Burgers, and Chips, and Shakes! Oh My!

My typical burger is the mince meatless burger on a Belfast bap with rocket lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onion rings, mushrooms, red peppers, green peppers, guacamole, and peanut butter. Nom, nom, nom!

I love a day filled with mouthwatering food and today was one of those days!  For dinner, my friends and I went to Build ’a’ Burger.  It is one of my favorite places to grab a bite off of Botanic Avenue near the main campus.  For £5 you get a fantastic burger and seasoned chips!  The entire business is construction themed and the walls are filled with pictures of landmark Belfast sites.  It is similar to a Subway, Moe’s or Chipotle, but with burger toppings and on steroids.  You, or as Build ‘a’ Burger would call you, the architect, have options galore in designing a burger for the ‘builders’ to create.

To begin, you have three different bread options, and several meat options including beef, chicken, black bean, or a mince meatless burger.  According to the website (http://www.buildaburger.co.uk/) you have 10,888,869,450,418,352,160,768,000,000 ways to personalize your burger! Some of the toppings that I thought were unusual are: tobacco onions, beetroot, rocket lettuce, olives, apple, pineapple, gummy bears, strawberry mayo, chipotle ketchup, sweet chilli, nutella, and cranberry sauce.  Makes for one hardy meal!

It is as good as it looks! A whole Kinder chocolate bar went into that bad boy. On a side note, if you ever go to Maggie Mays be sure to bring cash, because they do not take cards and they do not split your bill. Totally worth being prepared though!

After Build ‘a’ Burger we headed to another one of my favorites, Maggie Mays, for milkshakes.  Milkshakes in Belfast are thinner than the ones at home; however, they have the advantage, because you watch a whole candy bar being placed in the blender as your milkshake it made.  Before the milkshake is put in the cup, chocolate syrup is dripped along the inside of the cup to give the shake an added touch of sweetness.

Good thing I ate well tonight, because tomorrow I am eating a bagged lunch since I will be in Dublin for The Human Body Exhibit!

All the Best,

Melissa Hinchman

A Pub Crawl & Valentine’s Day: The Perfect Match

Hard to believe I am half way into the week and I have already done so much!  First off, hope everyone had a loving Valentine’s Day!  I spent mine on a hot date with three of my American friends.  We went and saw The Vow at Movie House Cinema off Dublin Road.  On Tuesday nights students get a discount, so the timing was perfect!  To make the night better, after the movie we had dinner over at Opera, because they had a special that personal pizzas were buy one, get one free.  The night was full of great deals!

It was £5 to participate in the pub crawl, but we got a free shirt! This is the front and the back says, "RAG Week 2012."

Tuesday night was fabulous, but Monday night was better!  On Monday night, I went on a pub crawl hosted by a club called RAG, which is the abbreviation for Raise and Give.  RAG is the fundraising branch of Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union.  It is run by students and other volunteers who organizing events like charity poker, quiz nights, and pub crawls to raise money for local charities.  The pub crawl was the first event to kick off a week of events for charities called RAG Week.  It is a big deal on campus!  It is cliché, but leave it to the Irish to have a charity pub crawl on a school night.

Sam and I in The Tap House Bar. That beer cocktail was yummy! I'll have to look up the recipe to try back at home.

We started the night at Benedicts of Belfast and continued to The Globe Bar (Now called The Elms) where there was the best deal on shooters (shots).  From there we walked to The Tap House Bar, which I had never visited before.  I was pleasantly surprised to see a full menu of foreign beers and I tried a beer cocktail for the first time.  It was delicious! For £2 I got a strawberry sherbet one.  From what I could tell, it was made by putting syrup in a cup, then filling the rest with Harp beer, but I am sure any lager would be fine.  Our last stop was at Filthy McNasty’s.  This is a place you do not judge by the name, because it is anything from nasty.  Filthy McNasty’s is one of the most hipster and sleek bars in Belfast.  Besides the main bar inside there is also a large patio area out back called The Secret Garden complete with another bar, tables, candles, a gazebo, and plenty of space heaters for chilly nights.

The group of us in The Secret Garden at Filthy McNasty's. It was Laura's 21st Birthday, so the pub crawl doubled as Laura's party!

If you are ever in Belfast I would check out The Tap House Bar and Filthy McNasty’s!

