When my cousin Emily randomly messaged me asking if I was at all interested in visiting England solely (at the time) under the pretense to see the Spice Girls reunion tour it only took me asking Clinton if I could spend that type of money on a flight before I was planning a trip to England. When I first saw the Spice Girls I was 12 and saw all five of them with my mom. While Emily and I knew that one of the fearsome five wasn’t going to make it, that didn’t seem to dampen our enthusiasm. We decided the best thing for us to do since we weren’t sure if we ever would get back to the country was to maximize our time and take two weeks to see the area. We decided to see the concert in Sunderland, but fly in and out of London. We planned to stay only a few nights in Sunderland for the concert and some sightseeing, and then head to London for the rest of the trip. While we visited Sunderland we had a chance to also visit Scotland, and when we were staying in London we took a day trip on a bus to Wales. We drank tea, waved to the Queen (I’m sure she saw), and walked through many different gardens. Sit back and grab a pint while I relive the amazing time had in quaint England!
Sunderland is about five hours away from London in the North. Sunderland originally grew as a small fishing settlement on the south side of the River Wear. In the 12th century it was granted a charter and grew as a port city with trade in coal and salt. The city grew by the 19th century as shipbuilding became a major economic benefit and the city absorbed Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth, two nearby cities separated by the river. By the late 20th century, shipbuilding was no longer an economic importance and the are grew into a commercial center for the automotive industry and service sector.
No trip with a #TravelingTalley is truly complete without a visit to a historical site. Emily also loves to visit historical sites, especially old churches with graveyards (so much history!) so one great place mentioned that we both agreed on was the Washington Old Hall, which is beautifully upheld by the National Trust. Located in Washington village, it was once the home to the ancestors of George Washington. What a fantastic reason to visit a historical place in England! The historical connection is from a family member who departed from Durham, England in the 13th century who eventually moved to Sulgrave in Northamptonshire. When we first arrived we stopped at the cafe since we were pretty hungry. Our travel overseas was loooonnnggg (but surprisingly no delays) but our hotel was super cute and the staff were really nice and helpful. They booked our taxi for the concert, which for us was a huge deal since we were still figuring out our phones in another country. I digress…this made for a really strange food schedule, which did not always include breakfast.
The cafe at the Old Hall was very nice and the woman who rang in our order was delightful. She talked to us about the land and house we were about to visit, and explained our delicious food. I had potato soup and tea. For the first time real English tea! We had a great brunch before heading onto the grounds. The house sat on one section of the land with the gardens on the other. I very much enjoyed the gardens and could see myself walking around them each morning if I lived in the house even today. The house has the original 17th century kitchen and large Great Hall. The neighborhood surrounding the Old Hall was just as adorable as the Hall itself. Emily and I strolled around the town a little and had a great time looking at the church next door, the cemetery, and the beautiful houses. The National Trust does a great job of keeping the land pristine and incorporating the history of the area. What a gem of an area – we were so happy that we decided to visit this area for the concert!
Speaking of the concert, that night we took a taxi as close as we could to where we thought the party would be and found many ladies basically our age partying and ready for the Spice Girls! The concert was at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland and the stadium did not disappoint. I was thoroughly impressed with the acoustics during their performance, especially for such a large outdoor arena. I loved the casual attitude that the Spice Girls took when performing – they hired dancers and in the beginning just sat on a couch talking to the crowd like we were just hanging on the weekend with our girlfriends. I’m not gonna lie, it was amazing! Walking to the stadium we crossed the River Wear before settling into a very long but quick line. It was quickly apparent that we were one of the only Americans in the crowd. I guess most of them either didn’t go or decided London was the choice! Emily and I did visit the stadium and hang with the Spice Girl crowd in London the next week, but it would have been crazy to go to an even bigger stadium I think! The concert was worth every penny and we had the time of our lives. Truly this was the reunion tour I envisioned. If Posh had been there, it would have been even better, but this is a great way to come full circle to a band that I followed during my early teenage years!
Before we left Sunderland we stopped at Roker Beach, a rocky beach that stretches along the North Sea. A storm was heading in and it was already raining but we were determined to touch the North Sea! We parked along the top and walked down the walkway to the water, but this was mainly for easy leaving capabilities. In England you drive on the other side of the road, remember, and I was not driving! I don’t even think I could drive even if I wanted to drive, and Emily was doing a really great job to begin with that it never came up as an issue during our travels. Later, when we were navigating London between the bus and the Underground, we got lost frequently (wait for those blog posts! Travel is always fun!) but in this case it wasn’t too bad navigational-wise. Just park so it is easier to get out and you do better than most! Roker Beach has a really long, beautiful pier that was unfortunately closed, but at the end was a magnificent lighthouse. I can only imagine how cool it is to walk out on that pier and stare into the sea! One day!
Our time in Sunderland and the surrounding area was short, but it was some of the best memories created during this trip. I had my first sip of tea while enjoying potato soup and a leisurely stroll through the gardens of the original Washington’s. #Winning!
Keep you eyes to the #TravelingTalleys for the next adventure of #CuzUK!