though I might re-read it in the future, now that I’m reminded of how I’ve only read it once). This post is about this little historic town in the northern parts of Kent, England.
LiberaTarts Visits Rochester, Not Mr Rochester (Part 1)
I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again – I have an English Heritage membership, and so it’s a personal hobby of mine to visit as many places as my budget and time allow. I’ve been to Battle Abbey in Sussex, Stonehenge in Wiltshire and a lot more places in Kent as that is where I live.
Last August, in the height of summer and during record-breaking temperature highs for England, my brother and I chose to visit Rochester on a rainy, overcast day. We had fun, don’t get me wrong, but the rain literally put a damper on our trip… I did return to Rochester two months later to meet up with a friend, and just like last time, it rained as well!
Anyway, here are three things I knew about Rochester before arriving:
University of Kent students based in the Medway campus graduate in Rochester Cathedral, which is quite unfair really when you consider that students based in Canterbury get to graduate in Canterbury Cathedral. Both have Gothic style architecture, but Canterbury Cathedral has a more striking silhouette.
Rochester Castle hosted open-air cinemas on the regular, though unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of experiencing it (yet!).
It’s part of the Medway Towns where a few towns located relatively close to each other form a large urban area that isn’t quite a city.
How to Get to Rochester
It’s very easy to get to Rochester using public transportation; it has brilliant rail links from London (if you flew into any of the London airports) or Dover (if you took the ferry from France). It also has a fairly comprehensive local bus system, so you can simply hop on an Arriva bus if you’re staying in the Kent area.
There’s also the ‘driving a car’ option, but I try not to give that too much thought as I can’t drive and I have no plans to learn in the future.
The only thing left behind of this really, really old castle is its fortified tower called a keep, which was built in the early 12th century. It has survived three sieges and, as is typical with castles and modernity, it became useless and ultimately became a tourist attraction for history nerds like me.
Rochester Castle is not access friendly as it has a lot of stairs and no lift facilities, and the corridors are also very narrow; there were awkward “after you”s and “excuse me”s uttered as you wander around.
Entrance to the keep is usually 10 a.m until 4 p.m. though it varies depending on the season. Tickets also cost £6.40 for an adult and £4 for students – yay concessions pricing.
All in all, Rochester Castle was a fun little place to visit. If anything else, you can get a wonderful view of the Cathedral from level two onwards!
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the Rochester series! This little day trip included a visit to Temple Manor, Rochester Guildhall Museum, and the largest second-hand bookshop in England.
If I retained anything from my English History lessons back in secondary school, it was that Henry VIII had six wives (not all at the same time, of course) and that the Normans successfully invaded England in 1066. Also involved were some really impressive weavers who created the Bayeux Tapestry, the Anglo-Saxon King at the time called Harold Godwinson (more like God-lose-son, ha!), and this really lucky person who managed to shoot him square in the eye.
Man, do I love history.
I could hardly make sense of the whos and whys, but I have to admire the sheer wonder of history’s narrative capabilities. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out!
Dear readers, I must confess to a secret passion for history.
Anyway, to the point of this post: I’m starting a retrospective on the various English Heritage sites I’ve visited, and perhaps even sites I want to visit in the future. And where better to start than the lovely battle site of what must have been a very gruesome invasion.
I mean, what kind of battle wouldn’t be at the very least a little bloody? And on that note… Happy Halloween, everybody! Just in case I forget to post anything on the 31st.
LiberaTarts Goes to Battle… Abbey
I went to East Sussex with my younger brother. We took a very early train from Kent* and arrived at Battle Station only to realise that the Abbey was still half a mile away, so we took our phones out and opened the Pokemon GO app – this day trip happened during that one peaceful summer in 2016, back when everyone spent every waking moment trying to catch ’em all.
*A personal rule of mine is to always arrive at your destination before 10 am, otherwise I feel like you won’t have enough time to explore the area to your heart’s content. You can always leave early, but you can’t really overstay your welcome when it comes to day trips.
We arrive in the town centre and honestly, you cannot miss the entrance to the Abbey. It costs about £12 for an adult ticket (or £11 for a student, which I was at a time), but I’m a history nerd and I had an English Heritage membership that gave me free, unlimited access to English Heritage sites across the country. What a time to be alive… I had free entry and Pokemon GO.
I would love to visit again, but alas it can’t be anytime soon because I’m scheduled to leave for China within the week! With any luck, I might be able to return during an anniversary of the Battle (on the 14th of October, 1066).
Over to you guys: Do you think an English Heritage membership is worth it? Let me know, drop me a line, send a carrier pigeon.
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and has a population of approximately 340,200 people. The city is well-known for building the famously tragic boat Ship of Dreams, the Titanic. Belfast is not to be confused with Dublin, which is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. See the map below for further clarification.
