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Left London and went to Wales
Rating : (3.6) (183 Votes)

Pros : Friendly locals and beautiful heather
Cons: None

September 05, 2002

Left London and went through Windsor to see Windsor Castle where the Queen lives in the summer. Apparently it is too expensive to heat it through the winter so they move to Buckingham Palace for those months. It was very impressive from the outside and I wondered what on earth they do with all that space. Next I visited Stonehenge and Avebury where there are famous rock formations which are still a mystery of why and how they got there. The rocks were very large and I am sure placed in some sort of strategic fashion by.... aliens perhaps? Well, thats one of the the theories. Someone else heard that it was also just a big ancient toilet. On that note, off to Laycock where I didn't get off the bus because I am again coming down with some sort of cold. I am sure the party life in London didn't help that but hey, I am not complaining. It was sooooo worth it. Anyway. Laycock Abbey was where they filmed parts of Harry Potter, Sense and Sensability, Pride and Prejudice but I was fading fast so I decided to stay on the bus and try to sleep. Next stop was in Bath where there is Cadbury chocolate (a bit of a letdown after Swiss chocolate) and Roman Baths. I went into Bath Abbey and ate a Cornish Pastie which is a flakey pastery filled with various fillings. I ate the steak and potato one and it was really good. From Bath the bus stopped in Abergavenny where we all drank apple cider in a car park (something of a tradition so Julie, the driver, claimed) and practiced our Welsh. The Black Sheep hostel was actually a Welsh Pub with a hostel in the basement. It was very quaint and they cooked us bbq for supper which went well with the beer. Gabby and Renee taught me a new card game called V2 and we played while many of the others sang karaoke including James very enthusiastic rendition of "My Ding-A-Ling". I watched Abba from Abergavenny perform (plastic suits and wigs included) before I went to bed so I am sure I had dreams with Fernando and SOS playing in the background. I decided to go to bed early as I realized I was on the verge of a big sicky. I felt somewhat better in the morning so I rejoined the group and we were off to Big Pit which is a real underground coal mine! We donned caps with lamp lights and decended the 300 feet into the dank dark depths of Wales. At one point we all turned off our lamps to experience just how dark dark is down there and I have to say that I have never experienced anything quite like it. Even though it was for but a minute, I lost complete sense of space. I was troubled by the fact that until the inspectors from London came and made the minimum age 10, there were children as young as 6 working ( and losing their lives) in these mines. I thought of the movie October Sky as I walked through the mines (yes, I bumped my head more than once). The Welsh countryside is spotted heavily with little white (and a few black) sheep with, can you beleive it, longer tails than most dogs I have seen. There didn't seem to be any fences so apparently people keep track of their sheep by painting different colored spots on their backsides. I guess they don't need to mow the lushious green countryside as all these sheep seemed to be eating nonstop. There is a beautiful purple flower that grows freely throughout Wales called Heather. It smells really nice too. The buildings and houses are quite old and most are made of rock. Some trees looked so perfect that I had to touch them to make sure they weren't fake. We stopped for lunch in Rhayader for a quick bite and again, I was touched by how friendly the locals were. Next we stopped in Snowdonia National Park and hike around the mountains where some breathtaking pictures were taken. We did a Precipice Walk which I renamed in my head the Avoid-the-Sheep-Poo Walk. Now I know what happens when lots of sheep get together and graze near hiking paths. After a slight delay (we lost some people...perhaps they fell down the mountain? No...they were waiting in the WRONG car park...um...maybe the fact that the tour bus wasn't there may have been their first sign but hey...it was a long walk) we were off to Caenarfon which is a small castle town in northeast Wales. After a good feed of Welsh Pub food, we (some more than others) tasted the local drink (Christa split a 3 litre bottle of the cheapest cider and actually, it was pretty good!). We put on silly wigs and hats and played silly games. It was an earlier night for me as I am feeling somewhat better but I didn't want to jinx it. This morning I took a historic tour of the town which ended in Caernarfon Castle which was build by Edward the First. Standing at the mouth of the Seiont river, the fortress (with its unique polygonal towers, intimidating battlements and colour banded masonry) dominates the walled town also founded by Edward I. Caernarfon's symbolic status was emphasized when Edward made sure that his son, the first English Prince of Wales, was born here in 1284. In 1969, the castle gained worldwide fame as the setting for the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales. I got some really great pics of the castle and me in it. I am just on my way back actually to explore it just a little more thoroughly. This is my first real castle and I intend to learn as much as I can. I left the bus bus group today but Theo jumped off too and we are going to see if we can go fishing tomorrow. Fish and chips is a big deal here so I am determined to find some for lunch. It is a little grey and cloudy today but hey, its not raining