Sunday, June 8, 2008

Wales and England part 2

Since 25% of my readers liked the last post (Hi Ange!), I'm going to continue with the England/Wales trip. And in keeping with my poor blogging skills, stuff will be out of order.

Here is a cool photo of Chester. The buildings inside the wall must be under some sort of covenant to maintain the olde tyme theme-e.

They mostly conformed to this sort of style or the roman ruins theme. It is very pretty and very cool. I suspect those who own homes and businesses there find it very limiting.

Chester is somewhere Brits go on vacation which, along with the potato in a roman ruin, is a reason I chose that location. If the Brits like it, it must be cool.

Now back to Talybont-on-Usk. This is a reservoir we walked to. It was a couple of miles round trip, though I think we went three miles because I have no sense of direction at all. The cracked CD has many more beautiful photos of this. This is also where we were stopped while 2000 ewes walked up the road. Very very cool.

And THIS is Sher posing next to the "old people crossing" sign in Llangynidr (pronounced sort of like "clan-GUN-id-er").

There is a lovely old-folks home in town and Sher claims she would like to spend her twilight years there. There is the tiny shop/post office/bus stop across the street and it's about 2 blocks to the canal. The River Usk where the photo of the beautiful tree limb from previous post was taken is about 50 feet from the duffer housing. It was quite charming. I think she'd fit right in.

Here is Abergavenny (the stressed syllable is "ven" and the secondary stress is on "Ab" so it goes "AbergaVENny"). It is STUNNING and cool and cute. They have remnants of multiple castles, a nifty little museum, excellent pub with great food and overly helpful staff, cool shops. We stopped at a thrift store because I love thrift. It supports the Wales Air Ambulance (3 helicopters cover the entire country and can be anywhere in about 10 minutes). Sher got hit on by the proprietor of an antique store. I'll need to tell the stories of those two shops later. Both are very amusing. This shot shows much of the town and was taken from an old castle mound that has ruins of a castle along with a playground for kids. How cool is that? (very cool) (it could be none more cool).

Here is Sher in a church in Abergavenny. She's checking out some of the fabulous tombs in there. There are deadpeople all over this place. If you look at the photo of me on the blog profile section to your right, that is me by a tomb from long long before the romans got there. I want to say 6000 years old but I might be making that up.
Anyway, the tombs in this church were marble, alabaster, and other beautiful stones carved in lovely ways. Some have hidden carvings in areas that are under the lids, or under the feet. There is a replica on the wall behind Sher of a carving discovered just a few years ago on the feet of the tomb inthe wall nook. The main carving was moved for cleaning and they found areas carved that no one had seen since it was installed. Amazing. No charge for going in churches and they usually have the best art. This one also had a norman era baptismal font but that photo is on the cracked CD.

Back on the boat. This is the driver's eye view. You can see the gang plank laying on the top center of the roof and the push pole just to the right of that. There is a bit of rope tied to the rail. You hang onto the rail if you need to walk along the 6inch ledge on the outside of the boat. I hung on with both hands because seriously...I'm a clod. You can also see the gorgeousness of the canal. it was pretty much all like this. Sometimes there were sheep in a field along the side, sometimes ponies. You can also see the tow path on the right. People walk their dogs or just themselves along there. I must remember to post the photo of the cooler with self-serve eggs! You just put your money in the cooler and took the eggs. We did that and got 6. I made pancakes for Sher in the morning. She loved it.

Angela asked about the mechanics of the boat rental. We drove around as much as we liked in a day. At 2 miles per hour, that doesn't get you far, but we didn't have far to go. You can pull up to the tow path side pretty much anywhere and park. Drive in some stakes, tie the boat up securely and there you are for the night, or days at a time. Whatever you like. Sometimes there are "no parking" type signs and you do have to make sure the canal is wide enough for someone to pass, but otherwise you're fine anywhere. In the villages, near locks, and by the electric lift bridge, there were bollards to tie up to. These are either rings or metal stumps and the canal there would be cement lined and walled. This made for very nice parking and easy getting on and off of the boat. The gang plank can be used if you have to park far from the bank due to a sloping bottom.

