Just as soon as we’d arrived in Liverpool, it was time to go. We had a fleeting 24 hours to recover from jet lag before we hit the road towards Wales. We booked a car rental from Liverpool airport, hoping that we would have an easier transition back into left-side driving if we didn’t have to navigate center city. The rental car area looked like a factory outlet–quiet and out of the way–which was perfect. We received a cute little orange sedan marred by a suspiciously banged-up side door and the cover missing from one mirror.
“I’m sorry…this is the only automatic transmission we have”
At least we don’t have to worry about anybody stealing it.
Pride swallowed, we were on the road. Driving on the left side in my 3rd country to date was a personal achievement, and picking up where I left off is easier every time (I am always the guinea pig). After a short drive on the highway, we stopped for lunch in a cute town called Chester. It quickly became apparent that the “narrowness” of UK roads would make left-side driving a greater feat than on past trips. As soon as we were off the freeway, the pavement grew skinny and the car became sandwiched between decorative brick walls along the left and overly-confident local drivers on the right.
My grip tightened as we rolled into town, dodging pedestrians who rarely looked before crossing in front of my car. I navigated tight curves and blind turns inside the closest possible parking garage with trepidation and graciously removed the ignition key.
The guy who banged up our car before we rented it was probably an American too.
As soon as I could feel my feet on the ground again, the rustic architecture and winding streets of Chester proved to be a beautiful setting for lunch and a sign of charming “village style” to come throughout the trip.
Back on the road, we finally rolled into the sweet, sleepy seaside town of Llandudno. Our bags rattled against the skinny sidewalks from our too-far parking spot, and we were thrilled for the chance to rest before wandering next door for some fresh fish and wine.
The next morning at St Tudno Hotel, we both ambitiously ordered full English breakfasts and then struggled to keep up with the elderly gentleman stuffing himself full of fried bread and black pudding at the next table. For context, a proper English breakfast contains the following: eggs, grilled tomatoes, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, black pudding, fried bread, and Heinz baked beans. This particular serving came with three eggs and was enough to feed three of me.
Our plan for the day was to take the old tramway up the Great Orme for a panoramic mountain view. The antique tram car was adorned with wooden seats that rattled and bumped as we moved up the steep mountain alongside houses built directly into the incline. At the summit sat an old playground that Katie used to hang out in while awaiting the ride down as a child. We wandered around and snapped photos, battling the wind for a shot of the green and blue hills nearby, and feeling slightly less sluggish than we did just after breakfast.
By the time we were back on the ground, the 7 pounds of bacon in my stomach had been digested and I was desperately craving fish and chips. We stopped at Tram Fish & Chips for dinner that night just minutes before they closed, smiling ear-to-ear as the counter girl decided whether it was too late for us to dine-in. Flaky fish, airy and crispy batter, and a gallon of vinegar later and I was full to the brim once more.
We made our next stop at the Kings Head, the oldest pub in Llandudno, just in time for quiz (trivia) night. It had a typical “old pub” feel, with lots of nooks to tuck into with your pint of beer (or half, if that’s your jam). Patrons of all ages quickly filled the seats for quiz night and we were directed to download a “quiz night app” on our phones–a surprisingly technological game play move considering the casual and old school environment of Llandudno. NYC is leagues behind with our paper-and-pen trivia nights.
Not only did we lose at trivia, but we lost by at least 100 points. It was a full and unapologetic commitment to loss. Regardless of this, we were selected on random draw to receive a free bottle of wine, which made me unreasonably happy because I never win anything EVER. It might have had something to do with the fact that our team name was “Girls from NY”, which returned some puzzled glances. Unbeknownst to us, we had been chatting with the owner of the pub all throughout the night as he sat on a nearby stool. He had us pretend to pour a “celebrity” draft beer from behind the bar, assuring my city-girl brain that our “bags would be fine” if left alone at our seats for 3 minutes. I think he was just surprised to see anybody under the age of 50 on those bar stools. We definitely didn’t fit into the local median age range.
The air was cool, full, and crisp and the streets were whisper quiet as we wandered back home with free wine in tow. The glimmer of house lights along the skinny peninsula by the water made it look like a horizontal glow stick. There is a profound peacefulness and eerie nostalgia in little Llandudno—like remembering a place I haven’t been. I fell asleep that night to the sounds of seagulls in the distance.