What are these regional cities like compared to London? We journeyed by train to each of these to get a feel of their vibe.
Bristol city has a youthful student buzz about it due to it being the home of two major universities. Colourful terraced houses catch the eye and Banksy, the satirical street artist is based in Bristol.
Cardiff, the capital of Wales, with it’s bilingual signs in Cymraeg everywhere. Unpronounceable words which does not follow the general phonetic rules. Cardiff City has a quaint old fashioned feel about it. It feels like stepping back in time. The population is generally older and the cost of living is noticeably lower. We tried the traditional Welsh Cake at Cardiff Market. A sweet, baked treat like a dense pancake studded with dried fruit.
Cardiff Castles is the big attraction in the centre of Cardiff. One of the owners of Cardiff Castle, the 3r Marquess of Bute was interested in travelling and collecting things. As a result, there were unexpected items within the castle such as Chinese pottery as well as opulent rooms inspired by his travels e.g. the Arab room.
My favourite place of the 4 cities visited was Liverpool. The waterfront area has been gentrified with striking modern buildings. Well kept historic buildings dot the city reminding all that once, Liverpool was a wealthy hub. Liverpool was a major port city and was also important during the Industrial Revolution. The Chinatown in Liverpool is one of the oldest and largest in Europe due to Chinese sailors settling in the city in the 1800s. Sadly, after World War 2, a number of the Chinese community was forcibly repatriated without notice tearing apart families leaving lasting impacts The museum of Liverpool has informative displays about the history of the city. It is with the understanding of the very hard times that this city has experienced that makes the arresting modern buildings on the waterfront more impressive. It is as if, Liverpool of today is choosing to rise up from their difficult past to forge a better tomorrow. Sadly, the people of Liverpool do not seem as affluent as their fancy buildings.
Manchester city has a massive modern shopping mall in the center. This gives it a modern feel. It seems like this city would have a dynamic nightlife scene. The central area is a bit spread out so it has a convenient free bus that facilitates getting around. The major universities based here give the city a youthful buzz.
The John Rylands Research Institute and Library is a notable institution in Manchester. It was established by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands, the widow of a wealthy textile manufacturer. She wanted to create a library that was open to all and despite it’s intricate gothic interiors and exteriors, it is still open for the public to use.
For those interested, here are the ways that can be used to keep the cost down for a trip like this.
- Adjust the dates of your trip to take advantage of cheap rooms from Travelodge. The price of a double hotel room with Travelodge in late September 2023 was Bristol (£39), Cardiff (£34) and Manchester (£40). Travelodge uses dynamic pricing so the same room could be 6 times more expensive on a Saturday night.
- Always shop around for the best accommodation. In Liverpool, we stayed at a spacious, central, self contained apartment for £56 per night for two people.
- Don’t forget to bank extra saving using a cashback site like TopCashBack.
- Self cater where possible and eat simple meals from the supermarket.
- Check for cheap food on TooGoodToGo and discounted restaurant meals on TheFork.
- The variation in train ticket prices does not make it easy to optimize for the cheapest price. There is no easy one-stop train ticket website that collates the prices offered by all the various. Unfortunately, for this, many websites had to be checked and compared which is annoying and time consuming. Some of the cheapest tickets were split tickets from a website like SplitMyFare. Ticket prices were as follows; London to Bristol (£46.2), Bristol to Cardiff (£7.9), Cardiff to Liverpool (£43.2), Liverpool to Manchester (£4.3) and Manchester to London ($34.7)
There are many interesting places to visit in the United Kingdom. These regional centers have something which is lacking from London. They have reasonably priced high street stores. It does seem that many of these affordable brands don’t have a branch in London. Perhaps the London population is more discerning?
The observation that will stay with me from this trip is that the country and it’s people are suffering from the cost of living crisis. In general, I found that the people on the street did not look particularly well off. People are getting by but there are no signs of conspicuous consumption. Hopefully this will turn around soon.