Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Back before we set out on our spring trip we were already thinking of maybe a fall trip.  We didn't want anything too challenging but we thought a couple weeks in England would be fun.  We've been there before but never really got to spend time in the Lake District or Wales.  We tore through that area back in 1990 but you've got to admit that was a while ago.  Plus, when we visited Ireland we had intended to visit Northern Ireland but just ran out of time.  So, we talked ourselves into a Northern Ireland, Lake District and Wales trip even before we'd gone on our cruise.  We thought mid-September sounded like a good time; weather might be questionable but at least it wouldn't be crowded. 

Then our friends invited us to a birthday party in Germany on August 11.  Hmmm.  Well, we could move the England trip forward so we bought the tickets.  Non-refundable tickets, of course.  Then when we were in Spain our friend had an accident which sent him to the hospital and cancelled the birthday party.  Happily we hadn't purchased the tickets to Germany but only the tickets to London.  So, the English portion of our trip was going to be a little less hurried.  We can make this work.

We left for London on August 8 arriving on the 9th.  We got there really early so had decided to hop the train to Liverpool and spend a couple days there getting over the jet lag.  That all worked out well.  We got to see a bit of the city and get our feet on the ground.  We had decided we wanted to go see Northern Ireland first so we set out on the Stenna Line ferry to Belfast.  Let me tell you, there doesn't seem to be a way to go from Liverpool to Belfast in less than a day!  Flying involves travel to airports that are distant and the ferrys all seem slow.  I don't know, maybe we missed some genius method that is only 2 hours.  We hopped the ferry!  This is a photo of a similiar ferry in the middle of one of the largest windfarms in the world - in the middle of the Irish Sea.
We enjoyed walking around in Belfast.  It seemed like a nice walkable city.  Of course we had to rent a car and go check out the Giant's Causeway. 
We got to the causeway mid-afternoon and couldn't even get into the parking lot!  It was slammed!  We wandered down the road and found a nice little hotel to spend the night.  About 7 pm we decided to go check out the Causeway.  It is a national monument so you can visit any time.  You just miss the tourist office and we were pretty ok with that!  Clammering around on the rocks was fun but, well, how much fun can a guy take?  So we went back to the hotel and had dessert. 

Heading back to England was another day on the ferry but quite nice.  We found our rental car and headed our for the Lake District.  Our car was a Vauxhall Adam and let me assure you it was small.  Like the back seat wasn't usable for anyone with legs.  Still, it worked for us.  Our suitcases filled the trunk and our backpacks rode in the back seat.  We had decided to use the Keswick area as the center of our Lake District visit.  We had considered trying to stay on Lake Windemere and were very glad we'd switched to Keswick when we got caught in this awful traffic jam by Windemere.  For the second time moving our vacation earlier had brought us the crowds we were hoping to avoid.  Oh well. 

Our hotel was on Lake Thirlmere, one of the smaller lakes. 

It was very remote actually but worked for us. 
Keswick, the town, was still pretty crowded but our hotel was quiet.  Parts of the building are quite old but it has been updated many times over the years.  We found a walk or two to take and spent a day just driving around in other parts of the Lake District. 

Next we moved down to Barrow in Furness.  It was just a place that was closer to Wales and on the sea.  Living in the desert makes the seaside sound pretty good.  From Barrow we drove all the way down to Cardiff.  In terms of US travel it isn't far but in the UK it's quite a drive! 

Cardiff was fun.  It ought to be called Castle Town though.  First there is Cardiff Castle.

Then there is Caerphilly Castle.
And, finally, a late comer: Castle Coch.

Being a foolish American I always envision castles as having grand staircases and wonderful areas.  Here are the staircases tourists get to use!  This one has iron handholds, some only have a rope!

But, of course, it is great fun to visit these wonderful buildings and learn about the history and the stories surrounding them.  It does make using the elevator a much more treasured experience.

Next we headed for Aberystwyth on the western coast.  Aberystwyth is a college town with a lovely beach walk.  We enjoyed walking on the beach and in the town.
You can see the lovely summer weather we were enjoying.  No fear of finding a woman in a bikini on this beach!

Next we wandered up to the Northwest corner of Wales around Caernarfon.  Actually we were in a small town a few miles away called Y-Felinheli.  Our hotel was right on the Menai Straits.  We'd had a really small, odd room in Aberystwyth and the guy at this hotel took pity on us and gave us a special room.  This room has been used for a party room, servants quarters and who knows what else.  Here's a bit of the decoration.
But it was really a great place.  We could see the tides and the boats and, yes, Caernarfon Castle.
I like that view of the castle because it gives you a hint about how formidable it would appear to others.  And I liked the little warning signs they posted.
But it was the view from our hotel that was really the star of the place.

We found a restored railway to take for a day trip where we even got to see Snowdon!

That's the visitor center on the top of Snowdon.  At least that is what one of our fellow travelers said!

From Menai Strait to Liverpool was just a little drive and we got to spend another day or two in Liverpool.  By now we felt we knew the city and just relaxed and enjoyed our time.  There was an artist who set up some "Lost Castles" and we got to see one.  This was all created by volunteers using cardboard!
After Liverpool it was back on the train to London, Heathrow and flying home.  Thanks for stopping by!

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