Before I get too far into my Great Britain story I have to say... air travel in 2022 is not easy, even within the United States. A few days past Easter, I traveled by car to Missouri to visit my …
Before I get too far into my Great Britain story I have to say... air travel in 2022 is not easy, even within the United States. A few days past Easter, I traveled by car to Missouri to visit my family, then flew home from Kansas City to Duluth, encountering some unpleasant situations.
While attempting to pass through security at the Kansas City airport, my body scan raised a red flag. The agent held up a diagram with the highlighted area covering my crotch and she looked at me sternly and asked, “Do you have anything metal down there?” I said, “No, just my zipper.” She asked if I wanted to be checked right there or in a private area? I replied, “Well, do I have to drop trou?” She said “No,” holding up her vinyl covered hands...fingers wriggling to get started. She proceeded to explore my legs and patted my front. Feeling nearly violated with a capitol “V,” I couldn’t help but add some comic relief and said, “I haven’t had this much excitement in ages.” Other passengers smiled as they were hopping by while putting their shoes back on, also doing their best to get past this point of judgement, emotional abuse and violation.
I flew from Kansas City to Minneapolis, then boarded a smaller plane to Duluth where my 24-inch suitcase had to be tagged and put in the cargo hold. The attendant gave me a pink bag claim ticket, but when I got off the plane I didn’t know where to pick up my bag. An employee directed me to the baggage carousel on the lower-level and I waited for a suitcase that never arrived.
By this time, everyone in the Duluth airport had left and no doubt were at their favorite restaurants ordering wine and hors d’oeuvres as I stood alone at the Delta service counter for twenty minutes listening to my stomach growl. I was ruminating about the now-bygone treasures in my suitcase nabbed from the carousel by some ner-do-well. My son was waiting outside in the car to pick me up, but I had to wait for the suitcase-search-and-rescue-goddess to help me and soon she arrived with my suitcase intact.
Two weeks prior, on the Britain trip, we were going through security at London’s enormous Heathrow airport when my suitcase got flagged and pulled aside. I waited while a female security agent with an angry, rabid manner finished invading a young man’s bag. She lifted out a pink lace nightie by its delicate shoulder straps and asked what “he” was doing with “that” in his suitcase? He started to explain, “It belongs to my girlfriend,” but was cut-off by the rabid-warden, “I don’t need any explicit details or that attitude either she blurted!”
I was a mother, witnessing pure injustice with my inner-guardian wanting to tell her she was way off-base, but I held back knowing to get involved would make matters worse....but offered a steady glare the entire time. I was fearing I would be there with her for most of the day but surprisingly when it got to be my turn she decided to take a break allowing a very reasonable agent to assist, so I was able to whiz through in no time at all and join my travel mates.
My point is to remember when you see lovely photos on Facebook from faraway places, just know that travel is not all fun and games. Someone lost their integrity, maybe their virtue... to bring you those glimpses of paradise while you sat at home, ego intact, unviolated and dining on prime rib.
On with more about my fabulous trip. We left The Plassey holiday park in Wales with friends Della and Jane Brookshaw accompanying us for the day’s adventures and our upcoming overnight stay at historic Ruthin Castle. We traveled through lovely villages stopping for tea and a bit of shopping before arriving at world-class Bodnant Gardens, a National Trust property founded in 1874 in Tal-y-Cafn, Conwy, Wales and developed by five generations of the McLaren family. It was a lovely day to be outside walking through 80 acres of riverside gardens featuring plants from all over the world. The venue encompasses terraces of rose gardens, lily pools, manicured lawns and fascinating woods, herbaceous beds, shrub borders, a large manor house and shops. It’s a feast for the eyes and soul. We also enjoyed lunch in their charming café with all the newly encountered varieties of sodas, juices and items available for purchase, including my Wensleydale cheese sandwich. I had always wanted to try that cheese ever since hearing of it on the British, Wallace and Gromit comedy franchise. From Bodnant, we traveled down to Portmeirion, an Italian style hillside tourist village on the coast of north wales in Snowdonia, famous for its Botanic Garden design dinnerware, brightly colored buildings and landscaping. It was low-tide yet sparkly with the bright blue skies and sunshine making the entire visit there a warm dreamy memory.
We then drove through hilly Snowdonia and arrived at medieval Ruthin Castle which is one of 600 castles in Wales. In fact, it is said to have more castles per square mile than any other place in Europe. The first construction of Ruthin took place in 1277 for King Edward I of England but was most notably the base for the Grey family. Throughout its existence it has withstood sieges, imprisonments, tortures, demolition by Oliver Cromwell and much rebuilding. The walls of the castle were stone or brick, depending on which century they were built and whether they had been destroyed in past assaults. As the van drove up the lane, I saw the two large stone lions flanking the large front entrance into Ruthin and a couple colorful peacocks strutting on the front lawn. How absolutely fascinating I thought. While the current owners had re-decorated the inside and selected rather ill-suited paint colors for the walls, furnishings and carpets...the historic charm of the castle itself greatly compensated.
Historic characters such as Jenny Churchill, Edward VII (Prince of Wales...known as Edward the Caresser) and his mistresses; socialite-actress Lillie Langtry, and Lady Cornwallis-West spent much time at the castle. Famous for her high spirits, Lady Cornwallis-West is said to have slid down the staircase on a tea tray to amuse the Prince. No wonder those stair boards creaked. On the second floor, there was a gold plaque on the bedroom door across the hall from the room Jill and I shared with the engraving, “The Lillie Suite.” We chuckled, hoping someone from housekeeping might be able to let us inside for a peek, but no such luck.
It is said to be stunningly decorated with antique furniture, a fireplace, red bedspread and colorful chandeliers representing the lust and flamboyance associated with her character. Juicy little details certainly add to a story! One wall of our room was completely lined with full length wardrobe closets to accommodate the vast amount of clothing needed by the aristocratic guests attending all sorts of functions. Our room had a fireplace and paned glass windows held intact by thick, black-leading with the oldest latch I’ve ever held in my hands.
As I peered through the weathered glass, I felt as if someone were looking over my shoulder fully aware that Ruthin is alledgedly one of the most haunted hotels in Great Britain with many paranormal investigations having taken place there. Several ghosts have been encountered, including the Grey Lady who has been seen inside and outside the castle. I had a difficult time falling asleep... between the night air filled with shrieking peacocks and anticipation of seeing the Grey Lady, I did manage...only to have one of my blood-curdling nightmares which caused poor Jill to ubruptly sit up in bed.
After breakfast in the fancy dining room, I felt drawn outside for one more look around. I strolled the lush castle grounds, aware of two peacocks peering at me from tree branches overhead. It was easy to go back in time and imagine robust riders upon their steeds as they galloped through the stone arch entrances from those same tree lined paths I was walking on. Vines covered the craggy castle walls and off in the distance through openings between trees the soft green rolling hills were waiting...cloaked in mist. We soon were traveling over those hills returning to the Plassey with the Brookshaws for our last night in Wales. It was so rich and full....the best Welsh experience an Iron Range girl from Hoyt Lakes could ever have imagined. My next column will be the subject of visits to the homes of writer’s Beatrix Potter and Sir Walter Scott...plus other festive tidbits.
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