When I was twenty, I took a gap year and, using savings bonds given to me by my grandparents during my childhood, spent five months in Europe and the Middle East. This wasn’t a trip I prepared for; it was spur of the moment. I went where the winds blew me, from Luxemburg, through Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, to Israel, Syria, Lebanon, back up into Italy, to France, Netherlands, returning to Luxemburg to fly home. My big regret was that I didn’t finish out the year in the UK. I’ve been several times since.
I always wanted something like that for my kids. My son did a different version: stayed in hostels in all the main cities of Europe one summer. Piper longed to make a similar sojourn to mine. On my trip, I spent a few weeks in some places, usually living with locals, so that I absorbed some of the culture. I went all the way through Italy trying to learn the language and never stayed in a hostel til Bari. I love how Piper is experiencing the UK that way (with people of the place). Yesterday she journeyed from Liverpool to Leeds.
Liverpool has a checkered past and some lively peaks in its reputation. Of course, people associate it with the Beatles. There’s a scrappy sense of rude youth from various sources. It has had rough epochs, as many large port towns do. The slavery trade became robust there.
The name comes from Liuerpul, which might have meant muddy pool, in the 1100s. Trade was brisk with Ireland and other parts of the British Isles, then expanded to Africa, West Indies, etc… In the mid-20th century, manufacturing and port trade declined, unemployment shot up, and labor unrest became one of the city’s reputations. I think when there’s hardship, a lot of times arts rise, fueled by conflict, distress, and so on. That’s happened in Liverpool, where music and art shows abound (according to Piper who stayed with an art and music student).
Now I’m starting to learn about Leeds, which is also in the north of England, to the east of Liverpool, at about the center from east to west, in Yorkshire County. Her first day there, my daughter attended an Extinction Rebellion meeting, which I think is very cool. She’s learning about permaculture efforts in the area and might do some woofing on small farms in the Lake District (still further north, toward Scotland).
I’ve written more about Liverpool’s history here than Leeds’, but the photos are of Leeds. I posted last week with Liverpool photos.