Snapshots of Northern Wales — My Home Away From Home

Aside from being the former residence of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge as well as some highly amusing and inappropriate sheep jokes — Wales tends to be the most overlooked country in the U.K. It’s a bit like the embarrassing relative of the family who no one wants to admit being related to but is still invited to the reunion because hey…they’re family. Some people who don’t live in the U.K. actually think Wales is a part of England. So, here I am to set the record straight for a country that is very proud, has it’s own language, it’s own flag and what’s more some of the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen. Not to mention it’s a cheap weekend getaway when you don’t want to spend tons of money to fly somewhere. Here’s a few great areas to check out in northern Wales.

Trearddur Bay

Trearddur Bay (pronounced “trather) is only a few minutes outside the small village of Holyhead, where one can catch the ferry from Wales to Dublin. The area looks a bit like something from a period drama. The bay opens up into the Irish Sea and is dotted with small white houses and Inns. If the weather is decent, it’s not uncommon to see a photographer out on the bay taking pictures of the sunset which I have been told are “some of the most beautiful in the world.” I have made it a routine to wake up early in the morning and walk around this bay with a pen and journal to write on the banks. My American accent stands out a long mile in this small area but everyone is always friendly and happy to give a “good morning” as you walk by.

Conwy

An hour’s drive away from Trearrdur Bay is Conwy. This ancient walled city boasts it’s own castle on a large bay that is always filled with colorful sail boats. The castle was originally built as a fortress as were the walls which surround the city during the 1200s as part of the English’ conquest of Wales. For a few pounds, visitors can walk around the castle and get a great view of the town and the sea. Lastly, one of Conwy’s quirky tourist attractions is “the Smallest House in Britain.” You can access the house for 1 pound, and as it only takes less than five minutes to view — it doesn’t exactly eat up much time but it wasn’t really worth looking in either.

Colwyn Bay

There are a lot of bay’s in Northern Wales (as already illustrated) but the last one to visit is the seaside resort town of Colwyn Bay. The area here reminds me a lot of Brighton with it’s posh looking little white 19th century hotels that line the beach and it’s own pier (the Victoria Pier). Colwyn Bay is a very touristy city but it’s not too overwhelming and a great place to get away for the summer.

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Port Townsend: A Victorian Town in the Puget Sound

On the Olympic peninsula of Washington state there is a small town called Port Townsend. This small seaside community is a preserved historical area where old banks and saloons  have been restored and turned into inns/restaurants for visitors in the warm seasons.

Port Townsend was first settled in 1851, although it had been established as a harbor as early as 1792. There were big plans for the new town. It was thought that Port Townsend would become the largest port on the west coast of the U.S. and it was thus named the “City of Dreams.” Unfortunately, these dreams would never come to fruition. The failure of the Northern Pacific Railroad to connect the city via railway to the city of Tacoma coupled with the economic depression of the mid 1890s caused the once thriving boom town to go bust. The town managed to survive through fishing, the port, canning, a nearby military fort and of course the illegal activities of the day such as shanghaiing. In spite of the passing years, all the beautiful Victorian buildings that the heyday of the 1800s had left behind were preserved. So much so that in the 1980s, Port Townsend was included on the U.S National Register of Historic Places.

I grew up on Whidbey Island which is  across the sound from Port Townsend. I remember catching the ferry boat with my friends to get a large milkshake or root beer float at the over-priced 1950s style diner in Port Townsend and then peruse the European style book shop on Water street. Years later, I returned to get married in the old red-brick courthouse with the clock tower that oversees the entire town. While living in Tacoma for the last two years, Port Townsend has been a constant stop for me whenever I make my way home to Whidbey Island to visit my parents. Stopping in Port Townsend to wait for the ferry is always a welcome break from the road. I stop and get a quick slice from Waterfront Pizza where you can find many of the locals picking up a pie on their way home from work. If I make it there earlier, I’ll stop for a latte at Better Living Through Coffee and make my way over to the William James bookstore (the same one from my youth) and finger through the cluttered stacks of used paperbacks.

Today, tourism is a thriving part of Port Townsends economy. The number of gourmet bistros, historic buildings, and incredible views of the Olympic mountains as well as the Puget Sound make it the perfect weekend getaway.

Photo Credit: All photos belong to me with the exception of the photo of Jefferson County Courthouse (the building with the clock tower). This photo belongs to Joe Mabel or Jmabel and was posted to wikimedia commons with permission to share. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port_Townsend_-_Jefferson_County_Courthouse_01.jpgr