You can also take the train if you’re travelling from England, Wales, or Scotland. The trip, however, will be split partway to include the ferry trip to Ireland. There are also direct coaches to Dublin serviced by the National Express if you wish to have a cheaper alternative to planes and trains.
Where to stay in Belfast
As a solo traveller, I cannot recommend hotels unless you are travelling with two other people.
Belfast has a lot of hostels on offer, all within walking distance to the main city centre. Prices can range between £10-£15 per night at a hostel; I stayed at Lagan Backpackers for 2 nights and didn’t pay more than £26 total, and the place had a TV with a Netflix subscription, newly refurbished bathrooms, and they even offered a free breakfast to those who opt-in!
If you’re willing to spend a little more for privacy, then I would suggest Airbnb as an alternative.
Getting around Belfast
walking – the farthest I walked from one tourist destination to another was 20 minutes
by train – the main train stations in Belfast are Great Victoria Street Station and Belfast Central Station
by taxi / uber / car rental
Things to do in Belfast
“there must always be a stark in Winterfell”
a panoramic image of The Palm House front door
today’s special at the Yellow Box, Ulster Museum’s cafe on-site
I highly recommend just typing in “things to do” on Google Maps and see if any of the options offered are compatible with your interests. Getting into the habit of making bookmarks and lists on Google Maps is helpful in planning daily itineraries and, sometimes, choosing a hostel or Airbnb that is most convenient for you, the traveller.
Here is a list of places I visited within the Belfast city:
Belfast Botanic Gardens
The Palm House
The Tropical Ravine
Belfast Peace Wall
The Big Fish, Salmon of Knowledge
Belfast City Hall
Cavehill (I climbed to the very top!)
I also went on day trips, where I visited:
Strangford, where I spent the morning at Winterfell Castle and had lunch at The Cuan (where Sean Bean and all the other Game of Thrones actors stayed during their shoots!)
Bushmills, where I ate my lunch on the Giant’s Causeway steps and spent the afternoon walking the trail around the Shepherd’s Steps
What to expect from Belfast
Expect the unexpected.
an ancient proverb, probably
Belfast – and Northern Ireland, in general – is a super friendly place. The bus drivers are really easy to speak with and they are more than happy to help a lost little tourist. I honestly believe the locals are psychic because they always know where you want to go and will just gently nudge you towards the right direction. Everyone I spoke with, from the waitresses to the random man I befriended as I walked the Cavehill nature trail, was softspoken and kindhearted. Belfast is brilliant!
Lastly, expect to receive some Northern Ireland banknotes. They are different to the ones in circulation around England, but they are still Sterling notes and can be exchanged for Bank of England notes at any bank in the UK.
And in conclusion…
I spent an approximate total of £270, including travel, accommodation, and food. Belfast is an amazing place with a lot of history and great architecture. The food is good, the people even good-er, and the only downside was the confusing bus network. 10/10 will recommend for other solo travellers to visit!
I mentioned in my previous post that I plan to go to the Botanical Gardens and the Ulster Museum, and perhaps Belfast Castle if I had the time in the afternoon. Naively, I figured that today was just going to my like yesterday, full of fun and adventure and wonder, then I realised that I only booked two nights at the Lagan Backpackers and have booked, for the remainder of my stay here in Belfast, an airbnb conveniently located across the other side of the city.
Why did I book an airbnb, you may ask? To be honest, I severely underestimated how lovely Lagan Backpacker’s was and thought hm, wouldn’t it be great to spend a night or two sleeping sounds without strangers snoring in the same room. It’s a legitimate thought, which I am slightly thankful for right now, but not during the 45-minute walk – with my suitcase! – as I traversed Belfast city in my pursuit of some privacy.
All throughout the day, I was concerned about changing accommodation from a hostel to an airbnb; it put a little bit of a downer on my mood, but it’s not like I could complain too much as I did put myself in this situation. Both types of accommodation have their positives and negatives, after all. In all honesty, I just didn’t want to spend money on two bus tickets or an uber, so walking for 45 minutes was a necessary evil that I conquered this afternoon.
What a day! But let’s focus on the good parts, such as the Botanical Garden and the Ulster Museum.
LiberaTarts Sits in a Rose Garden
After a full English breakfast, I walked fifteen or so minutes to the Botanical Gardens where I encountered a lot of people on their morning commute. I had a brief flash of “oh, this was me two weeks ago,” obviously referring to my summer internship that is now (thank goodness!) over and done with. I am so not suited for office work in a small company, especially if you were the only Asian.
The Botanical Garden is a very beautiful place to be, and I sure hope that the people who lived nearby realised how lucky they are to have such a well-maintained park at their disposal.
