September 10, 2015

Observations from the Mothership: Day 9

The Day I Came Home to Wales

As is becoming par for the course on this trip, I got a later start in the morning than I intended.  Who knew that walking several miles every day could so wipe a person out?  All I can say is I damn well better have lost some weight by the time I get home after all this walking.

Anyway, I slogged back to the rail station in the morning and hopped the next train going to Aberystwyth.  As always, I very much enjoyed watching the countryside passing by outside my window.  I have also really been enjoying listening to the accents change as I travel from place to place; it's almost like listening to one of those YouTube videos in which someone demonstrates all of the possible dialects of a given country, only live and in person.

Wales!  Out my train window!!

I arrived in Aberystwyth around 3 pm and took a taxi to my "self-catered guest house," which basically just means "bed and breakfast" minus the breakfast. There was a communal kitchen (and laundry!) for guests to use, but no meals were provided.  I checked into my room, which was at the top of two flights of stairs, and schlepped my carry-on up the very narrow staircase.  Frankly, it's a wonder I didn't trip and kill myself given my natural Clouseau-like coordination.  And what exactly is the deal with all the tiny British stairways?  Is it a nationwide plot to prevent people from accumulating too much junk since they can't get any of it up the stairs?  Inquiring minds want to know.

When my host had showed me all the amenities, she left me alone to enjoy the peace and comfort of a room which included a big, soft, plush bed and a comfy chair placed under a skylight.  After making myself at home, I took a nice long, steamy, refreshing shower; next I sat down and used a pair of tweezers to drain all the blisters on my feet and toes, thus relieving the pressure so I could approximate walking like a sober person once again.  After dressing and gingerly tying the foot prisons back onto my feet, I went down to the bayside to enjoy the view.  Aberystwyth (which means "mouth of the river Ystwyth") is situated midway down the west coast of Wales on Cardigan Bay, just off the Irish Sea.  The seafront was a mere 5 minutes walk from my guest house.  I wanted to go down to the shore and walk in the water like I had in the English Chanel but was afraid to get sand in my freshly-pierced blisters so instead I opted for a walk along the Promenade as the sun was setting.  The view was absolutely gorgeous; it took my breath away.  Off to the right you could just make out the electric cliff railway atop Constitution Hill, while on the left you could see the piers and several restaurants and guest houses down the Promenade.

Cardigan Bay at sunset.

See what happens when you walk two marathons in 9 days while wearing new shoes?

I stayed for quite some time, enjoying the cool breeze off the bay and watching the gulls sweep down as they called overhead.  There were some kids fishing off one of the piers and a couple surfing in the waves.  I saw an older couple holding hands while sitting on a bench overlooking the beach; they looked so sweet together and I couldn't help thinking what a lovely place this would be to retire.

Surfers on Cardigan Bay

After an hour or so I limped back to my guest house, Maes-Y-Môr, and sat in the kitchen searching on my phone for a good place to have dinner.  While there, some guy wandered in, presumably another guest, looked at me and asked, "All right, then?"  I nodded and replied in kind, but couldn't help thinking the whole time of Ron Weasley asking that of Harry Potter at the end of the first movie and smirking just a little.  We had a brief chat in which he gave me several suggestions for good local places to eat, then he was off.  I found directions for one of the places he'd suggested, an Italian place, and headed off in that direction.  When I got there I was told they wouldn't have a table for an hour, so I left my name and just wandered up and down the streets in the dusky evening light, entranced by the flowers everywhere, the old buildings and the quaint, cozy feel of the place.  My feet were killing me, but I kept walking around enjoying the sights because the town was just so lovely.  I felt like I'd come home.

Planter of flowers near the restaurant.

Eventually I arrived back at the restaurant and though a few minutes early was shown in.  I thought it was weird to be eating Italian food my first night in Wales, but as I was tired and didn't really know what constitutes traditional Welsh food, I figured what the hell.  I ordered chicken fettucine (which wasn't bad, though the chicken was overdone), a salad, and some cheesy garlic bread that turned out to be a pizza and therefore way more than I had planned on eating.  On the plus side, it was extremely thin--almost like a cheesy garlic crȇpe--and I ate over half of it.  Best of all, I was seated at a table facing directly opposite the open door so I got to watch people walking past while enjoying the brisk breeze coming in down the stairs and see the flowers just outside the restaurant.

Mmmmmmm...pizza crȇpe....

After dinner I stopped at a small convenience store and purchased a couple bottles of water and a couple cinnamon-roll-ish pastries for breakfast, then walked back to my room where I proofed and corrected my most recent blog post before falling asleep in the chair while in the middle of proofing the previous post.  I woke around two am, closed the laptop and crawled into the super-cushy, cozy, comfy bed and thoroughly passed out, sleeping the peaceful, all-encompassing sleep of the dead.

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