Saturday, June 7, 2008


My mom and I took a trip to Wales last fall so I thought I'd do a blog about it. But first I must load the photos onto the computer, this will be a good incentive for loading the photos. Before this first step, I must find the photos and I think I will make some meatballs while I look. You can always use meatballs. I wonder how much "filler" you can put in them before they become as gross as my last meatloaf.... That is how my brain is working today. I have a cold and I don't think it is making for a particularly clear head.

Anyway, off to ball some meat.

.....(time passes).....

I'm back, and the meat is fully balled. In fact, it's eaten. It's been several hours. I discovered that the CD with the main body of Wales photos on it is buggered so we're down to just a few that were on another CD. This is probably good for the readers (Hi Ange, Jonny, Pam, Laurie)

As I was saying,
my mom, Sher, and I went to Wales last fall. Actually, it was England and Wales. We started out in Chester which is on the border between England and Wales, on the English side. The town advertises as "Gateway to Wales" but the real reason I wanted to go there is that there is an intact (more or less) roman wall still surrounding the city. There are many roman ruins along with ruins and not-so-ruins from before and after the Romans. Romans were there from about 0 a.d. to 400 a.d. This photo is the remnants of a church. The sign on the door of the bit that is still functional (because it has been rebuilt in the last several hundred years) says there has been a church on the spot for at least 600 years and probably longer. It was very cool.
(OK, I just remembered that I had my thumbdrive here and it probably has Wales photos on it. But it doesn't. Crap. I hope to hell that the cracked CD wasn't the only copy. I'm sure there is another copy of all the photos on my harddrive at work. Looks like I better back that up. Sher also has a set).

ANYWAY, Chester was very very cool.
Here is a photo of our bed and breakfast.
The proprietor, Russell Lyons, and the guy who stayed there and ran it, Charlie were hysterical. It was during the "low fat diet" years due to a bad gallbladder. I kept just having toast, beans (yes, BAKED BEANS), and baked tomatoes and fruit for breakfast. This is apparently a light breakfast there. They offered vegan sausages. I had to explain that it wasn't the food, it was a dodgy stomach that was the problem. The room was TINY but adequate. And the B&B is inside the roman walls which meant everything was super close.

Truly my favorite part, and the reason I chose Chester,
is that you can get a jacket potato (baked potato filled with stuff) at a fastfood joint called "Spud-u-like" IN ROMAN RUINS!!!! Seriously. I'll have to find the photo and put it up here at a later date. You go into this tiny store in the bottom of some medieval store fronts and then go downstairs into the roman ruins. We did that at about 4pm local time on the day of arrival. I gave my sister the tiny plastic spork from the restaurant.

After Chester we took a train down the England/Wales border (Chester is toward the north end of the north/south border) to Abergavenny. We had rented a canal boat on the Monmouth and Brecon Canal. Unfortunately, the canal breache
d a week or two before our arrival so we only had access to half the length of the canal, but it was still fantastic. We rented from Road House Narrowboats. We ended up with the Gilwern Queen boat since the one we had rented was on the bummer end of the canal (no aqueducts, no tunnels, and almost no water). The Queen was on the half of the canal with all the good stuff.

We drove and lived on the boat. It was small but had a kitchen, bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink, a bedroom, and I slept on the converted dinette. We spent the evenings on the front end, enjoying some ale or tea and chatting with the people who walk the tow path next to the canal, a remnant of the days when horses towed the boats. The photo is Sher and me on the boat enjoying an adult beverage.

The canal was STUNNING and it only rained on us onc
e. I even got a sunburn. Here are some photos of the canal. I'll continue in another episode with some of the other sites.

