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Wales

15 April Saturday

Breakfast at The Captain Alexander Liverpool – J D Wetherspoon https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/pubs/all-pubs/england/merseyside/the-captain-alexander-liverpool It was the Grand National horse racing weekend so the place was packed with people drinking at 7-8 am for breakfast.

NOTE: The video clips in this blog are re-directed to YouTube because I did not pay for the expensive upgrade to upload each clip individually. Also, this page loads much quicker to have these links to YouTube. The clips for this blog – Wales – are in this playlist – or watch them as they appear in the blog – which obviously makes more sense. Probably.

Breakfast at The Captain Alexander Liverpool on the National Race Day

Left Liverpool 9am and took the train after a wonderful breakfast to Chester. We spent a few hours at the train station there then took the train to Llandrillo Junction. Our house exchange hosts, Bob and Beth, met us  at the train station and drove past the Conwy Castle. We had beers at the Conwy Marina https://www.boatfolk.co.uk/conwy-marina-wales . There was a dog menu at the restaurant. I would see throughout our three-weeks here that there was a lot of love for dogs in Wales. See the below slideshow of some signs.  (click through to see each)

They drove us on the Marine Drive toll road, a 5-mile scenic drive around the base of the Great Orme headland, with its spectacular views over Anglesey Island. We stopped midway up and watched some seals do their stuff – it’s in the video below, as well as other stuff from our first wonderful day in Wales.

Checking out of Liverpool was quick and easy. We met our hosts again and heard the interesting story of their current job. They together manage 70 properties close to our current one. Some in our high rise block. They own 10 of them. Quite impressive. My dad would have loved it. We discussed the apparent resistance in some cities to Airbnb. They surprisingly said that they agree with the objections, which are mostly that people use them for parties, make a lot of noise etc. This is a problem for them too.

Then we tromped over to the pub around the corner for a big English brekkie. The place was very full of people dressed to party. The night before we had also had fish and chips in another pub called “the Bank”, and it was also chockers.

The night before

Boys in suits and girls in fancy dress with head pieces and all, dancing the night away. It turned out that we had walked into the 3 day celebration of the Grand National horse race, where everyone in the UK places bets and parties…held at Aintree Racecourse, near Liverpool on 15th April at 5.pm. We were told that the odds were great. The one expected to win was paying 8 to 1. Can’t go wrong. We didn’t though.

The train to Chester left nicely on time, then the connection to Llandudno, Wales. I have been told that the way to pronounce the double Lls is to assign a “c” sound to the first one….clandudno. That’s just the beginning of our issues with Welsh, the single most difficult language in the world, in my view. The word Welsh is pronounced Wetsh or Welch. Terrell did it naturally…. And Llundudno is pronounced clundudno…go figure.

Bob and Beth, our new English friends, with whom we will no doubt exchange again, were still home, and so we had a lovely time catching up. First a great meal, home cooked by Beth, (which lasted us for 3 more meals) and lots of talking. Bob has a nifty piano and heaps of fun music which I will work my way through. Thinking of buying one.

Never having been exposed to Welsh anything – my first notice is how everything is written in two languages. They want to preserve the Welsh language so it is taught in school and all signs are in Welsh first then English. I found it difficult (impossible) to tell any jokes in Welsh – perhaps next time. Here is an example of a poster – go figure.

We had thought of ‘capturing’ some speech but it never worked out. Once in a supermarket I put on my voice recorder on my phone and stood next to two women speaking something, I had no idea what, for quite sometime. I was so excited to get home and listen to what I had recorded. Damn! I had pushed the wrong button and recorded nothing. Never got around to it again, but believe me it sounds really cool.

They seem to use a lot more letters than the English folks do – perhaps in the beginning of language they had letters left over…they also like to put two ll’s in the front of a name, such as our hometown of llandudno. Actually, our real hometown is llandudno Junction – that is where the train station is. llandudno is the seaside resort a few moments away.

llandudno is really into Alice and Wonderland with statues all over the place – I just took this one of a rabbit in the town square.

