On a Box Now Checked

Embed from Getty Images

Some people call it a bucket list – others prefer to say wish list, dream destination, or whatever. On 23 August 2015 I posted about a place that was on both mine and my wife’s list. After monitoring the website at various points before our journey, on Wednesday, the 9th of August 2017, we checked the box.

About a month earlier at the golf club where I work, I met an English couple who were new members. I told him about our upcoming trip, including our plans for this location – to which he replied, Why? Once I mentioned the reason, his inquisitive frowning face changed to a smile.

We planned the day in advance. We knew when the ship docked in Liverpool, the location and distance to the train station, the train schedule, return times, and the essential information about our destination. We were on a mission for our time of dancing on one of the most famous ballroom floors in the world – the Blackpool Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, England.

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Blackpool is on England’s west coast, about a 90-minute train ride to the north from Liverpool. It’s a seaside resort that is very popular with commoners. Madame Tussauds, water parks, a carnival atmosphere, and more aren’t on my favorite things list, but the famed ballroom was our attraction.

Given the floor, the historic significance, and the ornate surrounding – absolutely Bucket List for us. Our ticket included a 90-minute tea with sandwiches, fruit, and tarts.

Image from Blackpool Tower website

Architectural elegance and charm from a time that has past define the Tower Ballroom (which dates back to 1894).

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Surrounding the large floor were the organists on a stage at one end; tables to sit at the opposite end; and settings for tea along one side.

Dancing to an organist (instead of recorded music) was a new experience. Two organists shared the duties, so music was continuous. One organ, the mighty Wurlitzer, makes a grand entrance being lifted to the stage from below … then lowers out of sight when the player’s shift concludes.

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We already knew to expect a different style of ballroom dance at Blackpool (American vs. International). Amazingly, for at least the first three dances we simply sat at our table thinking, We can’t do that! We never get a chance to dance because everyone on the floor is doing the same thing … the same steps/pattern.

I approached a couple near our table about what we were observing. They explained that the English and many Europeans dance sequences, which are set patterns that every does. The clue would be to listen to the organist because he would announce the name of the sequence and dance, so we should listen for the terms traditional or ballroom that will signal an non-sequence dance.

Sequences are fun to watch, but not if you are there to dance and you don’t know the sequence! We were surprised by the number of sequences … and dancers sat down if they didn’t know the sequence.

This is the Engagement Waltz.

We finally made it on the floor … and the first thing that we noticed was the amount spring in the floor – especially in the center. Our tea-table was almost in the center, and the movement made photography difficult – and of course I started wondering about potential motion sickness. Yes – the movement was that noticeable!

We stayed for almost 4 hours, and we were glad to check the box on our Bucket List. With the ship departing at 8 pm, we were fortunate to have a few hours in Liverpool (the previous post).

Here’s a short (90-second) promotional video showing the Blackpool Tower Ballroom. Enjoy … and you notice sequence dancing.

Next stop: Belfast, Northern Ireland

For other posts about our time in the British Isles, click here.

My past post about Blackpool’s Tower Ballroom

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On the Liverpool

Founded in 1207 along the River Mersey, Liuerpool (meaning thick/muddy creek) grew from a fishing village to an important location for the English military, an important seaport in the 1600s regarding trading with the new world, followed by an important industrial center.

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Today’s Liverpool is a vibrant center of culture and urban rebirth that also embraces its heritage. After all, look who we saw along the waterfront. Sorry to say that we missed their local tour that includes real places as Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, their childhood homes, and more.

Today’s downtown is a modernized center popularized by Liverpool history with music, the arts, and nightlife. The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Searchers, A Flock of Seagulls, and others are rooted in Liverpool’s fabric and heritage.The area around Temple Court, Mathew Street, and Ramford Square is highlighted with music venues, historic landmarks, and other stores boosting its heritage.

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City Center is multiple-block, pedestrian shopping area with a wide variety of stores a short distance away – and not far from the waterfront and the cruise terminal. Today’s waterfront bustles with food, entertainment, shopping, hotels, amusement, and museums.

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… and yes – including a ferry to cross the Mersey.

