Tuesday, August 30, 2005

We're All Going On A Summer Holiday...

I’ve battled with some hard languages over the past month but there can’t be any weirder dialect than Welsh. Every word seems to begin with “Ll” and usually includes the letters “cyr”. What’s worse is that none of those combinations are pronounced remotely like what they look like - your best bet is to grunt like you’ve got a bit of coal stuck down your throat. All of this and I didn’t even need to pack my passport for my first official British summer holiday.

The destination was the South West of Wales and the goal was to spend some time on a beach reminiscent of those in New Zealand… that is beaches that aren’t pebbly like Brighton; but gold and sandy like New Brighton. The holiday consisted of four days, four nights, and four people: myself, Hayley, her sister Stephanie, and Steph’s boyfriend David – who not only owns the most dilapidated yet charismatic caravan in all the United Kingdom but for the purposes of visiting Wales shall hereby be known as Dafyd. It was the Summer Bank Holiday Long Weekend and everyone seemed thrilled to get out of frenetic London and take some much needed time off. Except for me, of course, as I’m currently undertaking the longest long weekend in history; and having been amongst the hustle and bustle of London for just two months I hardly felt the need to escape such a vibrant city.

Having crossed a few rivers (the Thames, the Avon, and the Severn) we finally hit Wales. It was kind of exciting thinking about all these Welsh cities and towns I had read and heard so much about from various All Black tours. A brief stop for lunch on the outskirts of Newport soon killed the romance. I can now understand why the Welsh live for rugby… a valley full of brown houses is a pretty grim sight to wake up to every morning. But two more hours of driving saw the scenery change dramatically as we arrived at Milton Village, the locale of our campsite.

With the tent pitched it was off to partake in a great Welsh custom… drinking at the pub. It says a lot about British culture that in a pub as quaint and uniquely Welsh as the Milton Brewery Inn - where the staff speak in an accent so think you may as well be in Eastern Europe - that you can still order five different types of curry from the menu. As weird as that seems what happened later that evening was something straight out of a Stephen King movie. In Britain you can be lucky enough to be part of what’s called a “Lock In”. I figure it must have spawned from the fact most bars and pubs close at around midnight or 1 o’clock. So come closing hour everyone gets booted out… except for those behind the bar, their friends, and a few fortunate patrons who’ve befriended the bar staff. The doors get locked, the lights are dimmed, and the alcohol flows until everyone’s passed out. Now, a Lock In, as you’d imagine, is a pretty cool thing to be party to in a swanky town like London; but on the Western most point of mainland Britain; in a pub, where the average age is 65; it’s down right scary. As soon as 11 o’clock struck the blinds were pulled; the door was latched, bolted, and locked; the music went up; and the barman forced open the cigarette machine and grabbed a packet for everybody. We made our excuses and marched off into the night.

The next morning we loaded up the caravan in search of what we came for – a pebble-less beach. Somewhat oddly the beach in question was called Freshwater West which didn’t fill anyone with confidence; but sure enough we were in luck. Salt water, sand dunes, and miles and miles of golden, pebble-less beach. And, as an extra bonus, Britain had turned on the sunshine for the long weekend. Without a second to spare we headed straight for the water – unfortunately I obviously didn’t learn my lesson from that dip in the Alpine river in Switzerland. Just ‘cause this beach looked like a New Zealand one didn’t mean it was as warm as one. One head-freeze later I retired to dry land to warm up.

With our mission accomplished and two days to spare the next morning we decided to go sight-seeing. Heading south to Tenby we stumbled upon an archetypical British seaside town. Thousands of beetroot-red Poms lay on multi-coloured beach chairs while their children lined up for donkey rides – it was a scene straight out of a 1960s holiday brochure. The town of Tenby had a little more class – that’s if you call having the No. 1 Fish & Chip Shop in Britain classy. If you’re going to line up for 30 minutes for the award winning fish and chips I don’t know why you’d want to drown them in mushy peas or gravy… the Brits have a sauce for every occasion. To be honest, the fish and chips weren’t all that bad but I could’ve done with some crab sticks and a battered banana.

On our way back to the campsite we had a snoop round Manorbier Castle – described by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald the Welshman) as “the pleasantest spot in Wales”. Gerald was a famous Welsh author but I’m not convinced “pleasantest” is an actual word. Originating in the 12th century it was a pretty basic castle compared to some of the more modern structures you can visit around Britain but it was interesting all the same to walk up the stairwells and back down into the dungeon. Dipping and bobbing about the place everyone came to the conclusion that people back then were considerably smaller – the fact that I had to duck to get into certain rooms suggests I could’ve been a heroic knight if only I was born 983 years earlier.

Monday dawned and we packed up just before the rain arrived and made our way back over the Severn Bridge into Mother England. We had just enough time to stop for lunch in a place outside of Swindon called Avebury where they had a smaller version of Stonehenge – smaller in reputation only, because this stone circle was actually bigger than its famed southern neighbour. Then it was back to London to contend with broken-down trains and a million people making their way home from the Notting Hill Festival. I sure can’t wait till the next long weekend to get out of frenetic London.


At 9:36 pm, Blogger Bee said...

You remembered Cliff Richard well no wonder you are near his home.
Good to hear the caravan did its job.
Love hearing what you are up to, I then know you are safe.
Well the next time we hear from you will probably be adventures from your birthday, so have a good one.
Love Bee and family

At 11:30 pm, Anonymous Phantom48 said...

You must really study those tourist brochures with all the facts and figures you are able to give us. Thanks again for taking us along for the ride.
As Bernadine said - next time we hear will probably have Birthday adventures included.
Have an awesome one Randall.
Love as always - Mum


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