Monday, March 9, 2009

Sut mae, croeso i Gymru

Hello, welcome to Wales - not sure how they get this greeting from that above, but hey, that's how it goes! Went down to meet the people in the Caerwys View Holiday Park Office this morning and they are really really friendly. Jo had spent a year in Australia some time ago - in Perth, then Sydney, then up the East Coast and then from Broome back to Perth, so she has seen more of Australian than many natives! Welsh just rolls of her tongue and it sounds so lyrically musical. It is a beautiful language to listen to - even if you haven't got a hope of understanding it. Actually, it is very phonetic and when you see the written words next to the pronunciation, there is some reason to it.

However, we will not be here long enough to learn any significant voacbulary! The best we will be able to do is the real basics Da bore (good morning), Ddiolch 'ch (thank you), Ca a cider ddiolch (I will have a cider thanks) and Ble ydy 'r doiled blesio (Where is the toilet please)!

We set off to have a drive through this area heading for the town of Mold. Part way along the journey, we came across a tourist drive sign and so thought we could follow this. Well, we eventually reached Mold after about 3 hours of wandering down back lanes, up mountain tracks and along small streams babbling along towards the Dee River and the North Sea. Now, if we had taken the most direct route, this trip is a mere 9.9 miles - but heck, what is the fun in that?? So instead of following the direct route marked in white on the map above, we followed Brown's cows along the blue marked line!

We first drove up along the ridges to the south of Caerwys (pronounced Carewise) before turning to criss cross up valleys and down dales through little towns with unpronouncable names. The views are just beautiful and rival anything we saw in the Cotswolds. Jo was right when she said that the one thing they have here in Wales that we don't in our beautiful Australia is the green. Despite the beautiful sun, when we got out of the car on the highest point at Taith Hamdden Sir y Fflint (Leisure Park in the Shire of Flint) where a walk to the highest peak will bring you to the Jubilee Tower - part of an old hilltop fort (Moel Famau), the first thing we noticed was the cold. Up high, the wind just cuts right through you mocking the temperature guage that says 6°C. Still, the view from half way up the peak is well worth the stop and Michael says he would like to do this walk in the coming days - I can only imagine how good the view from the top will be! The sheep graze contentedly unde their nice warm winter coats and we even see a man walking a greyhound that was sporting a fleece lined coat - gosh, do they breed them a little fragile here? Nope - it is b***** cold in that wind!!

Then it was down through tight little turns as the road wove its way through village streets that were there long before there was a need to provide for motorised transport. Thankfully even the locals drive slowly and carefully around here - can just imagine what would happen if speed were a factor in a crash! We stopped at the St Mary's Church in Cilcairn when we saw gravestones planted in sloped lines around the church car park. The oldest gravestone we could see standing up was dated 1629 but there are some that are so worn or moss covered that we can't read them - so they might even be older. Guess that when land is a premium and gravesites are re-used on a regular basis (once every 20 - 50 years) that this is one way to preserve local history and somewhere for families to come and reflect on passed loved ones. We thought that it was a nice touch.

Turns out, that this was just the first of special things about this church. Entering through a dark little porch donated to the memory of a parishioner long since remembered, you push open the huge oak door to reveal a church fully Norman in its design. While the notes on a table by the door explain that records only go back to the early 17th Century it is believed that the church is much older. The timber ceiling is ornately decorated with carved figures all along its length and the walls are at least 6 feet thick.

And so our day continued. By the time we got to Hawarden we were getting a little peckish and so pulled in to the car park of the Fox and Grapes Pub for some lunch. Now that driveway was hairy - no joke, there was about 3 inches on either side of the wing mirrors! Pubs here in the United Kingdom are nothing like those in Australia. The atmosphere is so different - it is warm and feels more like a dining room in a guesthouse or even a home than a hotel as we know them.

The ceilings are low and open to the beams that have been varnished. The menu is surprisingly extensive with something for all tastes. We however, decide to order from the specials menu.
Lamb Shank with Roast Potatoes, Mash, Seasonal Vegetables and Rosemary Gravy - Michael
Beef Curry with Pillau Rice and Mini Garlic Naan Breads - Maria and lemonade to wash it down with (they had no cider!!)

Both were truly delicious and would have easily stood up to the London pub competition. Best of all, they were nice and hot - best thing for a cold day! Once our appetites were calmed, we took a walk through part of the town. The former town walls complete with decoartive crenellated small towers still stands in part and the former town water fountain (no longer in use) now has a roundabout traversing it at the local crossroads. The corner store still reigns supreme in areas where there is not enough of a market for the like of Sainsburys, ADSA, Aldi or Somerfields. For daily staples, the corner store is just what is needed and I regret the passing of them with competition from the big supermarkets ack home. Here they seem to have a good balance between the two. We thought it interesting that the name of the main road is The Highway - it is literally just wide enough for two cars to pass and buses and trucks see traffic halting while they creep passed.

At this point we have still to get to Mold! So we decide to leave the Tour Trail and take 'the highway' into Mold. We want to go to the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) and get the lowdown on attractions that are open and even further afield - like Mid- and South-Wales - a whole maximum of 200 kms away! So Mold it is - a warren of one-way streets and residential dead-ends. There is another large and impotant looking church here, but as it is nearly 3:15 pm and time for ysgol (school) to finish for the day, there is no parking anywhere in town. We eventually find a Council carpark at the other end of tow - but near to the VIC and pay our 20p to park for up to 3 hours! Go figure, it would cost more to print the ticket from the machine!! The VIC is co-located with the town library and has a surprisingly large collection of literature from all over Wales - all free for the taking.

So well stocked with planning information for the next week or two, we head off to the Somerfield supermarket to replenish supplies. We even bought a 1.2kg tin of Roses Chocolates for the princely sum of £4.99 (thats $10.89 for you guys) but I turned down the offer of Laphroig or Glenmorangie Whiskey at £27.99 each as we are going to Scotland next (hic). Then it was back to Caerwys to sus out where the local hairdresser is - I have an appointment with a shearing - haven't had a cut since I left home and I am sure my head looks somewhat alike a woolly sheep at present! St Michaels Church here has a really beautiful stained glass window behind the altar and the slate headstones line the path to the doors.

I'm off to Scrabble and a choccie or two. Dal 'ch pawb 'n ddiweddarach (Catch you all later!)

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