Our family just got back from a quick but quite nice trip to the UK. Certainly, this is not the first time we have visited there as we have been to various areas within the United Kingdom. This time around, we took advantage of our child’s long weekend school holiday and went to see Liverpool and a bit of the Welsh countryside.
One of the great things about living where we do in The Netherlands is not only that we have a popular, well-established international airport (Schiphol) near to us, but that because of this, it almost feels as if the rest of Europe is right at our doorstep as well. Our proximity to this gateway of travel makes it, therefore, quite easy to make the most of school holidays, even short ones that only provide long weekends.
So, for our weekend adventure, we decided to check out the city of Liverpool as well as drive around the neighboring area to see the sights. Since we were only going away for a long weekend, we packed light, taking only one carry-on each. This way we didn’t have to bother checking in any suitcases. With as many times as we have traveled, packing light is something we have learned that comes in very handy and which we do automatically for every trip, it seems. As the flight only took a little over an hour, and since we didn’t have to wait to collect any luggage once there in the UK, we navigated through the airport quite quickly.
While we were still in the airport, there was a somber moment of silence that the airport held in remembrance of all the victims of the recent attack in Manchester. I imagine that they must have also held another moment of remembrance later on after the attack in London as well. The state of our world is certainly quite concerning, especially when so many innocent people are hurt and targeted. And, though it might cause some to never want to go out and see the world for fear of what might happen, I still say traveling can be quite a healing and transforming thing. Mainly, in that traveling challenges you to see the world, other places, cultures and people as they are, in their own native environments. I believe travel can help open eyes and challenge previously held opinions of others or places, hopefully for the better, by allowing the traveler to see those who live in the country they are visiting as people just
like them; as their neighbor. Or, as Maya Angelou once said in her book of essays Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now (1993), “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.” After the moment of silence we observed there, we continued on to pick up our car rental for the weekend.
Whereas some people may not really feel like they’ve started their trip until they’ve checked into a hotel and unpacked, we make the most of our time, especially if it is limited. So, after leaving the airport and as we were on our way to Liverpool, we stopped to see two UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Our first stop was at the town of Ironbridge to see the historic Iron Bridge landmark in Shropshire. As the first bridge in the world to be entirely made from cast iron, this bridge, along with the town of Ironbridge and the Ironbridge Gorge are all a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After having lunch overlooking the river, we walked on the bridge and enjoyed the view of the river and the town from atop it. I took a few photos of the pretty bridge and then we then walked in the town a bit, wandering into a couple of shops before heading back to our car.
Back in our car, we continued on to see the next site: the Pontcysllte Aqueduct and Canal. Having just seen the world’s first cast iron bridge, we then saw this aqueduct that was also considered innovative because of its use of wrought and cast iron. Aside from this, it was also impressive as it has 18 stone arches and is the highest aqueduct in the world. There was a small walkway for pedestrians to walk at the top of the aqueduct, so we walked it, though it was a tight fit when anyone else tried to pass by and I was quite worried that I might just trip and fall into the aqueduct. There were also very narrow boats there that that barely fit into the aqueduct which would carry people to the other side. While my family walked back towards the car, I stayed a few more moments enjoying the
gorgeous view and the breeze that cooled me down on that very hot day.
When we finally arrived in Liverpool, we stayed beside the Albert Dock, near to the water, restaurants, shops, the Echo Marina and the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Overall, it was quite a nice area in which to stay.
On day two of our stay in Liverpool, we jumped back into our car and drove out into the Welsh countryside to see a few more sights.
The first thing we went to see in the morning
was Caernarfon Castle beside the River Seiont in the town of Caernarfon. It was yet another hot day, so we quickly made our way inside the castle which was thankfully quite cool. Built by King Edward I, this castle with polygonal towers is an impressive structure to see. We’ve visited many castles in the past, and were quite happy to find ourselves in one that is actually in quite good condition. Another item of interest regarding the castle was that in 1969, the investiture of Prince Charles,
the Prince of Wales, took place there.
Our daughter, of course, wanted to go to the top of a tower, so we climbed the tiny, spiral staircases to the top of the Eagle Tower to see the views. Then, later, we meandered through more of the castle, going into passageways to see where we might end up until we became hungry and left to go have lunch in the town.
After Caernarfon, we drove through more of the Welsh countryside to our final site of the day: Beaumaris Castle, in the town of Beaumaris within the Isle of Anglesey in Wales. Also built by King
Edward I in order to help conquer Wales, this lovely medieval castle is located with a view of the Menai Strait. Seeing as there was a nice playground beside the castle, we gave our child time to relax and play there. Knowing that too much time sitting in the car is not fun for kids, we always try to give our daughter time to play when there are playgrounds
around and when time permits. It is also a nice way to give ourselves a break and just enjoy being a part of the environment. Traveling doesn’t have to be about seeing everything, as I feel that can be quite an impossible task; but, traveling can partly be about letting yourself just live in the moment, and enjoy life as others would in the place you are visiting. So, after this, we took a little walk beside the water and enjoying the views of the castle and water, before heading back to our hotel.
On day three of our long weekend getaway, we finally walked around Liverpool and reacquainted ourselves with the town on foot. As we were right beside the water and so close to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, we decided to visit it to see the Titanic exhibit,
something we had not done the first time we visited Liverpool years ago.
The entrance into the museum was free, by which I was pleasantly surprised. The exhibition was good as there were interesting items on display that were from the wreckage, as well as a 20 foot long model of the Titanic that was built in 1910. Aside from this, there were also letters on display, various facts about the ship throughout the exhibit, a film that covered some of the story of the Titanic and its tragic history, and also a long list of names of people who were on the ship the day it went down, including names of both the survivors and the deceased. All in all, it was an interesting exhibit to visit and I’d definitely recommend it to any who are fascinated by history, especially in the tragic story of the Titanic.
There were other exhibits in the museum that looked interesting to see, but as we were itching to go walk around the town, we opted to leave to go exploring. Walking towards
the main shopping center area, we veered off in search of the Liverpool Cathedral. It was a bit of a walk especially in the heat, but when we managed to find it, it was worth the walk.
This was not the first time we had seen this particular cathedral, but it was nice to go inside once again to see what is said to be the longest cathedral in the world as well as
one of the tallest non-spired buildings around.
After this, we made our way back towards the shops to have lunch, as there were a number of restaurants around there. Taking advantage of the nice shopping area we found ourselves in, we then afterwards popped in to a bookstore to treat our daughter to some books. Then, we just walked around a bit more before making our way back to our room to relax for a while before it inevitably became dinnertime.
Waking early the next day, we decided to leave as quickly as possible, as there was a marathon that was going to take place right in front of our hotel and we figured it would be best to get out of there before it would become impossible to do so with the throng of runners around. It was a simple enough drive to the Liverpool John Lennon Airport, where we returned our rental and then headed off to catch our flight back home to Holland.
Though I had seen the Welsh countryside as well as Liverpool before, it was a pleasure to be there once again. Aside from this, I have always found the British to be quite lovely people and I have always enjoyed every visit I’ve made to the UK. I always say that it is quite impossible to see everything when taking a trip. But, this is why it can be such a pleasure to return to places you’ve been before, in order to see new sights that you didn’t get a chance to see before as well as to become reacquainted with ones you once enjoyed and have missed!