So I finally did it! I crossed the pond on my first big adventure since starting to work with the Airline. For years my very good friend and favorite Brit, Stewart Davidson, has been trying to get me to visit. With my birthday approaching at the first part of the month, I was ready to do something amazing to kick off the year that would end my 30’s. My coworkers, who are FANTASTIC, stepped up and helped me out by volunteering to work my shifts. This birthday girl packed her bags and headed east!
The first leg of my trip was super easy, until I arrived in Philadelphia that is! Bad weather in Orlando and British tourists attempting to return home for the school year nearly cost me the entire trip. A last minute failure for a passenger ended up being my blessing in disguise. I flew in the very last seat on the very last row with two British kids laying across my lap, but I MADE IT!
I arrived in Manchester UK the morning of Aug 30. I was pretty exhausted but you wouldn’t have known for the excitement that was bubbling all the way down in my soul. I’ve dreamed of coming here for years and honestly I couldn’t believe I had arrived.. The airport in Manchester was easy to navigate and I really appreciated the big open windows in the customs and immigration section. I was able to take in my first views of England from there. It was cloudy, slightly foggy, and I could see hills in the distance. The customs and immigration agent was friendly enough. He asked me where I was staying and why I had come to England. He teased me about how I had probably come to find a British husband because that’s what all the American girls were doing these days since Megan. I was a little nervous when I realized that my phone service didn’t work AT ALL outside of the airports WiFi but again everyone was extremely helpful. I was able to make my way to the train station and it was easier than I expected to find my train to Liverpool.
I booked my accommodations through AirBnB and WOW I can’t say enough about my incredible host Sarah and her lovely home. It was as if someone had taken the blueprints of my dream house right out of my mind and built them. The row house was located in Old Swan, a neighborhood within the suburbs of Liverpool. It was absolutely adorable! My host had left a list of really fun and FREE things to do in the Liverpool area as well as a note that she had stocked the house with snacks and toiletries. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to get a nice hot shower after 12 hours on planes from the day before. My room was big and bright with really eclectic fun decor. I decided on a nap and boy I must have really been tired because I didn’t wake up until the sun was going down. The little house at 5 Abergele had a sweet little terrace in the back that Sarah had tastefully decorated with plants. She even had a vertical herb garden with mint for tea. I sat outside and watched as the sun sank low over the rooftops. I won’t lie the song “Chim Chimney” from Mary Poppins came to mind as I sat there with my cup of tea watching the sun bid me good night. I spoke to Stewart briefly and we made plans to meet in Liverpool. Thankfully he was able to call my cab for me since my phone didn’t work. We decided to meet for coffee around 10 am in Liverpool.
Surprisingly, despite being warned that the weather most likely would be crap, I woke up to find sunshine and relatively mild temperatures the next morning. My cab arrived promptly at 8:30am and the Delta Cab driver couldn’t have been friendlier. He asked me all sorts of questions, the most pressing being if I were American and what I thought about our president Donald Trump. I would later find that this is what most Brits were interested in. He laughed and teased me when I stated the address incorrectly for the One Liverpool Shopping Centre and said he knew where I was headed. Stewart was waiting for me when I arrived and gave me a hug. It was so amazing to see him! We’ve been friends for such a long time but distance has made spending time together almost impossible. He became my tour guide for the next four days and did not disappoint.
I really didn’t have any agenda in mind so we started out with a walk along the Albert Docks. I was immediately fascinated with the architecture and the River Mersey. It was much bigger than I had imagined. Little wooden boats and sailboats dotted the small protected harbors. We settled for lattes at a tiny shop and sat outside catching up on our lives. After coffee we walked by the Beatles statue. The influence from the band can be seen all over Liverpool. We decided to visit the Liverpool Cathedral and it did not disappoint. We were lucky enough to be there while a choir was performing and honestly I couldn’t get over the beauty of the stained glass. It was breathtaking. Little did I know this would begin a love affair of cathedrals for me. We decided to climb to the top of the cathedral for the views of Liverpool. AMAZING! Stewart pointed out significant buildings and geography from what is the tallest cathedral in Britain. You can see all the way into Wales from the top. It also is home of the largest cathedral bells. I wouldn’t want to be in the stairwell or above them when they chime but it was fascinating to think all of this had been built by hand thousands of years ago.
Stewart was a wealth of information about the history of Liverpool, especially during World War 2. We made our way to Bold Street and to a place known as the bombed out church. When the blitz happened, the roof of the church was completely demolished and it burned. Incredibly enough the majority of the building’s frame still stands. We entered and almost at once the noise of Liverpool silenced. There was a small alter with a peace offering and prayer along with two benches on either side. Stewart and I sat quietly side by side and I’m sure I could have sat there for hours. Inside one of the rooms that still stood was a list of all those killed in the Blitz along with artifacts of the horrific event. It was a somber moment that will forever be in my heart. A quote that has stayed in mind was of a little girl asking her Aunt about the strange orange glow in the sky. “That’s Liverpool burning, Love” was the Aunt’s reply.