In 1861, the eight year old Alice Pleasance Liddell (the real ‘Alice’ in Wonderland) spent the first of many summer holidays in Llandudno. The Liddells were close family friends with Charles Dodgson, who wrote the books under his more famous pen-name, Lewis Carroll. White Rabbit statue was cast in 1933. They are proud of this Whtie Rabibit stuff and even have ‘The White Rabbit trail’ throughout the area. Of course, to me, I thought the song, ‘White Rabbit’ was about LSD. I used to live in San Francisco and would see Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s. “White Rabbit” is a song written by Grace Slick and recorded by the American rock band Jefferson Airplane for their 1967 album Surrealistic Pillow. It draws on imagery from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its 1871 sequel Through the Looking-Glass. You can learn more by going to the Wales webpage about Alice here. If you want to know about my experiences with Alice go here.

Below is The Promenade at Llandudno – Llandudno is the largest seaside resort in Wales, and as early as 1861 was being called ‘the Queen of the Welsh Watering Places. This goes for miles – row after row of these hotels.

The town of Llandudno developed from Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements over many hundreds of years on the slopes of the limestone headland, known to seafarers as the Great Orme and to landsmen as the Creuddyn Peninsula. The origins in recorded history are with the Manor of Gogarth conveyed by King Edward I to Annan, Bishop of Bangor in 1284. The manor comprised three townships, Y Gogarth in the south-west, Y Cyngreawdr in the north (with the parish church of St Tudno) and Yr Wyddfid in the south-east. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llandudno

On our walk along the shore we came across the smallest chapel in Britain. It stands on the foreshore at Llandrillo yn Rhos (Rhos-on-Sea). Its a simple stone and mortar structure with integral walls and roof and has a heavy wooden door. Its altar stands over a natural spring of clear water dedicated to St Trillo and St Elidan and was first established by Saint Trillo early in the sixth century AD. The chapel has seats for six people and is used for an Anglican Eucharist every Wednesday. The chapel is named after St Trillo, a 6th-century saint who built his cell here. It appears that Trillo lived as a hermit at this site sometime between 570 and 590 AD. And I concur – because I read it on the internet. Whatever – it is quite the old place and is cool. I know because I meditated for a good two or three minutes in the chapel because I couldn’t get WiFi and had to do something else and I felt really good afterwards.

April 18

My first long drive. It was fine. Everything in miles, so I decided not to go over 60mph which is 96 kph. Plenty fast enough for a freewway, even when not towing. The road is punctuated by many roundabouts. Seems to work pretty well, no one has to stop for long.

We finished up at Caernarfon Castle a royal fortress medieval castle in the town of Caernarfon. It is recognised as one of the greatest buildings of the middle ages. The castle was built because of bitter war between Edward the first and the Welsh princes, hence its immense structure able to withstand assault.

Terrell faithfully climbed some of the turrets to the top, while I languished a few floors down, but he certainly paid the price with sore muscles he did not know he had, in the following days. 

It was a motte-and-bailey castle from the late 11th century until 1283 when King Edward I of England began to replace it with the current stone structure.The work ended in 1330.

Caernarfon Castle is recognised around the world as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages.
This fortress-palace on the banks of the River Seiont is grouped with Edward I’s other castles at Conwy (five-minutes from where we currently are living), Beaumaris and Harlech as a World Heritage Site. But for sheer scale and architectural drama Caernarfon stands alone.There is so much about the history of this place – check out Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caernarfon_Castle to catch up on all the gossip.

The bottom line for the likes of us is this is a walled town – people live here – there are shops and apartments and wow what a cool place to live. Hey Narda can we move here?

A bit our of sync here, on the way to Caernarfon Castle we got very lost and ended up on mountainous roads through a slate area. At one point we came to the end of a road that was actually the entrance to a slate mine and guards shooed us away. We told them we were lost. They had one of those eye-rolling moments and we moved on and got lost on another road. What we did find was a great visitor’s centre where a lot of people were all geared up for walks. Apparently, this is a big hiker’s paradise. We hiked over to the coffee shop and had lunch.

