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12 / 30 books. 40% done!

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- Alabama (1)
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28 / 51 states. 55% done!

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Top Ten Tuesday: Rain or Shine, We Have a Good Time


Happy Tuesday! I just got back from a two-week family history research trip to the U.K. and today's TTT topic—April Showers (however you chose to interpret it)—goes perfectly with this promised recap of my vacation. Although the U.K. was damp and cold, we actually got pretty lucky with the weather, which stayed mostly dry. There was only one day that poured almost without ceasing and even that one gave us a bright, beautiful double rainbow (before it started raining again). Despite the cold, rain, mud, and even a surprise snow flurry in Wales, we had a fantastic trip. Jet lag is still kicking my trash as is the immersion back into reality, but I'm really glad we went. It truly was a spectacular experience.


The first time my husband and I visited the U.K. was in 2021. We took our two youngest kids with us that time. This go around, they were a little miffed about not being invited. When I explained that this trip would mostly include visits to churches, cemeteries, and museums, my 19-year-old son said, "Oh. Never mind, then." Ha ha. I wasn't lying either. Here's some numbers to prove it:

Miles traveled by airplane (from Phoenix, Arizona; to London, England; to Edinburgh, Scotland; and back again): about 5000
Miles traveled by car: 1616 (We rented a Tesla, so at least we didn't have to pay for expensive petrol!)
Miles traveled by ferry (from Heysham, England, to the Isle of Man, then from the Isle of Man to Liverpool): about 150
Miles traveled on foot: 78.73 (My FitBit wasn't sure what in the world was going on!)
Countries visited: Scotland, Wales, and England
Old churches visited: about 20 (probably more)
Cemeteries visited: about 22 (probably more)
Museums/Archives visited: 5 (We had to cross a picket line of protesting workers [very polite English ones] to enter the Museum of Liverpool, but our personal tour of the very well laid out museum was worth it. Also, I love that so many of the U.K.'s museums are free to visit! That's not at all true in the U.S.)
Castles visited: 7
Old friends visited: 2
New friends made: dozens (Other than a crochety cashier in a corner store in Liverpool, everyone we met was super nice and helpful.) 
Car accidents: 1 (Thank goodness there was only one and it was just a fender bender. We were hit by a cheery English woman on an impossibly narrow road in England's Lake District. The scenery there is unbelievable and so are the roads. They're terrifying.)




Highlights (although, really, everything we did was a highlight): 
  • Touring more Kennedy castles in Scotland—Kennedy is my maiden name and my ancestors hail from Ayrshire. Culzean Castle will always be my favorite Kennedy castle, but we saw a bunch more on this trip, all of which were very photogenic ruins. We even got a personal tour from a Scottish historian/Kennedy expert whom we met at Culzean in 2021.
  • Stopping in at the parish church in Whitchurch, England, where my ancestors worshipped for generations. The people at St. Dubricius were so warm and welcoming. They made us feel right at home. I left the church crying happy tears. 
  • Exploring Whitby, England—Whitby is a family name, so we had to visit this gorgeous seaside city. We loved climbing the 199 steps (They're not as tough as they look!) and walking all around the abbey at the top of the hill. There's a lovely church up there as well, which is surrounded by an atmospheric old cemetery.  
  • Visiting the Isle of Man, England—What a beautiful island! Its scenery is breathtaking and the people we met there were the absolute best. I'm so glad my husband has Manx ancestors, so we had an excuse to visit.
  • Seeing the altar in the Chester Cathedral where my fourth great-grandparents were married in 1799. It was a bit of a wild goose chase to find their "church" since it had been absorbed into the cathedral, but we happened to run into two very helpful men who led us to the right place.
  • Feeling all the feels at the Forth Bridge—My husband's second great-grandfather died while helping to build the bridge, leaving behind a wife and several small children. His presence was palpable as we walked across the Forth Road Bridge, rode a train across the Forth Bridge, searched the cemetery where he's likely buried, explored the city where he lived, and lit a beacon in the lighthouse in his memory for Easter.
  • Getting snowed on in the Welsh countryside—It was memorable, anyway! And we did find the headstone we were looking for, even though it was in a very out-of-the-way churchyard.
  • Seeing so many gorgeous scenes, from the Dales (England), to the Lake District (England), to the Scottish coast, to the Welsh countryside, to lovely Whitby (England), to the Isle of Man, and so much more...Wow, just wow!
  • Breakfasting and catching up with my old college roommate and her husband—always a good time! 
  • Seeing Cavendish House, the department store where my second great-grandparents worked together in the 1840s—After being in business for 150 years, the store is closing permanently this month. We were fortunate in our timing as we were able to walk through the building and even see the historical photographs on the wall since they hadn't yet been removed from the walls. It might seem silly to visit a shop, but it was meaningful to me.
  • Everything, really. Throughout our two weeks in the British Isles, we felt a strong connection to our ancestral lands and to our people who emigrated from them to Canada and the U.S. 


You're already bored, I'm sure, so here's my actual TTT list:

Top Ten Seven Bookish Things I Did On My Trip to the U.K.

  1. Whitby, England—It's been a few decades since I read Bram Stoker's Dracula, but the novel is set in Whitby. We had a good laugh at this sign, which hangs in St. Mary the Virgin, a parish church next to Whitby Abbey that is surrounded by an expansive graveyard.

2. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (Alloway, Ayr, Scotland)—I knew very little about Scotland's favorite poet before this trip. This excellent museum has lots of information about him. You can tour the cottage he was born in, which gives a fascinating glimpse into what homes of the moderately poor were like in Scotland in the late 1700s.
3. Wigtown, Scotland—Scotland's National Book Town felt rather dreary when we visited, so we didn't stay long. We did pop into The Bookshop, the second-hand store featured in several books authored by its owner, Shaun Bythell. Our tour guide at Castle Kennedy Gardens told us Shaun was a character whom we should definitely try to meet. Unfortunately, he wasn't in that morning.
4. Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum (Dunfermline, Scotland)—The famous American business tycoon was actually born in Dunfermline. He became the richest man in the world, then gave away 90% of his wealth through his various philanthropic efforts, including libraries. He gave generously to causes in his hometown. In fact, the first one he funded is in Dunfermline, just down the street from where Carnegie was born. 
5. Stratford-Upon-Avon, England—This little town where Shakespeare was born was absolutely mobbed with tourists when we drove through, so we didn't stop. At least I can say I've been there!
6. Museum of Liverpool (Liverpool, England)—Dr. Elizabeth Stewart, an archaeologist and curator at the museum, wrote a book on the history of housing in Liverpool that has been really helpful in my family history research. I was excited to meet her and have her sign my copy of the book.
7. Diddly Squat Farm Shop (Chipping Norton, England)—My husband is a big Top Gear fan, so we had to stop at Jeremy Clarkson's farm shop in the Cotswolds. The television star has written several books about his agricultural adventures, which were selling in the shop at 3 for 50 pounds. We didn't want to pay that much, so we had ourselves a good laugh when we found an almost-new copy of one of them at St. Mary's Church in Whitby for 1 pound. What a deal!

It was a lovely, lovely trip all-around. My husband and I had so much fun gawking at beautiful scenery, researching our ancestors, meeting new people, connecting with our roots, and just feeling the guiding influence of those who came before us. 

Have you been to any of these places? What did you think? What was your spin on the April Showers theme?

Happy TTT! 

* Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. Click on over there and give her some love.
*All photo credits go to my husband. 

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

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The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain



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