It feels like forever since I’ve been on the road—an obvious exaggeration, but that’s how my brain works. The past few weeks were full of mood swings and general malaise. I almost forgot that I had a trip coming, until my mind caught up with me and suddenly the “blahness” all made sense. I figured out my maximum threshold for being in one place—so it was time to go, as fast as possible.
This 8 day trip through North Wales (and a bit of England) has a deeper purpose than some of our previous globetrotting. Katie’s grandparents once lived in the little town of Llandudno and she has a lot of nostalgia attached to that part of the country. She wanted me to see the place that she spent childhood winters and summers along the waterfront, so we planned a road trip around it (naturally). After driving on the left side of the road in two other countries, we were cautiously optimistic about driving ourselves around the UK. Our journey would start in Liverpool and make a little circle through Llandudno, Tremadog, Shrewsbury, and return to Manchester.
I got myself a new fancy travel credit card after caving to pressure from Katie. It felt a little ridiculous trying to scrape by on a scatter of airline miles that never turned into money for all those years. One of the first benefits we were able to reap was airport lounge access. We both sat awkwardly inside the JFK lounge of choice, holding our free wine and snacks like we were sneaking into a nightclub underage and about to be found. It’ll take some practice to drink anywhere at an airport other than the dive bar next to the gate. I won’t miss the foamy $10 draft beers.
One more trip over the pond, and we landed in the UK in the morning hours. Dazed and running on 2 hours of sleep, we clumsily boarded a train from Manchester to Liverpool, collapsing into sleep for the entire bumpy ride. After a much-needed nap, we were ready to rejoin the land of the living. Our hotel was right in downtown, so we immediately started walking towards Matthew Street to satisfy our inner Beatles fans. It took no time at all for a random stranger to give us directions and embark on a 10-minute monologue about Beatles history in a thick Liverpool accent. I underestimated how difficult it would be to understand this particular dialect, and I need to work on my poker face because my confusion (aka resting b-face) was painfully obvious.
I grabbed a paper bowl full of chips (fries) from a nearby street cart, doused them in malt vinegar, and continued onto the Beatles museum as my chewy mound of fried potatoes gave me life. It was so satisfying to be back in a place where it’s reasonable to cover all of my food in vinegar. It’s not enough unless it’s searing off my taste buds.
The Beatles museum gave us some cool insight into the band’s start. I didn’t realize that Ringo didn’t join until a few years into their career, and it was surreal to see videos of them all as teenagers. You forget that a group so iconic was once just a group of wide-eyed kids fending off screaming teenage girls in throngs.
That night we only had to walk 100 feet to grab dinner at Thomas Rigby’s pub. Pubs abound in the UK and my soul was craving a wobbly corner table in a low-lit room topped with a cold beer. Our server chatted with us throughout our visit about Welsh pub recommendations, writing them one-by-one on blank check tickets. I sunk into my old wooden seat and inhaled a plate of gammon steak (similar to crisped ham) doused in even more vinegar and washed down with a lager. It was just right.
Most of the area was whisper quiet and tranquil on a Monday night, but Mathew Street was activated. The Cavern Club, where the Beatles first made a name for themselves (performing over 200 times), had a new band playing every 40 minutes on 3 different stages. The pulsing beats, cramped corners, and low wooden ceilings gave me an idea of what it was like in an earlier time.
When you order a beer in the UK, you’re usually asked if you want a half or full pint. My fatigued, jet-lagged body was thankful for the “half” option that first night that made it possible to bar hop for longer. We moved between squeaky stools at pubs from the 1700s and jam-packed clubs with music history. People on the street would just walk up to us and start chatting, enamored by the fact that we were from NYC. Like always, the approaches are not aggressive the way they are at home. There is a rare and genuine friendliness here. Nobody asked us if “we were sisters” or why “friends” like us were traveling together. It’s like that information wasn’t necessary in order to determine how we should be spoken to. I fell asleep that night feeling settled, satiated, and ready for the road.