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Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions about my visit to Belfast. If you’re looking for an in-depth history of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland, this is not it.

Most of my reluctance to visit Belfast was the recent renewed tensions (violence) ~ it’s covered extensively on British TV. In the end, I’m so glad I went to see the city for myself rather than rely on the media. It’s obvious there has been a lot of progress made in the last 15 years since the Good Friday Peace Accord was brokered (in 1998). We didn’t plan it, but we were in Belfast on Good Friday so there were a few events happening for the anniversary. Unfortunately, the famous pub “Crown Liquor Saloon” (circa 1826), which is located in a beautiful Victorian building and still has gas lights overhead, was closed due to Good Friday. The Irish take the Good Friday holiday VERY seriously ~ even the pubs in Dublin were closed or so we were told from our Dublin cab driver.

City Hall, Belfast

City Hall, Belfast

Staircase in Belfast City Hall

Staircase in Belfast City Hall

Stained Glass in City Hall, Belfast

Stained Glass in City Hall, Belfast

"No Mean City" Exhibition at City Hall, Belfast

“No Mean City” Exhibition at City Hall, Belfast

Memorial to the Titanic Victims, Outside Belfast City Hall

Memorial to the Titanic Victims, Outside Belfast City Hall

We visited City Hall which was dealing with the “British Flag” flying controversy.  From my understanding, the British Flag used to fly 365 days a year but recently, Sinn Féin formed a coalition, gained a majority in the government and voted to fly the Union Jack a limited number of days. The decision is not sitting well with the Loyalists and so it is ratcheting up the tension once again in Belfast. As we were leaving town, we saw Loyalist demonstrators in front of City Hall waving the British flag. Our taxi driver said he was making about £5,000 a month prior to the latest controversy but since news about the renewed tensions (and bombs being found), his income from tourists has dropped to £1500.

St Annn's Cathedral, Belfast

St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast

Mural in Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Mural in Cathedral Quarter, Belfast

Belfast has beautiful and interesting artwork throughout the city

Belfast has beautiful and interesting artwork throughout the city

Mural in Belfast

Mural in Belfast

Belfast Alleyway

Belfast Alleyway

Parliament Building, Belfast

Parliament Building, Belfast

Titanic Experience, Belfast

Titanic Experience, Belfast

Extreme Style in Belfast

Extreme Style in Belfast

We opted for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour with a live tour guide. As a lifelong Belfast resident, she was a fantastic guide and gave us the dramatic, tragic history of the area while infusing just the right amount of dark humor to keep the story from depressing us too much.

Peace Mural in West Belfast

Peace Mural in West Belfast

Political Mural in West Belfast

Political Mural in West Belfast

West Belfast Mural

West Belfast Mural

Curbside paintings designating what side of the political argument you're on(one hint: this would be "loyalist"

Curbside paintings designating what side of the political argument you’re on(one hint: this would be “loyalist”)

Political Mural showing how far back the tension goes in West Belfast

Political Mural showing how far back the tension goes in West Belfast

Intimidating Political Mural

Intimidating Political Mural

Peace Wall, West Belfast, Northern Ireland

Peace Wall, West Belfast, Northern Ireland

The Peace Wall, also known as “peace lines,” have been built all over West Belfast to separate Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. It’s the hardest part of the Peace Agreement for me to understand. Everyday, people in West Belfast wake up to these peace walls which are build with corrugated metal and barbed wire. Graffiti created by locals express everything from “Peace” to “Break the Wall Down.”  The walls are a constant reminder to residents (and visitors) that this kind of peace is fragile. I feel in order to move forward, integration is essential. Once you get to know your neighbor, you then start to respect your neighbor. Easier said than done, but I’m a hopeful person!

On a happier note, the restaurants we ate at in Belfast did not disappoint! Muriel’s in the City Center was a favorite of mine ~ delicious food and a quirky interior complete with “knickers” hanging throughout the restaurant. It used to be a hat shop at the turn of the century (I think) and the restaurant is filled with art deco.  Made in Belfast had a very fun atmosphere.  Both restaurants had comfy couches and a relaxed ambiance.