For other posts about our time in the British Isles, click here.

Next post is a surprise. Hmmmm … Wonder what/where?

On Following the Titanic

Image from Wikipedia

Although everyone knows the its story is legendary, we were surprised how much we encountered the RMS Titanic on our recent cruise around the British Isles.

We visited Liverpool, the home of White Star Line and the location of Titanic’s registry.

Liverpool from the departing ship

We traveled on Princess Cruise Lines, which is one division within Carnival Cruise Lines – that includes Cunard Line, the company that White Star merged with following the disaster.

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We visited Belfast where the Titanic was built (the actual site is on this side of the silver building – Titanic Belfast, a museum dedicated to honoring Belfast’s shipbuilding industry that is located on the former Harland and Wolff shipyard that built Titanic)

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Our cruise started in Southampton, the same city that Titanic started.

We stopped in Cobh, Ireland (then called Queenstown) – which was Titanic’s last stop where 125 people boarded. (More about Cobh in a future post.)

Several years ago we had a cruise stop in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) where 150 passengers are buried in three cemeteries

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… and I imagine many readers remember this in 1997 …

… but for me, the images of this video is what strikes me.

On London

We started our vacation with 4 days on our own in London, England. Because of its activity, offerings, and place in history, I previously described London as “the most grand” of the cities on our trip. This post features some random thoughts about this wonderful city with images that may or may not go along with the statement. Enjoy!

London is a blend of many cultures – especially white, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Black. Although I’m sure issues and bias exist, successful integration is obvious. The thought of over 300 different languages being spoken by its inhabitants is mind boggling.

London Bridge and Tower Bridge are not the same. Since 1209, 3 different London Bridges have existed – but none of them had towers. (In this image, London Bridge is behind Tower Bridge)

The River Thames has always played an important role in London’s economy and history. Once lined with warehouses, today many of the warehouses have turned into luxury condominiums and apartments or have been destroyed and replaced by upscale buildings for residents. I never realized that “wharf” as an acronym – warehouse at riverfront.

Big Ben is the bell – not the tower – not the clock – not the building. For the record, it sounds in the key of E.

Although Westminster is home to many buildings we associate with London, today they are separate burroughs – and the occupant of the throne (who resides in Westminster) must ask London’s Lord Mayor for permission to enter London.

London was the first city in the world to reach a population of 1 million – today’s population is approaching 9 million.

 

When visiting Buckingham Palace, look for the flag being flown to know whether or not the Queen/King is present. With the Union Jack flying above, we knew Queen Elizabeth was not in the palace as we watched the changing of the guard.

London offers much to see, but many come at a cost $20-25 per person (so married couples thing times two).

London is home to 13 professional football teams: of which 5 are in the Premier League.

Greenwich is a London borough a pleasant ferry ride down the River Thames. The Royal Observatory provides a wonderful view of the Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College below with the city looming in the background.

A toast to London till we meet again.

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On a Vacation Primer

For those wanting some background music for the post, here’s some music from the land.

On to the post.

The image shows are 12-days of cruising. Keep in mind that we had 4 days in London before cruising, plus 3 days in Reykjavik, Iceland after the cruise. Both of these stops were independent of the cruise and done on our own.

I was struck by the fact that each of the major cities in the British Isles were quite different from one another.

  • The most grand: London, England
  • The most captivating: Edinburgh, Scotland
  • The most walkable: Dublin, Ireland
  • The most unexpectedly different: Liverpool, England
  • The most gut wrenching: Belfast, Northern Ireland

… and we didn’t just visit cities on the trip:

  • The most scenic countryside: Northern Scotland
  • The most solemn: American military cemetery at Normandy (Omaha Beach)
  • The most quaint: St. Peter Port, Guernsey
  • The most geologic diverse: Iceland

We walked a lot – averaging about 13,500 steps per day with over 25,000 being the most. When walking, my eyes are busy. For those who remember, when in Florence, Italy – I say “Look up!” Whether walking or passing by in a touring bus, these business signs on the trip caught my eye. Other than the obvious, any thoughts on what they sell?