From Gaerwen to Blackpool: At Least We Didn’t End Up In the Black Pudding

We left off last time just barely arriving in Blackpool in one piece.

Despite having finally found Blackpool after what felt like 83 years of driving, it was now up to my car sick and useless-with-a-map travel companion to find our B&B.

We knew nothing about the B&B other than it had an available room with two twin beds and it was somewhere in Blackpool. Oh, and I guess we had an address. Duh.

We had no idea if it was near the shore or some other distinguishing landmark that might have served useful when explaining our dilemma to the 20th petrol station attendant we’d spoken to that day.

When we knew we’d be way past check-in time, we used our trusty Samsung Vodafone to get a hold of the woman managing the B&B to assure her we would be arriving, we just weren’t sure in what century.

She was super friendly and assured us she’d “keep the light on”. She even went so far as to ask where we were and tried to guide us that way.

“Oh, you’re by a brick building with white trim? Erm…”

“It’s by a fish and chips take away? Well…”

“What’s the street name? Egg Road? Dearie, I don’t think that’s a road…”

(It was Haig Road.)

After tons of miscommunication and a very poor explanation of our surroundings on our part, she eventually gave up and merrily predicted we’d be arriving in no time.

In no time, we still had no idea where the fuck we were.

When I recall this moment on my trip, I always wonder how we drove around Blackpool for a solid hour like complete imbeciles.

I guess the only real reason is that I have zero sense of direction. When I was in college, I’d leave one of the buildings, just blindly going in whatever direction felt right. My friend would have to run after me and steer me in the correct direction. Even after a year of being at the university, I had basically no idea where I was going every single day.

It comes naturally, as my dad is the same way. Except worse. So much worse. After a prime rib dinner at one of the downtown casinos one night when I was around ten, my dad and I left in his truck and lost the rest of the family convoy. Two hours later, we made it home, but not before circling the city three times and almost driving across the state line. My mom almost called search and rescue.

I’m not sure what my friend’s excuse was other than he must have been sniffing glue or picking boogers when they learned about maps in the 3rd grade, because somehow he was worse than me at directional intelligence, and that is saying a lot.

Perhaps the most stressful aspect of all of this was the fact that we were inconveniencing some poor woman. Had we made arrangements at a hostel, we’d likely have just accepted defeat and slept in the car.

After our 10th orbit in one particular roundabout that we were sure had to let out on the street we were looking for if only we went round enough times, we noticed a police car parked further up one of the streets.

In utter desperation (and I was getting really, really cranky at this point), I decided we should go ask for directions.

“You can’t just drive up behind a police car and get out. It’s like the opposite of what’s supposed to happen. They pull up behind you and they get out to walk up to your car, so…,” replied super-helpful-friend.


I wanted to pummel him.

So, of course, since he was incapable of going into to the last 12 petrol stations to ask for directions, because he’d “for sure barf” if he did, I had to walk up to the police car after pulling up behind them like a total creep.

Turns out, they were very friendly (and pretty amused) and willing to take us in the correct direction as far as the edge of their beat. I totally didn’t feel like a moron asking for police assistance in finding our B&B. Not at all.

After the policemen got us going in the right direction, we very quickly found our B&B. It’s amazing what going in the correct cardinal direction will do for you.

The B&B was completely not what I had imagined. All of the B&Bs I’ve ever seen and stayed in have been older houses, with the rooms converted to accommodate for guests. This place looked exactly like the hotel in Fawlty Towers.

The woman who we had gotten to know so well over the phone welcomed us in her robe, slippers, and, if I am remembering right, she even had rollers in.

She was really excited to see us.

She greeted us like long-lost, beloved family members. I think her overly-excited behavior had everything to do with the fact that she could now finally go to sleep.

I don’t even remember checking in. It was all a whirlwind of, “You both must be exhausted! Here, let me take that. Oh, it’s no bother! We’ll be going up the lift, if that’s all right. Well, not me, but you two. And your luggage.”

All I recall from check-in is her excitedly stuffing us and our four pieces of luggage into the smallest elevator in existence*.

We could barely utter, “Are you sure this is going to work?” before she used her entire body to push the rest of my fat still bulging out as the door tried to close.