This is our little boat going through a lock on the canal. We ran the locks too. Sher drove the boat and I did the paddles (let the water in and out by cranking on a mechanism) and the gates (push open/close the doors by using my powerful hind quarters). Most locks on the canal system are only 3-4 feet of lift, or drop, but here they are 10 feet. The gates at one end have a lip for some reason and getting caught on that is the only way to really sink the boat since the canals themselves are only about a foot deeper than the draft of the boat. The effort to go through a lock is about the same as changing a tire. This canal does not have very many. I think we did about a dozen. There are canals were you do 20 or more in a day! We were on the boat a week so a dozen wasn't bad. There are also lift bridges. Only one of these was powered. The others were ME cranking away with a windlass to raise and then lower the bridge. You get back on the boat by walking (the boat does 2 miles per hour) to the next non-lift bridge, the kind that are high and the boat passes under, and stepping back onto the boat from the tow path under the bridge. The under-bridge area is quite narrow and once I got the hang of it, it wasn't bad at all. Since the canal is about 4feet deep, the only dangers are of getting wet and stinky (they are not clean) and of getting chewed up in the prop if you go under the boat. None of that happened. I did drop the push pole in the water once (the pole you use to push out of mud or away from a hazard).

This is just a gorgeous shot of a tree on a walk near Llangynidr where we spent the last few days on the boat. We couldn't go much further down the canal, and this was the designated meeting point with the canal boat guy so we stayed and took taxis to the areas we couldn't reach by boat. The River Usk, in the photo here, runs next to or near to the canal and is truly beautiful.

These have gotten out of order and I'm sick of pissing around with them on the blog thingy (it isn't conducive to such complex presentations). So here we are at an earlier date at Talybont-on-Usk. It is STUNNING and it has the best pubs. We ate at one for "Sunday Roast". We got plates full of food and dug in. Then they showed up with MORE FOOD. I thought we were going to blow. The next time we ate in Talybont-on-Usk, because you go up to the top end of the canal at Brecon and then come back the way you came you get to see the villages twice, we ate at another pub. This one run by a woman who spent her time behind the bar doing needle work. I told her I felt like soup but I could not have dairy. Did she have anything like that? She said "Potato Leek Soup." I asked the ingredients (because so often "butter" or "cheese" or "cream" is listed even when they say it isn't dairy). Here is the complete list of ingredients: Potatoes, Leeks, Water. It was delicious! We followed it up with some victorian cake which was somewhere between angelfood and fruitcake. Aren't ALL cakes somewhere between angelfood and fruitcake? It was delicious. That pub had a sign out front saying that people who drive 4-wheelers or those motorcycles people take out in the woods were NOT welcome. I knew I would love her. Her pub has rooms you can stay in too and a communal kitchen you can use. She caters to people who are on walking treks. I totally want to go on a walking trek and stay there.

That's all for now. The blog thingy has kicked me out a couple of times without saving everything so best to move on for now. I'll have to blog the rest of the trip and explain how it was simple and frugal at another time!


Angela said...

Hi Jill,

I'm lovin' the blog, especially this latest entry. I'm really confused, though, about the logistics of the canal/boat. I get that you were in a boat that could move, but were you always in motion? Did you dock somewhere? Anyway, I'm glad you had this amazing trip and really enjoyed reading about it. Potato/Leek soup, huh? Well, I like potatoes...Angela

Jill said...

Hey Schmange,
Yes, we could dock, or rather just park, any time. You can stop anywhere along the canal as long as you stay on the tow path side, make sure there is enough width to the canal that someone can get by you in another boat, and that there are no signs saying "don't stop here". Sort of like parking a car. You don't need a dock. You just tie up. There was a gang plank on the top of the boat, just a plank really, that we could use if we couldn't get close enough to the bank to just stop off. We made sure we got close enough. In some spots, there are bollards to tie onto and nice cement or stone edges to the canal and then stopping an tying up was easy. Other times it's just the bank made of mud and grass and you get as close as you can (the bottom of the canal is sloped) and pound in stakes and tie the boat to them.

Fly Right said...

Wow. What a great trip you had! I, too, am glad you detoured from your Amishesque blog! Though, I do love your simpfrug tips.