For Christmas and New Years Chris and I went to England, where Chris is from, to visit family and be tourists. Chris wanted to show me where he grew up, and all the achingly beautiful and historical things in the Northwest, and I was a willing tourist.
It was cold. Oh yes. But we braved it and went all over the place – Chester, Port Sunlight, Liverpool, Manchester, and North Wales, and a trip a bit more southerly to see friends in High Wycombe, with a stop by Stratford Upon Avon and Warwick Castle on the way there and back.
Here are just a few snaps…
Chester – What an amazing city! Originally a 1st century Roman settlement called “Dewa,” the Roman walls still ring the city center, which inside is choc full of buildings dating back to the 13th century, filled in with Tudor black-and-whites, Georgian stone, Victorian red brick, and Edwardian tudor-revival. All are still operational businesses, some of them having been in their locations for several hundred years. I cannot accurately convey how amazing Chester is. GO THERE!
Stratford-Upon-Avon was on our way to visit friends, so we stopped off for some shopping, coffee, and architectural ogling. Like Chester, Stratford is a town packed with Elizabethan and Jacobean black-and-white buildings, its most famous one of course being Shakespeare’s house. Sipping Starbucks in a 17th century house is surreal.
While in the South, we visited Waddesdon Manor, an intense palace of Frenchness built in the 1870s. The gentleman who owned this monstrosity was the most powerful banker in the world, and filled his house with art. Besides the indefatigable mansion, the grounds also featured a stunning aviary still in use, and the most beautiful stables I’ve ever seen.
On the way back North, we stopped at Warwick Castle. I’d visited Warwick on a school trip 14 years ago to the very day we visited this time. It was still stunning, and I made a couple paintings of the state rooms and Guy Tower.
Our last day, New Year’s Day, Chris and I drove around North Wales, visiting some of the 13th century castles built by Edward I to oppress the unruly Welsh. We started at Castle Y Fflint, Edward’s first in Wales, and rather small compared to where we ended, Conwy. It was weirdly warm, but raining, so my little paintings were quick or done in the car. All the castles were closed, along with all the shops, so it was more of a driving tour, but one I’m glad we didn’t skip.
Of course, these attractions were only a few. Just the Northwest has so many things to see, and I could spend a month just walking from village to village painting “boring” things like 17th century pubs and 18th century corner shops. I thought it would be grey and stark and modern up there, but I was completely wrong, and I can’t wait to go back!