“[There are] assorted tropical plants, giant bird feeders, a rose garden, an alpine garden, mature trees, flower beds and sculptures,” according to the Belfast City’s government website.
I only visited the tropical plants and the rose garden, as it was too cold that morning to do much wandering around… hence the reason why I sat in the rose garden for a good chunk of the morning, reading my book and contemplating the very nature of humanity.
In hindsight, wearing a bright mustard yellow shirt was a bad idea to wear to a flower garden. The bees kept buzzing around me – one even landed on my sleeve – and I was helpless on how to properly react. Intellectually, I knew that bees were good for pollination and the they are important for the environment and the ecosystem, etc. However, the simple and more anxious-of-nature side of me was panicking because what if that bee hurts me.
Thankfully, the bee did not hurt me.
The Palm House, the Tropical Ravine, and Me
Literally two minutes away from each other sits the Palm House, the garden’s greenhouse, and the Tropical Ravine, which I suppose it also the garden’s greenhouse but so much newer and has its own little waterfall feature inside. I didn’t take any pictures though, so shame on me. The Palm House, on the other hand, was built during the Victorian Era, back when British society was colonising expanding its reaches across the world and people were super interested in foreign plants – and ferns, for some reason.
my first glimpse of The Palm House
inside The Palm House
looking up at The Palm House’s glass domed ceiling
It’s not that big of a greenhouse, but the fact that I was blown away by the sheer number of plants in that place was amazing in and of itself. I love visiting greenhouses – it’s like stepping through the front door I’m transported back to the climate in the Philippines and I get a little nostalgic. There’s something about warm humidity that gives me sensational flashbacks of my childhood (which is so weird because I spent all my time indoors reading fiction books!).
The down side of being inside a greenhouse? It seems like the very building aims at your head with its dropping water droplets.
The upside? I was wearing a hat and it was so damn pretty in there that I didn’t care even if I wasn’t wearing a hat.
The greenhouse officially opens at 10am and I was the first person in that day because, unobservant old me, just swanned through the open doors like I owned the place. It didn’t matter that all the other visitors / tourists with their suitcases were mingling nearby waiting for the building to open; I just walked in, all assured, and started taking pictures.
FOLLOW UP FUN STORY:
Walking around with a purpose while I panic in my head is a habit of mine and earlier today while I was at the Ulster Museum, I power-walked towards a set of glass doors thinking it was unlocked and – as you may have guessed already – it wasn’t accessible by the public and I had to turn around. What’s funny about this, aside from the whole oopsie-daisy, silly me situation, was the fact that a lady in her 40s was following me thinking I knew for sure that those doors led to the outside worlds.
We both giggled over our misjudgments. I wholly blame my glasses and their lack of usefulness in reading signs from a great distance.
Speaking of the Ulster Museum…
LiberaTarts Gets Her Culture Shades On
This museum blew my mind away. I didn’t expect to spend so much time inside that building as much as I ended up doing today: I arrived around 11:30, 11:45… and I didn’t leave until 4pm. When I got hungry around lunchtime, I ordered the nicest meal my rumbling stomach could ask for, which was some meatballs and potatoes in this really stodgy, flavourful and all-around delicious creamy sauce and wow was I impressed.
My visit to the Ulster Museum was split into two parts: the History part, where I brushed up my knowledge of the UK (and more specifically, Ireland) from Neolithic Age up until the late 20th century, and the Art part, where I admired the practical applications of art found within the exhibited ceramics and then stared at a painting of a nude woman for a solid amount of time. I also learned about the intermingled relationship between fashion and feminism, which was just the metaphorical cherry on the cake that was this museum.
I love the Ulster Museum. 10/10 would recommend to any visitors, especially those with children since one of the reasons why I adore it so much is the fact how 1) accessible it is to handicapped individuals, and 2) the exhibits were made with children and interactivity in mind, as seen by the descriptions printed at eye level and clear signs encouraging people to touch an arrowhead or a silver brooch, and so on.
Today was a long day, both in the good sense and the bad. I am currently writing this post in my new airbnb, so the bad stress from today is all but gone, and looking through the pictures I took today reminded me of all the good memories. Belfast has so much to offer!
Total spend for the day: £11.49 for lunch and a cake, £1 for a magnet souvenir, and £7ish for a craving-induced KFC binge, all equalling to £19.49. Curse you, airbnb, for being within a 5-minute walk to several fastfood joints.
Over to you guys: The Ulster Museum is definitely Top 3 list of museums and art galleries… what are your Top 3? Comment below and we can find out if I’ve been or have plans to go there soon!