The crater-like cavity of Cwm Idwal is the result of phenomenal geological activity that took place millions of years ago. The slideshow below is self-controlled thingy – meaning you move the slides along so there is enough time to read each slide – if it s a readable one.

Cwm Idwal has been attracting climbers, hikers, geologists, biologists, and botanists alike for many years, including the coffee lovers, Narda & Terrell. The most notable of Cwm Idwal’s visitors, besides Narda & Terrell is Charles Darwin, who conducted much of his scientific work in the area. If I were you I would visit their website and get more notes…https://snowdonia.gov.wales/walk/cwm-idwal/

Bethesda is a town and community on the River Ogwen and the A5 road on the edge of Snowdonia, in Gwynedd, north-west Wales. It is the fifth-largest community in Gwynedd. The town grew around the slate quarrying industries; the largest of the local quarries is the Penrhyn Quarry. At its peak, the town exported purple slate all over the world. Side note: I lived in Towson/Baltimore which is next to Bethesda back in 1977 – 1979. You can read about those crazy days here.

If you the time I would suggest checking out the webpage of Lisa Jên Brown. She is a Welsh singer, songwriter, actor and the lead singer of Welsh folk band 9Bach. She was born and raised in Bethesda, North Wales and has lots to say about this area. And better photos than we took.

For a deep dive into Cwm Idwal see our two-minute video clip…

April 19

Today a garden day. We had strong recommendations from Beth and Bob, and it is indeed a masterpiece, even to a non gardener like myself.

Bodnant Garden is a National Trust property near Tal-y-Cafn, Conwy, Wales, overlooking the Conwy Valley towards the Carneddau mountains. Founded in 1874 and developed by five generations of one family, it was given to the National Trust in 1949.Wikipedia

We spent a day here. Well worth the visit – we noticed there were a lot of benches and made use of a large majority of them. We even managed to get lost and spent hours wondering around.

April 20

Off to Anglesey, a large island connected to northern Wales by a bridge. We started off via Bangor, because of the song of course, only to find out the song was not about this Bangor. Still a nice city. We made it to the pier where we joined a friendly group of retires in the little pavilion. This was to escape the howling wind coming off the sea, and eat the yummy sandwiches crafted by my resident cook, Terrell.

You can be the first to hear Narda sing this song as we drive through Bangor (spoiler alert…someone told us this Bangor we were in was not the one in the song….what a sorry sour puss) – but you will need to be quick to be the first…

Narda sings some Bangor song whilst driving through the Bangor of a song it is not of. Some shots of Bangor. We walked to the end of the wharf on a very windy day – almost lost my hat, what a tragedy that would have been. I bought it in Brighton UK years ago as a memory to my mate Randy Dandurand who I spent the 1960s, 1970s with and caught up with in the 1980s until seeing him as he was dying a couple of years ago. I was on a zoom with him, him in Eugene Oregon in hospital, me in Adelaide. We agreed we have had a fantastic life. I spoke with him as he left the planet. Such a moment with someone who shaped my beliefs and life. Read it about it here.

Then onward to Anglesey, via the bridge. We seemed to have taken a wrong turn early on, and so the roads were mostly single car width, as in our last Irish experience

We were lucky to arrive @ Benllech Beach at high tide. Only for maybe ten-minutes, the water was splashing across the road. By the time we got to a cafe at the end of the bridge to grab a coffee the tide was already quickly going out.

High tide in Benllech. The waves come over the wall and deposit seaweed on the road. Quite speccie, though it’s short lived. We went back to park the car, and the tide had already started to recede when we returned.

April 22

Nice walk in downtown Llandudno. Bit of shopping, found a nice second hand bag called Vintage Rose. I liked the name, and the colours.

Narda's way cool bag
Narda’s way cool bag

Then over to Wilco for stationary. Can’t go wrong. Got a new travel folder, a small Thermos (strategy for keeping to our daily budget) and two mugs. 

And here comes the bonus…we got to meet Goat Lisa, our checkout chick with an obsession with Cashmere (or is it Kashmir…….yes it is, I later found out) goats. Apparently during the pandemic, they came into the town, while there were less humans, and she was over the moon, seeking them our and taking lots of pictures, many of which she showed us. We are told, by our reliable source, that they still come down off the mountain, called the Great Orme, at night, and that you can go walking up there to check them out. So there is our challenge.

