Thanks to everybody, especially James, Emma and ryan_gill w/ all of your advice! I don't know where I'd be without Rick's forum for all of my trips to Europe. SO, THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!
I always swore I wouldn't write something long and here goes. Please feel free to jump to the end for trip plan!
So, this is what I'm thinking so far. It's been, unfortunately, a quick plan, with working tons and trying to plan this so last minute with any free time (after thinking we were going to Iceland...) I've researched a ton with RS and TA.
The airfares were quite costly from Los Angeles already and no good flights into Manchester, etc. so we ended up buying direct flights to London, in and out, unfortunately.
So a total of 13 nights. (Mind you, I've been all over Europe (20+ trips) and my guy has been 3 times. I love Italy and Ireland most and don't love traveling with huge crowds (I swore I'd never travel to Europe in August but, alas, this is how work dictates it now...)). We are both in our upper 40ties and don't want the stress of renting a car (did that twice in Ireland), so, of course, this has made it harder to see Wales. I have had to, sadly, give up on the idea of seeing the S/W Coast of Wales. I've checked all the buses and trains and it just seems really silly. I don't want us to sit more than 3 hours on a bus/train. My guy also gets amazing deals for any Marriot/Spg hotel, so that has helped guide my trip. We are also not huge hikers/walkers. We enjoy nature's beauty but don't need to necessarily go into national parks. Finally, we don't want to be going, going, going, like a RS tour! We especially enjoy good food/drink, great music, gorgeous scenery and chatting with locals (and art for me!). 2 castles will probably be enough for me! : )
Days 1-3: Arrive in morning from 10 hr flight. Sleep/stay 2 nights in London (free!). He has only been to London once for 24 hours.
Days 3-5 Sleep/stay 2 nights in Liverpool via train from London's Euston station. Never been! Stop by Chester on way to Conwy, for the afternoon? Or reverse this and stay in Chester and day trip to Liverpool??
Days 5-10 Sleep/stay 5 nights in Conwy. Use as a base camp to visit all northern sites in a somewhat relaxed manner. : )
Days 10-13 Train down to Cardiff. Stay 3 nights. Travel around.
Day 13 Train back to London. Stay for free in city.
Day 14 Fly home
We can take little tours, hire private drivers for afternoon tours, take local buses, and/or use taxis. Did all of this for Northern Ireland last August and it worked out great!
How's this sound? More cities than planned (but we love cities) and I think we will see enough water locales because water seems to be everywhere in Wales! : ) Truly bummed to miss Tenby or Aberystwyth but without a car, seems too out of the way. I hate to backtrack when traveling, and this way we have a triangle from London to London. Though, if I'm missing something, please suggest a better way but all I can see Wales is as a side-ways T with trains. Have to go halfway up/down, on the English side, to go all to the West, so that means I would be repeating a journey or taking a 4 hr bus ride down south and that's too long for my guy.
I'm a bit disappointed because I had hoped to use, at least 10-11, of our 13 nights in Wales but I can't seem to find enough places to go now that I'm not hitting the West coast. I guess if we love it so much, we will return via Dublin and rent a car next time.
Thanks again my friends! So appreciate all your advice! Happy travels!