Legendary Llandudno

“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.” – Benjamin Disraeli 

After spending a great time  exploring Cardiff, we called it a day . We had a train at 5 am and were well aware of the fact that our breakfast and half of our sleep would have to be continued in the train. After bidding goodbye to Cardiff,  we decided to take a quick nap to greet Llandudno with high spirits and enthusiasm. It was a long train journey – almost four hours and I stayed awake only to take some photographs of the sunrise (probably my second sunrise in the UK 😛 ) and a sneak peek of the beautiful Tintern Abbey. Of course, the main Abbey was far from the train station but the fact that I got to see the land on which William Wordsworth composed Tintern Abbey , even from a distance, is an honour in its own way. 

“A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. “- Lao Tzu 

Unlike the day before, where most of the time was spent travelling , today we reached before 10 am and had the whole day to explore the seaside and the city. Llandudno is a very small city consumed by the beach and the pier. Most of the economy runs by through the hostels, lodges, restaurants and tourist curio shops. It was impossible to roam around with our luggage thus we requested our hostel (Llandudno Hostel) to let us keep the baggage and set out to explore the city on foot. It is best to acquire a map of the city but even if you don’t have one, it would not be very difficult to navigate your way . 

We headed to the beach to soak in the essence of the beautiful day and some sunlight (which is rare). This photograph was taken at the Llandudno Promenade. Most of the buildings in the photograph are hostels and hotels for the tourists. Notice, how they are all painted in pastel shades. It is because by the rule of the Government they are to stick to the pastel shades. Further, the houses are not very tall – at a glance around three storeys.  Again by the Rule of the Government the houses were not to exceed the breadth of the adjoining streets and thus they are not very high. 

This is the Llandudno pier. It hosts many curio shops, restaurants and activity centres for the children. I would highly recommend stopping by to enjoy a nice scoop of flavoured clotted cream ice cream. In fact, you might often find a nice nook and corner saving yourself from the prowling eyes of the seagulls and enjoy the ice cream. Oh yes Seagulls eat ice cream too and they do enjoy it 😛 . 

We had not planned our day at all. After walking for a while we figured out that hourly Hop- On Hop- Off buses leave from the Promenade and so we hopped on one of them. It takes a nominal fee of £7 -£10 and tickets can be purchased on spot. The running commentary on the bus gave various historical information about the place and introduced those customs and stories which are not even found in the hundreds of internet pages. Below, is a photograph of the West Shore of the city.

This structure was the erstwhile tram/train station. After the introduction of the bus in the city, it was closed down. Interestingly, it is assumed that the last tram/train driver became the first bus driver .

This play park and the adjoining residential area hints of Romanian architecture. This is because the, then Queen was close to the Romanian Royal family and thus Llandudno has  glimpses of Romanian architecture in certain parts of the city like this.

Llandudno and its adjoining lands were owned by the elite Mostyn family. This particular grave is the family grave of the Mostyn family.

The great Conwy Castle is a must when in Llandudno. The Hop -on Hop- Off bus has a stop in the Conwy Castle and those who wish to explore it more closely are welcome to get down here and board the next bus to continue  their journey. Apart from the castle itself, one can take some time out and explore the town of Conwy. Let me be honest, the grand architecture of the Conwy Castle was what attracted me  in the first place. Due to non availability of accommodation in Conwy we decided to stay in Llandudno and pay this castle a visit.

This is a skyline shot of the narrowest doorway in the world. I had seen the tallest doorway in Fatehpur Sikhri, India and then I saw the narrowest one in Wales. In fact, just before this doorway approaches, the audio guide mentions safety precautions as it is indeed difficult for the bus  to go through this narrow doorway without making frequent stops .

One must not forget that Llandudno was being developed in a patriarchal society. Thus when the Lady of the Mostyn Family, referred to as Lady Mostyn, decided to build a hotel and maintain it, most men laughed at her. Interestingly, today decades later this hotel (below) is the most luxurious and sought after hotel in Llandudno and the rooms are booked months in advance .

This is a view of the city centre/ market street of the city.

The entire city tour takes around an hour for a full ride. It takes you through the towns of Llandudno, Llandudno Junction, Deganwy Village and Conwy . It was almost noon when we came back to the Promenade and thought of strolling around the pier. If you want , you can settle for a nice live show of the Codeman’s Punch and Judy and spend an hour laughing your heart out. 