At "Made in Belfast" Restaurant

At “Made in Belfast” Restaurant

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Grafenwöhr was our stomping grounds from 2001 to 2005 and it was so nice to be back in the area.  It’s a beautiful location and it’s grown quite a bit since we left but it still has several historic buildings:

Water Tower, Grafenwoehr

Water Tower, Grafenwöhr

Forsthaus circa 1909

Forsthaus circa 1909

We lived about 30 minutes from Graf in the sleepy town of Neunkirchen bei Weiden. It has two churches, the kindergarten my daughter attended, lots of walking/biking paths and much more. We met many wonderful friends when we lived there and still keep in contact with them.  A flood of memories came rushing back as we drove into town:

sign for Neunkirchen

We saw a rainbow as we drove toward Neunkirchen ~ made me feel welcomed:

Rainbow

When we lived in Neunkirchen, we had two large dogs who loved running free in the forest surrounding the town.  We went back to see if there were any changes and we’re happy to report everything appears exactly the same.

Logan in the forest

Logan in the forest

It’s important to keep a lookout for interesting things when driving in Germany, you never know what you might see along the road. Here’s a tiny chapel:

Little chapel near Kaltenbrunn

or a cross along the road:

Bench and cross near kaltenbrunn

We went to our favorite restaurant, Pegasus not once but twice. We were considered stammtisch (a regular) when we lived in Neunkirchen.  We would walk in and they wouldn’t even ask our order ~ they would just bring our drinks and food to the table.  Unless mussels were in season, then John would change his order.  If you’re in the area and get a chance to go to Pegasus, I highly recommend the Scampi Diavolo.

On Friday, we went to lunch at Pegasus with our German neighbor, Norbert and his son.  Then today, as we headed out of town and at the last minute, we decided to swing by and eat there one more time since we have no idea when our next trip to Germany will be.  Surprisingly,as we drove into the parking lot, we saw Norbert walking toward the entrance!!  Must be fate ~ we couldn’t have planned it any better.

Pegasus at the flugplatz ~ our favorite restaurant

Pegasus at the flugplatz ~ our favorite restaurant

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Neunkirchen is very close to Weiden which is a very pretty German town with a lovely pedestrian zone (Fußgängerzone).  It looks even prettier with Christmas decorations.  We met with our friends, Nadja, German and their two adorable daughters for dinner in Weiden:

With Nadja and fam in Weiden

More of beautiful Weiden at night:

Arch to Weiden

Archway to Weiden

Weiden

This was less of a sightseeing trip and more of a chance to reconnect with old friends.  From the looks of our photos, we ate our way through Germany!  Good food, Great friends!

Lunch with Youngs, Gilbertsons

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Eating our way through Germany

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UPDATE: It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Guam. Feel free to leave your top 5 Favorite restaurants in Guam in the comments!

Itzy Bitzy tagged me to “Pick 5 of your favorite places to eat in your current location.” There are so many yummy restaurants here on Guam and, unfortunately, our short year here didn’t really allow us to get to all that many but I did find some gems. Here’s my current favorites:

  • Proa Restaurant in Tumon.  Very delicious grilled eggplant salad and the best coconut banana fritters I’ve ever had.
  • Thapanee Thai Restaurant in the Hafa adai Exchange. The BEST ever Grilled Tofu with lemongrass. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.  Their vegetarian spring-rolls are the best I’ve ever eaten as well.
  • The Mermaid Tavern in Hagåtña. Good salads and pasta. I particularly like the varied selection of beer.
  • Outback in Tumon. Can’t beat their YUMMY bread and the Chocolate Lava cake dessert.  Plus, next to Hard Rock Cafe, Outback is FG’s favorite place to eat.
  • Jamaican Grill  in Tumon.  A little spicy, a little tangy and consistently good.

To be honest, one of my favorite places to eat, is right here at home. I’ve been a lot more adventurous with my recipes and some have turned out pretty darn good 🙂

I tag: Heidi, KBGJess Mobb

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