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Llandudno's connections with Alice in Wonderland..............

Llandudno is a real life evocation of Alice in Wonderland because it was here, in 1861, that the Liddel family, including little Alice, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s fantasy, came for their seaside holiday.  The family purchased a piece of land on the West Shore, named it Penmorfa and summered here for 11 years until the house was sold.  The gabled building was part of the town’s “Alice Trail” for many years until it was controversially torn town in 2009 by private developers.

But never fear Alice lovers.  The trail still survives and includes a life sized White Rabbit statue. A recent addition to Llandudno's Alice offerings include some wooden sculptures of characters from the book at Happy Valley gardens. Happy Valley is on the eastern side of the Great Orme, a public park which was incorporated in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Julbilee.

In town, many elements of the old seaside retreat still survive and if Alice came back through a rabbit hole today, she might recognize much of it as unchanged.  There is the Great Orne Tramway, the longest cable operated railway that chugs up to the summit of the Great Orme for amazing views of the town called, “The Queen of Victorian Resorts.”  There is the sweeping panorama of the seaside Promenade dotted with both quaint and grand hotels and there is the St. Georges Hotel, the first luxury hotel built in Llandudno in 1854, said to be the place where Lewis Carroll wrote parts of Alice in Wonderland on one of his own seaside visits.

When I visited Llandudno, I fell down my own rabbit hole into the Victorian era.  I had just got into town, settled into my venerable seaside hotel and started out on a Promenade walk breathing in the ozone of the bracing Welsh sea air.  As I got closer to the beach I saw something that made me feel as if I’d slipped through a time warp.  “Professor Codman’s Punch and Judy Show,” a brightly colored booth-like pavilion stage was drawing laughing children and their parents from all directions.  As I got closer they were indeed Punch and Judy puppets and they were battering each other over the head with big sticks, just like the ones in the movies.  And the children were laughing, as they had done in 1860 when this very Punch and Judy show first started and when Alice would have been amongst the children in the audience.

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This news story was published on: 06/06/2010