Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ahhhh! Beautiful Wales!

Our new driver, Idwal from Country Lane Tours, picked us up and off we went.  I have pretty much decided that all of our drivers are "out there" or we just bring the devil out of them.  Trust me they are never boring and Idwal was no exception.  He was great!  Easygoing, charming and great company.

First let me tell you that northern Wales is not anything like the rest of the UK.  The Welsh are a tough, hard working, charming people who maintain their independence.  Welsh is their first language and that is what is spoken unless they realize you are American then they move to English.  Therefore most of the time we didn't have a clue what was being said around us.

We pretty much murdered the pronunciation of all the towns so I will only share with you a few that I can manage.  So off we went on day one of our tour.

Snowdonia is beautiful, the landscape always changing.  Beautiful country lanes and pastoral landscapes.

Beautiful lakes and babbling brooks......

And the mountains, always the mountains.

And let's not forget the mountains AND the sea!

Our first stop was Beddgelert or something like that.  I murdered the pronunciation of this so badly that Idwal started laughing so I reverted to the English translation  "dog grave".  It was so named for an event that  happened here 8 centuries ago. 

A nobleman had a trusted dog named Gelert.  He had to leave his infant son alone so left the dog to guard him.  When he returned he found the cradle overturned and the dog covered in blood.  Enraged he pulled out his sword and killed Gelert.  Suddenly he heard a baby cry, turned the cradle over and found his son safe.  Nearby was the body of a wolf which had been slain by Gelert while protecting the baby.  Devastated, he erected this grave and the legend states that the nobleman never smiled again.

On a different note, Beddgelert was also the the setting for the famous film Inn of the Sixth Happiness with Ingrid Bergman.  I guess they thought it looked like Tibet!  Go figure.

Then we were off to the sea and the Llyn peninsula (I think that is the spelling but who knows!  I told you Welsh is not my best language!)  On our way we passed through this town where Lawrence of Arabia was born.  Please don't ask me the name.....

The mountains run down to the sea and the weather was gorgeous.  We came across these bathers enjoying a day in the sun.  The water must have been freezing but the Welsh are a hardy lot.

Here's Carolyn once again laughing at something Idwal popped out with!

And these are very interesting breakwaters that the Welsh use.

Lunch was at this beautiful manor house called Plas Glyn-y Weddw that had been converted to an exhibition hall where local artists could sell their work. (Only got the name right because Bonnie grabbed a brochure). It was a beautiful setting for a picnic lunch on the grounds.

Idwal then took us by a very pretty little estate that had been owned by three sisters named Keating who left it to the National Trust as long as they agreed to never change it..  I loved this place.  We couldn't take pictures of the inside (it was originally built in the 16th century) but the gardens were my kind of place.  Wild, random, beautiful, and all kinds of flowers everywhere.  It was just gorgeous and it all overlooked the sea.

There was even more achingly beautiful scenery........

And this ancient church built in the sixth century. 

It sat on a wind swept hill overlooking the sea.....

And it was O-L-D.......

There were rushes on the floor to show how it used to look...

And this baptismal font is original to the building.

To tell you the truth, this place gave me the creeps and I was ready to go.  You know I get my feelings, and this one felt HAUNTED.  I think I would go right over the edge if I had to stay overnight here!

Our final stop was a spectacular view of Caernafon castle which were going to visit the following week.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Northern Wales, Llanberis and Mighty Snowdonia!!

From the rolling hills of the Cotswolds, we made our way to the majestic mountains of northern Wales via the Llanberis Pass.  These pictures do not do them  justice, they are HUGE!

I didn't have a clue what this place looked like having picked it out on a map and after passing through this stark landscape I was pretty sure my friends were going to kill me.  HOWEVER, we entered into the town and were extremely happy by what we found. Llanberis is a small village nestled at the base of Mt. Snowdon.

That blue building on the right is Pete's Eats and our cottage was one block up the street on the left.  It was extremely convenient and is called Ripon House.  Here are some pictures.

I would show you my bedroom but I already had my stuff all over the place and didn't want you to see how messy I am OR how much crap I have bought !!  (Good luck packing and I am only halfway through this trip1)

Tomorrow we meet our new guide Idwal and are off for a day of touring!