Monday, 30 May 2011

Chill, you're in Mallorca

Our destination was the North of the island, a small, mainly residential part of Alcudia called Alcanada. We had booked a week all inclusive in a hotel there because we were in major need (*salutes major need* - HIMYM has a lot to answer for) of some rest and relaxation. Trouble is, when we got there, we'd forgotten how to relax... even with a pillow view like this...

Holiday Window

It was 5am, my very kind mother-in-law took me and Norngirl to Belfast International Airport where we got in a queue. We'd booked the holiday through a travel agents for the first time in a long time (as it proved to be a cheap yet easier alternative when the transfer is included). This turned out to be a bit of a confusing situation at such an early hour in the morning, especially after an evening drowning our sorrows from the cup final loss with Guinness and Wine.

Line up the Guinness

The thing being we're used to our self reliance when it comes to travel - with booking everything yourself and working out all the ins and outs and making sure everything is printed you get in the right mindset. With just a print out everything seems too simple... and so it proved to be as we realised we only had a print out of the reservation from the time of the booking and not the details of the booking references that came in an email a couple of weeks before the day. These days though we have technology on our side and although we didn't have a print out with the references, after a quick attempt on Norngirls android phone (whose reception was messed around with by the check in hall) followed by a quick check on the web (once I'd remembered by email password) we had all our booking references for the transfer and what not too. On this occasion, apart from being helpful, the booking references were not really needed, it seemed that most things were just done by name. After the slightly precarious start to the trip we were kind of expecting things to go wrong, but nothing else did, in fact it was surprisingly all comfortable and easy going, but we didn't know that at the time and as easy going as it was there was always that thought at the back of my mind.

We flew into Palma airport and although late for the transfer on paper (due to apron vehicle jenga puzzel that was funnily commentated on by our friendly sarcastic air steward) we were put on another 3/4 empty coach and were the first to be dropped off at our hotel.

Quickly checked into our room,everything was better than we'd expected, our room was spacious and had an excellent view. Everything worked. The closest we came to a problem was taking a few minutes to find the bathroom light switch.


Instead of problems, Mallorca was turning out to be better than I'd expected. I have to admit, I was slightly worried that Mallorca might be like the images of boozy brits in Magalluf you see on TV shows or that we could end up in some Benidorm like place, but it turned out a holiday in Mallorca can be, well, nice.

Alcanada rocky bay

We had arrived mid afternoon and so had a snack at the hotel bar before heading for a walk to the end of the bay to get a grip on where we were other than what we'd seen on Google Earth.

Buoy in the sea

Later on the evening meal was the biggest all you can eat buffet I think I've ever been to and the quality of food was excellent too.

Always better with sprinkles on top

Sadly, I hadn't managed to relax - it'd been such a long period of time since we last had any proper down time that it was becoming obvious I'd forgotten how to chill out properly.

In the evening we took in the hotels evening entertainment which was a game of tri-lingual bingo, it was a small group taking part but it made for excellent instant bar service. We had fun but the early morning was catching up with us and before the bar had closed we took a night cap up to our room. Turns out, the first stage of recovery towards re-finding the ability to chill out is in fact to take a break... who knew!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Another walk up the Cave Hill in Belfast

I say another walk up the Cave Hill but the last (and first) time I did this was 11 months before, that time I wandered up on a day off by myself but this time Norngirl was with me and luckily the view hadn't gone away.

Belfast Lough from the Cave Hill Country Park

As I went into detail last time, this time I'll just go through this two words or less per picture and let the images be your guide. Well that and Norngirl if you'd like to head over to her blog for a summary of our walk.

This way!

Cave Hill Country Park sign and Napoleons Nose

Pretty Blossoms

Cherry Blossom

Bird Pole

Bird of Prey Sculpture Cave Hill Country Park

Greeny Blue?

Blue and Green Forest Floor

Field O'Tree


Couples view

Belfast Lough Panorama form Cave Hill

In Shadow

Cave Hill Shadows

Chosen Path

Tree along the path

Bit Bumpy

Cave Hill Scene

Grassy Detail

Cave Hill Grass

Belfast Rocks

Outcrop on the Cave Hill

Fern Ahead

Curly Fern

Rocky Road

Cave Hill Scene

Cave Hill

Cave Hill Belfast


Cave Hill Forest Floor

Leaf Relief

Light of the Forest Floor

Ferned On


Smurf Bridge

Tree Arch Forest Scene - Cave Hill Belfast

Daisy End


Saturday, 21 May 2011

End of April - A quick flash back

So back at the end of April and it was plenty of trips to the gym and walking past St Anne's Catherdal, sometimes the view was better than others and this was one of the better occasions on the 19th.