While most of us who have read Alice in Wonderland have known that Lewis Carroll composed this famous prose in Oxford, but not many know that the inspiration was taken from this quiet seaside resort of Llandudno. In fact, when you take the tour of the Great Orme the commentary includes the ruins of the house Carroll stayed in and befriended the owners daughter who was the inspiration behind Alice. Throughout the city, you would find sculptures dedicated to Lewis Carroll and Alice in Wonderland including the Mad Hatter, White Rabbit and the Queen of Hearts. You can walk around the city and follow the Alice Trail and uncover many hidden stories about it. This photograph was taken in the Llandudno Station. 

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”- Ralph Waldo Emerson 

This is a photograph of the Great Orme from the pier. ‘Orme’ means sea monster and the way the rock juts out of the land and into the sea it has found an apt name for itself; being called a monster which engulfs the sea. On the other side of the city near the West Shore, lies the Little Orme. You can actually opt to trek all the way up to the Great Orme or take a nice tram ride (like we did). Again, tickets can be purchased on  spot for a minimum of £5-£7. This ride takes around an hour and a half with a twenty minutes halt at halfway point for refreshments. 

The Great Orme has some beautiful caves which are open to the public for self exploration (free of cost). It also has a fully functional church . This is the oldest in the area and is made by clearing the rocks from the Orme. 

This photograph  was taken at the Halfway point.  This place has a little restaurant and parking space wherein those driving all the way up can take some rest and click beautiful photographs . We took up most of our time climbing the Great Orme and taking photographs . It is said that a pair of Kashmiri goats were presented to the then British Queen but since she had many goats , she presented them to her friend in Llandudno . Thus in the Great Orme if you spot Kashmiri Goats, do not be shocked. Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any ! 

“It is not down in any map; true places never are. “- Herman Melville 

As we continued our journey forward from the halfway point, the beautiful outline of the Snowdon Mountains emerged in the horizon. According to our commentator, the Snowdonia mountains host many rare species of flora and fauna “and if you are lucky enough you might spot some rare species of Pokemon hiding in there. ” 😛 . 

“Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness. ” – Ray Bradbury 

After descending from the Great Orme and having a bite we relaxed at the hostel before going out again to explore the promenade. This time, it was nearing sunset and most of the people were getting ready to leave. Many tourists had come for a day trip to the sea and were making their way to the train station. The Promenade guards were vigilant about the tourists clearing the area for Coast Guard practice sessions. We took a walk around the shore and settled for some nice Welsh Orchestra which was being played by the Town band. 

Thereafter we had an early dinner and went out for our customary night walk. This photograph was shot during the walk at the promenade . It was interesting to see how a place which was full of activities had become so quiet. The pier , although lighted was closed and locked . The shoreline was made inaccessible in parts due to the approaching high tides. We wandered around the town for a little longer and saw most of the hotels were having karaoke dinners and dancing in their common rooms. Soon, we called it quits as well and went back to our hostel . We grabbed a movie ‘ Out of Africa’ and went ahead to watch it, thus ending a beautiful day. 

I have a habit of trying to explore the early morning hours whenever I am travelling. Usually, at home, no one sees me wake up before 9 -10 am.  This photograph of the sunrise (below) from the Promenade was taken around 6:30 ish. Not many people were present and those who were there had come to walk their dogs . I spent almost an hour here witnessing the beauty of this place before catching my homeward bound train . Though I was happy to go back home, I was also disheartened that this experience came to a close so soon. 

Taking a vacation for the first time on my own with friends had opened me up and in the true sense made me a traveller. To imbibe the various customs, cultures, traditions that the people of Cardiff and Llandudno had to offer was an experience in itself. And I think it has made me more confident as a person to handle life in a way I want to without being a slave to the dictates of the world. 

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey . “- Pat Conroy 

I would leave you with this beautiful quote and sunrise till I come back to share my next adventure. 

 

Southport: To Do List for a Day Trip

After my tragic train ride to the Lake district, I was a bit apprehensive towards taking the ride to Southport. But, by God’s Grace this ride was unlike the previous one and though very early in the morning it was a comfortable and pleasant ride. As usual the scenery changed from Manchester to  its outskirts; the fields with horses and sheeps grazing around; the lush open greenery restricted by the likes of one lonely house at the end of the horizon. After about a nearly one hour journey, we reached Southport. As summer approached Manchester, at times the temperatures rose quite an extent with long rainless days; thus the prospect of visiting a beach was quite refreshing. Alas! The sun decided to be moody that very day and evaded the sky. It was cloudy, dark and windy but not bad enough to affect the high spirits of the people. There were still lots of amazing things to do in Southport without the Sun.