Our first sighting of a Kashmiri Goat was on the side of the road happily chewing on the hedge.

April 24

Our bus day. Bus #5 to Bangor, then bus #4x to Holyhead.

We bought a day pass for 6 pounds. Single story buses, but boy do they hoon given a chance!!!! The bus stop near home was only a few minutes away and it was really nice to relax  and not drive.

We had driven to Bangor before but the bus visited all the nice little villages on the way.

For example, we saw town of Llandfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllandtysilliogogogoch along the way
https://llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk/ – think we should move there just to confuse ourselves with our town’s name.

The record for world’s longest town name goes to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch. The pronunciation isn’t easy (llan-vire-pooll-guin-gill-go-ger-u-queern-drob-ooll-llandus-ilio-gogo-goch) and the meaning is just as odd (St. Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio of the Red Cave), but this tiny town in Wales is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.There is even a monopoly set with the name of this town.

Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch

Holyhead is a port. Mainly ferries heading to Dublin (Bren took one of these years back!) There are the Stena and the Irish line. Both ships were in port. Another interesting ship in the port was the National Geographic Resolution, an ice breaker/cruise ship carrying around 135 passengers. The cruises are pricey but quite different from regular cruises.

  • National Geographic Resolution

We read heaps about the National Geographic Resolution – and are determined to go on it if we can find $50,000+/each laying around in a drawer somewhere to the Arctic Circle. If we find more, of course, you can join us. Holyhead is a short ferry ride – less than two hours – to Ireland. I think if we had our passports with us we may have done it. There were a few cruise ships in port – we didn’t have our passports so here we still are. Wishing~ Holyhead itself looks like a nice town – a bit hilly – so we didn’t ride the bikes we did not have.

April 25

Conwy Castle is the jewel of the area. The impressive wall surrounds a large section of the old town. It is smaller but built in an impressive time of 4 years by the English. The Welsh tried to get them out, and finally succeeded by waiting until most of the guards were at church for Good Friday and then pretending to be carpenters doing repairs, overwhelmed the remaining guards and stormed the castle. I believe this was in the 1300s or so.

We have been living five-minutes away from this amazing site/sight for three-weeks. We have found a free parking spot not far out of town, where hikers park to go off into hikes that we would not dream of going on. However, we can hike to the castle walls and the town centre in less than ten-minutes. A photographer’s dream place. Of the way too many photos we took here are a few…

And a few of the train tunnels in Conwy – being lovers of trains we took heaps of train photos and videos too but for now suffice to say, what a cool place – as we did not upload a train video (yet)… and yes I did play a bit in Photoshop – who won’t?

Fine example of a sandwich made by Terrell eaten by Narda next to the Conwy River in Pont Fawr, Llanrwst
Fine example of a sandwich made by Terrell eaten by Narda next to the Conwy River in Pont Fawr, Llanrwst

Llanrwst is a market town and community on the A470 road and the River Conwy, in Conwy County Borough, Wales, and the historic county of Denbighshire. It developed round the wool trade and became known also for the making of harps and clocks.

Llanrwst’s three-arched bridge across the Conwy, built in 1636. It leads across the clear-flowing waters to Tu Hwnt i’r Bont, a beautifully restored 15th-century house now owned by the National Trust. Click through the images below – not auto play – so you have time to read the poems and other stuff.

Betws-w-coed

Who won’t want to go to Betws-w-coed? Such a cool sounding name. Of course, we got lost – see the clip above.

Betws-y-coed is an old town, much of the building is from dark coloured stones. There was a railway station with a functioning rail there too.

Stopped at Gwydir Castle – didn’t go in – saw peacock took photos outside and left – An example of a fortified manor house dating back to c1500. There have been fortifications associated with this site since AD 600. The turret was added around 1540 and John Wyn ap Maredudd’s initials can be seen above the main entrance in the courtyard gatehouse along with the date of 1555. The surviving buildings date from around the year 1500, and there were alterations and additions in c1540, c1600 and c1828, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwydir_Castle

The next day was a road trip heading east, towards Liverpool, but not reaching it. The first stop was a beach side town, with lots of caravan parks. The caravans are actually stay-caravans. There are thousands of these all along the coast in towns like Rhyl.  I guess folks have them as holiday homes, and perhaps also rent them out.

