A Trip Down Memory Lane

Eight years ago, I took my first trip to the British Isles. It was a graduation gift from my parents (More like a graduation incentive–my mom begged me to finally graduate and going on an-all-expenses-paid trip was my motivation. You can bet your ass I made school my bitch after hearing I’d be sent across the pond after receiving my Bachelor’s).

The fact that my parents literally wrote me a $5000 check (that I had to pry out of my dad’s hands) to have the trip of a lifetime is something I can never adequately thank them enough for. It was a life-altering experience that I relive in my heart time and time again.

Now, forty five years after my mother went to England, herself, for the first time, she gets to go again. We get to go together.

I’m fully expecting a lot of laughs, maybe some tears, and for sure, some annoyances, but I only wish for this trip to be an experience we recall fondly for years to come.

In honor of my last trip, and in excitement and anticipation for the one coming up, I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures from The British Isles 2010.

Be aware that I’m not a photographer in the least, and my photos were taken with a $100 pink Samsung digital camera.

Some will be terrible. A few will be blurry. More than a couple will have random people or strange angles. None have filters. I also took these from my Facebook, so they’ll be terrible quality. But, aren’t semi-terrible photos all part of the fun?

Buckle your seatbelts, baby! Here we go!

Hands down, the coolest plane picture I’ve ever taken. I think this is the southern-most tip of Greenland.

A view of London from the window (that didn’t have a screen) of our hotel room. We stayed in Earl’s Court, which is a gorgeous district in Kensington.

Our hotel in London. It was definitely not a Marriott, but it was perfection.

Our London neighborhood. Those row houses, though.

I still crave Nando’s, and who knew you needed sunscreen in England??

This Maida Vale pub just screamed England to me. It was here we found out what Russel Brand meant when he sang, “Will you come for my bangers, my beans and mash”. Or, maybe he means something else.

I distinctly remember this was the moment I almost pooped my pants. I also recall thinking, “This is how we die.”

We took the train from Birmingham to Coventry, because driving was a big “NOPE” (I eventually got brave and became one of the most proficient American drivers the British Isles has ever had the good fortune to host). This is Coventry Cathedral. It was hauntingly beautiful.

Did ya’ll know Lady Godiva is one of my ancestors? It’s true. I was so excited to visit her statue, but, sadly…

…it’s not quite as grand as Primark.

Wait, y’all have dollar stores too, but everything is a pound (which is like a dollar, but not)? Mind blown.

British motorway rest stops are like freaking palaces!

The Conwy Castle ruins in Wales was my favorite castle. We were there, exploring, for hours.

The flowers growing out of the castle walls were almost too quaint.

I mean, just look at this!

Who knew one could find palm trees in Britain? Llandudno was exquisite.

I.did.not.want.to.leave.

WTF? I ate one. That’ll show them.

This was our one splurge stay. This is the Radisson Blu in Dublin. The grounds were my favorite part. This is where we discovered that Ireland’s air conditioning is not like “our” air conditioning. Hot.as.balls.

Kilkenny was quaint af. We wanted to stay at this hotel. It was way out of our budget, so the Pembroke Hotel was the lucky winner of hosting us for our barf-tastic wild Irish night.

TOO MUCH PRETTY

Y’all think this person likes Elvis?

It’s almost just as romantic as Italy. Except they were laying on the concrete in a pretty sketchy part of town outside an apartment building. Young love.

But, someone left kegs there. I found this way funnier than it really was.

Blarney Castle was awesome. I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, because Rick Steves said I’d get the herp if I did.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee

Seriously, I felt like I was on another planet while walking the grounds at Blarney Castle. It was otherworldly GORGEOUS.

The drive to Dingle Town, while poop-your-pants-scary was stunningly beautiful at the same time. It was a conflicting feeling.

Dingle Town! I couldn’t even with the adorableness!

I’ve never seen so much green.

Galway was a lively city full of sounds, smells and so many people. The energy was palpable.

Galway also has weird af people who put their gum on a public railing, that is literally right next people playing Scrabble, to eat their chips. She then just left it there.

Kinlay Hostel in Galway was our first dorm-style hostel and the entire night I was literally sweating profusely from the fear that people would come into our room and I’d have to share a room with…STRANGERS. No one came. THANK GOD.

Some ruins and a rainbow effect. No big

Some more ruins and some dark, foreboding clouds. This is like travel picture porn to me.

Ever been to Newgrange? They are prehistoric mounds that are older than the pyramids. Anyone else use the Egyptian pyramids as a gauge for how old something is?

A super narrow alley in Edinburgh we named “Stab Alley”. Not exactly sure why.

Edinburgh was my favorite. I have this one in black and white on my wall. Love.

Edinburgh Castle was too much. Too.much.

The views from the castle are AMAZING AF. Scotland is just the absolute best.

You never know who you’ll find on the streets of Edinburgh.

Loch Ness, my love. TOO BEAUTIFUL. Too.freaking.beautiful.

This path cutting through these delicate wildflowers led to the banks of Loch Ness. It was MAGICAL.

No words needed. Those are words, but, you know what I mean.

I could have stayed on the banks of this river in Inverness FOREVER.

This was taken somewhere between Inverness and Edinburgh. I didn’t realize Scotland was so green.

This was taken from Oxford Castle. Oh, England. You hurt my heart. You’re just too beautiful

Here I am in the haunted Oxford Castle. What haunts me to this day is how I thought I was fat. I wish I were as fat as I was when I thought I was fat, cuz, honey, now I’m fat.

The winding streets of Oxford. I felt studious and smart af in Oxford.

Oh my (said in a George Takei voice).

The River Thames. Le sigh.

The River Hotel was, bar none, the most *interesting* hotels we stayed at. There was the case of the stubborn pube (it was sitting there, on the bathroom floor waiting for us when we checked in and still there after the bathroom was “cleaned”). Then there was the fact every surface in the room had, at least, an inch of dust. Of course, I can’t forget the old lady receptionist who was meaner than a dog shitting tacks. And, of course that we were put in the Annexe, where all of the Americans and other unfavorables get a room. What a trip.

I was speechless the entire time we toured Westminster Abbey. If walls could talk.

When I first saw Big Ben, I knew I was finally in London (This is confusing as my pictures go in order, and I, obviously, was already in London. We started and ended in London. My second set of Big Ben pictures was much better than the ones I took three weeks prior, when I was still a London newbie).

Rick Steves told us not to waste our money on the London Eye, so we didn’t. I’m still not sure if I’m mad at Rick or not.

The only picture I got of the London Bridge.

I think this is Covent Garden. What I do know is we ate at a tiny Italian restaurant in this neighborhood. I had Chicken Carbonara. I never forget food.

One of my London “must dos” was to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. That was before a full day of walking. Also, before we realized that why our tickets were so cheap was because our “seats” were in the pit and we had to stand for all three hours of the play. Spoiler alert: we didn’t stay for the whole play.

Now I’m so excited for my trip and ya’ll are probably bored after looking through some random’s pictures.

So, tell me, what’s your favorite “take away” from a trip? Is it a souvenir, new knowledge, pictures, or something else? Tell me in the comments!

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.