Until next time,

Melissa Hinchman

Day Trip to Black Mountain

Yesterday was a terrific day of nature loving!  I grew up about 30 minutes from the ocean and spent many summers in the mountains of North Carolina.  I can’t say which I love more, but my heart is laying out at the beach and my soul is nested in the mountains.  Anyway, you can imagine that I was delighted when Elms Reception posted about a trip to Black Mountain.

Even if Black Mountain was not the mountain range I was expecting, how could anyone not think this view is gorgeous?

We met at the reception building around 9:00 am and after about a 30 to 45 minute drive we were in a hilly country side area.  I was confused though, because there were no trees.  Everything was bare and bald.  As far out as I could see, there was not a tree in sight; however, there was a back top sidewalk leading out in the distance.  I turned to Hailey, Sam, and Laura, some of my American friends, and questioned if this was the mountain and what they had expected.  All of us were in agreement that we thought we were going for a hike; not a morning stroll.

Outside of the bus, the wind wiped the freezing air around, but as soon as we got moving, it warmed up enough to be comfortable.  I had never experienced an environment like this mountain side.  Everything around was either moss or stringy grass being shifted through by the wind.  The air was filled with the trickle of serene ice cold creeks.  Here and there were short leafless trees and bushes filled with thorns.  We stopped along the way to take pictures; each time more stunning than the next as the clouds floated by and we climbed higher up.

We were up in the clouds looking over the city we will call home for the next three months. Belfast is not a place I would call magical, but it is filled with curiosity and wonder.

I soon realized that this was the mountain view I see each time I go buy groceries at Tesco, though this time I was seeing it in reverse.  We were up in the clouds looking over all of Belfast.  From the ground, Belfast does not seem large; however, from 1,275 feet up the city looked enormous.  Our view included where the Titanic was built and the famous Samson and Goliath shipbuilding gantry cranes in the Harland & Wolff shipyard.

One of the horses we meet while heading down the mountain. I was shocked how comfortable they were with us taking pictures and being close.

On the way down the mountain, we came across a herd of wild horses.  Definitely a wonderful treat at the end of our 5 mile climb!

Thanks for reading,

Melissa Hinchman

Salsa Dancing in Belfast

Time and time again, Belfast surprises me.  Last night was no expectation.  I started the night hanging at a flat party with some of my international friends.  The kitchen was too congested and hot for us, so we migrated to the hallway.  We had not been standing there long when a couple of guys who lived on the hall walked in.  Jessica, who lives on the hall, greeted them and asked them what they were up to.  The guys casually explained that

Us, girls, posing with the La Boca sign. Such a wonderful night! Can't wait to come back another Thursday night.

they were going salsa dancing.  I had not even introduced myself, but blurted out, “Belfast has salsa dancing?”  The guys laughed and asked if we wanted to join.  About 20 minutes later, the six of us were in a taxi heading towards City Centre to a restaurant called La Boca.

I have walked around City Centre a number of times, but I never noticed the little Argentine style restaurant located on the end of Fountain Street across from VooDoo Bar.  It is named after the Bohemian dockside district of Buenos Aires and doubles as an art gallery.  By day it is a charming restaurant, but each Thursday night all the tables and chairs are stacked to the back, a live band set up and there is free salsa dancing!

I was more than a bit nervous.  I would rather give a public speech in a crowded theater, than try to learn and perform any dance that has choreographed steps.  My two left feet do not help my grace.  Luckily, the guys who invited us were not only sweet, but also knew how to salsa dance and were more than willing to teach us some basic steps.  Once everyone was dancing and I found some sort of rhythm, my jitters vanished allowing me to have a blast until the last song of the night!  I am still happily shocked that there is an authentic salsa dancing place in Belfast.  It goes to show that there is more to see and do than what meets the eye in this historical city

Until next time,

Melissa Hinchman

Super Bowl XLVI

I don’t remember the date, but I remember the night that the New York Giants made it to the Super Bowl.  I was stopped at a red light on Independence Blvd. on my way from my cousin’s house to my friend’s house.  There was a guy and his son were talking on the side walk

This is down in the Treehouse where we watched the game. The room is just a multi-purpose room called The Lounge and it connected to a computer room.

parading a New York Giants banner and asking people to honk.  Let me be honest.  I don’t follow football.  I don’t mind watching a game or two and I have played enough powder puff games to understand the basics, but I had no clue that the Giants were even playing that night.  What moved me was the joy and excitement this father and son shared.  It is rare to see people that ecstatic over something.  Once the light turned green and the car in front of me was a good distance away, I honked; not because I was a fan of the game, but because I was a fan of their spirit.

