Saturday, December 29, 2012


We got stuck in a ditch today, at the very top of a mountain. The day began early this morning when we awoke at approximately 7:45. We dressed and packed a little, and then made our way to the small house next to our room for breakfast...which was an adventure to say the least.  There was some absolutely horrible Welsh country music playing, which sounded like a dying, screaming Texan singer combined with the mournful cry of a beached whale, all set to a hideous  polka rhythm. My father seemed to be in physical pain. The toast was cold, the banger was mediocre, and all around the breakfast was an experience best not repeated. 
From there we finished packing and then piled into the car to go to a petrol station (we never got any petrol, due to the fact that the people there were idiots) and from there we headed towards Lake Vrnwy. I had found the lake online a few months earlier, and when it had been decided that we would be staying in Portmeirion for Christmas, I'd made my case that we should make a detour from Duchan Uchaf and stop along our way. The map had seemed simple enough, but we soon found ourselves on a perilous one lane road that paralleled a steep cliff, and even though I was absolutely thrilled at the views the road offered, my Mother was frantic and clutching the seat in panic. Everything was going wonderfully, and we were gawking at saw of the most gorgeous sights, when suddenly the winding road began to uncoil and straighten out. My father began to relax at the welcome of simpler driving, and I suppose that he must have taken his eyes off of the road for just a second to gaze at our surroundings. We were laughing about ridiculous ideas and enjoying the utopian joys of a road trip, when suddenly the entire car jumped in the air and our bodies jarred violently in our seats. "Shit!" my Father shouted, and peering cautiously out of the window we found ourselves rooted in a horrendously muddy ditch.
There is a phenomenon that my father explained to me long ago about the male gender-it is the necessity of men to, when first faced with a problem or a catastrophe like an erupted pipe in the street, or a fallen tree, or a hole in a yard, to stand and stare. They tend to flock together in a semi-circle and stare at these pipes and trees and holes; occasionally muttering to each other "that's a mighty big hole!" or even going so far as to scratch their heads "hmm" collectively. To a muted degree, it was this such phenomenon that occurred after we found ourselves in that wretched ditch. We climbed out of the car (I had to leap over the mud to tottering edge of the sharp hillside), and proceeded to stare at what we at the time could only describe as "our ruin." After a time our shocked, lulled interlude gave way to desperate action, and we all began to push, pull, and rock the car. Our efforts proved futile however, for no matter what we did, the car was simply stuck, stubborn as an insolent child. Throwing his arms in the air in defeat, my father gave up and began to walk all the way to Lake Vrwny, which was ten miles away. My mother and I waited in the car, busying ourselves with rearranging suitcases, and removing bags from the back seat in an attempt to make the load of the car lighter. We just about o give up, when suddenly we saw in the rear-view window a small car floating over the hills in the distance, slowly but surely approaching. The car pulled beside us, and the young man in the drivers seat accompanied by a sweet little girl offered to help us. Immediately I began to run after my father, bellowing his name into the foggy oblivion, incognizant of the burn in my legs as I sprinted over steep hills. He was walking briskly away, about to round a corner that would render him invisible to us, when finally my calls reached him. I ran back to the car, where my mother was being her sociable self and laughing with the man, who here on this page I dub our hero. My father reached us a few minutes later, and the two men then walked studiously around the perimeter of the car, pointing seriously at different areas. The hero left then to drive back to his house and grab some rope, and it was then that we were able to actually appreciate our surroundings. We were left alone in the absolute middle of no where. It was utterly silent, and we were surrounded by wisps of clouds that would ever so often engulf us. My father paced back and forth, my mother sat huddled inside the warm car, I wandered up the hills and down the road, taking pictures of the desolate wonderland. We had stumbled upon nothingness, the silence was unlike anything I have ever heard, ever experienced. A noiseless breeze rustled the brush, fog and mist rolled through the hills, a waterfall flowed far in the distance, sheep dotted the hill below. When the man returned he, like a magician, popped off a secret square from the front of the car, and wouldn't you know it a metal loop appeared! He attached a hook and a rope, climbed into his own car, and within a matter of mere seconds we were free. After that everything happened very quickly, as my father gave our hero a brief but heartfelt thank you, and he drove hurriedly away, his silver car shrinking into the distance. After a few minutes of re-rearranging our bags, we followed suit and continued on or considerably slow way.
Lake Vrnwy was even more beautiful than in the pictures, with mountains galore that were blanketed with evergreen trees, and at their foot a great lake stretching beautifully and falling subtly into forest. We took the drive around the perimeter of the lake, and I made my father stop numerous times in order to take pictures. There was one time in which we all got out and walked amongst some picnic tables, when suddenly I slipped and fell and ruined my jeans and had to change. After that we talked to a nice woman who owned a dalmatian and she directed us to the nearest petrol station, which happened to be on the other side of the dam. We got our petrol at a cheap little shack and then continued our drive, and I couldn't help but think to myself that it was one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been. 
