Cardiff and Snowdonia, Wales
14.05.2007 - 18.05.2007
Our next adventure began with a four hour train ride from Totnes to Cardiff, in the southern part of Wales. We were met there by Claire's second cousin, aka Aunty Jilly. We went to her place and hung out for the evening, chatted, had lots of tea and watched the Welsh news. The main story is one about a bull that lives at a religeous temple and that has TB. The question is do you put him down...or not??? Big news.
The next day we went into Cardiff Bay and toured the new Millenium Centre and saw live opera singers on a small stage inside. Then we took a seabus over to the Cardiff Barrage and had a very lively commentary on the surrounding Bay from a very friendly Welshman. You see Cardiff is coastal and so the water in the bay would retreat and leave a largely unattractive mud flat. Since they wanted to develop the Bay they decided to install a Barrage to get rid of the tide "problem." I must admit the Barrage was pretty cool. We managed to watch a few boats go through whereby the boat enters a lock, the water is drained and it sails out the other side into the open ocean. There is even a fish ladder for the fishies.
That night we went to see "Pan's Labyrinth" at the local arts centre. It was actually surprising good - we had a nice chat about it afterwards, in true art buff fashion, over beer and wine.
The next day we took a day trip on the bus out to Mumbles, which is where Catherine Zeta-Jones owns a house (!) It is also supposed to be a lovely peice of Welsh coastline, to the West of Cardiff by about an hour. We had lunch over the water when we got there, and as we did so the fog rolled in, so the lovely coastline was barely visible. Oh well. We still walked around and out onto the beach and ventured through some parkland with apparently fabulous viewpoints....we'll take there word for it...Right when we were ready to head back to Cardiff, low and behold, the fog lifted. Sods law I tell ya. It was a great day though. An adventure you might say. We had a nice evening chatting with Jill again, definitely another fabulous host. It was awesome to catch up with her and see old photos of Claire's dad in the sixties!!! Haha.
The next day, our last day in Cardiff, was sunny!!! We finally discovered that nice weather does exist on this island!! We headed down to the local gallery where we saw a display of some of DaVinci's drawings. Pretty cool stuff. Then we headed off to the Carduff Castle where we walked around the grounds and enjoyed the sunshine. Taylor actually got very burnt - though that is not really surprising! Next we browsed Oxford St for a bit (shopping central), and home to relax for the evening and prep for our next adventure.
The next day (Friday 18th) we headed off on a train to Snowdonia which took us to a station in Bangor (N. Wales), from which we had to navigate our way through town to find a bus that runs like twice a day to nearby Bethesda, only to discover that there was no busses out to our hostel at Idwall Cottage that day. It just so happened though that some lovely lady, a traveller in her own day, gave us a lift right to the door of our hostel. She definintely did her random act of kindness for the day! Sigh we made it backpacks and all. The wind was fierce, but it wasn't raining, so we decided to stick it out and camp in the hostel grounds. It was a little chilly, but we survived just fine. Idwall Cottage is a lovely little hostel nestled at the foot of a 984m mountain in the rolling Welsh hills that are completely void of trees...not kidding! It's a very beautiful and rugged area. The hostel has recently been renovated to be super "Green" which made for a fabulous stay. We met several other hikers and learned a few things about places to go, etc.
Our first day there we hiked up behind the hostel to Llyn Idwall (a lake), then up a steep hill all the way to the top of Devil's Kitchen (yes, we ate chocolate in the devil's kitchen), then up to the summit at just under 1000m. Stunning 360 views, and we even had sunshine! The wind was still pretty intense though. We hiked down a different route, passing mountain sheep strolling on 90 degree slopes. Nutcases. Overall our first day of hiking was successful - no rain, no blisters, no sore muscles...we were ready for day two and the highest mountain in Wales.
Snowdon is 1085m (3560ft) in altitude, a hill in Canadian terms, but still a fair hike. Claire had hiked in several times from coming to Snowdonia in her Spring breaks when she lived in England, but for Taylor everything was new. We started out in the morning at the bus stop waiting for the 9:30 bus....at 10 we gave up and started hitching (buses are a rare spectacle in these parts) and got a ride in no time to a town down the road, then another ride then one more and we finally made it to the start of Snowdon around 1045. You see Snowdon is in the next row of mountain over from Idwall, so we had to go around and up the neighboring valley. We were even luckier with the weather that day - gorgeous!!! Our hike was lovely up around several lakes and up and up and up some pretty steep slopes up to the summit. We just managed to snap a few photos when the mist rolled in, so then we sat and had our celebratory chocolate on top of the mountain. Sigh. The hike down was lovely because the sunshine was beating on our backs and we knew that we were almost done hiking, for now at least! We actually managed to get a bus back to the hostel and camped for our last night.
Goodbye to Wales, we are now in Edinburgh, heading to Fort William today, then over to Ireland for a few days, hopefully getting to France by June 1st. More as it happens. Thanks for reading!