Friday, September 05, 2008

Wales watching

Thank you to commenter Stephanie Y for being the inspiration for the title of this post. Though she caught herself and figured out I was talking about Wales the country, she originally thought I was talking about whales the sea mammals. Made me laugh out loud when I read that one! I hope you don't mind me stealing your unintentional pun, Stephanie...

We crossed the border into Wales via the gorgeous suspension bridge on the M4 at about 8:30 Friday night. I was all set to try and get my precious and beloved, yet elusive "Croeso i Gymru" sign.

Dammit!! Foiled again! You're a tough cookie to crack you wiley Wales sign. Good thing I've got all weekend to try my hand at this again...

We stayed at a great little place called The Newbridge Inn.

It sits right on this little bend in the River Usk, surrounded by wide open countryside.

"Don't do it! Don't jump! Think of all the kids who need their milk!"

There's something so much more interesting about these iconic phonebooths when they sit in the middle of nowhere. Since most people (me included) associate them with London, they seem so incongruous surrounded by trees and with ivy snaking up the sides...

We saw these "SLOW" signs painted on the roads on our way in the night before but, since we weren't paying close attention, in our minds we accidentally transposed some of the letters in the Welsh translation so for the rest of the weekend, I kept telling Jason to "Aarf down!" on the curvy roads.

First stop was Chepstow - a cute little town with your typical row of colorful buildings...

...and your typical castle ruins picturesquely perched above a winding river.

Temporarily crossing back into England via Gloucestershire. On our drive, we crossed back and forth over the English/Welsh borders loads of times. But no Croeso i Gymru signs! Only ones that welcome you to Monmouthshire. Curses! Foiled again!

Next stop was Tintern Abbey...

...where I took the opportunity to frollick about, since that's kind of my thing. I enjoy long walks on the beach and frollicking about medieval ruins.

Who falls like this? I've never in my life seen anyone fall like this.

The village of Tintern in the background.

Next stop, Monmouth. This is Monnow Bridge, built around 1270 as a defense system for the town. Facts taked from the plaque on the bridge: It's the only surviving medieval bridge in Britain with the gate tower still standing on the bridge. Over the years, it's been a toll house, guard room, gaol (jail), dwelling house and a Topshop. (Totally kidding about Topshop, by the way. It was a Tesco.)

A wheelie-type-thingie depicting the town's history.

Aaaaand back into England, this time by way of Herefordshire...

We made a little detour to visit the 12th century church in Kilpeck.

Accoring to our book, the carvings around this doorway contain "the most expressive church sculpture in all of Britain." It depicts dragons, huntsmen, the personification of sins amongst an intricate pattern.

Next stop was Hay-on-Wye...

...which is famous for its secondhand bookstores.

And Hay Castle...

...which, coincidentally, is also a secondhand bookstore!

An "honesty" bookshop - how perfectly quaint! There were shelves and shelves of books all round the courtyard and a little money box for your payment.

Final stop of the day was Breacon Beacons National Park. We really really really wanted to hike Pen y Fan (the highest summit in southern Wales) after remembering Monique and Murray's post from their Wales trip but we just plain ran out of time. It was about 6:30 by the time we got here.

So we settled for a little walk around instead.

The biggest slug I have ever seen. It was so FAT! Maybe it's hard to get perspective from this photo but I swear to you he was massive - as long as my finger and as big around as a quarter (or 10 pence piece if there are any Brits reading).

We found this small but pretty waterfall.

Hey, look at the heather by the falls...
And Heather by the falls...

And, what you've all been waiting for: Heather and heather together at last!!!! (Ok, for all your sakes, I'm pretty sure that's the end of the series of Heather and heather photos. But I'm not making any promises because I get quite a kick out of it.)

Since it was late in the day, the lake was smooth as glass.

We pulled over to watch the stunning sunset.

This was taken on the drive back to the inn - a little blurry but beautiful color nonetheless.

We had dinner both nights at the restaurant at the inn. The food was AMAZING. But as Jason finished his t-bone steak, he couldn't help but notice that the remains were...well...slightly reminiscent of something...

Enjoying breakfast at the inn on Sunday morning.

I told Jason at breakfast that morning that I was not leaving this country without my picture of the Croeso i Gymru sign. I was on a mission. And finally.....


I went through a whole range of emotions... First was "I love you Croeso i Gymru sign. You're my best friend in the whole world."

Then came "Yeah! Take that Croeso i Gymru sign! PWNED! I just made you my bitch! Ha HA, suckah! You bettah recognize!"

And finally, pure unadulterated joy.

During our drive, I took some photos of Welsh signs that illustrate just how difficult the language seems to be to pronounce. I even had a little guide to pronunciation in our book and I still couldn't make heads or tails of it. I feel like words are either almost all consonants or all vowels. Unless of course, they have different vowels than us. Maybe instead of A, E, I, O, U and sometime Y, theirs are C, D, G, L, H and always Y?

For our last trick, we decided to drive down to the coast. First stop, Mumbles...

...a pretty quiet little seaside village in Swansea.

Worst. Boat. Name. EVER. Seriously? Ewwww.

We paid 50 pence each to walk out onto Mumbles Pier - that's quite a little racket they've got going there!

The lighthouse...

And don't you know I had to get my picture taken with the Welsh dragon. "Please Welsh dragon! Don't eat me! It's not my time yet! I haven't been to Disneyland yet! Halp!"

Coincidentally, here is the first try of my photo session with the dragon. But we thought it looked like something rather naughty was going on so I decided to go for the whole "Please Welsh dragon! Don't eat me!" pose instead.

Jason having a pint on the Mumbles Mile (a string of pubs along the main street though the village).

Then we headed to the coastal path at the tip of the Gower peninsula.

Unfortunately, it started raining as soon as we got out of the car. It was only a drizzle but the wind was so strong that it seemed worse. It only lasted for about five minutes though.

But on the upside, I was able to use my favorite word "craggy" quite a lot.

This is me doing my best "Weather Channel Correspondent in a Hurricane" impression.

We could see the sun starting to poke though the clouds across the bay - see the white streaks along the water in the distance? A photo really couldn't do it justice, unfortunately. It was really beautiful.

Leaving Wales and crossing back into England...

Too bad England is east of Wales. Would have been nicer to be driving west during this sunset.


Steph said...

nice post, you wale watcher.

Alice said...

Ok I don't know if my favorite picture is Heather and heather, the boat (I'm sorry, it made me laugh, or the weather channel correspondent. But since you didn't ask us to choose a favorite, I'll just tell you I like them all. :)

Anonymous said...

Hehe, yah....mea culpa!

I like your shot of you "falling"....looks more like you're miming a car.

-Stephanie Y.

Muz and Mo said...

Hey - that bridge looks familiar! Love the pics - glad you had a good time in Wales:)

Melissa said...

I lost everything you said when I saw the name of the boat.


Robin said...

i'm flipping along, enjoying the pics, rooting for you to get that elusive welcome to wales sign, cheered when you did, ha ha'd at the heather and heather and then.....

the boat.

really. could a picture BE any more perfect?

forever i will wonder about the owner...