We had a Guinness or two at an Irish themed pub and I was pleasantly welcomed into the world of British/Irish beer. Sorry Americans, but while I’m patriotic, IT’S SO MUCH BETTER! Stewart and I discussed our plans for the next day as we we made our way back to Liverpool One. We stopped for dinner at an outdoor American style restaurant and listened to live music till the stars begin to reveal themselves above us. My first day in England and I was already in love.
The next day we made our way to Chester. Chester was once a Roman city called Deva. It sits along the banks of the River Dee and carries a deep history that includes a medieval cathedral, fortified wall, and Roman Amphitheater. It is about a 30 min train ride from Liverpool but well worth the trip. As we traveled by rail, each stop produced colorfully and poshly dressed Brits. It was then Stewart and I discovered it was Race Day in Chester! Visions of one of my favorite movies “My Fair Lady” came to mind! If you haven’t seen it, please for the love of everything holy! WATCH THIS MOVIE!
The streets were alive with happy race goers and shoppers dressed in their fascinators and hats. The shops lining the cobblestone street dated back to Tudor times. I was again fascinated with the age of the building and the history contained within the walls of Chester. The best however, was about to be revealed in Chester Cathedral.
Built in 1092 as a Benedictine abbey, it has an incredibly rich history. The original church was built in the Romanesque or Norman style and many of the architectural features are still present today. It is the most peaceful place I’ve ever been to in my life. Hidden doorways and halls open up to small places of prayer and worship. The picture with the candle above is a small chapel within the church where I was able to kneel, light a candle, and pray. It is by far one of the most spiritual moments in my entire life. There is a lovely garden with a beautiful statue enclosed within the cathedral’s walls. As they say, “If only these wall could talk” what an amazing story they would share.
After spending a great deal of time at the Cathedral, we made our way along the city’s walls to the River Dee. We sat down and people watched, honestly one of my low key favorite things to do in a new place. Stewart and I discussed everything from politics to family life for Britain. It was really interesting to hear our differences and yet see so many similarities. It’s easy to see why over the years America has formed a deep friendship. We had lunch at the Bear and Billet. A pub older than America itself and I was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was. That evening we made our way back to Liverpool to a fire dancing exhibition taking place on the Albert Dock. It was so much fun to watch people from all over Liverpool talk and laugh. I was educated by a real Scouse on the Brexit issue that the UK is facing. While I won’t write the colorful language that Stewart had to translate for me, I will say I’ve not laughed that hard in AGES.
On Sunday, I woke up to cloudy skies and a little bit of breezier conditions. For my last day, Stewart had decided to take me to his hometown of Formby. Formby is a beautiful small town on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The only thing separating it from America is Ireland. We walked the forest trail to the beaches and I wasn’t disappointed with the view. Sweeping dunes rolled to the waters edge. Seagrass danced on the hilltops and the spray that came from the ocean was extremely salty. We walked the beach for a bit when the sky began to release tiny droplets of rain. I must have asked a million questions about the vegetation and wildlife but Stewart, ever so patient, answered each question. He asked if I was ready to warm up and to visit his favorite place, The Freshfield Inn.
The Freshfield is Stewart’s local pub. He spends a good bit of time here with family and friends. It’s easy to see why as the food and the beer was incredible. Do not, I repeat DO NOT believe the lie that British food is boring and bland. The Wild Mushroom and Chicken pie I had here still causes my tastebuds to water. Stewart also arranged for an amazing surprise while we at the Freshfield, a visit from his father Mr. Davidson and his StepMother Pat. What followed was the most fun I’ve had in years. The Davidsons are quite the life of the party. We laughed and talked for hours, with me enjoying every second of it. It was easy to see why Stewart and I became friends and why I dearly love his father and Pat. They are wonderful, wonderful people. I was sad when our time came to an end but with Pat’s promise of getting together again soon, I just smiled and returned Mr. Davidson’s wink.
Overall, this is the best holiday I’ve ever been on. The people of north Britain were welcoming and friendly. I never once felt unsafe or that people were unapproachable. That night as I left Liverpool for the last time in my cab, the cab driver made note of my lonesomeness as I stared out the cab window “You feckin’ love him don’t ya” he said in an Irish lilt. With the Beatles “In My Life” playing in the background I answered, “Well maybe, but I know for sure England has stolen my heart”.
With Love from Liverpool,