Just arrived back from Wales. It was perfect weather. Sunny, blue, and relatively warm.
I'd hoped to leave work early since we had a five hour drive ahead of us, but that went to hell by midday. Instead I left at 445, and managed to get myself home and packed by about 515. We stopped at the BP near the A5 to fill up the tank. Fortune was smiling upon us, and as we walked in to look for a flashlight and pay we were serenaded by The Smiths singing "There is A Light That Never Goes Out", which is always a bit of serendipity, because it's just not that often you're going to hear that over the loudspeakers.
All in all, we made good time. Around 930 we were hungry and I was skeptical that we would make it anywhere sane to eat before kitchens closed so I forced us to eat at a Burger King at the services. Bad decision. Not tasty, and gas-inducing - not a good thing with The Visitor. We made another stop at an ASDA near Swansea. We bought:
A twelve pack of Tetley's Bitter
Four bottles of welsh ales
Bramley Apple Pies
Welsh Cheese called Green Thunder
Continued on to the little National Trust lodge we'd rented for the weekend. It was about the same as a hotel, and it gave us a cute little well kept cabin in a remote setting with excellent views and many lovely hikes in the woods and along the nearby estuary. It was at the end of a windy little one lane road, down a steep hill through dense woods. Scary when you're driving it the first time in the dark. They'd left the light on, though, so we could easily find the key.
The cottage was freezing, and so The Visitor set to making the fire to warm it up. With his new-found coal burning skills, he piled wet wood and fire starters and lumps of coal in the grate, and then blew on it for about an hour and a half. I unloaded the car, unpacked, got us each a beer, turned on the heat and the hot water, read the house manual and read the visitors book. Once The V learned that he didn't have to build the fire to keep us warm for the night he was willing to let it fizzle out... I was able to use a quote from retiree Jan from the guest book (whose husband "John" was "able to build a roaring fire" back in February) to goad him into the dark woods in search of dry lumber to prove he was more of a fire starter than an elderly British gentleman. This worked wonders, and soon our fire was roaring, as well. The Visitor went to bed, and I stayed up listening to my iPod and reading the book my friend Susan sent me.
Oddly, I was the first up on Saturday. Made a pot of tea, and we enjoyed a breakfast of oatmeal with brown sugar, scotch and cream and a side of bacon. The Visitor decided to pee in the yard before we left for the day...this makes five countries where he's done this, something of which he is quite proud. (Two in one trip...he also peed in my back yard earlier in the week.)
The first item on the agenda was the Cheese Centre in Llangloffen. We headed to Fishguard and then turned down the coast. We stopped along the coast for a quick look at the map, but there was a crazy man pacing in a parking lot speaking loudly to himself in Welsh so I demanded we leave. We had no problem finding the Cheese Centre, but unfortunately it had closed recently when the owners retired. Bummer.
Went on to St. David's Cathedral. Very cool Norman church, and the home of Anglicism in Wales. Made a beeline for the toilets, as we both had to pee by this time and there was no way I would allow The Visitor to pee in the churchyard. (He complied and used the gents like a civilised person, though he did make a few idle threats.) I had to give a little etiquette lecture about the level of voice one uses to speak when one is viewing the echoey sanctuary of a church in England, to which The V responded, "Really? I'm supposed to talk quietly?" in full voice. We wandered the grounds, including the Bishops Palace...a ruin from the 14th century built for the presiding Bishop of the time. It has no roof, but many original staircases and little warning pictures of how you'll look if you smack your head on the low ceiling or go ass over teakettle on the slippery floor. There were some excellent dioramas in the information centre depicting servants being beaten for not spinning the roasting rod fast enough, or up to their elbows in blood when they butchered meat for the banquet.
On along the coast to Solva, for a big bowl of delicious cawl with some cheese and a few lagers. Proceeded to Newgale and took a long walk along the beach. The V took three leaks on the beach, one for each pint from lunch. I insisted he seek cover and ensure that children couldn't see him, but since you see men peeing along the shoulders of motorways throughout the UK you figure peeing on a beach when there aren't a lot of people around isn't the end of the world. The scenery was positively beautiful, there was a fresh, crisp breeze off the sea and there were some really cool sedimentary rocks on the far end of the beach that required climbing upon. About halfway back to the car I had to pee but, having been raised a lady, I made it to the little shed by the parking lot. Not without a challenge, though, as the slidey rocks you had to climb along the bank make holding one's water less than easy.
We went on to Pembroke where we stopped in a pub for a pint in the shadow of the castle, but it was too late to tour it so we went on to Stackpole and saw the spectacular cliffs as the sun was starting to set, which accentuated the purple and orange stripes of the giant rockfaces. It was time for dinner, so we headed to a place called Something's Cookin' for dinner...killer fish and chips and mushy peas. (I had crab cakes with cockles and laver bread, of which The Visitor could not partake, a) because he is allergic to shellfish, and b) they were "used soup" anyway.)
Back at the cottage we built a lovely fire (this time so roaring it smoked out the living room and we had to open the windows), and drank beers and cocktails and read the Children's Encyclopaedia from 1957.
Today we had a very slow day. I got up early and started making my way through back issues of The Economist that have been piling up while I've been writing papers, and The Visitor slept the morning away, getting up just before noon when I would have kicked his sorry ass out of bed. We made breakfast, read more of The Economist (I even convinced The Visitor that it was not liberal propaganda, but rather sanguinely pro-American), and then headed back to MK. Since there had been no horribly inappropriate behaviour all day, The Visitor was rewarded with a stop at the local Kebab hut for dinner. Now back at home, he is drinking his Tetley's and watching Top Gear while I type.
It has been an enjoyable weekend, and all in all I think Wales rocks. Tomorrow I believe The Visitor will attempt to plant currants along one wall of my garden without disturbing the hedgehog's hibernation, and I will go to work.
I would also like to state for the record that there are no bears in England. So there.
NB. The Visitor, whilst he makes every effort to be as uncouth and slovenly as possible, is actually not nearly as poorly raised as he seems. His mother deserves no blame in this. She's tried, bless her. Can she really help it if he's a contrarian?
NBB. He has to pee again, and he's heading to the yard, just because.