Today, I have stood atop a mountain with my coat and hair blowing in the howling wind, I have climbed all across a medieval tower, I have seen stretching valleys and flooded lakes and have come face to face with the famed grace of swans. I have seen beauty.
It began at 9:00 this morning when I woke to the sound of my groggy father sitting up in bed and asking "What time is it?" It was 9. I sat up in a hurry because I had planned to wake up at 6:30 and couldn't understand why my alarm didn't go off, but then I remembered how I had woken up at 6:30 and looked outside only to see that it was pitch black, and I remembered thinking to myself "oh, I'll just sit back down in bed and go online and wait." Sleep had apparently won that particular battle. Regardless, I jumped out of bed and my Mother greeted me with "Good morning Katie-roo" and my father gave me a passing nod while briskly walking quickly to claim first use of bathroom. We gradually went through the steps of sharing the successes and failures of our sleep while getting dressed for breakfast, and then there was a small scare when we realized that breakfast was being served 8-9, and we feared that we had missed it. We all three then rushed downstairs past the quaint guestbook and a wall wedding photographs, past a large carasoul horse, and past a grand dining room, until we found the little garden room for the "formal" breakfast. The room was arranged with three small round tables, adorned with white napkins and pale grey teacups and yellow plates, and in the middle were little menus that in retrospect didn't offer very many options. We all chose the bacon, egg and sausage breakfast, and when she brought us the traditional toast/butter my father literally leapt out of his chair to seize the entire rack. The breakfast was quite good, with the exception of the sausage which I found to be inedible. After that we packed our bags and chatted very briefly with an Indian family that was also staying there, and then we left to go visit the nearby lake, named Lake Llangorse. The road leading into the lake was quite long and winding, and as my father drove he went through numerous puddles of standing water that cascaded and "splooshed" like a geyser around us. Eventually we reached the parking lot, which ended up being overflown with water. For a few seconds we didn't know what to do, but when we looked around we saw two other cars parked on the other side in a small patch of dry cement, so we decided to brave the standing water and venture through to the remaining open spot. We parked and walked around for a while and everything was really quite lovely as large swans swam up to me and walked around, and two fishermen nearby us prepared to set forth into the water. The water spilled far over its borders, reaching desperately into the surrounding land, majestically claiming it and creating the illusion of other-worldy grandeur. The sun was actually shining a bit through the clouds reflecting the mountain and trees and clouds; a lonely building that normally dwelled upon the land sat sat stranded in the water. I managed to get a few pictures of the lake and the water and of that quaint the little building (which was really only a shed, about twenty feet in). It was fantastic.
Last night I had expressed an interest in exploring some castle ruins if we saw any, and my mother had asked the woman running the B&B about it and she said that there was actually a castle ruins just about ten miles away. After the lake we drove there, and we passed through another gorgeous vista (the first of about a hundred today) and actually made it to the castle with relative ease. There was still no rain, and the sun still poked through the clouds every now and then and reflected off of all of the large puddles along the road. The castle was called "Tretower Court", and was really the absolute perfect way to begin our day. In the front of the castle was the old royal court with the eating hall and the kitchen, which apparently belonged to the brother of the duke (…I'm not quite sure if it really was a duke or not) that owned the castle. The man who was working there was named Ian, and he was probably just a little younger than my father (who is now 60) if not a little older. Ian was really wonderful and you could tell that his passion lay with the castle, and that he was utterly devoted to it even though they hardly got any visitors. He told us about its history and about how gorgeous the gardens looked in the summer when white roses overhung across the walkways, and he became extremely excited when he talked about the last remaining medieval painting of the castle, which was on one of the banisters in the main hall. He left us after the gardens and told us to have fun exploring, and we were then free to do whatever we liked. The three of us walked through the muddy grounds to the main castle (avoiding as much sheep feces as we could along the way) and eventually opened the little metal gate and climbed the tower stairs. I had brought only my camera and not my tripod nor my skirt for picture taking, and so as I walked around and saw the stone and the windows and the wonderful lack of signs telling you not to crawl on the falling walls, I knew I needed to run to the car and get them. My dad accompanied me and as we went we talked about how this wouldn't be possible in America, because lawyers would have insisted that railings be put up and that a cement pathway be put in, all because "little Timmy might fall and break a leg". When we got back to the tower I changed into my skirt and I ran around posing and probably looking like an utter idiot while my mother pressed the shutter on my camera (which I had set up on the tripod). It was absolutely magical climbing around the holes in the old walls and into little nooks and up as high as you could go into the tower without the restrictions of safety precautions or railings. It was cold sure, but I suppose that was more to do with the fact that I was then barefoot and in a skirt with howling wind blowing all about. My father finished early and wanted to go and chat with Ian for a while and explore on his own for a bit, so he went back to the main hall while my mother stayed with me. When I was finally back into my warm, thick, normal clothes we slowly walked back as well, and we explored the grand empty meeting halls and the stone hallways that were lit by large glass windows. We walked down into the kitchen and the eating hall and tried to find the banister painting that Ian had been so excited about, but when we couldn't we decided to lie if he asked and say that it had been gorgeous. My father was in the gift shop looking at tour guides, and I decided that I wanted a souvenir from the place because I truly wanted to remember it, and so I bought a little green beenie baby dragon whose tag was all in welsh (I also bought one for a friend). When we finally left the castle we decided to go on a detour through a small (and when I say small, I mean small) town in order to go to another castle. That one was named Brulliys, and was really just a standalone tower. It was nice though because moss was growing on the inside (which you reached after climbing dozens and dozens and dozens of stairs) and water dripped from the ceiling eerily. I looked around for a little while and took a few small, touristy pictures, and then my mother and I headed back to the car where my father was waiting for us.
