United Kingdom – Southend, London, Brighton, Bath, Glastonbury, Cheddar, Weymouth
Welcome to my first Travel Throwback post! At various times in the past, I’ve thought about how I could revisit some of the trips I took before I started writing this blog and now I’ve finally decided to put (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper and do it! This month marks FIVE YEARS since I started this blog (feel free to check out my first post for funsies) and I’d like to think I’ve done a good job of chronicling the journeys I’ve been on since then. But I took my first international trip a full decade before this blog, so what better way to celebrate five years in the travel blogging biz (um, not that I get paid for this) than to take another trip…down memory lane? I didn’t always take as many pictures back in the good ol’ days and I’ll almost certainly get some of the details wrong, but you weren’t there, so you won’t know the difference anyway. 🙂
And what better place is there to start than at the beginning? Picture it – May, 2003…..
The story of my first international trip starts in a less-than-surprising place – a Doctor Who convention! As I’ve mentioned numerous times in this blog, I’ve always had a love of Doctor Who and that love led me to start attending conventions even earlier than 2003 – way back in 2000, in fact. I’ve met some of my very best friends at these conventions and it was those friendships that got the ball rolling for my first trip. You see, this was a group trip, though with all of us coming from different places:
- Steve – I met Steve at that first convention in 2000. At the time, he lived near London in Southend (today he lives in Brighton), so my friends and I were going to see him and explore England together.
- Cory – I had just met Cory at my second Gallifrey One in 2002. He’s a fellow native Iowegian, though he lived in LA at the time (and has moved a few times since then).
- Zoe – you know, I can’t remember exactly what year I met Zoe! I definitely knew her by 2000 though, so I may have also met her at that first Chicago TARDIS. It was either that or an Iowa Doctor Who fan event (she lived in Oklahoma at the time, though has now lived in the UK for several years).
With the players in place, plans were made! If I remember right, we started hatching plans at Gallifrey One in February. Given how far in advance I book trips now, it’s crazy to think I would have just started planning three months in advance, but hey, it was my first big trip, life was simpler, and airfares were cheaper.
Knowing that Steve lived in the UK, we thought that would be the perfect excuse to plan a trip. And not only would the four of us get to hang out for eight or nine days, but we would also have a built-in tour guide, host, and driver in Steve. 🙂 Haha! While that is actually partially true (Steve loves to drive, so he was happy to play driver, and he also offered up his place as crash space for us for part of the trip), it was really the time hanging out together that we were most looking forward to.
And that’s how it started! I booked my flight on Student Universe for a whopping $470 round-trip (crazy, right?!) and coordinated plans with Zoe – we both flew to St. Louis (me from Omaha and her from Oklahoma City) and then sat together on the flight to London (with Cory in LA, he had much better flight options, so I believe he took a direct flight, landing in London around the same time Zoe and I did). These days, I always fly Delta and I like to sit as close to the front of the plane as possible, but back then, I wasn’t loyal to any airline and I didn’t care where I sat, so Zoe and I found ourselves on an American Airlines flight, sitting allllll the way in the last row of the plane (that’s where Zoe wanted to sit and I was happy to oblige). Even though I was in a standard seat, eating basic food, and listening to the flight attendant tell the person in front of us that she couldn’t paint her nails on an airplane, the whole experience was kind of magical for me. I was sitting next to my good friend on a flight to my (soon-to-be) favorite country, where I would get to explore and have fun with two other great friends. What could be better?!
So what did we actually do on this trip? While I certainly have memories of our activities, what I don’t remember is how much planning we did ahead of time. I think we at least had a rough order of operations in mind though. For example, we knew we wouldn’t be spending much time in London until the second half of our trip and we also knew Zoe was planning to meet up with a friend in Yeovil one night but I don’t think we had much more planned out beforehand. Here’s the rundown of our itinerary, with travel provided by Steve and his car, known as Beep the Meep:
- Land in London (at Gatwick, not Heathrow), meet up with Cory (I think he landed first), and all get picked up by Steve
- Head to our friend Bill’s house for tea and conversation
- Onwards to Brighton (I can’t remember if we stayed overnight here, but I don’t believe we did)
- (Taking a) Bath – ha! (I’m pretty sure we went here right after Brighton)
- Thence to Glastonbury
- Next stop, Cheddar
- Passing through Yeovil (to drop Zoe off for an overnight visit with her friend), while us boys continued to Weymouth
- A visit to Old Wardour Castle on the way back to London
I definitely have strong memories of some of the things we did, but as you may have guessed from the slightly imperfect timeline above, I don’t quite remember all the specifics. Some of the most memorable moments include:
- My first time having tea in the UK at Bill’s house. Nothing notable about the tea, but quintessentially English!
- Seeing the BLUE water and pebble beach in Brighton.
