Late September 2005
United Kingdom – London, Windsor (England) / Swansea (Wales)
Ready to go back in time again? This time, we’re going back to September 2005 for my second big trip (if you missed the post about my first trip, check it out here). It should come as no surprise to learn that this trip was also to the UK, but you may be wondering why my second trip was in 2005 instead of 2004, since my first trip was in 2003. Honestly, I’m not sure why I didn’t take a big trip in 2004, but I suspect it just came down to not prioritizing one that year. I did graduate college at the end of 2004, so between that and working full-time (which I did all through college, but I did an internship and was preparing for my post-college job in 2004), apparently I thought a big trip shouldn’t (or couldn’t) be a priority. I was just young and naive then I guess, because travel is always a priority now! Of course, it also helps to be out of school, making more money, and loving travel even more. Despite my lack of 2004 travel (or maybe because of it), I went into 2005 knowing I had to get back to the UK and what better excuse could I find than to go to a Doctor Who convention there?! Join me on another trip down memory lane for more fun, more friends, more Doctor Who, and more UK.
I don’t really have strong memories of the planning process for this trip. I didn’t travel with Cory and Zoe on this trip though – this one was the first of several trips with my great friend Ruth Ann. This is actually the same year I met here at, where else, a Doctor Who convention! Ruth Ann has been part of Doctor Who fandom and convention-running since the 80s, but she took a break from fandom for a good few years, so when I went to that first Chicago TARDIS in 2000, she wasn’t there (even she lives in Chicago and was on the staff for the predecessor to that convention, Visions). As Ruth Ann tells it, she got reintroduced to fandom when she attended a meetup of former Visions staff members at the 2004 Chicago TARDIS convention. I wasn’t at that convention, but some of my friends were, including Shaun, who runs Gallifrey One every February. After meeting Ruth Ann and getting wind of her previous participation in fandom, it wasn’t long before he was asking her to work with guests at his convention, the next installment of which was just a few months later. So it was at Gallifrey One in February 2005 that I met her and we clicked right away! It must have been at some point shortly after the convention that we started hatching plans for a trip. She hadn’t been to the UK in a number of years and I of course couldn’t wait to get back after that first trip, so I probably gave her just the push she needed (and it certainly helped me to have another partner in crime to travel with). So before too long, we made plans to head there, this time staying with Ruth Ann’s friend (and now mine!) Sophie (and her family) while in London.
Considering Ruth Ann and I met at a convention, it seems only fitting that one of driving factors in our first (of several) trips together was another Doctor Who convention! Regenerations was (or maybe is – it could just be on hiatus right now) a two-day convention in Swansea, Wales that happened annually in late Sep/early Oct from 2005-2013 (except 2008) and again in 2016 (you may remember reading about the 2016 convention here in this very blog). That’s what I say it may just be on hiatus, rather than gone for good – Cary (the very nice guy who runs the convention) didn’t hold one in 2008 and stopped altogether after 2013, but decided to bring it back for a one-off in 2016. I was there for all of them except 2011 (my grad school schedule didn’t let me take a big trip at all that year) and 2013 (Scott and I were on our first big trip together and we were in the UK right before the convention, but the dates didn’t quite align enough to allow me to go), so if Cary brings it back again in the future, I’ll happily attend if I can! And thinking back to this very first one, not only was it my first non-US convention, but it was also my first trip to Wales! Definitely a worthwhile occasion to mark in my blog.
Anyway! Where was I? Oh yes – the 2005 trip! Well, with plans in place for a September trip (which, incidentally, was pretty perfect timing as school was back in session, so nothing was too crowded), I had to also make separate plans to fly round-trip to Chicago before and after the trip. Since Ruth Ann lives there and there are lots of flight options from O’Hare, it made the most sense for me to fly there so we could catch a flight to London together. Her airline of choice is British Airways/American Airlines, so that’s the airline we used (on this trip and on several of our other adventures). Again, this was only my second international trip, so I still had yet to develop any real preferences other than “GET ME ON THE PLANE!!” so I’m pretty sure I was in the middle and Ruth Ann was on the aisle. Or she was in the middle and I was at the window. I do have a VERY specific memory of Ruth Ann sitting in the middle on one of our trips though, thanks to the hand of the guy in front of her that she slapped away during the flight! He totally deserved it though. This guy was relaxing in his seat and had his hands kind of behind his head, but then he decided to move them further back, thus covering Ruth Ann’s seat-back monitor. Needless to say, she swatted those hands away post-haste! I can’t recall if that was on this flight or not, but the memory made me smile nonetheless. 🙂
Thinking back on this trip, I don’t remember us making a lot of specific plans, other than the convention. We knew we would be staying with Sophie and that we would be seeing several friends in Swansea, like Steve, but I don’t remember planning for much else. For me though, that was fine then and it’s fine now, at least when it comes to London. Even then, I got such amazing energy from being in London (and the UK overall) and it was all still so new to me that I was happy to just explore. Take a look through the pictures below as I (hopefully) piece everything together (more or less).
Ruth Ann getting ready in the big living room mirror (better lighting) at Sophie and Vince’s house in Lewisham. This was either right after we arrived or, more likely, the morning of the next day (our first full day).
Looking up at St. Paul’s from Paternoster Square.
Outside St. Bride’s Church on Fleet Street.
From one church to the next! This is Temple Church, originally built in the 12th century.
Strolling through Piccadilly Circus. Alas, I didn’t win a swanky phone on this trip.
This guy seemed to be shooting some kind of news bit or documentary, possibly about Charlie Chaplin (since that’s the statue he’s standing next to).
I think this was my first visit to Covent Garden! Always a fun place to walk around – lots of great shops, restaurants, and street performers.
Fast forward to Swansea! This is Ruth Ann in our room at the Swansea Marriott, where Regenerations was held. Being my first non-US hotel experience, I didn’t know that a “double room” meant one double/queen bed. Oops! We did get a rollaway though, so we made it work.
I’m pretty sure we only stopped at this golf course so I could take a few golf-related photos for my dad, who loves golf.
Back to the convention hotel for the evening! This is my friend Trish, whom I met at my first convention in 2000. Fun fact – it was at that convention that I mistook Trish for Doctor Who actress Mary Tamm!
The next day, we spent some time walking along the beach, which the convention hotel backed directly onto. I took similar beach walks on every other trip I took to that convention, so I have lots of good memories seeing photos like this.
Since Steve was driving us back to London, we were able to make a stop in Windsor on the way home. Here’s Ruth Ann taking a picture of me, taking a picture of her.
We were on a guided tour (I think??) for at least part of our visit. We learned about things like the Order of the Garter – shown here is the their star.
A member of the Queen’s Guard in a restricted area of the castle.
Before the show, we had lunch with Ruth’s Ann friend, actress and comedienne Hattie Hayridge.
And thus ends another trip down memory lane. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this trip ended up being the beginning of a great travel relationship with Ruth Ann. Even though we haven’t really traveled together for several years, I still see her at least a couple times a year at conventions, so we still get to make new travel(ish) memories.
With this being my second international trip, I felt like I was starting to get my feet wet with the ways of the travel world. And of course, I continued developing my love for the UK, expanding on my experience with my first (but certainly not last) trip to Wales.
My next throwback post will find me back in, you guessed it, the UK. Don’t worry though – I’ll continue to find new things to explore, even visiting the same places. See you there!