Thursday, July 28, 2011

langland bay

Langland Bay, Gower Peninsula

Last Saturday, after a few days where I was basically sick at home with a bad cold, I took a train ride to Swansea again for a great escape. Swansea trips really do the trick of setting everything back into perspective.

I wanted to spend the day on one of the beautiful beaches west of Swansea on the Gower Peninsula. This time I caught a bus from Swansea into Mumbles which landed me at the beginning of the cliffside walk along the Gower. So beautiful. One could walk for days, from beach to beach, with a little town or cafe within easy reach. On the other side of the Mumbles Pier one climbs to the path and there is lovely Bracelet Bay, compact and inviting, the rocks circling the fringe like a bracelet. Above the bay there is an affordable, nice Italian eatery with a stunning outlook towards the Mumbles Lighthouse.

The walk from Mumbles to Langland is an easygoing 45 minutes, with a few steep climbs. After Bracelet Bay is Limeslade Bay. These are both rocky, though Limeslade has pockets of sand. A few people sit here. Each beach feels as if it could be your own secret, private beach. It is busier at the larger, sandy Langland Bay. Mothers and small children check out the tide pools, girls and boys clamber over the rocks, families claim their spot on the wide expanse of sand while several brave the cold waters. Langland is fringed with a few cafes and rows of prettily painted beach huts, where people view the sea and scene as if from their front porches.

I climb onto a rock with my packed lunch and book and sink my toes into the warm sand and all is right with the world.

Heading back from Langland

Mumbles Pier

Balancing act -- Mumbles on Swansea Bay

Thursday, July 14, 2011

and the sun came out

A day after I wrote my 'sun-starved' post, the sun came out for most of a weekend and I went down to the Bay with my book, read and got gloriously sunburnt. Not a moment too soon. I guess it was just July for which the sun was waiting.

It is feeling more summerlike and the weekend festivals have begun. Just this past weekend the skies were blue on Sunday and I went down to the Bay to enjoy the Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival. Of course, things were a bit pricey (everything down at the Bay is on average a little more costly than in the city centre), but I was fortunate and found a baker at the end of the day selling off tempting chocolate cakes and other goodies for only a pound. Then after I had my dessert I enjoyed, for the first time, some whelks, or sea snails, which though they looked like some kind of rubbery sea monster, actually were quite satisfying and filling.

And here are a few pics of the day:

Festival goers at Roald Dahl Plass with Millennium Centre in the background
Enjoying the day at the Norwegian Church cafe

'tarnished earth'

On St. Mary's Street in Cardiff's city centre there is an amazing photo display of the tar sands production in Fort McMurray, Alberta. I was hoping to post a photo here, but they are all licensed. Even the ones online are not necessarily the same as the images being displayed in cities across the U.K. this summer. I'm not sure these images online pack the same wallop as they do on the street, one after the other, but if you get the chance check out the Tarnished Earth website, which is against tar sands production, and is presenting a very good case against it.

All I can say is that it is sobering and the destruction to the landscape unbelievable. One image in particular has seared into my mind, that of a scarecrow on a black lifeless wasteland dressed in orange hazmat gear, one of several spread out across a 'pond' to scare the birds from landing on the poisoned 'water'. View it here. Shameful and embarassing that we have done this -- and continue to do this -- to the Earth.

I saw this exhibit a day before reading that British Gas is raising prices drastically and all of its customers can expect an 18% increase in their bills starting in August. I imagine this impact will be felt in Wales as well. I will need to invest in a few more layers of woollens it seems.

Friday, July 1, 2011


June has come and gone and taken my delusions of a summer in Wales with it. Today is the first of July -- Happy Canada Day! -- and I am struggling mightily with sun deprivation.

I am certain this is the longest I have been in my lifetime without continued sunshine and its basking warmth and it is affecting my mental health and attitude more than I would like. At least today it is not raining.

I am beginning to dress like the Brits, wearing sandals and inappropriate summer gear when the weather clearly calls for the continued use of sweaters and jackets. When I first moved here I couldn't realize why people did this. Are the British uncommonly tough? Maybe. Now I find myself doing it -- don't know if the reasons are the same or not -- it may be delusional optimism, but I fear it really has more to do with a perverse stubbornness: if the skies are not providing summer I will nonetheless pretend it exists.

So far, the warmest days of blissful sunbathing occurred in a heat wave in April.

I was fortunate last night though. On my third attempt this week at capturing solar heat at Roath Park I was finally successful for more than a ten-minute interval. I'm reading a book on Audrey Hepburn and found a bench stirred by the evening sun and away from the constant winds. (I did have to submit, however, and replace my flipflops and capris for the standard long pants, socks, shoes and jacket.)

And then ... strawberries from heaven! Literally. A young woman approached me, said hello, and offered me an unopened box of fresh strawberries. She was from a local church and she and her friends were handing out boxes of strawberries to people. At first I wondered if I looked homeless and destitute, but realized I was just sitting on a bench reading.

I actually hadn't bought any strawberries this season as they are expensive. I forget I have an 'accent' here, and after only a few words the young woman asked me where I was from (often a good conversation-starter as well). She herself was from South Africa and was in Cardiff to attend university. She hoped to get to Canada one day to see the autumnal colours. Aah, I agreed -- very beautiful (I am more than a little homesick for friends, family and differing seasons right now). The fall here is damp and yellowy-brown, not as crisp or colourful as back home.

After she left, with an invite to attend her church (I find many of the churches here have a very involved student population), I waited awhile and then opened the box. Warm sweetness in an evening sun, with a surprising taste of wildness that I wasn't expecting, reminded me how Cardiff and Wales always surprises me with unexpected kindnesses, people creating their own sunshine.