17 March 2009

Wales Part 1

Kathleen and I started a tradition a few years back of going out to Provincetown in mid-March to hide out for the weekend. It is usually terribly cold and there is always some sort of wintry precipitation coming down. One year it took me over 12 hours to get from Vermont to Cape Cod and last year we got caught out in the dunes in a blizzard! Regardless, it is always an amazing time for us to experience the beauty and solitude of outer cape without all the summer crowding. It was actually one of the first things we worried about when we decided to move here. It is such a special place that we knew we had to do something to make up for it this year. After some research, we found a farm/spa in the middle of Wales that we thought might do. We were intrigued by the idea of a working farm and 5-star spa wrapped into one. Additionally, with easy access to both the beach and some mountain hikes we thought it would do us both well. I also have to admit that it happens to be down the road from the closest surfable break to Liverpool and I wanted to do a little investigating…

We managed to get on the road a bit early on Friday afternoon and were looking forward to spending most of the drive in the daylight. The decision paid off as we made our way over to Wales. The scenery transformed as we drove into Wales from brown and very industrial to a lush green countryside dotted with sheep farms and medieval castles. Additionally the roads we took snaked along the coast so we had the opportunity of some beautiful ocean and beach views along the drive. Gradually the roads got more and more rural as evening descended. Eventually the navigation system had us turn down what was not much more than a dirt path and we encountered a locked gate.

After a little detective work, we finally managed to find the farm we were staying at and were literally stupefied. Even in the little light left in the day, we could tell that where we were staying was incredible. We were greeted by a Welsh farmer who was covered in dirt, grime, manure, and blood. He explained in broken English (Welsh being his first language) that he had spent the day ‘lambing.’ Now I am not so farm savvy so I inquired what lambing was. Kathleen, who fancies herself some sort of Dr. Doolittle, laughed and explained that he had been helping sheep give birth all day long! All Kathleen really wanted to do was see and pet lambs, but that would have to wait. The farmer directed us towards where were staying, a small cottage called Cwt Ci. We knew from the website that cwt ci means dog house in Welsh. Our cottage was initially a place where cows were kept and then was turned into a shelter for the farm dogs. Last year, they gutted it and transformed it into a luxury one bedroom cottage with heated floors. It was fantastic.

The next morning, we woke up super early and went outside to check out the farm. Again, stupefied really does kind of explain our re-action. It was so incredibly beautiful and pristine it was like we were in someone’s idealize/romanticized vision of what a farm should look like. I can’t really describe it, but here are some pictures.

After an initial look around, we went to the shed to look at the lambs. Here we found lambs that were literally born a couple of hours before. There were even two newborns that were designated as pets that we were able to pet. Sure they were covered in shit, but they were really really cute.

After checking out the shed, we headed off into the countryside for a hike. Our destination was Beddgelert, which is the grave site of a famous dog named Gelert. We stopped by the Warden’s office and picked up a quick guidebook.. Our hike took us down a one way road to an old copper mine. At this point, we left the road and continued down a trail on the side of a brook. There were mountains (well they are called mountains here, but are not so big compared to other places) all around us and across the way was supposedly the location of one of King Arthur’s forts. Apparently there was trouble building it, so they called in Merlin. The famed wizard found a cavern below the building site that was populated by two dragons – one red, and one white. When disturbed, these two dragons had a go of it with the red one coming out on top. This accounts for the presence of a red dragon on the Welsh flag.

The trail we were on eventually came out on a beautiful lake, at which point it turned up one of the mountain sides. We hiked to the summit of one and traversed a few peaks before descending back into town. The mountainsides were full of wild heather and rhododendron, and were dotted with abandoned mineshafts. These were not the highest or most challenging mountains I have been on top of, but the scenery was truly breathtaking. Again, I can’t stress how beautiful this country is. I am not sure if it was just the juxtaposition of scenery around Liverpool or what, but we were both grinning like idiots all morning.

We ended the morning hike, back in town with a delicious meal of beef and Guinness pies. Stay tuned for Kathleen’s rendition of Part 2 of our trip. In the meantime, check out more pictures here.

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