Everything but the Beacon feet...
22.06.2016 - 23.06.2016
On Wednesday we left Cefn Coch Isaf feeling well-walked, well-fed and well up to date with the issues facing the good people of Wales. Even though we had spent the past four nights with an Australian and a Mancunian, they had been living, working and walking in Wales long enough to know what they were talking about. And of course they had direct experience of the challenges of bilingualism and language-related discrimination – and could teach us how to pronounce the names of the places we were headed to!
We popped into Italy, which was conveniently located approximately fifteen minutes from Cefn Coch Isaf. When I say ‘Italy’, I mean ‘Portmeirion’ – a village designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis in a distinctly Mediterranean style. He was an Englishman with a penchant for long yellow socks, and his aim was to show that it is possible to develop an area with buildings without destroying its beauty. Whether or not he succeeded is a matter of personal taste, but it certainly made for an interesting couple of hours. We were fortunate in that the sun was out and accompanied us around the coastal walk and back into the village. Williams-Ellis was an early fan of recycling, with many of the buildings in the village having been donated to or bought by him from other existing establishments. The Mediterranean feel was much enhanced by the presence of a gelati shop, featuring a large round freezer that rotated to allow the server to access the desired flavour with ease. I want one. The gelati was delicious – definitely up to Italian standards. The young lad behind the counter did a double-take when we paid using a Scottish bank note – and I thought we were in for an argument about whether or not they would accept such ‘foreign’ currency, but he just laughed and pointed out that we didn’t sound very Scottish. Well spotted, young man, well spotted indeed! There is certainly less animosity to English spoken with an Australian accent than an English accent – so it is indeed fortunate that Simon continues to greet everyone with ‘G’day’ and then refer to them as ‘mate’ frequently during conversation. Even if not everyone can detect the accent, they at least can identify the lingo.
From Portmeirion we drove south to Pengenffordd, where we stayed for the night. We were right on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, and stayed at an Airbnb run by a splendid English couple from Southampton who had moved to Wales in order to be able to afford to have enough land for animals and a vegetable garden. Their daughter, Edith, was cute as a button and as gracious a host as you could ask a 14-month-old to be. They also had another visitor staying with them, and she was counting bats as part of her environmental sciences degree. Oh the people you meet when you go exploring!
On Thursday we headed to Penderyn, the only (legal) distillery in Wales. It was advised that tours were pre-booked, but since there was a distinct lack of phone reception we decided to chance it. The drive took us through the national park and was without a doubt, one of the most picturesque and scenic journeys we have ever taken. Plus there was the added excitement of sheep and horses roaming unfenced for a five mile stretch, so that kept Hugo on his toes. Unfortunately, on arrival we discovered that they weren’t offering tours at the time as it was their ‘shut down for cleaning’ week but the shop was still open so we grabbed a sample pack to allow us to try their wares at our leisure. We continued on to Abergavenny for lunch, mainly because the word just rolls so beautifully and effortlessly out of the mouth. Abergavenny. Abergavenny. Abergavenny. Love it.
The castle in Abergavenny was free (win!), falling down (to be expected) and somewhat overgrown (disappointing). There were some picnic facilities and some views over the town, and also an opinionated Englishman who trapped Simon and forced him to engage in conversation longer than Simon would have liked.
From Abergavenny we headed to Foxham – returning to England in the process. We found our housesit in the usual way – “I’m not sure where to go from here… oh there it is.” Peter and Jacqui welcomed us into West End Farm Cottage and we met our charges for the next ten days or so – Archie the six month old dachshund, and Max the six year old spaniel. Cuteness overload. As part of our orientation we had dinner at The Rising Sun (love those English pubs) and then practised the skill of curling up on the couch with two sleepy hounds, which seems like a skill that will come in handy for the duration of this housesit. Life can be tough sometimes.