Here is my list of top 10 things to do in Southport (with or without Mr [Read Moody 😛 ] Sun )

  1.  Visit Model Railway Village and Adjoining Parks 

A short walk from the train station leads you to the model Railway village. It is quite an interesting experience visiting this exhibit. From miniature villages, trains, train station to people, churches and canals everything was beautifully recreated in this museum. There is a nominal fee of £4 per adult and £3.50 per child/concession to visit this museum. It reminded me of the Cartoon Thomas and his Friends . this would be an ideal place for children. You can also collect an activity sheet from the reception and have fun solving it with your child. The kind lady at the reception handed me one too, which i politely passed onto my parents and started playing with my own puzzle- my camera (Why I called it a puzzle? everyday I discover new features and wonders of this little machine ; it sure deserves to be called a beautiful puzzle).

Adjacent to the Railway Village is a children’s park. From bungee jumping, rope-way travelling and swings , care has been taken that your child does not get bored. Adult supervision is always given while the children are playing and the grounds are large enough to actually have a mini-picnic there itself.

2. Boating in the Lake 

Southport Promenade provides family boating facilities in the Lake. A minimum fees is to be paid for hiring a boat for a certain amount of time from the ticket booth nearby. This boating experience offers great views and an experience of a lifetime.

3. Golfing 

Perhaps not something usually heard of near a sea beach, but Southport does have a golfing centre as well. In fact, to not offend the children, there is also a children’s Golf arena beside the one for the adults.

4. Eating out in the open air pubs/inns/restaurants with Live music

One of the best ways to chill and enjoy the cold wind of the beach is to visit an open air pub/restaurant and relax with a glass of beer/ soft drinks / food ; listening to live music and dancing (well not literally) to its rhythmic beats. And Yes Southport Restaurants serve Fish ‘n’ Chips which is a must try. Since I do not eat fish, I am giving you the opinions of my parents who have tasted it and testified it as good food.

5. Walking the length of the Southport Pier 

Walking along the entire length of the pier would take around an hour. It is actually very interesting how the scene changes on both sides. From restaurants, Funland, Golf Course, Main Road, Beach and then finally endless water on both side- everything can be seen in this one hour walk. Interestingly, you even get to see the Blackpool Tower from the Southport Pier, which is a sight that cannot be missed !

6. Taking a tram ride along the Pier 

Another brilliant way to explore the pier within ten minutes is to take the tram which runs the entire length of the pier. For just a £2 fee per person you can ride the entire pier within minutes. We decided to walk till the end of the pier and take the tram ride back to the starting point.

7. Trying your luck at the Games 

Let me tell you, my luck is not very good with these games. However I would not discourage you to try yours.  Apart from Funland, there are several Game booths scattered all over Southport where you can play games and if luck is on your side, WIN SOMETHING!!!!

8. Visit the Beach 

Instead of heading towards the pier, if you take the road below it , you would reach the beach. I had not gone to the beach but witnessed most of the interesting happenings from the pier itself. Kids, building sand castles running about in the water to fill in their tubs , dogs running about here and there playing catch the ball, children holding their parents hands and enjoying the touch of the cold water on their feet, some brave hearts even joined in for a little swim – these sights and more filled the beach scene on both sides of the pier. Just beside the beach is the Southport Eye and the Amusement Park. Though we skipped it but if at the beach then it is one of the recommended activities to do.

9. Shopping at the Wayfarers Victorian Arcade

This glass roofed Victorian shopping mall hosts a lot of labels – fashion, lifestyle, food and the likes. My personal favourites were an antique shop selling interesting curios of Southport and England and a beautiful stone jewellery shop.

10. Taking a stroll around the town 

After visiting the pier and having lunch, we still had sometime before our train arrived and decided to take a stroll along the city. We did not deviate too much from the Southport Station so as to be able to return in time for our train and yet managed to catch some exciting sights. The Fountain built in the middle of a park in the Memory of the people’ s princess Lady Diana, had become a local shower for the kids to take a bath of sorts. The various beautiful buildings and sculptures including several obelisk reflected the history of this port city. Interestingly, the Wishing Well was on a sabbatical from granting wishes. And when in Southport, you cannot miss its more-than-30-flavours of ice creams available in every shop.

Southport is very much a city whose essence can be enjoyed whole heartedly within a day. I recommend it as a day trip for anyone who would love to go to a beach during summers and otherwise. Let me know in a comment below which activity/s  did you like the best amongst the ones listed here or if I have missed anything that you particulary enjoyed in Southport. I hope you enjoy the sights of Southport till I come back with another one of my adventures. I would leave you with a photograph that I shot from the pier. . . . . . .