After that we drove on a few more mountain roads (which were marked as "B" roads) until we eventually reached one labeled welcomingly as "A". Not to brag or anything, but once on this road it was I who took control of the map and successfully directed us to Portmeirion.
 Portmeirion is really and truly a lovely place, if not a little cheesy and movie-set-esque. The buildings are all vibrantly colored and there are fountains galore, and there are little colorful terraces leading down to the beach. The beach is lovely and at low tide you can walk far out into the normal reaches of the war, and from the beach you can walk up a flight of cobblestone stairs and reach our hotel. The hotel is upscale, to say the least. When we first walked through the door I was was offered a glass of mulled wine, which I took and drank happily (I have since discovered that I really love mulled wine). We were then offered a room for free because they were afraid that we wouldn't be comfortable enough in the grand Peacock suite. We took the room gladly with the intent of me being able to have my own room. There are tiled floors and grand staircases; there are sophisticated  tearooms and waiters who pop up like wac-a-moles, always prepared to offer "assistance." The suite is unbelievably large, with a luxurious bed, a seaside view, a fireplace, fine tables, and a large bathroom. Sitting in our room on a coffee table was a bundle of complimentary presents in stockings, which consisted of a variety of things from the local shops. We walked around town from 3-4 because the shops closed at 4, and at one point I separated from my parents and ventured off on my own. I explored several of the town's little nooks and crannies, taking pictures and poking around the beach. When I got back to the room my parents had changed into nicer clothes and were about to head down to the cozy lobby for afternoon tea, so i quickly threw on a skirt and combed my bushy hair to join them. We sat by a crackling fire, eating sandwiches and drinking steaming hot chocolate, all whilst being serenaded by an extremely talented welsh high school choir. It was one of those magical moments in which I closed my eyes and pictured the room exactly as it was around me in order to soak in every detail, and sear the memory into my brain. I listened to the singing and the hushed chatter of the cloisters of families scattered about the the common rooms, and it was then that my situation began to truly sink in. It hit me that I am actually in Wales at Christmas time…that this is real and not some sort of dream or fairytale. After tea we went back up to the room and we relaxed for a while, and then at 6:45 we walked downstairs and into the lounge area for dinner. In the lounge my parents ordered their wine and we ordered the first two courses of our meal (for my starter I got the avocado guacamole…and for my main course I ordered the lemon sole with crab) and we were then escorted into the main dining room. We sat by a window with a little candle, while a surly Russian woman waited on us and brought us each one slice of bread, which was much to my father's dismay.  When our food came our eyes widened at the careful composition of our plates, and as we tasted our entrees we all closed our eyes, making sounds of pure ecstasy. We ordered our deserts then, and as we waited for them to come out we studied the inhabitants of the different tables, fabricating little stories of their lives. After a few minutes our deserts came to the table, and my personal cheese platter was placed in front of me with two slices of cheddar, one slice of goat, and once slice of brie. There was a glorious chutney sauce, which while I devoured it gleefully, I couldn't help but compare it to the perfection that my father and I had last night. I admit that I also stole several bites of my father's pear and pecan tart.
After desert we walked back into the lounge, where my Mother drank a small cup of tea while my father and I had fun trying the variety of petit fours, and a kind old man complimented me on my posture. 
After tea we went back up to the room and I worked on editing pictures, and then at ten we decided to go back down so that my parents could order a glass or two of amoretto. I continued to edit pictures while they drank, and as they sipped from their ridiculously small glass we laughed and told stories in our little green armchairs next to a line of candles and a window. When they finished we went back up to the room and I played "A Child's Christmas in Wales" through my computer (we were going to play it on my father's iPod but his speaker wasn't working).
My mother fell asleep during "A Child's Christmas in Wales" like she always does, and after that the night slowly died down. My father decided to go to the other room that was supposed to be for me because he felt far too hot in the suite, and soon after that my mother went to bed. It is very odd because it is technically Christmas day now, and I should be feeling that familiar rumble of excitement in my stomach, but it simple doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Nothing about this trip feels like my Christmas. It all feels very foreign and very disorienting…though certainly not in a bad way.

 A mountain cloaked in clouds as we left the B&B
 This sign didn't comfort my mother who was scared to death at the top of a desolate looking mountain
 Stuck in a ditch
 Lake Vrnwy
 Lake Vrnwy
 Waterfall at Lake Vrnwy
 The lovely watchtower at Lake Vrnwy
 It was just so gorgeous there
 The evergreen and mist shrouded mountains surrounding Lake Vrynwy
 He was standing in the road as we were driving by

 The town we're staying at for Christmas
 It's Portmeirion
 It's lovely
 And has direct access to the beach
 Which I took advantage of numerous times
This lovely choir group sung Christmas carols to us all in Welsh, and were absolutely fantastic

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