Sunday, December 4, 2011

Welsh Wonders

For my final trip within the UK, I went to Northern Wales, a land filled with mountains, lakes and natural beauty.  A land where you hear almost no one conversing in English, Welsh is the daily language.  A land of castles and history.  And yes, a land of sheep.

At Castell Conwy
On Friday, I took a delayed train ("waiting for a crew member"- the train was 30 minutes late and I missed my connection) to Conwy, which took over 6 hours.  Conwy was beautiful, a castle built by Edward I, on the northern coast of Wales, in a medieval walled city.  I only stayed in the city for about 2 hours, just time to see the castle and a tiny bit of the town.  I then took the over 2 hour bus trip along the coast.  I could see Angelsey (Ynys Mon), a massive island, just across the water to my right, and the immense mountains of Snowdonia National Park (Eryri) to my left.  At least I could see them until we got near Bangor, at which point I could mostly just see rain.  I went to Caernarfon, but by the time I got there it was dark.  I spent over 30 minutes wandering the town trying to find the hostel, and ended up just going to sleep after dinner at a pub.  This was actually the first time I've ever stayed at a hostel.  It was nice, and there were only two other guests while I was there, one of whom ended up being a new friend.

Saturday was a busy day.  I awoke early (unintentionally) and wandered the town of Caernarfon.  I crossed the river and climbed to a tower which turned out to be a power station, either built to look medieval, or built into a medieval structure.  I returned and went to Caernarfon Castle itself.  It was very similar to Conwy, but still beautiful, in many ways more complete than Conwy.  The sun broke through the clouds, lighting Snowdonia behind the castle, and the water in front.  I climbed most of the towers and looked at the exhibits.  Caernarfon is where the Prince of Wales is given his title, it is the capital of Gwynedd, and it is another of Edward I's castles.  It is also unusual in its use of angular towers and colored stone.  It was a very impressive castle.  I ate lunch looking at the city walls, which circle the central town and passed right by my hostel, then took a bus to Llamberis.  LLamberis is a small Welsh town in Snowdonia Park, right at the base of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales.  There is a train that goes to the top in the summer months, but it was closed.  I decided to walk the LLamberis path towards the summit.  To reach the summit would have taken 3 hours (and another 3 hours return), so I only went to Halfway House, which took just over an hour and a half and was a very strenuous hike.  The area was stunningly beautiful, Llamberis lake behind me growing smaller, mountains all around me, dropping into grassy, sheep-filled valleys, ruins of castles and manor homes all across the landscape.  I returned and went to Dolbadarn Castle, a ruin of a keep between the lake and the mountains.  Then I walked around a bit before returning to the same pub in Caernarfon and the hostel.  I finished my eBook (Terry Pratchett's "Reaper Man") and started "The Hunger Games".

Dolbadarn Castle

Today (Sunday), I took the train to Birmingham.  I met my friends Gemma and Rob, two of Kelly's friends from the wedding.  Gemma is very pregnant, and both are excited about the upcoming baby.  We had planned to do the Birmingham Christmas Market, which was much more of what I had expected a Christmas market to be like than Hyde Park.  Instead of lots of crazy rides, it was just shops and food.  However, the bad thing was it was raining!  We went to a pub for lunch, then walked through the market and to a mall.  It was good to see them, and then I took the train home.  When I got back to Oxford, a full fireworks display went off, literally just outside the window.  I think it was Oxford Castle, which had a Christmas Lighting ceremony.  It was a nice welcome back for my second-to-last night in the UK.

Though very sad to go, I spoke to Rachel tonight, and I am looking forward to seeing her and everyone at home a great deal.  The adventure of a lifetime is drawing to a close, but the memories will live on forever...  And before they're done, I still have a day left in Oxford, and 10 days to party on the Continent...

No comments:

Post a Comment