Friday, 23 September 2011

Maiden Voyage to Wales

I keep saying we've never lived in a metal box before, but of course we did that daft Route 66, Etc. tour for Bill's 60th birthday.  I missed a third of that with family business in OKC and the eleven of us travelling seemed to chop and change around so much it wasn't really like a home, more like a base station

This is a modest sized box, being only about 20 ft long & 7 ft wide.

So our first trip in the motorhome was for only three nights.  Bill has long wanted to visit northern Wales to do some genealogy research and I like beaches, so he found a campsite on Cardigan Bay (Don't you love that name?!) near Aberech, outside of Pwllheli.  We first drove to Atherton (outside Manchester) to stay with Helen and Martin and break the journey.  

When we left Manchester, Bill asked me to read him the directions he'd printed off from Google.  Besides having to shout over the sound of the diesel engine and the scraping gears, I wasn't much good at reading the info:  I said it too soon and sometimes too late.  I read the distance when it was so far it was unnecessary and sometimes left it off when it was critical.  At one point the instructions talked about a turning every 20-35 metres and it was all pretty impossible.  I pointed out the fact that I was not a GPS.  In fact, the motorhome measures speed in kilometres and whilst we know that a 10K race is 6.1 miles, or that a kilometre is .6 of a mile, neither of us is much good at translating Imperial and Metric very quickly.

It got even more ridiculous when we entered Wales, where the names of things are a long string of consonants in an unnatural order.  By the time I could even start to formulate a guess about how to say it, we were long past the sign and I'd forgotten the last 20 letters.  I told Bill I simply didn't have the qualifications for the job; he took pity and accepted my resignation from the post.

Bill loves Welsh place names; I guess he grew up hearing them.  I started thinking the Welsh wasn't so much gutteral as spit-eral (remember Tom Jones?) but perhaps I just need to practice the front-loaded lisp a little more (the double 'l's at the start of many names is pronounced 'thl'.)  Another thing I worked out when we got on a train for a day trip, was that loads of towns around started with Aber- so it was important to remember our ending.  Apparently 'aber' means the mouth of a river

I'm thinking that I might grow to like sunglasses; one can be so anonymous
when wearing them!

Bill had brought our bikes.  I'd not ridden for over a year, but figured I may as well put it to use.  Our destinations were Llanystumdwy and Criccieth, supposedly about 6 miles away.  Of course the journey wasn't straightforward and it was much further but, never mind, I lived. 

Sadly my camera batteries were nearly dead (I'd forgotten to bring the battery charger thingie and Bill had forgotten his camera; we're so organised).  

So I only got a couple of shots of the place where Bill's great grandmother was born and lived before coming to the northeast.   Fortunately he had his phone with him.

We were both astounded at what she left behind to go live in a mining town in the NorthEast of England.  I gather she never did fully master English, it being her second language. 

It appears that the 'family home' is likely to be demolished, what's left of it anyhow. 

Another couple about our age were looking at the place just as we arrived. 

The woman, hearing Bill's story about the house, encouraged Bill to trespass and take more photos

- not that he needed much encouragement.

Bill's grandmother always said she came from Criccieth, but the Census records put her in Llanystumdwy.  Turns out just to be an administrative thing, as 200 yards beyond this stone cottage were  incredible houses and a view of Criccieth Castle.

We rode along the front of hotels and B&Bs all painted in the requisite seaside pastels, old architecture on one side, sparkling sea on the other.  I was immediately converted to a fan of northern Wales, if not of the language

According to Bill, unlike speaking Gaelic which is sort of a middle class thing, speaking Welsh is almost working class, firmly routed in a rebellion against English rule.  I've no idea how accurate this is, but it's definitely still a living language and we heard it everywhere.

Bill says there used to be an advert of the Coal Board, "Come home to a real fire".  This became a different sort of catch phrase when people in London and elsewhere bought second homes in places like Wales (and Northumberland) making the price of houses too expensive for the locals to remain near their extended family.  "Come home to a real fire" was about arson for a while.  He wondered if this had been a victim, but it didn't look like it had burned, just crumbled.

The next day on our return train journey I spotted the Castle from the other side and I snapped pictures like mad.

Surely the intent is to build another house on this exquisite site, unless there is a problem with the cliff crumbling away.  For that view, I think I'd almost risk it!


Rick Stone said...

I found that investing in a good GPS has been very helpful in keeping things on an even keel in the coach. Driving a 36ft by 8.5ft coach and towing the car behind makes it impossible to make quick lane changes or do u-turns when we miss an exit, which can happen often. Now I've just got to learn to be more trusting of the messages I'm getting from the GPS lady. BTW, the GPS can be programed to work in ft/mi or kw, depending where you are using it.

One hint though: Don't leave the GPS devise stored in the vehicle for extended times when the temps are over 100 degrees day after day. It seems prolonged extreme heat or extreme cold will damage the unit.

Anonymous said...

For a couple of years now, we have discussed renting a RV to see how we might like travel in one. Wales looks to be a lovely place and I'd love to hear the language being spoken.

Shelley said...

Terri - I think that is a good idea, to rent one first. Mind, they aren't cheap to rent, but neither are they cheap to buy. Ours was priced OK, but it will require a certain amount of fixing up and repairs...

We've just returned from our second trip - two weeks in Belgium. Loads more to blog about of course! And I will be writing about the pros and cons of motorhome travel.

Rick Stone said...

Pros and cons after only a couple of short trips? We're on our thrid coach in 11 years and we still can't completely agree on the pros and cons of this type travel. ;->

Renting or buying a used coach at first is the best idea. We started with an older, used coach. Best to deside if this is really for you before investing lots of $$$ in a new rig.

Boywilli said...

I have never really trusted a GPS although we have had one for years. Shelley hates me arguing with it because I usually feel that I know a better way in England and the last one we had in the US could not find the address we were looking for.
I decided to put my faith in it on this trip and it worked pretty well, at least with a lot less conflict than Shelley trying to work out the instructions from Google and as for Dutch place names, lets just say that Welsh was easier