- Staying in a hostel in Bath. We stayed in a room with, I think, six twin beds (two of which were bunk beds). Since there were four of us, we all stayed in one room, with no other guests. The bathrooms were shared, so it had a distinctly dorm flavor to it. I also remember having a conversation in Spanish with two other guests, who were visiting from somewhere in South America (I think).
- Wandering through the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Also, traipsing up a BIG hill to get to the Glastonbury Tor.
- Stopping in Yeovil to drop Zoe off (as mentioned above) and also to get what turned out to be some emergency car service. Beep the Meep had been acting a bit funny, so Steve stopped by an auto shop, where he was promptly told the brakes were in such bad shape that they couldn’t let us leave without fixing them. So, we got them fixed!
- Seeing my first, true castle.
- Spending time in London, sparking a love affair with my now-favorite city.
Wow, this trip down memory lane is starting to meander a bit, yes? Let’s let some of my pictures take over the story now. Keep in mind I’m squeezing the highlights of an entire trip into one post, so there are a lot of pictures, but I think you’ll enjoy them.
Another first glimpse – Brighton Pier! I will fully admit that my photo-taking skills have evolved quite a bit over the years, but I’ve only recently edited these 15-year-old photos, using the skills/technology I have now.
A sculpture on the sea front called Kiss Wall.
I know it’s just a sign, but it was cool to see this! There are all kinds of signs like this dotted around the ruins, with some areas chained off to show the shape of the structures that are no longer there.
Starting our trek up to the Glastonbury Tor. I told you it was a big hill! And this is where I got my first taste of that famous British scaffolding – it’s everywhere! So we didn’t really get a good look at the building itself, which just gives me a reason to go back someday.
Back down at the base of the hill, we walked through the Chalice Well. Evidence suggests the well has been in use for over two thousand years. Its water is said to have healing properties and the well produces 1.1 million liters of water/day and has never failed, even during droughts.
Moving on to Cheddar now, specifically to Cheddar Gorge & Caves. This skeleton is known as Cheddar Man and his bones date back to the Mesolithic Era.
From the caves, we climbed Jacob’s Ladder to get a view of the area around Cheddar Gorge, which is the biggest gorge in England. Love these guys! And if you thought ONE digital camera dated the Zoe’s photo above, try THREE digital cameras.
Next up, Weymouth! This was after dropping Zoe in Yeovil to stay with a friend overnight there, as well as after the aforementioned emergency car repair. It’s a cute seaside town on the south coast of England and I’d love to go back sometime!
The Weymouth Jubilee Clock.
During our cave tour, we learned how, way back when, people would put coins in cracks in cave walls/ceilings. I can’t recall why, but I think it was to measure if the cracks were getting bigger (the thought being that the coins would fall out if the cracks got bigger). Steve and I came across this crack by the beach in Weymouth – I had a nickel and he had a 5p coin, so we tested that theory. I wonder if those coins are still there??
This is the cute B&B we stayed in for one night in Weymouth. At the time, it was called Grainger’s, but it’s now apparently called Hudsons Guest House. It was very much a mom-and-pop place and the owners weren’t pleased at the idea of three guys sharing one room, but we convinced them somehow.
After picking up Zoe the next morning, we made our way to Old Wardour Castle, originally built in the 14th century. My first castle!
In another random corner, Steve used the timer on his camera (very fancy and useful – no smartphones yet!) to snap a photo of all four of us. I think this is the only photo I have with all of us in it!
Checking out the Fitzroy Tavern, which you may remember me mentioning in a post from my August 2017 London trip.
Zoe feeding squirrels in a park (I think we were in St James’s Park, but I can’t quite remember). And yes, they literally ran right up her leg to get to the food in her hand. While she was doing that…
Whew! That was a really fun journey to re-live. I look back on this trip with a lot of fondness and I’ll carry the memories and love of travel with me for the rest of my life. I’m so thankful to have taken this first journey with an amazing group of friends! Funnily enough though, even though we’re all still friends, I’ve never traveled with any of them since (though I’ve certainly seen them many times). I see Steve most every year at Gallifrey One and generally on my UK trips. When Zoe moved to the UK, she went to Penzance, which is pretty far from London. I never made it there, but she moved close to London a few years ago, so I was able to catch up with her on a recent UK trip. Cory moved around, got married, and had kids, so he’s been the hardest to pin down! But I’m confident our paths will cross again. And even if they don’t, that’s what social media is for, right??
I hope you enjoyed my first Travel Throwback post – there will definitely be more to come! In the meantime, I’d love to hear more about your travel experiences in the comments below. How did your love of travel develop? Where did you go on your first trip? What destination are you still looking forward to visiting? No matter what your own journey is, I’m happy to have you here as I revisit mine.