So, just because I am a geek, does not mean I am not a girl. I love shopping.
The main difference being, I would rather have comic books than shoes. Unless those shoes have Batman on them. Belfast is not exactly the shopping metropolis that all those cheesy commercials (that are costing the tax payer a bundle) make it seem, but there are a few places definitely worth investigating if your money is burning a hole in your pocket…
The first one is obvious!
I get that it is a chain store and not a big secret super alternative basement store, but oh, how I love it. Overpriced – yes, but if you are as impatient as I am, it’s worth it not to have to wait on things to be shipped from god-knows-where. There are bargains to be found in the comic book bargain bundle packs sold upstairs, and the selection of figures and strange cuddley things can’t be beaten by anywhere else in the city centre.
Unfortunately, this means that people treat the place like a bloody toy store, and there are always sweaty, fat, slimy little children running around, stealing things that I want.
I’m allowed to be bitter and mean to the tykes, I WAS HERE FIRST.
Anyway, go there. The staff are extremely nice and very helpful, especially if you actually attempt to have a real conversation with them.
Just around the corner is a hidden gem…
The Corium sells handmade jewellery, strange little housewares, and band t-shirts. These are niche markets, and to be honest, I’m always semi-surprised to find that the store is still open. Some of their stock can seem a little on the pricey side for what it is, but you’d be hard pushed to find it anywhere else. Well. In Belfast. On the internet, you’d find it in less than a minute.
The high street has sort of jumped on MY bandwagon in the last few years (how dare they), so, for a while now, every visit into Belfast pretty much starts with a quick peek into Schuh. I know, I know, I said I didn’t shoe shop.
Remember my conditions?
I used to be similarly impressed with H&M and their range of geeky t-shirts and nerdy slogans, but they seem to have given that up in favour of neon hotpants. Oh the times, they are a-changin’.
Just while I’m ranting about shops I don’t like – go AWAY Urban Outfitters. Copying your outfit/personality from a store window is not okay in my book, and Urban Outfitters seems to churn out hipsters like my cat churns out…well, I was going to go with a very harsh comparison, but you get the gist.
There is still a Game store in Belfast (but for how long, I ask, how long?), which is always worth a wee peek, just to see what I’m missing, but I’m not so keen on lavishing the same attention on HMV…I’m not made of money. And I’ve never seen any of the staff smile. I think it’s against their rules.
I’m a fan of the Head store on Ann Street, though. It moved from Victoria Square, and given that I venture into the capital very rarely, I was confused and all turned about and had to go for a pint to calm myself down.
This is just turning into a list of stores I like and dislike. So I’ll stop. Hit le Facebook pages and let me know if I’ve missed anywhere obvious, otherwise…go forth, and spend.
OH. I forgot the Disney store.
I will admit, I am not that into science. I appreciate that it is awesome and essential and all that, but my understanding is so basic that I do occasionally get the definitions of ‘science’ and ‘magic’ mixed up. However, the idea of a day trip to the planetarium excited me. Touch some rocks from space, look at pretty pictures, enjoy the existence of NASA, etc.
It is such a shame that it turns out that the Armagh Planetarium is pants. Here are the reasons why, in a handy list form:
- You might die trying to get there. Seriously, the roads in Armagh make little to no sense, and it feels like everyone is just driving forward and hoping nothing bad happens.
- The entire exhibition takes ten minutes. Even if you read all the information. We made it stretch out to twenty minutes – but ten minutes of that was spent in the kids room reading books about space written for toddlers.
Not trying to be overly harsh here, but the displays sort of feel like something a primary school class have done for their end of year project. The building feels a little clinical and school-like, so that doesn’t help at all.
- The majority of the ‘specimens’ are not from space. They are rocks from various places in Northern Ireland, with a little description about how that particular type of rock might be maybe in space somewhere.
- The staff were overly enthusiastic about our arrival – which always makes me uncomfortable, but, in hindsight, it could just be that we were the first visitors they had had in a while. A long while.
- The gift shop was terrible. All they sold were generic NASA posters and pencils. I wasn’t expecting a chunk of the moon or anything, but something fun would’ve be nice.
It was especially heart-breaking, considering I went to the Planetarium for my eleventh birthday and thought it was the best thing ever. Either it got rubbish since then, or I was a dopey kid who likes shiny pictures.
Either way, don’t waste your time, or your money.
First up, I like zebras, so this was always going to go well. Plus, I like any business with a name that can double up as a life changing philosophical mantra.
HearHoofBeatsThinkZebras is a handmade jewellery company based in the Lisburn/Belfast area, and man, this stuff is weird. Good weird, not like, made of human hair weird. Each piece looks like it was made by a Victorian lady with a time machine. I’m not 100% sure that this isn’t true.
Anyway, I have quite a lot of the loot myself, so I can say that they are as good as they look in the pictures. On that note. Here are some pictures.
I am a tad biased, as the crafty wee bugger who makes these trinkets is a good friend of mine, but I’m pretty sure I would’ve hunted down the Game Of Thrones themed bits and bobs on my own, eventually.
Most weekends, you can find the charming Kyra flaunting her wares at St. George’s Market, where past visitors to her stall include Maisie Williams (Arya Stark), and Peter Dinklage’s mum.
Otherwise, you can find her on Etsy…
Or on Facebook…
If you don’t see anything you love, email Kyra, and yell at her. Or, better yet, send her a little message asking about a custom order. I have a few of my own ideas…’Han shot first’ necklaces, perhaps? Or ‘The Cake Is A Lie’ bracelets? There are opportunities to be had.
Oh, my birthday is in November, by the way. And I could always do with more necklaces.