That night stuck with me enough that I made sure to take an extra nap yesterday so that I could stay up to watch Super Bowl XLVI.  With the five hour time difference it was a late night.  A bunch of people, my friends, and I crowded into the lower level of the Treehouse to watch the game on the big screen.  There were few commercials, since I was watching it in the UK, but it was still a novelty to see American football while in Belfast.  I have grown accustomed to only seeing soccer or rugby on the TV when I walk into the common room.  Even though I was not specifically rooting for the Giants or the Patriots, I was still happy to see the Giants come up with the win, because I know that father and son from home must be going crazy with happiness.

Much Love,

Melissa Hinchman

My Afternoon at Belfast Castle

This is the front of Belfast Castle. The garden would be to the right.

It is hard to believe that yesterday (Friday) at 1pm I was done with my one class for the day and simply walked 20-30 minutes to City Centre, paid £2.90 for a day bus pass, and ended up at a castle.  That does not happen in Orlando, FL, or Charlotte, NC.  The bus ride there was one of my favorite rides, because I sat next to one of the sweetest grandmother type of ladies.  She had spent her whole life in Belfast and had story after story to fill my memory.  She made sure I got off at the correct stop and even waved to me as the bus moved on.  I couldn’t help think of my Grandma and how much I saw her in that woman on the bus.

After a walk up a residential street, I found myself at the gates of Belfast Castle, which is nestled on Cave Hill in North Belfast.  It is the closest castle to City Centre and easy to see in an afternoon.  I walked up the main road to the castle, which ended up being the longest way.  There is a shorter route if I had taken the sidewalk to the right at the entrance gate, but I did not learn that until I was headed out.  It was refreshing to be outdoors on a nice day.  Belfast weather is not my favorite weather; however, it is fascinating to be in another environment and out of my comfort zone.

At first glance, I found Belfast Castle gorgeous with all the stone work, but very small.  The Disneyland castle is bigger!  I had to remind myself that this was not the original Belfast Castle.  I learned about the original castle on the Ghost Tour.  The original castle was located in City Centre, but was destroyed in a fire.  The current Belfast Castle is of Scottish design and was not built until 1870, which is not that old considering that Queens University of Charlotte was founded in 1857.  To the right of the castle is a large garden that stretches to the back.  The garden is themed around cats, which I found a little strange.  Between the statues and the landscaping, there are nine cats hidden around the garden.  I am not sure why it started, but there is also a white cat that lives at the castle at all times.  It is said that as long as a white cat lives there that the castle will have good luck.  My favorite part of the garden is a stone staircase that comes out from the back of the castle.  I loved that the stone staircase was crafted by hand.

As I made my way inside the castle, I was less impressed.  Everything was beautiful, but it was not kept up as the original castle.  It was clearly a place for events, conventions, and weddings.  It felt too touristy.  I made sure to have a good look around though.  What was neat was a 91 step oak spiral stair case that connected all five floors of the castle.  It is the largest of its kind in Belfast.  I also appreciated the information rooms filled with history about Belfast Castle and the rest of Cave Hill.  If it was not getting late, I would have hiked up to the top to try to find the five caves that give the hill its name.  The caves are filled with political graffiti, because during the Belfast Blitz

One awesome thing about being 400 feet above sea level is the view! This is over looking Belfast. I could also see out into the Irish Sea. I can't wait to come back and climb to the top, because I know the view will only get better!

people took to the hill to hide.  That will just have to be another day!  If you have plans to come to Belfast, still be sure to stop at Belfast Castle.  It might not be the best castle you have ever seen; however, it is a great piece of Belfast history.

