I'm sharing my travel experiences, candid opinions and what's on my mind. If you think it's inappropriate for a travel writer to stir up discussion on his blog with political observations and insights gained from traveling abroad, you may not want to read any further. — Rick
Driving north after a full day of guidebook research in Blackpool, I had to share a few English road-tripping thoughts. I’m heading for the pristine nature of the Lake District in Cumbria, which — after I’ve just spent several concrete-pounding days in Liverpool and Blackpool — have a mighty pull right about now. I love how, after a week on the road in England, I feel right at home on the left side of the road.
What about you? I’d love to hear about your experiences motoring in Britain.
Fifty years ago today, I was a gangly 14-year-old, in Europe for the first time. I’d been dragged to the Old Country by a conspiracy of grandparents and parents solely to visit Norwegian relatives. I hadn’t wanted to go, and I’d arrived with a bad attitude. It was teen culture-shock: No Fanta. No hamburgers. But after a few days, I was wild about Solo (Norway’s orange pop) and addicted to pølser wieners.
I watched the Apollo moon landing with my cousins, sitting on the living room floor of the house where my great-great-grandmother was born. And as I heard them translate Neil Armstrong’s words (“Ett lite skritt for et menneske, ett stort skritt for menneskeheten“), it dawned on me that the first big step was more than just an American celebration. It was a human triumph.
Travel had walloped my ethnocentrism — and at that exact moment, I began to see the whole world differently.
Time travel back to the 13th century with me, to a sacred pagan site at the intersection of two ley lines. This little church in the Cotswolds is dedicated to St. Michael, the archangel who was both an anecdote and an antidote to paganism. (I mistakenly said anecdote, intending to say antidote…but it actually works both ways.) Sheep’s wool once paid for everything here, and — judging by the grooves worn into the pews by the sheepdog leashes — a shepherd’s “best friend” even accompanied him to church.
This little ad-libbed tour demonstrates all the history you can find in a place like this, once you learn how to see it. Just like how you appreciate fine wine the more you drink it, you appreciate heritage the more you visit churches like this one.
This is my kind of cocktail — a new experience that’s a mixture of pristine nature and history. I’m drunk on travel here at Hailes Abbey in the Cotswolds, where the tweets are from birds instead of politicians. This Abbey was built with Cotswolds stone in the 13th century, and it was a pilgrimage site for almost 300 years — until King Henry VIII tore it down during his Suppression of the Monasteries.
What about you? Pleaseshare your own “drunk on travel” cocktail.
This massive ship was built here in the 1830s, when Bristol was Britain’s gateway to the Atlantic and a critical link between London and New York City. The SS Great Britain is a museum now, serving up lots of Industrial Age thrills. If you visit, be sure to tour more than just the hull. Inside, you’ll experience a snapshot of life on board, 175 years ago.
By the way, Bristol is like Belfast, Glasgow, and Liverpool — one of those rusty old port towns that are now emerging with a special creative energy, and well worth visiting. When I first researched and wrote my original Britain and Ireland guidebooks 25 years ago, I didn’t cover these cities at all. But in the last generation, they’ve all emerged as important destinations — and they are well-covered in my guidebooks. A guidebook is always a work in progress, and we keep hard at it, so you’ve got the very latest to design the smartest trip.