Liverpool

First of all – to get you in the right mood:

We celebrated Derek’s birthday a few weeks ago. For the Saturday before his birthday we took a train up to Liverpool – a place that’s been on our bucket list since we moved here. My dad listened to the Beatles all the time while I was growing up and I, like so many others, love their music. However, I’ve recently come to realize there’s much more music than what I know from my dad. I mostly just know #1 hits and early years music. It’s time I educate myself on the music of their later years!
My inept knowledge of the Beatles’ music aside, our overall takeaway from Liverpool is that one day, bookended by two 2 hour train rides, was not quite enough.IMG_5523 Liverpool is has enough to see in its own right, never mind all the Beatles related sites.
From the train station we headed straight to the Albert Dock (a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of all of the maritime history that’s happened here) where there are lots of things to see and do.IMG_5576 Continue reading

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My Mom & My Sister: Southwest (ish) England

With my mom and sister visiting for two weeks we had to get out and see more of England than just Birmingham and London. The first stop on our road trip was Salisbury Cathedral, where we got to see one of the original copies of the Magna Carta.IMG_3029 IMG_3041IMG_3033The highlight of the day though, was Stonehenge. We went to Stonehenge when we had family visitors last year, but there’s a new visitors center and exhibits with neolithic houses. IMG_3049IMG_3043We weren’t strong enough to pull one of the blue stones. Props to you, prehistoric man!
Prehistoric Huts CollageDaughter likes to get up close and personal with history. Walk a mile in prehistoric man’s moccasins, stamp out a fire, sleep in a hut; she takes it all in stride.
In addition to the huts and the visitors center, the set up for parking and getting to the henge is also new (I’d recommend buying tickets in advance since everything is more structured now). You park at the visitors center, see the exhibits, then either walk or take a shuttle out to the actual site. We chose to ride halfway and walk the other half. This meant we got to gradually get closer to the stones and we walked past some long barrows (prehistoric burial sites). The long barrows are the grassy lumps behind Derek:IMG_3055 IMG_3125 Continue reading

Norway Travelogue: Bergen

Bergen has a big tourist pull (us included) in Norway. Both the old part of the city and a nearby fjord are World Heritage Sites and it is an all around lovely place. Plus, it’s the place that inspired Arendelle (not to be confused with Arendal) of Disney’s Frozen. IMG_3784 Continue reading

To Snowdonia and the North

We try not to be wasteful. Be it food, or belongings, or most especially, days off. So when Derek has a Friday off, we have to use it! For some reason a hiking trip sounded fun for this three-day weekend, so we planned to hike the PYG track (pronounced pig) up to the top of Mount Snowdon, the highest peak in Wales. You can take a train to the peak, which frankly, about three-fourths of the way up sounded like it would have been a much better decision than walking, but I’m happy we hiked.IMG_2197IMG_2212 Continue reading

Dover & the Southeast

Like our trip to Scarborough, we spent a few weeks in London because Derek was working on a client there. Since we were already two hours further south, we took a train from London to the southeast thereby saving us some time, taking advantage of our situation, and giving us the chance to see something we may not have seen.

IMG_9740The white cliffs of Dover are stunning, but I’m pretty sure on top of them wasn’t the best view. However, our little memory-building family hike in the sun by the sea was great. Continue reading

IronBridge Gorge

Lately we’ve been pretty focused day trips that are easy to get to an within an hour’s journey. For next weekend we’re planning on going a little farther (had to look that up just now) and then staying overnight because 2 hours is such a long drive. Ha. Gone are our college days of driving 3 hours one way to go hiking in a National Park for the day. I suppose we’re adopting a more European and child-friendly philosophy. Anyway, last Saturday we drove less than an hour to see a few sites.
IMG_5599We started at Buildwas Abbey, a medieval church that both the English Heritage and Wikipedia pages say is unaltered…except for the insignificant lack of a roof. Because I knew that the building was not too different than it was when in use I tried to fill in the blanks with a little imagination – some pews here, a tapestry there, a thatched roof overhead with Cistersian Monks beneath. Illuminating maybe?
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The old stone of building itself was beautiful, but coupled with lots of grass and England-typical trees around the edges… it was a great site.
IMG_5610Since we had the abby all to ourselves we just left L to hang out while we ran down some steps (like 5, don’t you worry) to see the chapter house and its tiled floor. She was cool with it.IMG_5609From Buildwas we drove just 2 miles to see the Ironbridge Gorge. We started at the Museum of the Gorge then walked over to the bridge itself.IMG_5625The Iron Bridge is a World Heritage Site (along with Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza – no big deal) because it was the first arched bridge to be made from cast iron.IMG_5614Previously cast iron had been too expensive to make to build an entire bridge out of it, but Abraham Darby figured out how to make it with coke, his son, Abraham Darby II assisted by making blast furnaces (bigger furnaces, more output), and Abraham Darby III built the Iron Bridge in 1778. Really though, the Iron Bridge is so famous because it was such an important site for the Industrial Revolution. You know the cliche if you want something done ask a busy person? I think that holds true for this area during the Industrial Revolution. The people who lived here were turning out iron, china, tiles, glass, etc.IMG_5615After seeing the bridge we drove a little ways to Blists Hill – a recreated Victorian town. We saw some performers, bought some sweets, took a funicular up a hill, and just appreciated the Victorian atmosphere. I loved the Outfitters – a clothing/fabric shop while Derek liked seeing the workings of an old steam engine. We also had a little extra appreciation for the time period because we had randomly watched Young Victoria on Netfix the night before.Blists Hill CollageSince it’s so close and since our tickets (like those we bought for the Shakespeare sites in Stratford-upon-Avon) are good for a whole year, we plan on returning to see the museums we missed.

If you find yourself in Shropshire:
The IronBridge website has lots of helpful travel advice and FAQs.
This driving tour looks interesting, though we chose not to follow it.
We didn’t go to all the museums, so when we do I’ll report back on the others, but as it is unless you purchase a passport for all of the museums I don’t think the China Museum or the Museum of the Gorge are worth the price of the individual ticket fare. Blists Hill was fun for us and would probably be especially great for children ages 5-14.
How much you walk is up to you. We wandered around all 52 acres of Blists Hill and walked on some paths around the bridge, but it didn’t seem like much. Do plan for weather. We were grateful for our umbrellas when it started to rain and I wish we’d had more water with us during the heat of the day.
Parking at most of the locations is £1.50 and that’ll cover you all day at most of the museums.  (Not for the Museum of the Gorge and the actual bridge and the Tollhouse). There is local pay and display (only £2.30 I think) or we saw free parking along the road between the Museum of the Gorge and the Iron Bridge, so long as you’re there less than 40 minutes you’re fine. There is some information about parking here, though I didn’t see that until writing this… Typical:)