Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wales

By the time we left London, I was more than ready to go.  It was exciting at first, but then it got overwhelming and just drained my energy.  The city is so big, so busy, and so stressful!  It was fun to see all the sights, but I was ready for something a little calmer by the end of the week.  Our Friday day-trip to Oxford provided a bit of a rest, although it was cold and rainy so not as nice as we had hoped.  I really enjoyed seeing the town though, and hearing about all the history of the place.  We had a lot of free time to poke around and see what we wanted to. 

A group of us started off by going to Christchurch College, which is the college on which the Harry Potter sets, especially the Great Hall, were based. 

I’m not particularly entranced by the Harry Potter movies, but it is a lot of fun to see things in real life that you’ve only seen in the movies before.  It feels a bit surreal.  I definitely understand why Christchurch College was chosen as the set inspiration, too.  It is an impressive college, all built from the cream-colored stone that so much of Oxford is.  There’s a certain panache to the college, and the whole town for that matter, that cannot be defined.  I think some of it might have to do with the fact that so few people drive cars; everyone simply rides their bicycle.  The absence of the modern vehicle makes Oxford feel timeless.

Our free day on Saturday was gorgeous; Julia and I met up with my Aunt Kathy and drove around the English countryside in her car, stopping in Bath for a good five hours to see the sights and eat some yummy food.  It was so much fun to see my aunt, who doesn’t live that far from me here, in a foreign country.  Our family has something of a tradition of meeting up in far away places, but this was the first time I was a part of it (excluding my brother’s visit to me in Budapest).  Julia and I took the train back out to Oxford, and Aunt Kathy drove down from her B&B in Darby, picked us up, and took us on to Bath.  We did the necessary and interesting tour of the ancient baths, ate lunch in a little streetside cafe, and enjoyed the crescent-shaped architecture of the city.  I hadn’t known that Bath was built on a hill, but as you head up the hill the homes clearly belong to more and more wealthy people.  The “crescents” are rows of homes, all built as one long curved building with many apartments.  In front of them are large lawns with “ha-ha fences” separating the perfectly trimmed lawn from the lawn in the park where the peasants and animals were allowed.  The “ha-ha fence” is just a ditch, but it is at such an angle that the residents of the crescents could look out their windows and not see anything but one continuous lawn, but the undesired peasants and sheep couldn’t trample on the well-manicured lawn. 
We finished our day out with a fish and chips dinner at the Eagle and Child Pub in Oxford.  Perhaps if you’re a fan of the group of authors who called themselves the Inklings (including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein) you know that this pub is the one where they met to hold their weekly literary discussions. 
Even with those slower-paced days thrown in to our time in London, I was ready to leave the city on Sunday morning.  We had a long train ride booked, going directly from London to Llandudno, Wales, but that train got canceled.  We had to take a variety of trains, four in all, with short transfers that caused a bit of stress at times.  Sometimes there wasn’t enough room for our large group on the trains, either, so we had to get cozy.

Everything ended all right though, and we got to Llandudno shortly after 4:30 in the afternoon.  The town is situated between the coast of the Irish Sea and a mountain called the Great Orme, which we had the chance to climb on Monday morning.  Everything about the town is cute, from the shops to the restaurants to the friendly people walking their dogs.  In London, making eye contact with a stranger only served to annoy them.  Here, people smile and say hello, mostly by asking “all right?”, which is their form of a greeting and really does not require an answer (although they’ll only chuckle if you do respond with “yes, I’m fine.”). 
The B&B we’re staying in is homey and comfortable, and I think the bed is the softest I’ve ever known.  After the hustle and bustle of London it is going to be tempting to just lie in that bed and relax.

We’ve done lots of walking here, up and down the beach, up and down the mountain, and just around town, but it is not nearly as wearying as the frantic-paced walking done in London.  The air is cool and brisk winds are always blowing.  Here, if you mosey, you’re not irritating anyone.  There’s also time to sit and enjoy a cup of tea, a scone, and friendship.

I’m actually pretty sad to be leaving here this morning.  Our train goes in about an hour now, so I can’t write for much longer, but if you get a chance someday, come to Llandudno.  The people will welcome you with their gentle accents and open hearts.

Posted by Emily MacLeod on 05/28 at 05:16 AM
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