“My son is fighting a war, not playing at one.” – Catelyn Stark
Of all the Game Of Thrones characters I love (and I love, well, most of them), I have a warm spot for Renly Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. So, the opportunity to visit their camp was too good to pass on.
Just to the left of the world famous (is it even?) Carrick-A-Rede death bridge, it was actually a disused quarry that was used for the camp. You can find all the details here – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/carrick-a-rede/
I took a bunch of pictures, because it was sunny and the place is really, really pretty. So pretty.
If you’re feeling particularly brave, a short walk along some terrifying cliff edges takes you to this place…
It was really windy when I was there…so I didn’t make it to this particular cliff top. I value my own life too much. At least, I thought I did. Now I regret not taking the risk, especially since I had my brother with me, and I really wanted to shout ‘No one wants you for their king’ at him.
I’m Renly. He can be Stannis.
There’s not much more to say about this particular set – it is stunning, and it’s worth a walk around.
I’m going to take this opportunity to have a rant. It’s relevant, don’t worry. I think, I truly think, that I am in love with Margaery Tyrell. Let’s run this purely from the series, since I have an awful habit of spoiling the books for everyone.
Casting Natalie Dormer as Margaery was a stroke of genius – the woman is hot, smart, and looks like she would plan your murder while she brushes your hair (I was going to say something else there, but I’m trying to keep this PG13…)
The character is amazing as well – ambitious, politically savvy and adorable. In fact, one of my favourite lines from season two was hers. When Peter ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish asks her if she would like to be a queen, and she replies she’d rather be “the” Queen? My insides jumped around a bit.
Yeah, okay, so I have a girl crush. If you have a favourite character, I will happily read your rant. Stick it on Facebook!
In conclusion. Northern Ireland is nice. HBO casting directors are geniuses.
For any avid Game Of Thrones watcher/reader, Winterfell is kind of a big deal. It’s where the series (and the Starks) start, and it looks pretty freaking epic.
So, as a huge supporter of Team Stark, I was chuffed to find out that I could actually go stand there. In Winterfell. Wearing furs and cradling my direwolf.
Castle Ward, in Strangford (near Portaferry, famed for it’s aquarium), is the locale being used as the Stark Stronghold, and if you haven’t been there before – you need to go, soon. Love of GoT aside, the place is lovely, and there are parks and a cafe and a gift shop (everyone loves a gift shop) and outdoorsy activities to do. Like canoeing and archery. Fun.
On the downside, you wouldn’t immediately walk in and go ‘OMFG itz Winterfell, liek’, because, well, it only sort of vaguely looks like it if you tilt your head and squint your eyes. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of green screens used in filming, and in this case, they build a whole shanty town out of wood while they’re at it.
It is still definitely worth the visit though, even if only so you can go with a friend and take turns shouting ‘THE THINGS I DO FOR LOVE’ while you pretend to shove each other off the tower.
The majority of the filming took place in and around The Barn area, although there are other places used for scenes outside of Winterfell (such as the camp on the King’s Road when Joffery gets Lady killed in season one. Wee git).
On the downside (and there is always a downside), if you do journey all the way there in search of recognizable sets, you will be pretty much on your own hunting them down. I went during the summer, and when I asked a staff member where the best places to go to see the Game Of Thrones sets were, she had to go ask someone else. Who had to ask someone else. Who had to ask someone else, who guessed, and looked grumpy that his precious tourist attraction was being invaded by, well, tourists.
Worth a go, though. Spend the day there. Wear comfy shoes, because it’s a lonnnngggggg walk to see everywhere.
p.s. Useful website, for planning the trip that I have demanded that you take – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/castle-ward/
According to the BBC News, 19% of shops in Northern Ireland are lying empty. Given that Lisburn is becoming a ghost town, that doesn’t surprise me at all.
Now that we’ve been stripped of most of our Game stores, GameStop is gone completely (as far as I can tell?), and HMV charges an arm and a leg for anything particularly popular, I’m curious to know where you’ve been getting your video games.
I’ve done a little poll, but if I’ve missed where you prefer to shop for your goodies, head on over to the Facebook page and yell at me.
So, first up in my retelling of the adventures I have had around Westeros/Northern Ireland, is Ballintoy Harbour. I had never heard of the damn place before it was scouted to be the location of Pyke, but apparently it is a tourist attraction on it’s own merit.
Good for you, Ballintoy.
Around 15 minutes from the Giant’s Causeway, hidden down a windy country lane (that is apparently too small for coaches and is not pleasant to walk up and down), the harbour is quite picturesque, if a little seaweedy for my liking.
Not to go all womanly and squeamish on the matter, but it’s definitely worth mentioning that the place stinks. I don’t mean that in some sort of childish ‘it sucks’ way – the place is literally an offense to your nostrils. Eugh. It smells like if the sea had thrown up. And then died.
Stench aside, the small harbour was actually kind of cool. While a lot of sites used in Game Of Thrones are indistinguishable (they blanket half their sets in green screens), you actually nearly feel like you are standing in Pyke when you visit the harbour. If you ignore the cafe and public toilets.
The harbour is probably most visible when Theon Greyjoy lands home in Pyke after nine years, and proceeds to hit on his sister. As you do (season two, episode two, ‘The Night Lands’).
It’s seen really clearly again as Theon prepares to leave Pyke (to betray the family that raised him in luxury so that the father that obviously despises him will be proud. Good move), in season two, episode five, ‘The Ghost Of Harrenhal’.
Any pictures I took weren’t really for bloggy purposes, but here. Have some anyway.
All in all, the place is well worth a visit, but…hold your nose, and don’t plan to take a picnic.