Once the door was shut, we couldn’t move at all. I’m not even exaggerating when I say every square inch was taken up by our bodies and luggage. I had an elbow in my back, a suitcase handle in the neck, and a carry on bag somehow balancing on my head.

I risked decapitation by American Tourister to turn my head to get sight of my friend. He looked thrilled, his face smashed into my bright pink floral Vera Bradley carry on.

We were only going up two flights, but the ride TOOK FOREVER. Not only was this rickety contraption barely the size of a fucking refrigerator box, it moved about a millimeter a minute, and it sounded like it was dying a very painful and dramatic death the entire ride.


An hour later, the elevator stopped, the door slowly creaked open, and a cascade of bags, arms, legs, and a random shoe fell out of the elevator.

We stumbled, stunned and exhausted to our room.

After a few dazed moments, I asked, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Dude, I think this place is creepy as fuck, and she’s totally going to grind us up in her special human-sized meat grinder. We are going be served as black pudding tomorrow for breakfast, ” my friend asserted**.

Normally, I would have totally bought into the fear and would have been like, “OMG NO WAY HOW DO YOU KNOW ARE WE GONNA DIE?” but I was too tired to care that the place was a little off.

I told him he was ridiculous and rude and that was that.

Because we couldn’t even remember the last time we had eaten, we ventured out onto the boardwalk to find anything open at the ungodly hour it was.

I can’t even accurately describe Blackpool, other than to say it was exactly like my experience on the shore in New Jersey (other than the British accents). I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but I really have no idea.

The first open take away restaurant we found, we ordered, ate, and miraculously found our way back to the B&B in our exhausted stupor in short order.

My friend was so out of it, he thought he’d finally found his Irish goddess in all places- a dingy Blackpool fish and chip shop.

On our way up to the room, my friend noted that no one else was about in the B&B and for sure we were her only victims for the night. Or, the others had already been taken.

For once in my life (because I’m always the one who is sure a place is haunted and full of murderers), I was the rational one.

I told him he was crazy and that no one was around BECAUSE IT WAS ONE IN THE MORNING. I then promptly went to sleep while he stayed up, watching out for Norma Bates.

In the morning, after a full night’s rest (for me), all was right again. We saw the other guests (definitely none were murdered in their sleep) during our delicious full English breakfast in the dining room (just like the one in Fawlty Towers). But, we didn’t eat any of the black pudding. Just in case.

Instead of doing any sightseeing along the boardwalk, we decided to see the Irish Sea before heading off to Scotland.

We had no idea what these booger things were, but my friend had a pretty good guess.

For the end of June, it was really, really cold.

*How I didn’t feel it necessary to photograph said elevator is a total mystery.

**She was adorable. Don’t listen to him.

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: The Never-Ending Road Trip — Part 1

I was going to post a rant about airfare prices and the bullshit song and dance you have to go through to not be ripped off royally by the airline industry, but it wasn’t helping my eye twitch. Thus, I decided to write about the time a road trip from Gaerwen, Wales to Blackpool, England turned into one of the most memorable moments of my 2010 British Isles trip.

Because I’m long-winded, this’ll be a two-parter, folks!

My travel friend and I had seen a commercial for Britain’s “Jersey Shore” while in Ireland. We just looked at each other and it was decided*. After picking up our third and final rental car in Gaerwen, Wales, we’d stay a night in Blackpool on the way to Scotland.

(In hindsight, choosing where to go in a country with so many beautiful places to see based on its similarity to the reality TV show, Jersey Shore is kinda dumb.)

I’m fairly certain that some of the troubles we encountered can be blamed on the wild ferry ride from Dublin to Wales (well, and on my friend’s almost non-existent map reading skills). It was pouring rain and the waters were choppy. Actually, that’s an understatement. What’s 100 times worse than choppy?

Our Vegas showboat ferry swayed and groaned and rocked for the entire 3 hours and some odd minutes of the journey.

Go ahead and tell me this doesn’t look exactly like a showroom at the Flamingo.

I wasn’t too worse for wear, miraculously, but my travel friend never even attempted to lift his head off of my travel pillow that I so kindly lent him and watched over worriedly. I was pretty concerned he’d get pre-barf drool on the pillow I’d still need to use for the remainder of the trip.