Until next time,

Melissa Hinchman

Refreshers’ Ball & Rethinking

This is Sam and I hanging out before heading to the Refreshers' Ball concert!It is safe to say that all universities have traditions that mark the start of a new semester.  Queens University Belfast is no different; however, their tradition is not what I would have expected.  At the start of the fall term there is a Freshers’ Ball and at the start of the spring term there is a Refreshers’ Ball.  The word ‘Ball’ might suggest a fancy dance party, but it is actually a pretty rowdy concert in one of the main nightclubs at the QUB Student Union!  This year Basshunter performed for Refreshers’ Ball.  His real name is Jonas Erik Altberg and he is a Swedish artist.  A lot of his music is similar to dubstep and techno.  I had not listened to his music before, but I went with my friend, Sam, and the rest of her flatmates to have a good time and meet more people.

It amazes me that the QUB would throw such a huge party and provide drink specials for students at the same event!  Either QUB’s alcohol policies are much more lenient or I never realized how strict QUC and other American universities are concerning alcohol.

We arrived a little early to make sure to get good spots, which paid off, because we found spots up front next to the stage!  There wereThe crowd was crazy like any other concert.  It was strange how it was normal and allowed.  If this happened at an university in America, I think there would be worry about liability.  It still baffles me. two big screens on either side of the stage.  Before Basshunter hit the stage there was a group DJing and interacting with the crowd.  I found it hilarious that the group had edited clips of a FOX news anchor and a clip of President Obama and Ellen DeGeneres dancing so that the clips moved to the music.  My next thought was, what are these American references doing in Belfast?  Are they making fun of us?  I didn’t really understand it, but it was funny.

When Basshunter finally came out I was more intrigued by his back up dancers.  These women looked like real women with curves, the normal amount of cellulite, but then the full and almost costume like make-up I am use to seeing on the other women in Belfast.  They were not the super skinny, ripped, or sometimes unrealistic bodies you would see for back up dancers in America.  The guys around us were still cheering for them and hollering at them like they would at home.  For the first time I was able to look at the dancing women on stage and think,” Wow, if I had stuck with dancing, I could be up there.”

This is not the best picture of the group of the back up dancers, but you can still see that these are beautiful women who have realistic bodies.  I wish this was normal in the media, because it would help women love their bodies.After the concert I asked one of my flatmates about it.  She was interested in my perspective about the girls, since she had never thought about body image that way, which lead into a discussion on body image and self-esteem issues between our homes.  The pressure that girls experience here is more with facial make-up.  It is normal to wear a full face, complete with fake eye lashes and to just dress your body in a way to make it look the best.  It helps that most of the stores like Primark sell sizes up to a 20 on the same display with the 2.  There is not a separate plus size section.  My flatmate also explained that in the UK there is regulation to protect advertisements from being too touched up.  For example, the government could reject an anti-wrinkle cream if the government feels like the advertisement is not realistic.  The media influences peoples’ thought on self-esteem and body image so much.  Maybe America needs to think about censoring advertisements to promote women’s’ health.

Keep rockin’!

Melissa Hinchman

Exploring the Botanics

The front gate to the Botanic Gardens that faces out towards Malone/University Road. I was warned to make sure to be aware of when the park closed, because they locked the gates at sundown. There is bell to alert people, but people have been locked inside by accident.

This time of year Belfast is consistently 30-40oF and very rainy.  It is not warm rain either, which leaves this native Floridian woman frigid and missing her flip-flops.  On beautiful blue skied filled days, like today, I love to take advantage of the outdoors!  A couple of my local friends have warned me that the weather will stay like this until April and May.  My question in return is always, “Do you ever get used to it,” and most say no.  It is not a very encouraging answer, but at the same time I know why I choose to overlook the bad weather here.  I have lived my whole life in warm and tropical environments (although Charlotte, NC is not very tropical) and if I had gone to any of my other options it would felt too much like home.  In Belfast, it is an adventure to sort through the weather by learning how to fashionable dress and stay warm, seeing different plant life, and just understanding how people function.  For example, I have never seen half of the stroller accessories that the moms’ use!  There are these bag like blankets that attach to keep the child’s feet and legs warm and there are rain covers that look like saran wrap that fit tightly over the stroller. Even though I do not live in the middle of the city, the sidewalks are filled with professionals and students rain or shine.  Maybe I am weird, but I feel pretty accomplished when I have

This is the Palm House. I know that greenhouses are normally warm, but because I was bundled up in a sweater and a jacket, I was sweating inside.

successfully battled the elements or made the most out of a rare pretty day.

