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Belfast City Break - Visit, Eat & Drink

We kicked started our year off with a visit to Belfast in Northern Ireland. A city and country we've never been to we thought we'd spend a few days exploring before getting back to work after the festivities. We flew with Easyjet from Edinburgh to Belfast International the flight took 30 minutes - it's mad! We got the bus into the city and quickly felt at home. We stayed in a Premier Inn and had a city break costing £150 each for flights and hotel. Well worth looking into. We visited so many tourist attractions, didn't eat a single bad meal in our 4 days and drank quite a variety of drinks in a variety of places. Here's my run down of what to visit, where to eat and drink.

Titanic Museum
Number 3 on the list of things to do on Trip Advisor, the Titanic Museum is a popular attraction for the family. Thought a little pricey at £17.50 per adult it's a fantastic attraction with over 9 galleries packed full of pictures, facts, artefacts, reconstructions, special effects, videos and even a ride. I've taught the Titanic as a topic at school but this visit taught me so much more. With details from the ship building process right through to the launch, maiden voyage and the famous catastrophe. You can even explore the shipwreck. Although there's a lot to look at and it can easily fill 2-3 hours, there's a lot to read. It became a bit difficult to read everything so there's a few bits I skimmed past, especially as my feet begun to hurt.  

Black Cab Tour
Like most cities Belfast has the typical hop on hop off bus tours which are great for learning about the area but everyone we spoke to recommended something a little different for Belfast. A Black Cab Tour is much more personal and better value for money. Depending on what you want to find out you can choose your tour to suit or leave it up to the driver. We booked with Paddy Campbell's and were picked up from our hotel at 10am. Our driver/tour guide was so chatty and friendly. Right from the minute we met him it felt like we'd known him years. He had so much knowledge of the area, as a born and bred local, and had a story to match everything. There was plenty of space for the 4 of us in the cab and paid £10 each for the 2 hours - outstanding value for money. We visited the Political Murals and Peaceline learning all about The Troubles of the 60s/70s. We stopped at a few places for Tom to give us more information and got out of the cab at a few points to look a bit closer. We stopped to sign the peace wall too. Like everyone I've spoken to I'd highly recommend a Black Cab tour if you're in the city.
Belfast City Hall
The City Hall is a beautiful building at the heart of the city. When we visited it was lit up with it's Christmas lights and it was truly stunning. The hall offers free public tours throughout the year and last for about an hour. The tours are informative, with friendly staff who are more than happy to answer questions. A good chance to learn a bit about the city and admire the architecture. 
Crumlin Road Gaol
Number 1 of 129 things to do in Belfast, Crumlin Road Gaol is another attraction, building and tour that I would highly recommend. A chance to get inside the prison building and learn about over 100 years of history. The prison dates back to 1845 and closed it's doors in 1996. You visit everything from the Governor's Office and court connecting tunnel to Holding Cells and Hanging Cells. The tours last just over an hour and cost less than £10, making it a good value attraction. Our tour guide was very knowledgable, answered all of our questions and gave us lots of opportunity to take photos. Wrap up warm though, a Victorian prison like this is very chilly!

City Murals
Belfast has such an intense political history and these symbolic murals of Northern Ireland tell quite a story. There are murals all over the city depicting different stories and sides. There are Republican, Unionist and completely unrelated works of art on buildings that really are breathtaking. You can do a variety of mural tours (and see quite a few on a Black Cab Tour) or you can see what you come across while exploring the city.

Ulster Museum
Another free attraction with lots to look at and read, the Ulster Museum is a humongous building with great exhibits to suit children and adults. A bit of a maze to get around, the 4 of us ended up splitting up and looking at everything at our own leisure. I particularly enjoyed looking at the paintings, reading about The Troubles, coming face to face with a dinosaur and stuffed bar as well as admiring some diamonds. Next to the Botanical Gardens it can make for an excellent, free day out.

Victoria Square
Had enough culture and looking for something else to do? Victoria Square is a fantastic shopping centre with over 70 stores, a cinema, restaurants and a panoramic viewing dome. Being able to head to the top of a shopping centre and see the whole city was great - an absolute must. The selection of shops were great for both me and Mark and we didn't have to walk far out of the centre to reach more of our favourites. A must for a shopaholic.

