Late September 2006
United Kingdom – London (England) / Swansea (Wales)
It’s far too easy to let too much time pass between blog entries! But, since I’m posting about trips that happened years ago anyway, you’re unlikely to be on the edge of your seats, awaiting the next post. Or maybe you are on the edge of your seat? If so, sit back, relax, and join me as I revisit my third international trip, where I once again returned to the shores of the United Kingdom.
As I think back on my 2006 trip, I can’t think of anything particularly unique about the way it came together. After my first big trip in 2003 and then the “reboot” in 2005 (since I was traveling with different friends), my 2006 journey felt like the next edition or maybe a continuation of what I started in 2005. Ruth Ann and I developed a great friendship quickly, which is what led to our 2005 trip, so we were both excited to visit again the next year! I think she appreciated having someone to give her a reason to visit in the first place and I know I appreciated having someone with me who had done more UK traveling than I had. And the fact that I made additional friends through her (our now-mutual friend Sophie [and her husband and sons], whose family we stayed with for the second time on this trip) was certainly a bonus!
Another trend that continued for this trip was the decision to once again plan our dates around the Regenerations Doctor Who convention. Not only do we enjoy conventions to begin with (obviously), but it also made a lot of sense for us to plan around this one again. Not only did it give us an excuse to visit Wales again (and hopefully continue to see new sights there), but it also gave us a built-in way to see a number of other friends in person, which usually only happens at conventions anyway. Remember, this was 2006, which was before Facebook and social media gave us really effective ways to be connected around the world (outside of email, of course), so these opportunities to see friends in person who we could normally only interact with via email and internet forums was really cool. And a BIG part of the conventions (actually the biggest part for me and certainly for a number of my friends) is catching up with old friends and meeting new ones, so at a time in my life when international travel and conventions were both newer for me, I was beyond excited to kill two birds with one store by going to a convention as part of an international trip. What could be more fun?? 🙂
In addition to me and Ruth Ann, we planned to hook up/stay with William and Steve (who I’m sure you’ll remember from our 2005 trip) during the Wales part of our trip, so the Four Musketeers were reuniting! This time we knew we shouldn’t get a just a “double room” (remember, that means just one bed!), but I don’t actually recall how we handled the hotel arrangements while we were in Swansea. We may have had two rooms? I’m sure if one of my friends remembers, they’ll comment with the correct info. 🙂
Once again, I don’t recall that we made any specific plans for places to see/things to do on this trip (outside of the convention), but we still managed to fill our time quite nicely. So what did we do then? Aside from the standard exploration, we did hit a couple of notable places while we were in Wales – Mumbles and Oystermouth Castle. Neither place is very far from Swansea, so with William’s car, we were able to reach them both easily, while also spending some time at the convention. Mumbles is part of Swansea Bay and is the starting point of the Gower Peninsula – it includes a pier, shopping, a lighthouse, and other things to explore, so we spent the better part of a day wandering around. As for Oystermouth, the first castle there was built in the early 1100s, though the current structure was built after that. It apparently fell out of use after the Middle Ages and just sat unused until it was given to the city of Swansea in 1927. And now it’s like many other castle ruins – open to the public (for a small fee) to walk around and imagine what life would have been like when the castle was operating (and not in ruins, obviously). Logistically, I’m fairly certain we went to Mumbles one day and the castle the next, since I recall us spending a fair amount of time visiting each place, so I assume one was on Saturday and the other was on Sunday. Again, correct me if I’m wrong, friends! I do remember thoroughly enjoying our time in Wales, though I realize now that I’ve never revisited either place, so I’ll have to make a point of doing so on a future trip. I’m always up for walking through a castle!
As for the London leg of our trip (both before and after the Wales leg), I feel terrible, but I honestly don’t remember anything special about anywhere we visited on that trip. General wandering around, spending time with Sophie and her family, and just enjoying my time there. I will say that one VERY specific memory from this trip is that my digital camera (remember, no smartphones yet!) seemed to be on its last legs because it kept acting like it was low on power, but changing the batteries didn’t fix the problem. So I did get some photos taken, but nowhere near as many as I would on future trips. Thankfully, this was a time where I made sure to snag copies of the photos my friends took, so big thanks to Ruth Ann and Steve (I don’t remember William even having a camera) for sharing their pictures with me a dozen years ago so I could share them with you today.
