This post has been a while coming. Between the Easter break, exams and packing, the days have passed so quickly that, before I knew it, it was suddenly June. At the start of the Easter holidays I stayed in Stoke-on-Trent for a few days with my best friend from university. Having never been to or researched the area before, I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I was nonetheless excited at the prospect of not only going on ‘holiday’ with Lauren but exploring a new area of England with a rich history that I was yet to discover. I was slightly apprehensive about arriving at the Blythe Bridge platform in one piece, especially since I was travelling straight from the UoN campus to the train station, but I needn’t have worried as I had plenty more time than I expected.
I arrived at the Blythe Bridge platform after what felt like hours on end and immediately entered tourist mode, taking multiple pictures of the Blythe Bridge platform sign at various angles. Thankfully only a handful of people got off the train with me and they immediately went on their way so I had no witnesses to my photoshoot, although I suspect that onlookers would not have deterred me from taking as many pictures as I could until I got the perfect photo of the sign. (I seem to have deleted them all; I couldn’t find any of these photos when looking through).
After our reunion and Lauren’s warm welcome to her hometown, we stopped off at McDonalds for dinner and ate at her house, before shooting off to the other side of the city to Vale Park to watch the England Women’s-Italy Women’s match. Although our hopes to watch the Stoke City-Liverpool match the following day were dashed, the women’s match turned out to be somewhat more exciting than the men’s both for the atmosphere and for our proximity to the pitch. After the match, we were eager to return home to relax and I ended the first day of my holiday discovering the softest mattress I had ever slept on.
Saturday came with an early start; after getting ready, we headed out to the city centre to eat breakfast at Café Delight, where I was introduced to the full English brunch which included chips (I promptly sent a photo to my mother, who was just as surprised as I was). We then headed off to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, where we were given an introduction into the history of Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent and were able to explore some of the conditions and tools of the trade. We paused our exploration to paint our own miniature ceramics – Lauren, a cat; I, a cup and saucer – in a public workshop which had only just reopened for the spring. Our afternoon was filled with shopping and our evening brought an amazing home-cooked meal, something I’d come to greatly appreciate since starting university.
On Sunday we had a lie-in, since every other day on this trip would entail early mornings. We headed to the World of Wedgewood, where we explored the museum and had a factory tour. I had an authentic afternoon tea experience and felt severely underdressed – despite wearing my new blush leather jacket – but the tea-tasting and warm scones made up for my out-of-place feeling. During the tour, we saw each stage of ceramics production, from shaping to shipping. I couldn’t believe the time and dedication that went into producing each piece of pottery and had a new admiration for the profession. My Chip cup paled in comparison to some of the incredibly detailed plates and teapots! Dinner took us to a pub called Black Lake, where we earned food babies after a delicious meal.
Monday was the day we were both the most excited for, as we were heading out to Chester Zoo. I was especially excited because the only zoo I had ever been to was the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (which I recently found out had been rebranded as ‘Jersey Zoo’ to increase tourist awareness of its existence), which does not have the most exciting animals despite its valiant cause. Lauren told me that Chester Zoo was also committed to helping endangered animals, which heightened my experience as I knew the animals were being cared for and not just exhibited for human entertainment. The first (and last) animals we saw were the elephants; coincidentally, it was my first time seeing elephants in real life. I adore elephants and had a severe overreaction to seeing them, constantly on the brink of hyperventilation and holding back my tears of joy. In the gift shop I made it my mission to buy something elephant-related, and of course left with 5 souvenirs.
The last day of my trip arrived and we headed off to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery. We travelled through the history of Stoke-on-Trent and I was made aware of and saw the Spitfire plane, along with learning about its history and ties to the city. Lauren and I forwent the majority of the art gallery, but visited the gift shop where I bought a token of my journey. We headed into the shopping centre, eating in Frankie and Benny’s for lunch, and soon after it was time for me to return to Nottingham. We said our goodbyes and I departed from the two-platform stop, not eager to return to Nottingham so soon.
The whole trip was incredible and I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to visit my best friend and to be welcomed by her and her family. I learnt a great deal about the city and saw beautiful places, taking over a thousand photos in the process! I can’t wait to visit again and explore even more of what Stoke-on-Trent has to offer.