A trip to the Emerald Isle of Ireland is not complete without a visit to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is only a short two hour bus ride from Dublin and has transformed over the last few decades, making it one of the most enriching and educational cities. Whether you are a history buff, film fanatic (Game of Thrones is filmed here), or art lover, you will find it here. Here are the top places to explore in Belfast on a weekend trip.
Watch the Belfast travel vlog:
Where to Stay: Ten Square Hotel
First stop is to check into our hotel, Ten Square Hotel, which is conveniently located next to the city's center point - the historic City Hall. The hotel has one of most comfortable beds, free wifi, and includes continental breakfast. If you are looking for a skyline view, the hotel's terrace overlooks the city center.
1. Peace Walls
For an educational and artistic way to enjoy the city, check out the Peace Walls, which are murals that showcase the city's past and future. The murals are found along Shankill and Falls roads. The older murals tend to contain political messages while the more recent murals opt for messages of humor and peace. You can tour the Peace walls by foot, Black Cab Tour, or the hop on hop off bus.
2. Titanic Museum
A visit to the Titanic Museum is a must see for visitors to learn the history of Belfast. The city's economy was based on ship building. Most notably, the Titanic was built here and was the largest ship afloat at the time. The museum tells the story of the ill-fated voyage with highly interactive exhibits, including a theme-park-style ride through a shipyard.
3. Game of Thrones!
Outside of the Titanic Museum is the filming studio for Game of Thrones which is in the unmistakable yellow and silver building. Many of the sights featured int he HBO series are filmed in Northern Ireland. There are tours of the filming locations which draw top photographers to the area as well as fans of the show.
4. Belfast Free Walking Tour
If you are a budget traveler, you will find plenty to do in Belfast. Belfast is filled with free activities, including one of the most educational activities - the Belfast Free Walking Tour. The small group tours are casual and informal, led by local historians who show you the important sights to Belfast's history and tell stories about each location. The tour showed the history from a local's perspective. Our tour guide, Gavin grew up in Belfast and watched the city transform to what it is today. It truly brought the city's history to life.
5. St George's Market
This lively market is the perfect place to sample the foodie delights of Northern Ireland. The building was built in the late 1800s and is filled with delicious food, crafts, antiques, and occasionally even live music. Outside of the St. George's Market, Belfast has historic pubs, Michelin star restaurants to satisfy foodie travelers.
Aside from my hometown of Los Angeles, Belfast is one of the top cities for street art. The city is filled with art on the facades of many buildings - all you have to do is walk around the city center to find them. Start at the MAC Belfast, which is a main hub for beautiful murals.
Belfast is one of the most historic, educational, and artistic cities that we have visited in Europe. What is your favorite thing to see in Belfast? Comment below!
Welcome to Angkor Wat! In this travel vlog, we take a guided weekend trip to the ancient temple of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and photograph the temple. Like most magnificent sights, we were not the only ones there. In fact, crowds can reach the thousands. So be sure to come prepared. Here is how to photograph the temple like a pro during a weekend trip.
Behind the scenes video:
When to go:
September or March, which are the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. At this time, the sun lines up directly above the central pinnacle of Angkor Wat, a estimate to the genius architecture.
First, we get up at 4:45 am to buy our ticket to the temple, which is $36 for a one day pass and $62 for a three day pass. At 5 am, we reach the temple. You can get to the temple via tuk tuk, taxi, or bike.
Here is the scene when we arrived:
Camera Set Up:
First, make sure your DSLR lens does not fog from the humidity. It took me about 15 minutes for the humidity on my lens to dissipate. I set up my tripod and filmed a time-lapse photo of the glorious sunrise. Be sure to get in the front row for optimal viewing.
Where to set up your camera:
Set your camera up on the west or north sides of the temple next to the outer moat (see pin drops below). You can also cross the moat and set up next to the "Libraries" where you will find an interior reflective pool. This area is much more crowded, so be sure to get there early.