Avoca is a beautiful little gift shop and home to Arthur Street Cafe. We visited around lunch time and couldn't believe the selection of cakes, let alone the sandwiches, quiches, cooked meals and salads. I couldn't resist trying out their Double Chocolate Cheesecake. It was delicious and filled me up all afternoon - even with 10,000 steps of shopping.

We visited Fratelli, a rustic Italian restaurant, on our first night in the city. Close to the train and bus station, and near to the theatre it's a fantastic location for some great food. The four of us all had something completely different and all of us finished the evening with empty plates. The staff were friendly, there was a good atmosphere in the restaurant, the cocktails were tasty and the food was fairly priced. 

Acton and Sons
Acton and Sons was my favourite place to eat during our whole trip. We looked at so many restaurants and menus but I picked out Acton and Sons as it looked the most comfortable and inviting from the outside. I ended up having a 3 course meal and loving every mouthful. There was a lovely ambiance in the restaurant, the staff was really friendly and the service was brilliant. The chocolate fondue was delicious, so much so I devoured it without snapping a picture!
The Perch
The Perch Rooftop Bar was a stunning bar with a real quirky theme. Though it's not got an amazing view like some of the other rooftop bars we've visited (namely the New York ones) it had such a nice atmosphere and beautiful decor. We sat outside, though there is some indoor seats, under a heater and enjoyed a cocktail from their chic cocktail selection. Yes, a little expensive but so worth it.
The Crown
From bird themed to Olde Worlde, The Crown Liquor Saloon is an authentic, unique pub with character coming out of it's ears (or doors). It's a very distinctive building with little snugs/carriages/confessional booths to sit in and enjoy a drink. Worth a visit.

Duke of York
My favourite pub in Belfast with pub merchandise and memorabilia covering every little inch of the walls (and ceiling). There's lots of places to sit and take it all in. There was live music at night when we visited and it was just the right volume to enjoy, but continue getting the craic. The only photo I managed to get was of the stairs leading to the toilets but I feel like they show the character of the place quite well. 

The Dirty Onion
If you've ever been to Three Sisters in Edinburgh that's exactly what The Dirty Onion reminded me of. Loads of seats and space outside and quite a dark long pub on the inside. With live music playing every night this was a busy pub but the speakers above each table spoilt it for me as it was just too loud.

Valentine's Day Your Way

Valentine's Day is coming up next month, and many couples are already planning what to do. There are some things you need to sort out far in advance if you want to make sure it's arranged. However, not every couple is a huge fan of the romantic day. You might think it's a bit schmaltzy, prefer to show your love more spontaneously, or just find it boring. Still, you might want to do something on the day, just because you can. You might like the idea of the day but find the typical activities don't really suit you as a couple. How about trying one of these activities instead?

Get Active
If you're an active couple, why not do something fun together on or around Valentine's Day. Doing something you love together is always an excellent way to celebrate and reinforce your love for each other. Perhaps sometimes you go to the gym together or go out for a couple's jog. But since it's a special occasion, you could try something different. Maybe you can find somewhere to go white water rafting or bungee jumping. Or you could do something a bit whacky like zorbing. For something more sedate, you could just go on a hike or a bike ride together.

Spend Valentine's Day with Other People
Who says Valentine's Day has to be for just the two of you? You could get together with some other couples or even some of your single friends. In fact, if you have friends who are feeling down about being alone on the big day, you can ensure they're not sitting at home with a tub of ice-cream. Maybe there could even be some match-making involved. Go out to dinner together, see a movie at the cinema or perhaps just invite everyone to your house to hang out.

Do Something Fitting of the Real St Valentine
How much do you know about Saint Valentine? He might represent love now, but little is known about the real man. One thing that is fairly certain is that he was arrested and executed, supposedly for marrying Christian couples. He suffered a particularly gruesome death, beaten with clubs and stones, before being beheaded. If you're more interested in grisly history than chocolates and flowers, you could incorporate it into your Valentine's Day. Take a trip to London and go on the Jack the Ripper Tour or visit the Tower of London.