Tomorrow, the plan is to go all the way to the northern coast of Northern Ireland and see the Giant’s Causeway. I was reminded of this location by a video I saw today about volcanoes in the museum, and I wanted to make a full day trip to somewhere that isn’t the Belfast city centre. See you all tomorrow, folks!
My first full day in Belfast was a physically tiring one. Since I’m staying at a hostel, I woke up at 6am to avoid the morning bathroom rush and was out of the door and ready to explore the wonderful world of Northern Ireland by 7am. My goal for the morning? To be in Strangford before 10am for the Westeros Cycle Tour I impulse bought at Stansted Airport the day before.
Are you ready for today’s adventure recap?
LiberaTarts Goes to Winterfell
The walk from my hostel to the city centre took about 20 minutes and by the time the number 15 Ulsterbus arrived, I was frantically googling how much it cost for a day ticket to Strangford. And then I remembered that the buses here in Belfast don’t do day tickets, for some reason? Anyway, the kinder-than-usual bus driver tolerated my ramblings about “return tickets” and “changing buses halfway through my journey,” which was nice because if there’s anything I could take away from this trip, it was the fact that the people in Belfast are super friendly and nice.
Case in point:
I got lost (as I do) trying to find the meeting point for the cycle tour. Not only were the Castle Ward staff super helpful, but also the random early morning visitors who said to me “ah, you’re looking for Winterfell.”
One of the cycle tour guides told me – out of the blue and with no prompting whatsoever – that I can visit the ‘GOT Door’ in this pub called the The Cuan. The Game of Thrones actors such as Sean Bean stayed at this pub / hotel whilst they were filming the Winterfell scenes during the early seasons.
The waitress at The Cuan waved off the 5p from the £5.55 cheesecake I ordered. She didn’t have to do that? Why did she do that?
I didn’t have the right bus ticket to get back to Belfast from the Strangford village centre but the bus driver let me on anyway.
My conclusion? Belfast is a very, very nice city to live in despite the absolute chaos that is its public transportation system.
Anyway, let’s talk about Winterfell! Finding the cycle tour meeting point, having had taken the bus instead of driving (like what most people would do, I suppose), meant I had to walk through Castle Ward…
…before you get to the castle’s farmyard, which is famously known as the filming location for Winterfell from the TV show Game of Thrones.
The tour begins with a guide walking you to various places within the Winterfell courtyard, pointing out key filming locations and describing how the crew of Game of Thrones essentially CGI’d Winterfell into being. I saw the tower where Bran “fell”, the brothel where we first meet Tyrion, and I stood in the exact same spot the Starks stood to greet King Baratheon’s entourage. It was an entirely surreal experience.
Following the walking tour, the guide (his name was Hugo, by the way, for those who are interested) handed me a helmet and bike. It was bright red and looked like it could take me all the way to King’s Landing; there was also a map attached to the handlebars, but that only detailed Winterfell and the nearby Audley’s Castle and grounds, which is famously associated with Robb and his army during the early seasons of the show.
view of Audley’s Castle from the south
view of Audley’s Castle from the west
panoramic view from atop Audley’s Castle
The Westeros Cycle Tour is supposed to last 2 hours and 30 minutes, but the entirety of the course can be completed in half that time. I spent a good chunk just sitting atop Audley’s Castle and enjoying the view, eating my lunch and contemplating the insignificance of my human existence. And aside from all the times I got lost on the trail because I can’t read maps for the life of me, I still returned to the base camp in Winterfell with half an hour to spare.
I used that half hour walking to Strangford. The muscles in my legs are still burning as I type up this post. On the plus side, the nature walk from Winterfell towards the little village of Strangford offered this scene of pure delight:
Overall, the Westeros Cycle Tour was a 9 out of 10 experience for me: the views were great, the weather was unbeatable, and my nerdy little soul was happy to pretend I lived in Westeros for an entire morning. My only criticism is the lack of clear signposts of the cycle tour. As much as I joke around about my inability to read a map and my wonderful habit of getting lost, the cycle route was quite difficult to parse and I wasn’t the only one confused! There was a group ahead of me who circled around Audley’s Castle twice because they couldn’t figure out how to get to Temple Water.
Total cost for the day: £38 for the cycle tour, £5.50 for dessert, and £20ish for the bus rides, which all totals to £63.50. The cost for getting to experience Westeros? PRICELESS.
Over to you guys: if you could go visit any fictional world, where would you go and why?
Subscribe to LiberaTarts if you want to hear more about my Belfast city break! Tomorrow’s plan is to check-out of Lagan Backpacker’s and into an airbnb. Places to visit will include the Botanical Gardens, Ulster Museum, and perhaps Belfast Castle if I’ve got time and/or energy to spare in the afternoon. My legs still hurt from all the biking I did today.