And so began our scenic journey to our second B&B, and even though I would love to describe the countless vistas and valleys and rivers and lakes that we saw on our way I'm afraid that that would take me hours. We passed a wind farm which we stopped to take pictures of as it was perched atop a mountain with the sun shining directly on it, and was absolutely gorgeous. At one point during our drive we reached a dreaded one lane, two way road, and my father gripped the steering wheel with both hands and groaned every time a car approached us. As we drove I decided to declare war on hedges, as I would often be able to just barely see the most beautiful landscape of perfect valleys, but I would never be able to fully see it or fully get a good view because of the damn brown hedges that stretched just over top of my head. We drove higher and higher into the mountains, and at one point we stopped right beside a little house at the very, very top. I got out and the wind was blowing at approximately 20 miles an hour and my hair and my coat were blowing in the bone shuddering wind, but I was laughing with my arms outstretched and with my cheeks growing increasingly rosy and thinking to myself that that particular moment was my Utopia. I took a few pictures but I believe strongly that it will be a moment that photographs don't do justice, and will instead have to live on in my memory. Little sheep dotted the very small hill behind me, and the house was built into the mountain, and I think that if I can afford it someday then that would be a wonderful place to live for just a little while (it was just outside the mountain town of Staylittle). Once I got back into the car we drove through Staylittle, and on the other side I made my parents stop again because there was a gorgeous little river, and there was a wonderful mountain road that stretched over the hills and it was yet another gorgeous feature of Staylittle. Unfortunately we discovered that Staylittle is a town known for its views, not its architectural beauty, as the town itself was a little pathetic. Eventually we merged onto a road that was separated by two lanes, and as we drove we stumbled across Dylife Gorge, which was alive with rainbow colors and a little stream running through the middle of it, and once again we stopped and we all three got out to look around. When we got back into the car it quickly began to get dark outside, and it eventually was 5:30 and we still hadn't reached our B&B (which was in Dollegau...pronounced Dog-lith-lee). We ended up getting horribly lost and had to ask for directions, but we eventually reached our B&B at around 6:00. The room was quite large and was inside an old barn, and once again we rested and drank hot chocolate before going to dinner. We drove back out into the heart of town to find a nice pub to eat dinner at, but such a pub didn't exist so we ended up eating at a small restaurant owned by the B&B lady's niece. It was a small little corner restaurant called Y-Sospar, and the inside was charming with little candles and red picnic blankets. My father had the chicken, I had the the pork, and my mother had the lamb, and my dish was by far the weakest. We ordered a cheese platter to go and then ventured down some questionable looking allies to a small grocery store to purchase some wine and apples. On our way back to the B&B we got lost once again, but we still managed to arrive at around 8:30. I showered and changed and reorganized my bags, and then eventually at around 9:30 we all sat on the floor around a small table to eat our cheese. I personally loved all of the cheeses except for one smelly kind that tasted like creamy mold, and I also discovered that I absolutely adore chutney (which was in a little dish on the side). After that I began to edit pictures, some of which I am truly quite pleased with. I am exhausted however and it is now 1:51 am... and I fear that I am keeping my parents awake, so goodnight.
The swans that came up to me at Lake Llangorse
The overflowing waters of Lake Llangorse
The sun actually made an appearance
The sun...it's shocking...it exists!
I was able to crawl all along these walls and into the little holes
The hallways lit by glass windows
The balcony above the kitchen
The wind farm
Sheep dotting the hills
The sheep behind me when I was standing on top of the mountain
The view from the mountain top when the wind was howling and I felt as though I was about to be lifted away and I was laughing and spinning and happy.
The lake on the other side of Staylittle
Our rental car
One lane, two ways.
The road stretching over the hills
The colors of Dylife Gorge
My mother will kill me if she finds out I posted this picture