After the Hurricane Workshop in Miami, I met D at Heathrow & we rented a car & drove straight to Wales. It might have been more logical to stay on in the U.S. & have a holiday there, but I wasn't so familiar with getting around the U.S. & driving on the right side of the road; I'd lived a year in the UK & I wanted a holiday where I could really relax. I chose Wales because I'd already been around Scotland & England.
Some of the places we visited were Tenby, Aberystwyth, Landudno & Lake Vyrnwy. We drove through Pembrokeshire & Snowdonia National Park. Initially I thought of stopping at Carmartheon, which I think is where Merlin is supposed to have been born, but we didn't in the end.
I liked Aberystwyth where we stayed at a B&B right next to the seafront. We had an attic room all panelled with wood which made it look cosy, & if it hadn't been raining so much, we would have had a good view of sea. As it was, the weather was pretty bad & the waves were strong & we could hear them crashing down on the shore the entire time we were there. I spent the whole night just listening to them. It made me think of my childhood, when my family used to rent a chalet by sea - I used to listen to the waves on the shore at night, & it's a sound that I think I'll never get tired of.
We had look at the castle there & also the museum. D got bored in the museum & went outside to wait but I rather liked it. It looked old & a bit run-down, but there was a section on geology which was quite nice, & also some old furniture & ceramics to look at. Another interesting article on display was a set of love spoons, carved by some sailor. I actually copied down the information given :
The centuries old Welsh custom of giving love spoons meant that a would-be suitor gave a spoon as an indication that he desired to court a particular girl. A girl may therefore have received several spoons from as many suitors. The oldest surviving spoon, made in 1667, is in the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagan's Castle, Cardiff, although it is known that love spoons were made well before this date by the menfolk of Wales. Love spoons are symbolic, and have several meanings.
To begin with, they suggest that a suitor can help the one he loves - to food - for which they were originally designed. Later, they became quite ornamental, with long handles and the means by which to hang them on a wall. The designs on the spoon are also symbolic. For instance, a heart means, "my heart is yours". Spoons with cages in which run spheres indicate the number of children the suitor would like to have. Double spoons denote togetherness. A key indicates the key to one's heart.
I thought it rather nice because it's an old tradition & because of the symbolism. I saw quite a number of love spoons in the souvenir shops later, but they were expensive, 6 pounds just for a teaspoon-sized one, 12 pounds for a larger. In the end I bought one for my parents, since their wedding anniversary was just around the corner.
At Tenby, I wanted to visit Caldey Island because there is a monastery there, but unfortunately it wasn't the season for visiting. We attended mass at the Church of the Holyrood & St Teilo. I noticed one curious thing about the stained glass - all the windows were plain except for one with what looked like a Great Tit on it. To this day I'm still wondering why - was there some story behind it, or did the stained glass supplier just do it for a joke? I regret not asking the priest there about it.
Another nice place we stayed at was a B&B which had a view of Cader Idris. I'd heard about this mountain from Susan Cooper's The Grey King - it is supposed to mean "The Seat of Arthur". Our room had a good view (whatever could be seen through the rain) of the mountain, plus Lake Tal-y-Llyn, and sheep grazing in a pasture. The low clouds made the mountain look rather forbidding, which in a way was more interesting than if it had been a fair day. The landlady there told us she'd lived in Singapore four years before the British moved out. This was the second person to tell us such a thing - in Tenby, the landlord told us that he'd lived in Seletar before.
We also took a detour to visit a reservoir called Nant-y-moch. This was really isolated and the road was extremely narrow. Being from Singapore, it was quite an experience to be in the middle of nowhere with not a soul for miles except for sheep. When we got to the reservoir, the wind was really strong. There was a small monument to Owain Glyndwr (a Welsh hero) there. I wanted to get out of the car to read the inscription, but the wind almost blew me away when I opened the door.
We also visited Lake Vyrnwy, which was lovely because it really seemed unspoiled. There were very few buildings there - one hotel, one farm, & some small shops, including an RSPB store. The weather had cleared by this time & when we arrived in the evening, the sunset over the lake made a good picture. The B&B, not surprisingly, was already taken, so there was no place to stay except the hotel which was pretty expensive. There were some bird-viewing huts scattered along the lake, & the following morning we spent a few hours sitting inside one of them, watching the birds. I could only recognise the common ones, like the tits. A squirrel also came along to check out the food, and there were some robins. I have a fondness for robins. :lol:
We also stopped at a craft shop along the way, & the first thing I saw when I entered the door was a stone carving of a little mole sitting on the floor, laughing up at me. He was just so incredibly cute. I was a bit doubtful about buying him, though, because he was heavy, but D chivalrously volunteered to carry him in his hand luggage aboard the plane. In the end I also bought another smaller mole, reclining on its side.
Wales was cold & it rained half the time we were there. Later, when I'd mentioned this to a friend who works in the UKMO, he joked that I'd chosen a good time to visit - April 2000 had been a record-breaking month for rainfall in many areas, almost three times the national average.