GIRL ON A BICYCLE: PALM HOUSE, PANNIER PICNIC AND PALAEONTOLOGY

I had some company for my ‘Girl on a Bicycle’ adventures last week seeing as it was the half-term holidays. We were so lucky with the weather during the break and managed a great weekend of walking on the Causeway Coast with our family. Unfortunately, my husband had to return to work, so once back home in Belfast I decided to take the boys across town using the cycle paths which run alongside the River Lagan for a trip to the fantastic (and free!) Ulster Museum. We have been many times before but with new art displays and collections to see there’s always plenty to explore and learn about. I was particularly keen to see the Game of Thrones tapestry, as I am a big fan of the show and also because we had just come back from walking around some of the film set locations on the North Coast and I was eager for the theme to continue!

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So, with our plan in mind, I packed up a pannier picnic and off we went a-cycling. With the duller days now here (Winter is coming, after all), we made sure to switch on our bike-lights so that we were visible to pedestrians and motorists and journeying in single file we headed for Annadale Embankment. We did do a little on-road cycling, something I am admittedly a little nervous about when it’s just the boys and myself. Normally, I would cycle at the front of the group, my husband at the back and the kids in-between. However, the boys have done some training with Sustrans NI, so I wanted to let them put their skills into practice. We pedaled nice and slow and steadily, respectful of other road-users, made eye-contact with drivers and were sure to nod or wave thanks when someone was courteous towards us. Good attitudes are as important as skills when sharing space in my opinion!

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We arrived at Botanic Gardens on time for our picnic lunch which we were able to enjoy outside even though it was fairly chilly! We then took a walk around the beautiful Palm House, which is home to a fab array of tropical plants and hanging baskets. The boys loved studying the different shapes and colours, especially my youngest son who thought it was just brilliant – a future botanist perhaps!

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Once finished we went for a quick cycle around Botanic Gardens before making our way to the Ulster Museum, where there is currently a stunning display of poppies on the exterior of the building. A lady from the museum took time to explain to the boys the significance of the work of art and even offered to take a family picture! So kind!

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Next, we went to explore inside the museum. Our favourite places to visit are the dinosaurs and the elements section and of course all the artefacts from ancient Egypt. We spent a few hours wandering about, reading facts, looking at interesting objects and enjoying all that was on display. It’s such a great open space for kids to freely explore and the interactive elements are especially appealing to kids.

I finally got to go and have a peek at the very impressive Game of Thrones tapestry before we went to fetch our bikes. I have to say it is extremely well made, funny and if you are in any way fan of the show you will just love it!

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Our cycle home took us through Ormeau Park, which was looking spectacularly autumnal. There were fallen leaves everywhere so of course we had to cycle through them! We arrived home just as evening fell. It was great fun having company for my cycling adventure this week and I’m looking forward to future trips out and about exploring with my boys on bicycles!

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