Welcome to Liverpool
Everything in Liverpool is Beatles. The Fab Four Cafe. The Beatles Story Museum. Giant poster in a restaurant window announces the Beatles knock-off band, “The Cheatles.” Bus tours go to Penny Lane (there really is a Penny Lane); to Strawberry Fields and John Lennon’s childhood home. Beatles smile at you from colored t-shirts sold in every shop.
…Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes…
The weather is windy and biting cold in Liverpool. “Not our usual weather for summer,” a Liverpoolian explains. (This is summer?)
The Mersey river is dark and gray. As I gawk into the river’s gloominess, I think of the 60s hit song by Gerry and the Pacemakers… ♫ So ferry ‘cross the Mersey ’cause this land’s the place I love and here I’ll stay♫ …How did a ferry ride on this the dark river inspire a song of love and loyalty?
The name Liverpool comes from a creek (I’m guessing a creek in Liverpool) that flows with muddy brown water resembling the color of liver.
Jodee, Becca and I search for an English restaurant that serves authentic Bangers and Mash, Beef Wellington or Toad-in-the-Hole. But a vacant table isn’t available in the only English pub we find. So we decide on an Italian restaurant where I enjoy authentic spaghetti and Yorkshire tea. “Best gnocchi I ever had,” Jodee says as we leave. You must go to Liverpool to get really good Italian.
Welcome to Wales
Our guide begins our tour to Wales by telling us what we “won’t” see on the tour. “You won’t see a very charming village in Snowdonia,” she informs us. We must imagine the charming village in our minds only.
I don’t need to imagine charming green hedges, or signs in English and Welsh. I see them everywhere.
Cows kiss the luscious green grass in Wales. I love cows.
Sheep, goats, and Clydesdale horses happily roam green hills as if in a Budweiser commercial.
The beige stone houses with diamond-patterned glass in the windows make me feel I’ve landed in a Grimm’s fairytale.
Our guide tells us that none of the buildings feature stained glass windows because, she says, “God’s work in the glorious hills are filled with color, like Rosebay Willowherb and foxglove and Ox-eye daisies, which is more beautiful than any stained glass window.”
Everyone who lives in Wales learns Welsh in schools.
A restaurant in Llangollen, Wales, is named The Ponderosa Cafe. “The owners loves the T.V. show Bonanza,” says our guide. The well-known Bonanza theme song immediately plays in my mind, and I mentally picture the whole Cartwright clan galloping across rolling green hills of Wales with Little Joe flashing his white teeth astride his pinto horse. I had to come to Wales to get my Americana fix.
A shop in Llangollen has the longest shop name I’ve ever seen. “Wonder what it means?” Jodee ponders. It probably means “the longest shop name you’ve ever seen.”
I race into a gift shop in Llangollen. I have only five minutes before our tour group leaves. “Do you have any personalized items with the name ‘Bronwyn’?” I ask the shopkeeper. All my life, I never found my name on personalized name plaques, key chains, and coffee cups sold in any store in the USA. At last I’m in Wales, the land of my name’s origin. Thousands of Bronwyns live in Wales. I can finally buy a “Bronwyn” key chain. The shopkeeper searches through her rack of personalized key chains. She has “Bryn” and “Brooke.” Finally the shopkeeper turns to me and says, “I don’t have Bronwyn. It’s no longer a common name. I’m sorry.”
In Wales there are no “For Sale” signs. They have “Under Offer” signs. Much more proactive.
The tire shop doesn’t sell tires but has plenty of “tyres” instead.
The Welsh like colorful doors.
In an antique shop in Llangollen, I purchase a vintage block plane for Jerry. He loves old tools and this one has “Made in England” stamped in metal. The owner places it in its original box and wraps it carefully. I notice a booklet, A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas propped up in a glass case. I tell the owner I need something for myself from Wales and that I’ll take the book. “You can’t get more Welsh than Dylan Thomas,” he says, taking it out of the case, flipping through the pages. Just before ringing up my purchase, he adds, “The Dylan Thomas book was first published in 1954 in the United States.” Then he lets out a jolly laugh. Welsh humor?
Jerry loves his block plane.
Next stop in Part V–Chester, England, also ahead are Belfast, Ireland, unexpected kindnesses, and our happiest moment.
♥♥♥the end of part IV.