St Anne's Cathedral Pink Sky

Soon after, my new camera arrived and with it the chance to take a picture of the restraunt that was called Hooligan the first time we visited it. It is now called Made in Belfast Cathedral Quarter. The fish finger sandwich was relegated to the lunch menu and I really wasn't impressed with the veg curry I had on another visit (portions had shrunken too) but we did try the other Made in Belfast before the Irish Cup final in may and liked that one a lot so will give the MID Cathedral Quarter another chance to impress again another time.

Made in Belfast Cathedral Quater

On the 21st there was time for some photos of St Anne's Square as I got playing with my camera's new fancy features some more on another trip to the gym.

St Anne's Square Belfast

St Anne's Square sculpture

St Anne's Cathedral

On the 22nd the Victoria Square cut out people were reminding me I needed to buy stuff for our holiday in May... like sun cream and some new swim shorts. Though I didn't buy anything from this particular shopping centre in the end. Garments shouldn't cost more than cameras, that's all I'm saying.

Victoria Square Entrance

The plants on the window sill were still enjoying the warm days and gave me some chance to see what the macro ability of the magical picture device was like.

Basil Plant Leaves

Then on the 23rd, Crusaders played at Seaview for the last home game of the season and with a 3-1 victory over Portadown secured 2nd place in the league.

Crusaders FC Seaview Panorama

This is the last game Seaview would look like this with the terracing at each end of the pitch for construction work was already well under way to remove the terracing and put in place 2 new stands and facilities. Good times!

Seaview Redevelopment

That Sunday on the 24th, the sun was still out and in our garden of Dandelions, the local wildlife was at work pollenating the pretty army of weeds. Little did they know Norngirl was going to soon put a bottle of herbicide to work... muwhahahahahahahahaha.

Dandelion and Bee

The 24th was also know as Easter Sunday and as such we headed to visit the family and Norngirl's sister made this awesome cake of a bloody nosed Easter rabbit.

Easter Bunny Cake

There was still time before the end of the month for the trip out on Easter Monday to Tollymore Forest Park and Newcastle as well as another walk around the Cave Hill on the 30th.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

A quick catch up

Hi everyone, sorry for the absence - In my defence: first there was an Irish Cup final that sadly didn't have a fairytale ending, then there was a holiday to this place where we watched Eurovision with some Europeans in Spain...

Holiday balcony in Alcanada

...whilst there, we got into watching the boxsets of 'How I Met Your Mother' and then we got back to Belfast and entered the world of Spamalot at the Grand Opera House. Suffice to say the last 2 weeks have been busy but awesome.

More about all this and other stuff very soon!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

May 5th Elections and Yes to AV

Northern Ireland May Election 2011 posters
'New Road Layout Ahead' gets my 1st preference!
It's that time again - time to head to the local polling station and cast not one, not two but three votes. The first two ballot papers will be the Local Council election and the National Assembly election and the third for a referendum on the AV voting system.

Voting in North Belfast I already know that I might as well not bother in the first two given there are already candidates almost certain to be elected on the back of their tribal branding.

It's like the democratic version of going to the supermarket and asking for a bottle of water but knowing you're going to end up being given a bottle of engine oil and a bottle of bleach - not exactly what is needed when you're thirsty as both will be hard to swallow and damaging in both the short and long term, but never the less it's what we're given by 'popular' demand.

I will be voting though. No point giving up as it's good to try and dilute things a bit. Sadly, the Greens haven't even been bothered to run a candidate in my area this time (for either vote, to be honest I don't blame them) so the lack of choice is truly underwhelming. I'm quite tempted to make an origami penguin out of my ballot papers just to give someone a smile but in reality, after doing my research again, it'll likely be a 1st preference vote for the Alliance candidate in each but after that I'm drawing a bit of a blank for 2nd preference let alone a 3rd or any other.

There is a silver lining somewhere in these elections though and that is the referendum. Sure, given a choice I wouldn't have AV or First Past the Post... so it is a bit of a bleach and engine oil choice again however at least there is a referendum.

