19.04.2011 - 20.04.2011 68 °F
Liverpool, Blackpool, Hawkshead, and Keswick Apr. 19&20th
Let’s see…. I think I left off on the last blog talking about Welsh. Mom and I dug a little deeper into the topic with some heavy duty linguistic detective work (well, we looked at the covers of two Peter Rabbit books, anyway) to compare Gaelic and Welsh, and discovered that the only thing they seem to have in common is that they’re both entirely unintelligible. Whichever came first, I think someone tried writing it down phonetically, and POOF, the other distinct language was created, making equally little sense. As for mom and I, we’ve been perfectly content coming up with our own pronunciations of town names. For some reason we invariably end up digressing into talking like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets, which can last from anywhere from a few minutes to an embarrassingly long stretch.
From our castle in Ruthin, we descended on the class-scale perhaps a touch further than absolutely necessary for the next night. More on that in a moment, but suffice to say there was NO elevator butler guy in Blackpool.
From Ruthin, we drove up to Liverpool to enjoy a little Beatles’ sightseeing. Albert Dock is an entertaining little area with lots of shops and museums set up around the old port where oodles of trade and shipping used to go on before boats got too big for the relatively shallow water. It was another lovely, lovely day out, around 70 degrees, but with a sturdy breeze coming up over the River Mercy.
“The Beatles Story” museum was a total sensory overload, although anyone who’s seen Magical Mystery Tour would probably be unsurprised by that. There were audio guides to explain the different exhibits and photographs, plus videos playing in many areas, plus overhead speakers piping old interview recordings and music on top of everything. I think if someone put me under hypnosis to sift out those separate parts, I might be able to tell you a few things I learned… for now all I can consciously remember is lots of bright colors, having “she loves you yeah yeah yeah” stuck in my head for ages, and a gigantic yellow submarine blowing bubbles into the air. Actually, it was quite fascinating to see their progression from nobodies playing in dank nightclubs to their ultra-stardom. One portion of an exhibit was just videos and pictures of crazy, screaming women going berserk over their arrival at various places. I had to revive mom twice when she fainted from the flashbacks.
From Liverpool, it was on up to Blackpool via the most obnoxious directions given by one owner of the B&B, who was in London on holiday. He was suffering from a cold, and I’m afraid he’d overdosed on cough medicine, because from what we could tell, he was bouncing back and forth between giving directions from London and directions from Liverpool. I can identify with the mental-fuzz, as I’ve been slugging “Chesty Cough” for several days, and only today realized that it’s about 100x stronger than the beer around here. Haven’t gotten arrested for violating any open-container laws while driving just yet, so keep your fingers crossed.
Blackpool is basically a weird mix of Las Vegas, Carnival, and whatever other towns you can imagine with lots of chintz, flashing lights and sticky floors. It has amusement park rides, as many drag queen shows as you can count on three hands, and lots and lots of bars pressing cheap alcohol. There’s a great big tower at one end of the promenade where you can look out over all the seedy goings on. (Un?) Fortunately, we were there on a Tuesday night, so the crowd wasn’t quite as colorful as it might have been otherwise. Still, there were plenty of drunks and pink boa feathers strewn about the streets. The other owner of the B&B (Tony, who had the most delightfully delicate cheekbones and Scottish accent) said they often had cocktails out on the front veranda to watch the night’s entertainment walking by in sized 16 stiletto heels.
Also, despite it being midweek, there were a huge pack of demonstrators next to the drag show that mom and I were supposed to go to (we were pretty wiped out and running late anyway, so we missed the Funny Girls show ) and the police were out en force. We had some dinner across from another similar club, and about halfway through our bangers and mash, a Police Dog van pulled up in front of the club. To our great disappointment, they never opened the back of the K-9 unit. We had SO hoped to see the infamous Corgi attack unit in action. I’ve heard that anyone who doesn’t remember to keep their weed stash above knee level can kiss their ankles goodbye—it’s like a furry yipping pack of piranhas on a cow carcass.
The next morning, our oh-so-friendly and flamboyant Scottish host served us our first Black Pudding, which was actually really delicious. It looks like something you’d see coughed up in an anti-smoking campaign ad, but was very good and savory. Mom’s going to look up the recipe, but for this one I’m all in favor of being blissed out in ignorance.
From Blackpool we drove further North into the STUNNING Lake District. We drove around Lake Windermere and up to Hawkshead, where there’s a Beatrix Potter gallery featuring many of her original drawings. The book “Timmy Tiptoes” is celebrating its 100 year birthday, so there were extra displays of that book. The town of Hawkshead is almost painfully darling, and we spent a lovely sunny afternoon messing about in shops and gazing at the hills of sheep and birds.
It’s about right on par with the Cotswolds as far as totally stunning scenery and pastoral fields that are almost hypnotizing. I have to say the one teeeeensy little drawback for the Lake District is its teeeeeensy little roads. I’ve tried to save my kvetching and moaning about the roads here to a minimum, acknowledging that I’m spoiled rotten with the SUV-accommodating carriageways in America…. Today took the cake though. We’d only had one really close call earlier in the week when an over sized motorhome barreled over a bridge that it had no place trying to cross with other traffic…. Today we at least tripled that figure in near-misses. At one point, we got pinned between a slate rock wall and an enormous lorry, with barely a couple inches on either side. The driver had underestimated his ego and overestimated his turn, and it took several minutes for him to squeak by us without taking the entire side of our car along with him. Mom had enough time to reach out her window to pull some weeds from the rock wall on her side, and for me to write a few obscenities in the dust on the side of his truck on mine.
Keswick (the “w” is silent… yeah, I know. I can’t force myself to say it without the “w” while I’m looking at the word either) was another great experience for us. Every other store in the town is an outdoors type shop, and they get a LOT of hiking tourists going adventuring around the area. It was a bright and beautiful afternoon-- a perfect 70 or so degrees out, sweet breeze coming off of Lake Derwentwater (close cousin to “Wherewentwater”), and sheep, squirrels and birds milling about on the hills beside the golf course. We got checked into our B&B, which overlooked the golf course and hills that seem to go on for ages. I fell asleep about 90 seconds after walking in the room (a side effect of coughing myself blue in the face all day while navigating roads that would comfortably allow for a single smart car and a bicycle passing one another) so mom got the afternoon off from my snot-nosed presence. She came back later smelling of Birkenstocks, Gore-Tex, and granola, so I’m assuming she had herself a good time, but I’m not one to pry.
We tried some local fare before heading to the theater, and re-discovered that whatever the price you pay, it’s still the same bloody bland British food, so you might as well eat at a cheap pub.
Keswick (you said the W in your head again, didn’t you?) has a theater down by the lake, and we went to see Arthur Miller’s play “A View from the Bridge”. It was a delightful performance, and since neither mom nor I had read the play before, we were both totally transfixed. At intermission we walked down to the lake, and it was almost surreally beautiful. The wooden rowboats they rent during the day were all lined up with ducks paddling around them in the twilight, with the birds and sheep in the background noise. It was a little misty along the water, and even with all the other theater-goers standing around chatting, it just felt totally dreamlike. One of those perfect moments that you don’t want to breathe too hard in case you blow it away somehow.
We head to Scotland tomorrow, and I’m pretty sure our first Haggis experience will be on about the same par. I’m sure we’ll both be speechless some somewhat watery eyed in any case.