Crags and Castles

Cardiff Castle Keep 11th century

South Wales

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

…My favorite quote especially as it relates to travel.  And another one that reminds me to keep perspective is a Proverb that says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord directs his steps.”

Our recent trip to Wales proved this expression to be spot-on.

Carreg Cennen Castle – 13th century

Other than basic pre-planning, we left for Wales with no agenda because the purpose of our visit was primarily to reconnect with a couple of dear friends/mentors we met while living in Crete (2009-2014.)  We booked our tickets from Munich to Cardiff, reserved our accommodations, and packed our small carry-ons for damp chilly weather including two umbrellas, which we never did use.

We arrived at the sleepy (by airport standards) Cardiff International Airport in the early afternoon, and using transit rather than trying to navigate left side driving, we made our way to Cardiff Central where our hotel was a convenient walk from the station.  As soon as we exited the station we knew something big was brewing.  The entire pedestrian area was teeming with frenzied activity.

If you’ve never experienced European football culture up close and personal, it’s not a lesson for the faint-hearted.  In a word – CRAZINESS.  And football takes a distant second to their first national sport of choice – rugby.  On this particular Saturday, fans were gearing up in anticipation for the Cardiff vs. Belgium match.  “Cymru am byth!”  (“Long live Wales!”)

Most of the revelers were young men. Bold and already fairly inebriated, they sported the red and green of Cardiff as they shouted to each other across the way, and eyed the gaggle of young women who were equally bold and inebriated.  I surmised that Wales must indeed be a poorer country as these girls didn’t have enough money for clothes.  We spent the evening in a pub occasionally glancing up at the game when our attention wasn’t diverted from the lively entertainment on the pub floor.

After an overstimulating night, we were happy to get out of the city and head for the hills.  Sunny blue skies made the famous Welsh hills an even more vibrant shade of green if that’s possible.  Sheep lounged on green carpets while birds and insects joined in a happy symphony of forest sounds.  The landscape shimmered with life from the rocky crags to the castle mounts.

Carreg Cennan ruins overlooking River Cennan valley

We traveled from Cardiff to Swansea and on to Ammanford via train and arrived at our charming B&B late in the afternoon where we immediately fell in love with the house and the hosts.  Every morning began with a homemade hearty breakfast prepared by Jane, and Nigel always had an entertaining story or two to share with us over a cup of coffee.  Their daughter Fay kept everything running smoothly – truly a family business tended to with love.

Pontyclerc Farmhouse B&B

We had four days in Wales and no plans other than to soak up the love and wisdom of our sweet friends who lived in nearby Llandybie (pron. “Clandybier”).  Each morning began with open hands and minds, and ended with an evening prayer of gratitude for how the day was filled with unexpected joys.

Our days were pleasantly replete with hiking the countryside footpaths that carried many a Welsh wanderer in centuries past, exploring hilltop castle ruins and strolling through the National Botanic Gardens of Wales.  We hiked around Cardiff Bay starting at Swansea and continuing  through the heights of the Mumbles above the sea to Langland Bay. There we dined at a seaside brasserie and watched locals and tourists alike relishing in the delicious combination of sun and sea.

We finished most of our days with our friends over a relaxing meal and encouraging conversation that always left me wanting to love God more. 

We arrived in South Wales with no particular expectations but were blown away by its natural beaty second only to its incredibly warm inhabitants.  Every day had a story of Welsh hospitality.  From the young ticket agent who ran after us in the street to give us more valuable information about a train schedule, to the couple who offered us a ride when our biking plans fell through at Cardiff Bay, to the “drive” (bus driver) on our last day to the airport:

“Where do we catch the next bus to our hotel near the airport?”

“Just stay on my bus and I’ll take you there.”

“So, this is the bus?”

“Na, but it’s not much out of my way.”

All said with that lilting Welsh accent and a casual shrug that made us smile with appreciation for all the moments like it that we experienced in Wales.

Or as the Welsh say, “That’s lush, that is.”

3 thoughts on “Crags and Castles

  1. Nick Daskalakis

    Your story telling and the richness of your descriptions as well the inviting photos have save me lots of money. I don’t have to visit places you’ve been!

    Like

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