Where we’re at: I’m recapping my travels in 2019, including this trip to England and Wales in June.
Sometimes the best trips are born of the most trivial desires. To see a bunch of painted rocks in the desert, to eat a certain dish you love in its native land, to cry in the stadium seating of a concert your childhood self absolutely dreamed of.
Truly? I would have gone anywhere to see the Spice Girls 2019 reunion tour. But the fact that doing so meant a reunion with my family of Koh Tao friends now spread across the globe, with a large concentration based in the British Isles? I couldn’t have asked for a bigger win. Yup, I’ve been to the UK what feels like a billion times now. But this trip was more about people than places (and by people I do mean Scary, Sporty, Posh, Ginger and Baby — but also ya know, my nearest and dearest.)
Originally, my trip had begun in London, where even more of my former Koh Tao crew now resides. But I lopped off that part of the trip when Prada got sick, and so my itinerary began in Manchester.
I landed in Manchester, where Shannon had spent the night after a late night flight arrival, and we giddily met up for breakfast before our train ride to Liverpool, which was made all the more entertaining with DIY mimosas in paper cups.
Amy picked us up at the train station with Janine and Andie, who had arrived from London, inspiring a truly decibel-shattering round of squeals as the five of us, the original Real Housewives of Koh Tao crew, were reunited for the first time in a year and a half.
But the reunions had just begun. We headed directly for tea at Oh Me Oh My, which I visited on a previous trip to Liverpool, to meet up with even more Koh Tao-ians.
The freshest among them? Our friends Paivi and Chris’s brand new baby Sami! I’m still marveling at what a trip it is to meet your friend’s — who you feel like you met when you were babies! — babies. Both this kid’s mom and dad have been in my life for a decade. I can’t wait to watch him grow up over the next few.
From Banyan bar stools to the posh seats at the tea room! I tried to take a few moments to soak in how special this was. Some days I’m still shocked to recall I don’t still live on Koh Tao, and how rare moments like these, when so many of us are back in the same room, really are. It’s an era of my life that’s hard to accept is over.
After a day wandering through Liverpool, we headed up to the suburb of of Crosby, to Amy’s childhood home. While the concert we’d managed to nab tickets to was in Manchester, we had decided to stay in Liverpool, have a massive sleepover and just take the train over rather than all pay for hotel rooms. It was a great move — I love Amy’s house and family and enjoyed getting to know her little town even better on this trip.
While this trip was heavy on the reunion debauchery, we did try to balance things out with a few healthy moments like whipping up breakfast smoothies and a morning jog down to Crosby’s beautiful beach.
We also wandered a bit through downtown Crosby, checking out a few of its cafes and cute boutiques like my absolute favorite, Scouse Bird.
We even went to the movies and saw Aladdin during one particularly tragic moment of concert hangover recover — like I said, I really didn’t do a touristy thing the entire time I was on British soil, and it was nice. The trip wasn’t about being a traveler so much as spending time with friends, celebrating engagements, meeting new babies, and visiting hometowns.
(And fear not, the concert gets an entire blog post of its own, needless to say.)
And while we were blessed with quite a few blue sky days, we too got to experience the quintessential British weather on several occasions, too.
Our short time in Liverpool came to an end quickly. After just three nights, we packed up to head to our next destination of Wales. But first, one more big crazy friend reunion meal en route at The Jug and Bottle in Heswell, Chris’s hometown. Chris and Paivi were hopping a flight to Finland that evening, so we couldn’t miss one last chance to squeeze them, with half a dozen other friends too making their way there from all corners of the UK.
Isn’t it amazing that a tiny island in Thailand brought all these people together?
It was the quintessential British pub, the perfect goodbye to a brief trip back to England.
And then, we were off to Wales!
After a bunch of heartfelt goodbyes and one more hello as we scooped Ian up off the ferry from Dublin, we settled once again into Amy’s charming family cottage in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. And no, that’s not a typo! This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to stay here, and I can see why this place is to Amy’s family what our Martha’s Vineyard cottage is to mine.
There is nowhere on earth more precious.
With ten of us cozy in the cottage we planned little more than to cook beautiful meals (and by that I obviously mean for Ian to create us beautiful meals and we to eat them), laugh over old stories, battle it out in Cards Against Humanity, photoshop Brian into Amy’s elaborate family portraits (you know, the important stuff) and enjoy each other’s company. If the weather cooperated, I did hope to enjoy some of the area’s incredible hiking and outdoor adventures, though after welcoming us with a bright bought of sun, Wales remained pretty rain-soaked for the rest of our stay. I’ll just have to come back again!
We made one major excursion during our short two-night trip, to the village of Llanberis on the border of Snowdonia National Park.
I absolutely adored lunch at Mafon Cafe, a little gem with healthy offerings we immediately balanced out with a scoop of ice cream at one of the town’s nearby parlors.
We really did give it wandering around our best effort — but it was so cold and rainy we quickly gave up and retreated to the warmth and charm back at the cottage.
Five nights in the United Kingdom flew by, and before I knew it, we were rushing not to miss our ferry to Ireland — my exciting new destination of the trip. But while the rush of a new place is always a good time, there is something incredibly beautiful about the comfort of familiar faces and places, especially in a troubling time. With the amount of close, dear friends I have here, I’ll probably be coming to the UK for the rest of my life. So luckily I’ve grown to adore it. I admit I didn’t feel like much of a travel blogger on this trip — just a girl on vacation, which everyone needs a little bit of now and then.
I’m so grateful for the love that recharged me on this trip.
Next up, Spicing Up our Lives!
This post genuinely made my heart happy. You’re incredibly lucky to have a group of friends whose friendship transcends time and distance, and who were able to be a comfort to you in such a hard time. Sometimes its really not about where you are but who you’re with (although Amy’s cottage looks amazing).
Jane, you are so sweet. And you are also so right — I am insanely grateful for my community, who carried me through such a lonely and dark time.
Oh Me Oh My sounds absolutely fabulous! I’ll have to go there soon.
It is the absolute cutest! Glad I’ve checked an official British tea off my travel list 😉
I’ve been to Scotland and Ireland, but not England and Wales. You don’t read much about Wales, so sometimes it’s hard to get suggestions. I really want to see them both!
Agreed! I feel lucky to have had two special and meaningful trips there.