Stay In
Plenty of couples are sure to stay in on Valentine's Day. However, while some have candlelit dinners and nights full of passion, maybe you just can't be bothered. If you would rather not have to make any effort on Valentine's Day, there's nothing wrong with a takeaway and a bottle of wine. Valentine's Day is a school night, after all. Put a film on or get ready to marathon some TV instead. You don't have to do anything spectacular to enjoy each other's company.

If you're not the kind of lovey-dovey couple to do Valentine's Day the traditional way, just find your own way of doing things.

Sale Haul - Boots, Debenhams, Hollister & Boux Avenue

It's been sale season for a long time now considering most shops kick started their discounts and offers back in November with Black Friday. I've made quite a few purchases and saved loads of money but I can't share it all on my blog. Three quarters of my Boots and Debenhams orders were gifts. That's Mother's Day and 3 of my friend's birthday presents all sorted - how grown up! The rest of my sale shopping was done in Belfast while we were on a city break after New Years. Boy are those shops good!

£29 and £34.66 down from £52
So my new Smashbox foundation wasn't strictly in the sale but I did use my Boots points and manage to get it for free, how amazing is that! I did, however, buy the Alien perfume gift set in the Christmas sale and was quite happy with the discount I got. I love this perfume and it's never cheap. This has a refillable bottle which means next time I'll not have to pay quite so much, as well as a body lotion and shower get.

£4 down from £8 and £5 down from £10
I bought lots of gifts from Debenhams but couldn't resist these two 'gifts' for myself. The Little Miss Sunshine lunchbox is a really good size and a nice way to refresh my motivation for healthy lunches. The string lights were a complete impulse but add a bit of sparkle to my living room after everything disappeared in the Christmas clear up.

£15 down from £25
I love Articulate at Christmas time, it always gets so competitive. We've played the classic one so many times I thought it was time for a new one, especially in the sale. We played it when we were having a girls night in last weekend and it was great fun.

£21 down from £35
I'm not normally fussed by Hollister but I was really impressed by the Belfast store. This jumper sums up my style at the moment and it's quite versatile for smart or casual. A much more wearable purchase than a typical Hollister hoody.

Boux Avenue
£9.60 and £8 down from £34 each 
I was going to order from the Boux Avenue sale online but I didn't want to pay postage and wasn't going to spend £40 so I was a bit disappointed to have to leave my basket unbought. When I found the exact PJs in a Bag in Belfast with an extra 20% I couldn't believe my luck. That's me ready for next Christmas now. The pink, checked ones are in action already.

What was your favourite bargain in the sales?

Affordable Wedding Accessories with AliExpress

So 2016 was the year we got engaged and set our date. We're not getting married until 2018 but already we've made some of the big choices and booked some of the essentials that book up quickly. You might think 2 years is plenty of time but there's been a few things we've wanted that have already been booked up - everything happens for a reason! While there's not too much more we can do at the moment I have been getting inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram. I've also been checking out AliExpress for some affordable DIY purchases.

These labels would be great attached to favours, as part of place settings or involved in table settings. Working out at 3p a label and with so many options these are a fantastic added extra.

We're definitely doing our own invites. I love all things craft anyway so it would be mad for me to pay someone else to create something so personal. One thing I'm worried about is printing onto thick card. I feel like this would solve all of my problems.

Another item linked to favours but this time some boxes that fold together. These would be good if we were to do fudge or chocolates as a favour.  At the moment we haven't quite decided but these look good.

Gone are the days of plain guest books. These drop frames are so popular and make a brilliant decoration in your house afterwards. This is such an affordable option and comes personalised and with the drop hearts too.

Little added extras soon add up. Something like this would be lovely decorating a marquee or hall or as a prop in a photo. Why spend a fortune when it can be less than a coffee at Starbucks?

I love the idea of a personalised cake topper. Our idea for a cake isn't going to be fancy or overly decorated so a topper that fits in with our colour theme would be amazing.

These are more tags which can be used on favours or attached to gifts for bridesmaids, best men and those that work so hard to make your day special. The possibilities are endless.

I'm so ready to get my DIY on! Is there any other websites I must check out?