Monday, December 1, 2008

Waxing Nostalgic for Wales

The recent downturn in temperature has made me pine for the lands of England and Wales. I visited the United Kingdom in March to visit my aunt who was living in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, Wales. Temperatures averaged in the high 40s, low 50s everyday and the air was damp, mostly in London, not so much in Wales. (lucky for us!)

The hubs and I spent a wonderful 10 days bouncing from London to Windsor to Milford Haven to Bath and to Stone Henge. These are a few of my favorite things...

1. Windsor Castle - The official home of His Royal Highness Prince Charles, Windsor is a resort town akin to Aspen, CO and built around the castle at its city center. Not only was the Queen at home the day we visited, but we also witnessed the changing of the Windsor Castle guard. My favorite part of Windsor was visiting St. George's chapel and standing upon the tomb of King Henry VIII. The sheer majesty of history struck me as I recalled how many monarchs were married, buried, or lived at Windsor.
2. Welsh Cawl - Imagine this, your driving down a very narrow rode in the middle of lush, green fields often stopping to let sheep or dairy cows cross your path. Then, lo and behold, a cute bed and breakfast pops up in the middle of nowhere! Not only is it cute, quaint, and a much-needed watering hole, but it's named "St. Govan's Inn" and has the best soup I've ever tasted! It's called a Welsh cawl and is a creamy, herb broth with vegetables and lamb (if you want). Drop in a cube of white cheddar cheese and you've got it made. On the side, St. Govan's served a Welsh roll called a "hufkin." Isn't that fun? And super tasty too. Wash the whole meal down with a half-pint of hard cider. My favorite meal of the whole trip.

3. King's Cross Station - also known as the setting for the mythical "Platform 9 3/4" which Harry Potter visits every September to catch the Hogwarts Express to school. We approached the platform behind a trio of young chaps that were so excited I think they really thought they might see something magical happen.
4. our "people carrier" - Nope, not just a minivan, it's called a people carrier. While this could also apply to buses, trains, planes, etc., our party used it in reference to a short, gray van made to carry 7 people. 7 small, short-legged people, with no luggage. On our trip, we happened to have two people carriers; one lost its clutch just outside of snowy Windsor. Oops!

5. Paddington Bear - He wears a blue peacoat, yellow hat, and a tag that says "Please look after this bear." He lives at Paddington station underneath a local coffee shop called Starbucks! What more is there to love?
6. the smallest city in the UK - The Royal City of St. David's is the smallest city in the UK, located in Wales, and home to St. David's Cathedral. We were lucky enough to have a beautiful sunny day in which to walk around the grounds of this beautiful cathedral and explore it's aged walls. I'm talking AGED here people. One tomb was from 1100 AD! After paying our two pounds (4 US dollars) to receive an official photographer's badge and be able to take all the pictures we wanted, we ate a fabulous pesto pizza at a local surf shop. (Washed down with Guinness and hard cider of course!) 7. jacket potatoes! - We are so boring in the U.S. to call them baked potatoes. I'm adopting this as my new moniker for the yummy flaky goodness of a potato within its' baking skin.

8. signage - I've included a couple of pictures below but I have to tell you about my favorite example. One afternoon we drove down the Welsh coast and through various fields exploring. I quickly noticed as we sped between two hedgerows a government-issued sign that containing a large black exclamation point and bearing the words "Random Gunfire." After suffering a quick case of whiplash, I pondered the regularity of this random gunfire and wondered if it was ever targeted at Welsh mini-cars on an afternoon country drive.

9. the lingo -
Cheerio ol' chap! (translation: Hello!)
Don't be such a wanker! (translation: chill out, loser)
Change that baby's nappie! (translation: baby needs a new diaper!)
How 'bout some bangers and mash for dinner? (translation: potatos and rutebegas)
Haggus tonight, dear? (translation: chopped beef and gravy cooked in a sheep's bladder) <--pretty good actually! I suggest pairing with lots of wine, cheese and crackers. Put that luggage in the boot! (translation: put your bags in the trunk)

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