On this pleasant day I explored the Belfast Botanic Gardens with Anna.  She is one of my international friends from Denmark.  We made friends instantly when she shared that she had just spent the last semester living in Raleigh, NC completing an internship-small world!  The Botanic Gardens are nestled between Stranmillis Road and the main QUB campus.  On the front side of the garden is the Palm House, which is a greenhouse that was originally constructed in 1839.  In 1982 it went through major renovations, but it still has a lot of rustic touches and the design places you back in time.  Planted in front of the Palm House is a palm tree!

One of my favorite pictures from the day. I love the leading lines and all the color!

Considering the name of the greenhouse this should not be odd, but I was excited to see a palm tree, because it reminded me of home and the plant is not native to Northern Ireland.  We spent a good two to three hours walking through.  The Palm House is not very big; however, there are hundreds of plants with millions of colors!  Plus, Anna was taking the time to show me different settings and functions on my camera.  My mom gave me a Canon Rebel for Christmas (THANKS AGAIN!!!) and I feel like I am constantly playing around with dials and buttons.  I cannot wait to come back in a month or so to see what other flowers are in bloom!

Tonight for dinner I met up with some more friends at The Botanic Inn.  The bar part nightclub and part restaurant has a £5 meal and pint deal, which was very yummy!  One thing about food that I have noticed so far is that most places do not offer many vegetables.  For those of you who know me, this is an issue, because I love veggies.  I was the five year old kid that asked for a salad instead of fries and my mom had to fight with Stake N’ Shake until they made the substitute.  Belfast is not big on offering vegetable options.  The only sides that

The front of The Bot. As you can see, it is already dressed up for St. Patrick's Day!

were not starches were beans and mushy peas.  I don’t like beans, so I went with the mushy peas.  They turned out to be amazing!  Also, a few other things to note about food: cream cheese is called soft cheese, fries are called chips, chips are called crisp, and a biscuit is a type of cookie.  We have already made plans to go back to The Bot and utilize the big screen TVs to watch a few football (soccer) and rugby games!

The group of us at The Bot. Starting from the left is it Joseph (USA), Christina (Greece), Laura (USA), Hailey (USA), and I.

Love From Abroad,

Melissa Hinchman

Not Just Another First Day

This is the main building on campus called the Lanyon Building. It is the most photographed building in Belfast and it reminds me of Hogwards! It is just over half a mile from Elms Village. The statue in front is a WW2 memorial.

Throughout life you only get so many firsts: your first bike, your first kiss, and your first day on the job.  One wonderful aspect of going abroad is that I am given a whole lot of extra ‘firsts’.  Today is my first day of classes at Queens University Belfast.  The only other first days of school I get besides this is the first day of my senior year, and the first day of a graduate or law school.

It would be a little nerve racking if I had a full day of classes, but thankfully I just have one class for an hour and it is not even on the main campus, which means that I have a shorter walk.  By the way, I will refer to classes as classes; however, classes are called modules here. My class is a psychology class called Self and Identity.  It is co-taught by two professors, who happen to be husband and wife.  This class and my Social Psychology class are located in the David Keir Building and is about a 10-15 minute walk from Elms Village.  My other class is Contemporary Theories of Justice.  This class is on main campus in the Sociology, Social Policy, and Social Work Building, which is behind McClay Library.  Before I came to Belfast, I had picked out classes and had them preapproved; however, I

This is in my Self and Identity class. There are around 50 students in the class, but it seemed pretty easy to ask questions and be interactive.

was not actually registered for them until I got here and went through a registration process.  It was confusing at first, because there are three types of class: lectures, practicals, and tutorials.  Lectures are pretty self-explanatory: sit and listen to a professor speak and it normally involves a PowerPoint.  Practicals are for if the professor wants a separate time for testing or for if there is a lab that goes along with the class.  The tutorials took the most time for me to understand, but most are when a professor (sometimes not the professor that does the lecture) meets with a small group from the class to lead a discussion and collect work if any is due.  It is weird though, because not all classes have tutorials or practicals.  Out of my three classes, I only have a tutorial for Contemporary Theories of Justice and no practicals.  From what I have read from the module guides, none of my classes have outside work besides readings, one essay, and the final exam, which is so weird for me.  I am use to having a test ever week or so that keeps me on my toes.  I will need to be much more disciplined than normal.

During International Orientation I went on a tour of the campus and before classes started I walked back through to find my classes and take pictures.  The rest of this entry will be of pictures since seeing is a better way of explaining!


Melissa Hinchman

Another view of the Landon Building with the front gate!

This street is called University Square and it runs along the left side of the Landon Building if you are on University Road. The entire block is owned by QUB and has been converted into classroom space. I have my tutorial in #19 on this street. The buildings are super cute and most of the numbers are in stain glass above brightly painted doors.


This is the Student Union. Nothing at QUC can compare! There are restaurants, bars, night clubs, study space, a student store, drug store, bank, and so much more! I guess this is a perk of a big school. It is hard to walk by without someone trying to put some sort of advertisement in my hand. I bought my school supplies from the SU, since paper here is larger than 8 1/2 by 11 and binders are only two hole punched. The SU is across the street from the Landon Building.

The brick building is either the original or the oldest still standing QUB library. It is not in use, which is sad, but it is so gorgeous outside. The building peeking behind it is another old library that is not in use either. Both libraries are connected to the other by a back hallway and I don't think one building could be taken down without hurting the integrity of the other. There is such a huge difference in architecture between the two. There is a even newer library, but that one is on the other side of campus. These libraries are just to the left of the Landon Building and to the right of University Square.

This is the newest library and it is every nerd's dream come true!!! I could live in here forever. It is gorgeous and even has a study room dedicated to C.S. Lewis. This is one of the few places I can pick up Wi-Fi. I miss having Wi-Fi everywhere. QUC spoils us!

Just the door to the C.S. Lewis Reading Room in the McClay Library is incredible. I can not imagine how many hours went into making this door.

This is the building that houses my Contemporary Theory of Justice class. It is a part of a strip of homes that was converted into classroom space. It is located behind McClay Library.

You can either walk through the gardens This is the PEC or the Physical Education Centre. I am sad that a gym membership is not included in the tuition. It is one of the nicest gyms I have ever seen and includes a climbing wall through the center.

This is the David Keir Building that I enter from Malone Road, which is actually the back side. It faces out to Stranmillis Road and houses mostly psychology and chemistry classes. Right across the street is The Botanic Inn or as we call it The Bot. They have a great deal for a meal and a pint for 5 pounds.

From a Market, to Ghosts, and More!

This is the entrance of the St. George Market. I have a feeling this will be one of my favorite places in Belfast.

Yesterday was such a productive day!  In the morning four of my friends and I went to St. George’s Market, got a cell phone, then I went to Ikea with a QUB group, took a tour of the city via a ghost tour, and explored some pubs!

I kept hearing so many good things about the St. Georges Market and I was more than delighted to get a group together that did not mind waking up at 10 am on a Saturday to go check it out.  The St. George’s Market is close to City Centre and is about a 30-40 minute walk from Elms Village.  There has been a market on the site since 1604 and the overhead structure was added in 1890.  It is the only market that has survived with the Victorian red brick covering.  The red bricks remind me of the QUC campus!  It is located near the River Lagan and it was nice to hear some seagulls as we walked up.

The outside of the building has two different engravings: Pro Tanto Quid Retribuamus, which is Belfast’s motto that means, “For so much what shall we give in return?”  There is also, “Lámh Dearg na hÉireann,” meaning, “Red Hand of Ireland.”  Inside is incredible!  There are booths lined up all around with meat, home grown produce, handmade paintings, jewelry, huge cupcakes, and all sorts of goods.  Families are everywhere and it is easy to see this is a place that locals come often.  We grabbed some lunch and sat in the center area where we were serenaded by local musicians.  As we were looking around, we found a side room that had a bunch of the history.  It was interesting to learn that the Market was used as an

Almost everything you can buy is homemade and home grown. I wish I could bring it all home with me!

emergency mortuary after the 1941 Easter Tuesday German bombings in World War II.  The bombings were later called the Belfast Blitz.  It was not until 1990 that the Market was renovated and it is now owned by the Belfast City Council.

