Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wandering wonderful, wet Wales
(Written Aug12 12h30: In the Manchester airport right now waiting for another flight after missing my flight for the first time ever (&%#*@!), will add this experience if I survive to another post of the downsides to travelling since I think I’ve painted a fairly rosy picture so far…)
So Wales! After a spot of difficulty my friend Kathryn met me at the station and we went to the pub in the small Welsh village where she works (since she had to go to work). I read for most the time and went for a long walk around at sunset. So gorgeous, I love the countryside there, straight out of a travel brochure! Lush rolling hills. Golden fields and light green meadows dotted with loads of white sheep, bordered with dark green hedges, grey stone fences and storybook trees. Under a wet grey sky… no it wasn’t near as bad as I expected in fact two of the three days were sunny, most of the day, the weather is extremely unpredictable.
The first day we just wandered around Wrexham nearest Welsh town and then sat in the park with her friends listening to a free music festival and relaxing all afternoon. It was all local musicians and bands, a really neat idea.
The next day we took the car and headed off to the coast through the rain. Despite lots of optimism (shorts) it didn’t really clear up until late evening. However, it was warm enough and had stopped raining by the time we were walking around. We went for a fancy lunch in a restaurant in the bottom of an old castle (!), delicious meal and we got free entry into the village of Portmeirion. Portmeirion is gated village with quaint very colourful buildings, like you’d expect to see on the Mediterranean, with a beach and lots of walking paths in the forest. So pretty even under clouds! We wandered about all afternoon exploring and taking pictures, mostly in the forest which reminded me of the road to Hana in Hawaii, it was almost tropical vegetation, not what you would expect for northern Wales at all! Flowers, palms and trees with red trunks. Even a dog cemetery… very random. The tide was out and the bay was so shallow it was like a sea of sand. We took a detour on the way back to visit a real old Welsh castle on the sea but we got there a bit too late to go in so we just walked all around it and around the village there, just like I would picture it, Welsh scenery has definitely not let me down!
Yesterday we took a trip to Liverpool and perhaps because it was so sunny, it did not fit my image of dreary docks and hard workers at all. We spent most of the time on the Albert dock, a lovely big square dock with cafés, shops and museums all the way around. Very nicely done. We visited the Tate Liverpool, another free modern art museum but this one had a sculpture exhibition. I still can’t appreciate modern art like I’m sure I’m supposed to… some of it I can vaguely relate to or appreciate how it makes you think or view something differently but in general… I just see a lot of random, creepy rubbish! After a picnic in the sun on the dock we went to the Beatles Experience which had TON of information on the Beatles and a well done audio walking tour though it was hard to read all the boards and try to listen to the audio tour and of course random clips of Beatles music playing throughout. But it was well laid out all underground and stone walls, they managed to re-create the atmosphere of old Liverpool clubs. There wasn’t as much memorabilia as I expected but they had McCartney’s first guitar, Lennon’s famous glasses and several real letters and some clothing. After we walked down the street where they used to play and that was neat even though it’s been re-done. Took the train back via Chester so got to see Chester very briefly, really cool old downtown around with old buildings all along the street and a pedestrian bridge with a lovely clock. In the evening we went to a family friend’s house for a scrumptious BBQ and I got my free-range minted Welsh lamb, yum!
Wales is such a nice place, and some people do still speak Welsh! All the signs are bilingual and some of the people in the touristy bits were speaking Welsh to each other. All I picked up on is that ARAF means SLOW… what a weird language though. It’s like scramble up an English word, take out half the vowels and replace them with some more consonants, then decide to randomly double a few of the consonants so they make different sounds (like ff=th?) and voilà, a completely unpronounceable Welsh word! Words with no vowels at all or perhaps a y if you’re lucky...
Next stop (hopefully!) Germany (via Belgium...)