Wednesday, June 27, 2012

in the air

I am heading off very, very early tomorrow morning for two weeks in Canada and the U.S. to visit with friends and family.

I am very, very ready.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

coasteering with kin

Kelly and Wendy on path between Langland and Caswell Bays on the Gower

Mid-afternoon on Thursday, May 10 my brother Kelly and his wife Wendy arrived at my front door in Cardiff, having found their way there on their own from the airport in Birmingham; no small feat, as streets in Cardiff are poorly signed and I happen to live on one with no exit.

It was so, so good to see them, the first of family to visit since I have arrived here. They came and brought the sun with them -- also no small feat -- as until Thursday midday we had been having a continuation of the rainiest April in 100 years.

They added the journey to Wales onto the tail end of a German business trip which they had turned into a European vacation, my sister-in-law joining Kelly in Germany from where they travelled to Prague in the Czech Republic. After three days at my place in Cardiff they returned to Germany to spend a few days exploring the Rhine with a neighbour from back home in Michigan.

So, with the sun shining, and Wales in all its green-grassed, blue-skied glory, we explored the Welsh coast in their rented car -- the Gower Peninsula near Swansea on Friday and Pembrokeshire on Saturday. It was our own version of coasteering.

The beaches are endless and stunning. I have been to Rhossili Bay before, but never walked to the coast guard station at Worm's Head. We walked to that point, stopping to photograph the ponies along the way, and afterwards Kelly and I walked almost the complete length of Rhossili Bay and back (while Wendy opted for some relaxing book time).

Horses at Worm's Head, Rhossili Bay

Worm's Head at Low Tide

Kelly and Rhossili Bay
Horses and their balancing act at the cliffs of Rhossili beach

That night we spent a delightful evening at a small Italian restaurant in my neighbourhood which I had always wanted to try, but is rarely open. We found the owner, Mario, a short, round restaurateur in his 70s, who is officially 'retired' but opens this place, the Amalfi, on weekends. He played the organ between greeting guests and writing up the bills. His friend, Spanish-born, also a septuagenarian former restaurateur, helped him serve, and Mario's wife, whom we never saw, cooked the honest, homestyle food in the back.

I love to eat out and would, if not for financial realities, probably eat out every night of the week, trying different restaurants and cuisines. As it is, I treat myself to one meal out a week, usually at a favourite cafe down the street, and two to three outings for a coffee, pot of tea, or half a pint. Cardiff has an excellent array of ethnic restaurants, which unfortunately I am unable to explore as I would like -- otherwise this blog would probably be called A Canadian Eats Her Way Through Cardiff. But on Kelly and Wendy's visit we ate out three nights in a row, as well as two breakfasts. On the Thursday evening of their arrival, after a walk to show them part of Cardiff's city centre, we went down to an unusually subdued Cardiff Bay where they treated me to a birthday dinner, also Italian, at Signor Valentino's.

On Saturday, we headed to Tenby on the Pembrokeshire coast, where I had been once a couple of years ago on a day trip. On much of the way we were sharing the roads with cyclists. I don't know how my brother did it -- driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, driving stick which he doesn't normally do, and passing cyclists on narrow roads with oncoming traffic. It made me nervous and I was a passive passenger. The cyclists were part of the Carten 100, which I have since found out is an abbreviation of Cardiff and Tenby and that they were travelling the same 100 miles we were. Apparently there were more than 600 riders this year.

On the way to Tenby Wendy spotted a sign for a castle in the town of Laugharne. Wales' beauty is never-ceasing: one beach more beautiful than the last, one town more picturesque than the previous one. Laugharne served up a double treat as it was the last home of the Welsh bard Dylan Thomas. Situated on a quiet estuary, Laugharne is graceful and restful and a new favourite place.

Laugharne Castle

An accident in town brought an emergency helicopter landing
The writing shed of Dylan Thomas (with a bit of reflected glass)
-- the views from this shed would inspire anyone

Our coasteering made a long day and Kelly and Wendy had a longer day yet as they faced the two-hour drive to Birmingham Saturday night. A quick meal at my local Chinese cafe, where previously I had only ordered medicinal hot-and-sour soup as a takeaway, and they were on their way to further adventures along the Rhine.

St. Catherine's Island at Tenby
Tenby's North Beach and the old Coast Guard station, now a private home, at bottom of picture

As usual, I could have used an extra day to recover from the holidays, but it was back to work on Sunday, totally and utterly and joyously exhausted.