View from the West side of the outer moat. The temple looks more distant, but I got an unobstructed view with no people or scaffolding in the shot.
View from the interior pool near the "Libraries". The temple is closer in view and the colors change every few minutes.
Here is what to bring:
In this trip, we explore the lively and historic center of the French Quarter in New Orleans to discover the top things to see and eat. First we visit Bourbon Street, famous for its jazz music, followed by the Garden district where we try the Creole/Cajun cuisine.
Behind the scenes vlog:
► Bourbon Street - the liveliest street in the French Quarter, filled with music, pubs, nightclubs, and of course - food.
► Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis - The oldest cathedral in the United States, established in the 1700s.
► Steam Boat - Don't miss the jazz boat cruises along the Mississippi River
► Garden District - Filled with beautiful mansions from the 1800s and live oak trees.
► Street car - a vintage street car that will take you everywhere you need to go in the French Quarter.
► Voodoo Museum - A tiny museum that gives you an inside look into the New Orleans voodoo culture.
► Lafayette cemetery - One of the haunted places in New Orleans, features an above ground cemetery dating back to the 1800s.
► ► Commander's Palace - http://www.commanderspalace.com
Located in the Garden District, this is a local landmark restaurant and a must visit. It's hard to miss with its bright baby blue facade and is famous for its bread pudding souffle and turtle soup, among many others.
► ► Galatoire's - http://www.galatoires.com/
Located on Bourbon Street, this restaurant is famous for its steak, gumbo, and shrimp etouffee.
► ► Cafe Du Monde - A landmark in the French Quarter, famous for their beignets and chicory coffee.
Louisiana Plantation Tours - One of the most eye-opening and interesting trips is an hour away from the French Quarter, the plantations. This is an interesting look into the history of Louisiana leading up to the Civil War.
Catalina Island offers a wide range of resort activities, water sports, and adventure. The island is part of the Channel Islands archipelago and is so close that it is visible from the mainland on a clear day. It's easier to get to than other island destinations, making it the perfect weekend getaway for Southern California!
Here are the top 5 things to do on Catalina:
We ride (FREE on your Birthday!) with Catalina Express which offers a comfortable and smooth ride from Dana Point and many other ports. Best of all, it only takes about an hour to get there. Make sure to bring your waterproof camera and device charger during the trip, as there are frequent dolphin sightings.
Once on the island, there are a variety of activities including scuba diving, parasailing, boating, kayaking, biking, historical tours, as well as sun and fun. Catalina has many historical buildings including the iconic Casino built in 1929, the Tuna Club, and the Wrigley mansion and gardens. The interior of the island is mostly undeveloped and there are even bison!
The Casino was built in 1929 and serves as an entertainment center. The bottom level has a theater and the upper level as dance performances and other events. During our visit, there was a 1920's Art Deco Ball.
2. Water Sports
Catalina Harbor features numerous water sports, from scuba diving, glass bottom boats, kayaking, paddle boarding, flyboarding (yes, you can fly over the ocean), parasailing, - you name it.
3. Catalina Museum
There is one major museum on the island and during our visit, there was a Chihuly exhibit where featured many of his unique and colorful glass works. Chihuly is famous for glass ceiling in the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas. The museum is $17 for adults, and $15 for senior and it closes at 5pm.
4. Wrigley Botanical Garden
Catalina was historically owned by William Wrigley of chewing gum fame and there are a number of monuments on the island from this time period. There is the Wrigley Garden which contains botanical and desert plants, as well as a large archway lookout point. There is also the Wrigley estate which is a local landmark and has been converted into a bed and breakfast.
5. Catalina Buffalo
Catalina is famous for being a place where you can see buffalo. The buffalo are not native to the island, rather they were brought here for a 1920s silent film and their population grew. There is a tour of the interior of the island where you can see the buffalo in the wild.
We hope that you get a chance to visit Catalina Island soon. Be sure to check the Catalina Island events listings before you visit, as there are many weekend activities. Enjoy!
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