To get my mind off of the potential demise of my pillow, I decided to head to the bathroom before it was filled with sea sick passengers. My attempt at *walking* to the toilets was pretty comical, because I’m fairly certain my body was completely sideways as I groped at chairs, walls, (and maybe one nice-looking lady), as I climbed to the bathrooms.

When we finally docked and set foot on land, it felt like we were still swaying for hours. Then we had to get in a car.

It was not my favorite.

(In fact, I’ve had to take a break from writing this as I’m literally feeling the nausea- kind of like reminiscent sympathy pains.)

We were picked up in Holyhead by Paul, the friendly, but erratic Enterprise driver who liked to test the limits of his passenger’s underwear. He had driven my boyfriend and I a week prior to the ferry when we were on our way to Ireland to meet our travel friend.

(In case you’re confused, this travel friend is the same one mentioned in this post. My boyfriend, the friend, and I all traveled together in Ireland. When my boyfriend had to go home, our friend continued to travel with me so I could stay longer and have a companion.)

He looked at me and then my friend, with a “I know what’s going on here” look on his face and said, “Got yourself an upgrade, eh?”

When he had us all ready to zip off in our feisty-looking cherry red Vauxhall, he asked, “Know how to drive one of these?”

Once I got the hang of it, I LOVED driving this thing!

I was confused as he very clearly remembered seeing me a week before when we dropped a car off that we had been driving for nearly a week.

“Well, yeah. I’m pretty much an expert now!” I responded, thinking he meant driving a car with the steering wheel on the other side of the car.

“Well, that’s good, because this is our last car.”

Still confused, but not too fazed, we got into the car, and I immediately realized what he had meant.

It was a fucking stick shift.

Now, I was taught to drive with a stick shift. I can drive one of those sonsabitches as good as any trucker, but to shift with my left hand?

I had specifically requested automatic cars for the entirety of the trip for the very credible reason that operating a steering wheel on the opposite side of the car while driving on the opposite side of the road was going to be no small feat in itself.

Almost hyperventilating, I checked to see if the clutch was also on the “wrong” side.

“Well, at least there’s that! The clutch appears to be the only thing I recognize in this car!”

My friend just responded with a quick dry heave.

I remember thinking, “We are going to die on the way to Blackpool. And, for what? To see the British Pauly D?”

The rain started pelting the roof and the Enterprise office turned off its lights.

It was time to get a move on.

Despite the nearly blinding rain, the not-so-subtle relentless swaying feeling from the boat, and the fear my friend would yak all over us, the actual driving wasn’t so bad.

What was bad was the fact that my friend was too sea sick and now car sick to even read the map properly.

(We could have switched drivers, but he felt he’d fare better as the passenger.)

A drive from Gaerwen to Blackpool is a 2.5 hour drive, give or take traffic and weather conditions.

It took us nearly five hours and I can’t even blame the weather, as the rain had let up a bit not long after leaving Gaerwen.

Every time he had to look at the map, WHICH WAS A LOT BECAUSE WE HAD NO IDEA WHERE WE WERE, he’d act all dramatic and pukey.

We missed exits off the motorway, got back on the motorway going in the opposite direction and didn’t realize for miles, and had to stop for rest breaks more often than is needed for an old lady with a nervous bladder.

He’d belch up a barely coherent set of directions and I’d yell, “DON’T TALK TO ME, I’M TRYING TO SHIFT/CHANGE LANES/BLINK!”

Somehow, and I don’t even know how, we made it into Blackpool in the pitch black dark of night.

If you live in the U.K. or you’ve been, you’ll know that it doesn’t get dark until like 10:30**at night in the dead of summer.

That’s how I knew we had been driving forever. It’s not like our car didn’t have a clock or my ass wasn’t entirely numb, but the fact that we were driving in darkness for the first time during our whole trip stood out to me.

We had made it into Blackpool, but we had yet to locate our B&B. Stay tuned to find out how we finally made it to our ├╝ber strange B&B. It may or may not have involved some friendly policemen and a way-too-perky-is-she-going-to-kill-us-in-our-sleep B&B owner.

*I was in no way a fan of Jersey Shore (I may have watched just a couple episodes to see what it was all about. My friend never watched one single episode, nor did he ever even contemplate watching them, either. I’m sure he’d appreciate my clearing that up.

**Maybe it’s not that late, but it sure felt like it.