In a twist of fate, the Assembly election will already be using what I would consider a better voting system - that of the Single Transferable Vote (a type of proportional representation). So this referendum for the General Election voting system isn't exactly the most amazing referendum there could ever be but it's a rare occasion anything is put to a referendum so probably good to make the most of it.

I'll be voting Yes to AV. Sure it's not perfect and it's not even as fair as some forms of proportional representation but it is at least a change towards that distant daydream of a majority view of the populous being represented in parliament (even if like in Northern Ireland I might personally disagree with that majority view).

The current first past the post method means that if there are many candidates in a vote, a candidate can be elected just by having the largest minority and a majority view being disregarded and worse than that in my eyes, FPTP is great for the more right wing 'traditional' parties - after all, there is a reason our out of touch Prime Minister and the BNP are campaigning for a No to AV vote. As stupid as they might look, they do have advisor's and they know a fairer representation will eat into their meal ticket.

As I don't really want either voting system but a third choice that we aren't being offered. The overriding thing (other than the reasoning above) for me voting Yes is the No campaign itself.

The No campaign's main reasoning is: "Our current tried and tested voting system gives everyone one vote and delivers clear outcomes. The Alternative Vote is a complicated, expensive and unfair"

Sure, FPTP gives everyone one vote... but then this current voting system means it is very likely that the majority of people's votes are not going to count for anything - your fate is in the hands of a few swing voters in a few locations in England - great if you live there but what about the rest of us whose choices are just swept under the carpet?

As for the criticism of AV as being complicated - The system we have for the Assembly elections here in N.I is already more complicated to understand at a mathematical level - at least with the vote counting - but yet amazingly, thinking of who you want to vote for and putting them in number order has turned out to be scarily simple. Sure, if you want a 2nd preference then it's not as easy as counting to 1 but somehow I think we'll all manage if we've managed to make it to the polling booth- obviously the No Campaigners missed that episode of Sesame Street with the count.

"Expensive"... only if you believe that a new state of the art system of voting machines will be rolled out - and given the fact STV requires more math and we still have hand counting, it seems a little presumptuous they would be needed... again with the whole No Campaigners missing too many Sesame Streets - I'll try to help... One vote... ah ah ah... twooo votes ah ah ah...

"Unfair"... but still fairer than FPTP!

Anyways, that's just my 2 cents on it all.

Happy Voting :)

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Newcastle for the View and some Ice Cream

On bank holiday Monday after finding Tollymore Forest Park very pretty but understandably packed, we queued into Newcastle and luckily managed to find a space in the middle of the main street.

Newcastle and the Mourne Mountains Panorama

As soon as we were out of the car and found somewhere out of the flow of people, the decision was made to make a bee-line for ice cream. We queued for a wee while in the famous Maud's by the river before getting our hands on a sugary treat, mine was a Strawberry and Chocolate medium tub and it eyed me up so badly that I couldn't help but start digging into it before we made it to the stone benches overlooking the beach, the footbridge and the river.

Tub of Mauds in Newcastle

Mouth of the Shimna River in Newcastle

It was a pretty scene and oddly there were less people sat around here then had been in a stones throw of us sat on the grass by the parked cars on the hill in the forest park. I wandered off a little to try out my new camera's sweep panorama mode some more and was pretty pleased with the results that you can see at the top of this post but eventually it was time to head on. We walked a little way down the sea front...

Newcastle and the Mournes

People on Newcastle Beach

Newcastle Beach

...and then cut up an alley back onto the main street.

Newcastle entry

The clouds were still hiding the sun that in turn was hiding a fully lit view of the Mourne Mountains - which was a shame.

Mourne Mountains

Newcastle Main Street

We made our way back to the car and got into the long queue to leave Newcastle. At that point the sun came out and it was like a hot summers day and really like the seaside we all like to remember it as. Also whilst in the queue, one of Norngirl's cousins and aunty gave us a quick scare as they got our attentions from the pavement by banging on the window whilst we were stationary... as I was saying, everyone seemed to be heading to the coast.

It was a pleasant ride home listening to music I'd not heard in a while like Garth Brooks' 'Friends in Low Places' before heading home for a night watching Bones episodes. It turned out to be a really nice day even with all the queues.


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