This has not been the most exciting of trips, for two main reasons. First, it was mighty cold and, unlike in London, where not a single snowflake has graced us with its presence this winter, we had nothing less than intermittent hail following us through the northern part of Wales. Second, – and probably more important! – Wales is a great place for tourists in search of outdoors; it enables in great abundance hiking, trekking, climbing, rafting and all other kinds of nature-related pursuits. For those more interested in man-made wonders, such as yours truly, Welsh offerings are somewhat less spectacular.
Which is not to say that you can’t find interesting things to do in Wales if you are primarily interested in history and architecture – and, after all, we can occasionally enjoy nature ourselves.
We journeyed through all of Wales from south to north, stopping at a number of selected places. In Cardiff, we enjoyed the exuberantly over-the-top and whimsical castle that the local coal baron redecorated for his family in the 19th century. In Brecon Beacons National Park, we visited remarkable caves and had girls take horse-riding lessons. Near Aberystwyth, we did a small trek around the Devil’s Bridge waterfalls area (which amazingly coincided with a windless and sunny gap between two rounds of hail – and, as other potential visitors were apparently scared by the weather, we had the waterfalls all to ourselves).
In Portmeirion, we spent a couple of hours in a dazzling, if artificial, Mediterranean village. In Blaenau Ffestiniog, we descended into the 19th-century slate mines. In Conwy, we walked around the tiny walled medieval town and stopped by a fine example of the Elizabethan merchant house.
Finally, in Caernarfon, we toured a spectacular castle, one in the ring of castles in Northern Wales that the English crown built at the end of the 13th century to keep their then recently conquered subjects – Welshmen – in check.
We stayed one night at a great hotel, another at a passable B&B, and the last one at a great B&B. The contrasting experiences highlighted to us that creatures of comfort, such as ourselves, certainly find extra value in having things like, say, a hotel pool, readily available. And that a big breakfast buffet offers considerably better opportunity to leave satisfied for picky travelers, such as Kimmy or Natasha, than a hearty – but limited variety-wise – British breakfast at a mom-and-pop B&B. And that quiet rustic accommodations have a chance to be anything but, on account of a golden jubilee being celebrated in the dining room downstairs…
My very last act on the Welsh soil was filling up the car for the return home. Remember my gas horror story? The gas station in Caernarfon had every single pump equipped with a credit card machine. In and out in less than three minutes. Wales rules!