We climbed up the dune for this picture of the lighthouse, called Point of Ayr.

Drove along coast through: Rhos-on-sea, Colwyn Bay, Kimmel Bay, Rhyl, Prestatyn – to Ruthin. At Kimmel Bay saw the effects of a low tide – lots of boats waiting for high tide again to sail the seven or so seas

Ruthin is a cool old place…The name comes from the Welsh rhudd (red) and din (fort), after the colour of sandstone bedrock, from which the castle was built in 1277–1284. There is a lot to read about this place – it’s forever old – checkout https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruthin The slideshow below is not on autoplay to give time to read stuff…

This was Ruthin, an old market town.

Then on to St Asaph to see the Cathedral, whose claim to fame was to house the first ever translation of the Bible into Welsh. Beautiful church.(see pic further down) On the last stretch we saw another castle which was not open, but we managed some cool pictures of a peacock having a stretch.

I had read about and wanted to see he Cathedral Church of Saints Asaph and Cyndeyrn, commonly called St Asaph Cathedral The cathedral dates back 1,400 years. One of the things that is significant about this forever old church is that the original translated Bible in Welsh (1588) is there. The slideshow below is not on auto changing stuff – to give time to read at your own pace.

We did the Great Orme – which is really close by, right here in Llandudno. Most of the Great Orme’s rocks are between 339 and 326 million years old, which I have been told by reliable sources, is quite old..We drove to the top and took the tram down the Orme (and back up, obviously) The Great Orme Tramway is Britain’s only funicular, or cable-hauled, tramway that travels on public roads. It opened in 1902. Check out our video, you will be pleased with yourself that you did…

Large-scale human activity on the Great Orme began around 4,000 years ago during the Bronze Age with the opening of several copper mines. We went to the main mine only to complain that 10 pounds each was too much to see some bloody hole. But we did walk around the outside of it to get photos, for free.

From the summit of the Great Orme we grabbed these photos of windmills in the bay…they looked like they were floating. The photos don’t do justice to what we saw but if you use your imagination you can imagine this scene as much much cooler than our photos.

Yesterday we headed into our local pub and had a great meal. Mine was pork ribs and Terrell’s was cod and linguini in a nice sauce. There is also a bit of festivity in the town with antique trucks and buses at the show ground. 

Terrell on LLANDUDNO Beach taking a break from the transportation festival
Terrell on LLANDUDNO Beach taking a break from the transportation festival – Great Orme in background

Managed to score a lift in a bus from the 60s.

LLANDUDNO TRANSPORT FESTIVAL
LLANDUDNO TRANSPORT FESTIVAL

The LLANDUDNO TRANSPORT FESTIVAL was this weekend. Some long weekend celebration, Monday is a banking holiday. They seem to have heaps of holidays in Wales. Not sure what this was about but the transportation festival was on our mind. We went on Saturday to discover their annual parade of trucks was cancelled but there was a bit to do at the showgrounds. As Narda mentioned we took a 1960s bus to it but did not go in as they wanted 8.50 pounds each to enter – about $10USD or almost $20 Australian. However, the next day, Sunday, we wondered over to the showgrounds at four pm and there was no one collecting money so we went in and wandered about for hours or seemingly hours – long enough to look at stuff and say WOW and grab a few photos – see below, and a video clip, see below.

LLANDUDNO TRANSPORT FESTIVAL

May

Now we are counting down. Today our last tourist gig, walking along the castle wall which encompasses the old town of Conwy.

Conwy castle wall walk

And that is Wales – we are now in Todmorden England with a whole of more exploration to do.

Today my son Sacha is in Hanoi and because it was such a hot day he spent time inside playing with AI – here are two examples – one of Narda and me last month at the Elton John concert and the other how I see me.

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