Now, it's Saturday the 14th at about 3 or 4 in the afternoon. What you are looking at is my perspective from the back seat of the Black Mariah zooming down the highway (the M-something-or-the-other) towards the little town of Llandago in Wales with the Beckster still at the wheel (on the right). We have no idea what to expect. We had asked the day before for the Tourist Info people in Oxford to book us a B&B somewhere around Chepstow in southeastern Wales but horse races were being run there and not a single place was available...so they booked into this little (can't be 150 people living there) rural town in the Wye river valley.
...we have arrived in heaven. The place is beautiful. A small valley with a big, slow moving river. Forests on both slope of hardwoods and firs. Sheep dotting the fields with daffodils growing everywhere...there are even swans swimming down the river...I immediately make an announcement to Daniel and Becky that they are going to be moving on without me because I will never be able to tear myself away from this beautiful place and go back to reality. I get no argument back...I don't think they are planning on leaving either.
We had spent the last 4 or 5 days (I'm losing track at this point) in major urban areas. We have been having so much fun that it should be illegal but we have been on the go constantly...now we are tired and this looks to us just like what the doctor ordered.
Our hostess at one of the best B&B's we stay at on this trip...Rosemary Townsend, owner/operator of the Llandago-Lugano B&B. Daniel has his own room for the first time (always before it's been shared rooms with the bathroom down the hall) and here the baths are "en suite," meaning in the room.
A view of Rosemary's garden area...blooming in March with flowers that have been planted to not only look good but to smell great too! This place is about on the same latitude as the panhandle of Alaska and slightly north of Nova Scotia so the flowering garden was a surprise to us all.
A view of our room taken from our private entrance...it's actually two rooms, at the far end, through the doorway is an adjoining "sitting room" with table and chairs.
Daniel's porcelain and our first and last confrontation with the dreaded European bidet! The only drawback to this place was a lack of a shower, something we were to run up against more and more in the British Isles. They are wonderful people but show no sense when it comes to bathrooms...they are consistently tiny with no shelves to put things on. They have no "rule of thumb" when it comes to hot water, it can appear on either side of the sink/tub/shower. And while I'm on the subject of high weirdness, what is with their electricity? We go for the 110 volt stuff here with a doubling to 220 for the tough stuff like clothes dryers. In the U.K. they wire everything at 250 volts!!! Touch it and you are a dead man/woman! I tell you what though, you use a hair dryer there and your hair is dry RIGHT NOW!
We went out for a stroll just about dark and came across an old graveyard and church with a sign on the door "If you are interested in seeing inside please pick up the key from the grocery across the road." We never did but we all appreciated the friendliness of the offer. Around the back of the church we found a public footpath like you see all over Britain. We started following it over turnstiles and through daffodil-dotted pasture till we came to the river...and there, of course, was a bench to sit on and goof at the passing water...heaven. It was at about this time Daniel declared that he "was on vacation and would really like to have a day off." Becky and I couldn't have agreed more, but were a little shocked that Daniel was the first to break.
The path eventually wound around back to the "highway" (a narrow, two-lane roadway) and eventually to this, the only, pub in town. We fish and chipped it up and washed the meal down with bitter and Guinness (some of us claim it was the best meal we had on the trip!) and agreed that we would ask Rosemary if we could stay another day....
After a night's rest we find Daniel working on one of Rosemary's "Full English Breakfasts" served on a beautifully set table and presented on stacks of Wedgwood china...these breakfast's usually held us through long, arduous days until supper time. No surprise there. Rosemary said we could stay! Yay!
So for our what we euphemistically call our "Day Off" we climbed the nearest mountain following the advice of friendly villagers and fellow travelers over the footpaths in the area. There are benches placed strategically all along the trails...how they get them up there, I have no idea...there are no roads to the cottages you see behind Becky and Daniel, the 70+ year old residents (whom we spoke briefly to) apparently walk in and out carrying their groceries and whatnot. [Becky here..."all along?"...well I've already mentioned Gil's tendency to exaggerate.]
The trails are depressed into the ground in many place like you see me in here...the explaination we came up with is that they were created by the simple force of people walking over them for millenia has caused this. The stone walls are also VERY common. They run alongside most of the hundreds of paths in the area, sometimes along both sides of the trail.
...and on we hiked! This picture was taken near the top of the mountain near a small series of waterfalls called the "Cledden Shoots." I figured we must have hiked 10+ miles on this day over very rough terrain...not exactly a "Day Off." Tough on the body but good for the soul!
The next day, 5 miles down the river, near Chepstow... the ruins of Tintern Abbey! We're talking about the 1200's or so here...the abbey was a functioning unit for about 400 years and had many additions and subtractions along the way...here Becky is leading us through (guidebook in hand as always) and giving us the run down on what we are looking at and for.
Notice should be made here I think about how important Becky was to Daniel's and my trip. I think I can speak for Daniel here also. Beck did an enormous amount (more than usual, which is...er, well, enormous! My vocabulary is letting me down here) of research into where we were going and what we might be seeing and added greatly to the richness of this "trip of a lifetime"...She almost continuously had her nose in some guidebook or another relating information to us about what we were seeing, much of what would have been missed if we were allowed to go on our merry ways just taking it in without background info...she drove us hard a lot of the time, "gotta see this, gotta go there" and we complained the whole time but the trip was better because she was there and making sure we got it all!
Still at Tintern...me gauging how big the priests at the abbey were...the place I am sitting was an area where the brothers would be summoned to see higher ups...generally waiting for some sort of punishment (these Christians were heavily into punishment...go figure). I wasn't the first to idly dangle legs here (maybe the first to flash "peace signs" while doing it though).
...the ruins of the main sanctuary. I see Daniel has donned his "Citation X" hat for this solemn occasion...
The ruins of an ancient (80 A.D.) Roman ampitheater in Caerleon. I was amazed that we were allowed to walk all over this place. The British are much more casual than we are about ancient historic artifacts. If this thing was in the U.S. we would have it hermetically sealed and you couldn't get within yards (meters) of it! I was looking for tiny chips of brick which had fallen off to bring to the chosen few back home when an entire historic brick came out of the damned wall and totally freaked me out! I quickly tried to jam it back it but to no avail...I had hastened the demise of this glorious artifact! Oh well, I put the brick back best I could and got the hell out of there!
We did, in fact, tear ourselves away from the beautiful Wye Valley...we all vowed to return and have even gone so far as to discuss the next trip to Wales where it is definitely included....to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur, "We shall return!"
...next up, Avebury, "Right!"
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