Onwards to photos!
I do specifically remember this photo! This was taken on Sophie’s deck the day we landed in London, just after I had taken a much-needed shower. Hence why I look so tired!
Aww, William! Of course, he’s a teenager now.
Just about to cross the Severn Bridge into Wales! I don’t exactly remember the timing of everything on this trip, but I think we went to Wales the day after we arrived in London.
Getting out to explore Mumbles once we arrived in Swansea.
Looking down at the water.
Apparently William was in a hurry to start exploring!
Welcome to Mumbles Pier!
Apparently William needed some assistance getting onto the pier!
Boys will be boys!
Ruth Ann and I had fun, too!
Not to be outdone, Steve and William had their turn! I remember looking at this photo with Steve afterwards and he called out how he was the only one to make sure his face matched the action around him (he looks like he’s in pain because a crab is snapping his foot!).
Ruth Ann won a keychain! I wonder if she still has it??
Enjoying a little sit-down after our exploring. Dig that wind-blown hair!
Peeking up a city center street after moving on from the pier. It was somewhere around here that I bought new batteries for my camera, hoping that would fix its issue (it didn’t).
Ruth Ann captured this nice (I think!) photo of me trying to figure my camera out while we were stopped in a pub for a drink.
I don’t recall us learning this man’s name, but Ruth Ann loved his storytelling, so she took his photo.
I love this photo I took of the ocean waves while on a sunset walk.
Also spotted on the walk, a ferry that ran from Swansea to Cork, Ireland. It’s a shame it no longer runs because I would have loved to take advantage of it!
While I was on my beach walk, Ruth Ann was sitting on the sea steps with Sophie and family enjoying dinner al fresco. This is during high tide, which is why the water is right up to the base of the steps. During low tide, it’s much further out.
Ruth Ann and William. Awww!
Speaking of Sophie, here she is with her son Adam in the TARDIS! See, I told you we spent a little time at the convention.
Another convention photo! This time it’s Sophie on stage with her Doctor Who co-star Sylvester McCoy.
The next day, we saw a castle!
More of Oystermouth.
A slightly different angle.
An informational sign about Oystermouth.
Me, Ruth Ann, and William outside the castle.
Aww, look at those smiles!
Exploring the castle proper (well, what’s left of it). I love wandering through ruins like this! Fascinating to think that the open ceilings and grassy ground were once enclosed in stone.
So glad we had such sunny weather for this excursion!
Ruth Ann taking a quick rest/posing for a photo.
William was posing, too!
Don’t worry, I did get a few pictures of Steve while we were exploring.
I could be wrong, but I think this was part of the kitchen.
Catching the Welsh flag in just the right light.
Looking down from the top(ish) of the castle.
We had a nice view of these Swansea homes from the castle.
We also had a nice view of this man working in his garden.
Ruth Ann taking a photo of me and Steve after she and William walked back down.
And here’s that photo!
Since the hotel backed right up to the water, it was easy to snap another photo of the waves after our castle fun.
I edited this photo to make it look as good as possible, but you can thank 2006-era technology for the graniness (I think this was from Steve’s phone).
Another very clear memory! The restaurant we were at was some kind of chain Italian restaurant and Ruth Ann was NOT impressed with her food. She didn’t eat much of it, so they boxed it up for her (even though we told them not to bother). Hence her amusement here! And the fun continued when we tried to leave the food behind and the server chased us down to give it to us. :p
One of the few photos from London! Steve stayed with us at Sophie’s for a day or two and we all explored the city together. I can’t remember where this was though!
Enjoying Trafalgar Square (as usual).
Steve and I broke away one day to do our own thing, while Ruth Ann went to lunch with her friend Colin.
Ruth Ann was impressed with the salesmanship of this guy who was selling The Big Issue. So much so that she bought a copy!
It feels a little anti-climactic because we didn’t do anything big to end the trip in London, but that wraps up my 2006 trip. Although it feels very much the same as what I did on my previous trips (especially the 2005 trip), but for me, this is definitely the trip where I got into a rhythm of how I planned, the kinds of activities Ruth Ann and I would do, how I got around the city, etc. In essence, this trip was the start of me feeling like I was learning my way around London and the UK. And lucky for me, those burgeoning skills would come in very handy on future trips!
Would you believe my next trip was in 2007? Stay tuned for the next installment!