The business hours for the market are:

  • Fridays (6 am-2 pm) it has a variety of food, produce, meat and fish, antiques, books, clothes, and a few crafts.
  • Saturdays (9 am-3 pm) it has mostly local foods, produce, meat and fish, cheese, coffee, and other treats.
  • Sundays (10 am-4 pm) it has some produce, and meat and fish stands, but is mostly local arts and crafts.

A fair trade booth at St. George's Market. I bought my claddagh ring here!

For some more information HERE is a YouTube video that I found on the Belfast City Council website:

On the way home from the Market, Joseph, Christina and I stopped in City Centre to buy cell phones.  One of the biggest lessons I have learned so far is the value and the privilege of communication.  Unlike home, there is not Wi-Fi everywhere so my iPhone is useless most of the time and so far I have had to plan ahead when to meet up with people since I could not text or call someone to make plans.  Most of the phones sold in the UK are unlocked so you can use them with any network, which is awesome, because we were able to shop around to find the cheapest phone.  My phone for the rest of my time in Belfast is a little £9 phone that does not even have a camera.  What I thought was a camera is a little flash light!  I don’t mind though, because it is only going to be used until June.  Joseph, Christina, and I ended up choosing to go with the O2 network, because of the monthly international plan.  Each month I will add or as it is called “top-up” £15, which gives me unlimited calls and text to anyone on the O2 network, £5 to use to text and call people outside the network, and an international plan.  With the international plan, I choose three international numbers that I can call and I have 3,000 minutes to use to call them.  In addition, I am given a separate USA number so that anyone from the states can call me and it will charge them as if they are calling Miami.  I know my mom, my family, my friends, and I will love being able to call each other as if I were still home.

Later that afternoon QUB took us on a trip to Ikea.  I didn’t really need anything, because I had

This was one of our tour guides. Both women were dressed up for the occasion. This was when she was telling us about Jack the Ripper.

bought a large towel, washcloths, and hangers

at Primark, but it was nice to go to meet more people, eat a cheap late lunch, and I did find some bag clips that will be perfect for storing food.

That night the international student group met up for a Ghost Tour through the city.  I have been on many ghost tours up and down the East Coast at home, but this was my first international one!  The tour itself was not very good, because the group was way too big (over 60 people); however, I did learn some historical stories about the city and learned my way around.  The first story concerned the original Belfast Castle, which was in the current City Centre.  Sadly the castle burned and two of the owner’s daughters were killed in the fire.  The only signs of the castle left are the names of the streets around the area.

City Centre is filled with little alley ways with pubs and shops in between.  Another story involved Whites Tavern, which is the oldest pub in Belfast that opened in 1630.  Apparently there is a ghost that takes your order, but then disappears. Our most entertaining stop was in front of St. Anne’s

All of the Americans got such a kick out of this! I never expected to see anything about occupy in Belfast. I felt bad for our tour guides, because it took some effort to get us to pay attention to them and not the occupy group.

Cathedral in the Cathedral Quarter.   It was not that the story was bad or anything, but it is hard to compete with what was going on behind us…Occupy Belfast!!!  There were about 10-15 tents set up, with signs, and a fire going.  I had no clue that “occupy” events were set up outside of the states.

After finishing the ghost tour, about 20 of us grouped together for a mini pub crawl.  It was hilarious trying to retrace our steps, but we managed to navigate ourselves back to Whites, Kelly’s Cellars, and Maddens, which are awesome traditional Irish pubs! Whites and Kelly’s are really tiny.  We were only able to grab a pint and stand around.  I didn’t mind much, since I could look around easier.  My favorite of the three was Maddens.  It looks just as small as the others, but it was a little bit bigger with second story that included more seating and another bar.  We walked up these old wooden stairs and there was a little band playing traditional music in the corner.  I asked one of the bartenders about the musicians.  He said that they were just local people that showed up to play and at other times the pub brought people in.  It was fascinating to sit talking with people I had known for about 48 hours, sip on a pint of beer I had never tried (Harp), listen to music I had

This is part of the group in Maddens. From left to right is Hailey, Laura, and me. I loved Maddens for its music, the drinks, and the atmosphere. It was a place filled with history and a great place to make friends.

never heard, yet I felt very comfortable and at home in this place.  I don’t want to think about how hard it will be to leave come June.

Hope everyone is doing well at home.

Melissa Hinchman