The kitchen on the boat had a stove, little fridge and all. The diesel engine for the boat charged batteries and heated the water for showering, dishwashing, and radiators to keep warm. If we weren't moving anywhere that day, we were to let the engine idle for a couple of hours to keep everything charged up and the water hot. It worked fine.

There is a fresh water tank on the front of the boat under the deck that you fill up as needed. I think we filled up 3 times. The waste water is in a tank in the back. As you use water from the front and it goes to the waste tank in the back, the boat tips up in the front. You need to keep that tank full to stay level. The canal was low so we often only had 6inches of clearance under it, so level was especially important. People on other boats told us that this is a shallow canal and that isn't a problem elsewhere.

This canal is isolated from the main system. That is one reason I chose it. You can only go so far. I knew if I got on one that connected with the main system, I'd feel like I had to go as far as possible. This one also goes through a BEAUTIFUL national park and is considered on of the two most scenic. There are no cities, just villages. And not too much traffic since new boats are rarely added to the system. On the other canals, there are boats all the time. On this one there were a couple of crowded areas but most of the time it was us and 1 or 2 others in a village. There were only 2 obnoxious boaters during the week. From what I've read on a boating blog, that's pretty few. We were also benefiting from the canal having breached and some boats being stuck on the other half of the canal.

Anyway, after a week of boating and taxi-ing about the Wales country side (remind me to tell about the taxi driver!), we left for Brighton. This is a seaside resort where the "dirty weekend" was invented. That's a weekend away with your mistress/lover/whatever. It is cool. Big gay and party scene. We didn't participate in those, but it adds color. Also, lots of people of color. We stayed at the Motel Schmotel. It was excellent. We were a few blocks from the beach.

This pier is on the beach. Again, check out the fabulous weather. I think people in the UK lie about the weather to keep the riffraff out. It was great. I really need to find more Brighton photos. We were there 2 nights and 1.5 days.

Took the train from Abergavenny over to Brighton and had some adventures on the train as well. We had 2 or 3 trains worth of people on it due to breakdowns, but some of the people still thought they could get their assigned seats! Well, obviously 2 or 3 people were assigned to each seat so suck it up. I ended up standing in the aisle for about 2 hours. 1 hour of which was just at a station while the train people tried to figure out what to do. I ended up standing next to an anthropologist. With perhaps the most classically British teeth ever. He was funny and informative. I hope he comes to Idaho some day so I can show him some of the archaeology here.

Anyway, Brighton. There was a historic car race from London to Brighton while we were there. The cars are historic more than the race. Some SUPER hairy dude was doing fake Tai Chi in front of the art museum. We saw Queen Victoria's toilet! It's delft. Beautiful. We went to the aquarium which has been an aquarium since Queen Vicky's time. In a newer part you walk through a sort of half tube and sharks and sea turtles swim right over your head. The rays were the scariest and I got tricked by a fish. More on that in another post.

At last, it was time to head home. We took a cab from Brighton to the Gatwick Airport. It's pretty much the same distance from London to the Gatwick Airport so Brighton was a nice option. Less traffic and funny cab driver. At the time he was paying about 8$/gallon of gas. It's about 10$/gallon now. I guess we should be a bit more grateful for our 4$/gallon, but it's hard.

I don't remember much about the flight, other than that the ticket counter and immigration people were impressed that we only had carry-ons. Yep, made the whole trip with one carry-on bag each. And you don't get a separate purse or brief case in England. 1 bag means 1 bag. Sher threw out most of her clothes the last day so her bag weighed about an ounce. I had done that on the last two trips and didn't have as much to chuck so mine was a bit heavier. It is lovely to go through the airport and not have to wait for bags. On international flights you have to claim your bag when you get to the US, go through customs, then re-check it for your final destination. Since we didn't have to do that, we just walked through before anyone else and got a bit of a rest before Sher's plane whisked her the last hour back to Iowa. I had about another 6 hours before I got to Spokane. Stayed the night in a hotel across the road from the airport so I wouldn't have to drive. You also get 2 weeks of free parking with that room.

Should I take a break from the travelogue or continue on Monday?
OH! I have to continue to explain how the trip was simple and frugal. In a way.

No comments: