Thursday, June 10, 2004

Returning in Lonely Defeat

Actually lonely and phlegmy defeat. I caught this nasty cold at the hostel in Caernarfon, and that was it. I headed back to London and got on a plane as fast as my little legs would carry me.

Fortunately, I left on a high note. I went out to Mount Snowden and took the train to the top, but I decided to walk down instead. The summit was completely enshrouded in clouds. Although it ruined the view, it was very otherworldly to actually be standing inside of a cloud. I enjoyed the solitude while hiking down the path. All I could hear was the wind and the occasional sheep bleating. Once I descended past the clouds, there were some amazing views down into the valleys with glassy lakes at the bottom and across the countryside onto slopes of other mountains. I realized as I was walking that this was just what I had traveled all this way to do and that I should really consider leaving while the experience was still fresh in my mind.

When I reached the town at the foot of the mountain and was waiting for the bus back to Caernarfon, the excitement of hiking down all on my own began to wear off, and fatigue overwhelmed me. My head was so clogged up that I couldn't hear. I could see people's lips moving, but had no idea what they were saying. I knew then I had to go home. The idea of navigating my way onto a ferry and across the sea to Dublin was completely beyond me. As soon as I got back to Caernarfon I went to the tourist office and got the timetables for the train back to London.

I have never been this glad to be home after a trip in my life. Usually I leave a vacation with some regret, but this time I didn't mind leaving one bit.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Escape from Cardiff

I made it out. I was so nervous because there is only one bus a day which leaves Cardiff for Caernarfon, which is where my next reservations were. If I missed it I would be screwed, so I got to the bus station about an hour early and asked three different people if I was waiting at the right stop, and sure enough - it showed up, I got on, and was whisked away.

However, I had to change buses in Aberystwyth, and although the bus driver told us where to get the bus and when it was leaving, he did not think to explain that the number of the bus would change or what it would change to. After waiting for half an hour in what was the wrong place anyway (thanks, bus driver) I realized I'd missed the bus, but I didn't even care. I would just stay there, just so long as it wasn't Cardiff. Luckily, there was another bus going in the right direction, so I made it to the place I intended to be after all. Not bad.

Caernarfon (pronounced ca-NAR-von) is a pretty town, which is fortunate because I plan to stay here for three nights. There are still medieval walls around the central part of town where my hostel is, so it's like walking into a castle whenever I go back to my room. Also, it's right on the sea. When the tide is out, it's right on a mud flat. BUT, when the tide is in it's a good view. Also, there is ''another'' castle here. I haven't decided if I'm going to spend the time and money to go in it, but a couple of people staying in my room said it was alot of fun.

What I really want to do is go to Mt. Snowden, the highest peak in England or Wales. It's in the middle of Snowdonia National Park, and there's a little train that will take you to the summit. The views are supposed to be gorgeous, except it's really cloudy and misty right now.

Well, hopefully Caernarfon will be a hit and I'll make it to Dublin after this instead of coming home in lonely defeat. Don't think I haven't thought about it.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

This place sucks

I am not having a good day. I am tired out and kind of lonely, but that has pretty much been par for the course. However, today I got a big disappointment. When I first started researching coming to the UK I got this guidebook with photographs in the front. One of the most beautiful pictures I had ever seen was of Caerphilly Castle, and I thought, "No matter what else, I have to go there." It has big round towers and is surrounded by a moat (in which the sunset was reflected in that stupid photograph which lured me here). It is also in the middle of a stinky city with a 6 lanes of traffic whizzing by.

I already hated being in Cardiff. It's filthy and crowded and loud. Then when one of the things I was most looking forward to turned out to be so un-picturesque and un-lovely it killed my attitude. It's almost five now, and I'm back at the hostel. I'm going to lie in my bed and read a book and not step foot back outside until I'm ready to leave this place.

Moral of the story: Don't come to Cardiff.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Day of Really Old Stones

I visited Stonehenge today, and didn't find it to be what I expected. It was alot smaller than I thought it would be. Maybe it was just because you couldn't get very close, but I was a little bit disappointed. All around there though, are ancient barrow mounds, and you can hike out a little ways to see them. I enjoyed walking through the fields and on the hills better than marching around Stonehenge with the other tourists.

Then I went to Avesbury and it wasn't what I expected either. The ring of stones is bigger than Stonehenge, but they're very spaced out and don't have the cross pieces on the top. There's no admission or anything to see them. You can just walk all through the sheep pastures (Mind the sheep dung!) and over the huge grassy ridge that the prehistoric people built around the stones. The views over the countryside were spectacular, green rolling hills and neat little fields as far as you could see.

On the way back into Salisbury I stopped to see Old Sarum, the orginal site of Salisbury. All that is left is a ruined castle on top of a tall mound. From the mound you can look down onto the outline of the original cathedral. It was very green and moody and windswept. Very much like the England I had in my mind before I came.

After that rugged day in the countryside, I have come to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It's a typical, very urbanized city, and I don't care for it very much so far. I went to see Cardiff Castle and it was pretty interesting, though. The site goes back to 79 AD when the Romans built a fort there, and you can go down into an excavation to see the old walls. Normans built a keep there around 1000 AD and a castle grew up around it. In the late 1800's a really rich marquess lived there and had it refurbished and redecorated in keeping with Victorian ideas of a Medieval castle. It's admittedly very beautiful and opulent, but I doubt that the Normans had the walls inlaid with Italian marble and the ceilings gilded with 22K gold.

Tomorrow I'll take a day trip to another castle outside of town (I'm beginning to see how heavily castles are going to figure into my itinerary), and hopefully I'll get to see some countryside. I'm liking hiking around through the grass much better than making my way through traffic.