Friday, July 17, 2015

Europe Trip 2015 Part III: Northern Wales

July 11th

I arrived in Liverpool and found my way to the Manchester airport to pick up the car I had rented.  I was not excited about navigating a new place on my own, while having to concentrate on staying on the left side of the road, but the area seemed even more difficult to navigate by bus.

I drove into the center of Manchester before taking off.  I enjoyed exploring the People's Museum and the Ryland Library.
Ryland Library - Fremont has a nice library, but I wish I would check out books from a place like this.

Driving was terrifying.  My sense of place was off so I was much closer to the curb than the center lane.  I tried to go the speed limit, but slowed everyone down at that speed.  Once we got into Wales, all the driving was on single lane, curvy roads.  On the left side of the road was usually a stone wall, about a foot away from my mirror.  On the right side of the road oncoming traffic whizzed by very close to my right mirror.  I think NASCAR has a lot of untapped talent in this region.

Everything that day took a lot longer than I had anticipated, and I didn't arrive at my hostel, in the small town of Dolgellau, until 6:30.  My hostel was above a gift shop which had closed at 6.  I had a key code, but there wasn't a door where I could enter a code.  There was no reception office, no sign for the hostel, and no information for guests.  The shop was part of a continuous stone building, and I didn't see a way to get around back. 

I assumed the hostel reception area had closed down with the shop at 6.  There hadn't been much information on the website, such as reception hours, so I gave up and walked around town trying to find an Internet connection or a different room to stay in.  The town had a raft of b and b's, but they were all full.  

I went into a pub which had hotel rooms upstairs.  A very nice older man was standing in line, and started making conversation with me.  He asked the bartender if there were rooms available (there weren't), then walked with me to another hotel to ask.  They were full too, but they called another hotel outside of town and, thankfully, they had a room free.  

The man and his friend were very excited to talk about Seattle.  I should have bought them a beer, but I hurried off, hoping to secure a bed for the night.

I was in luck.

July 12th

By looking online for recommendations, I found a scenic gravel trail along a river for my run.  However, I had to pay 20 pence to drive across a rickety wooden bridge I wasn't convinced could support my car and was barely wide enough god if to get across.  This bridge is one of many reasons I haven't seen an SUV on my trip.

                                                                Wooden Driving Bridge
                                                              Beautiful Trail Running

After running I tried to hostel again since I had already paid for two nights there.  I emailed the owner saying I would try again at 3.  I should have asked for more information, but I assumed if I showed up during regular reception hours, entering a hostel would be easy.  But the shop was closed on Sundays. I had gotten a reply from the owner saying my key code would work until 11pm, but she didn't tell me where the door was that used the key code, and it didn't say on her website. 

I drove to Bewts-y-coed, a town recommended by my grandparents.  The place was as picturesque as the tourist books claim.  Along the Main Street is a babbling brook with a small waterfall.  I got desert at a pastry shop and ate while icing my feet in the stream.  On the way back I listened to the Wales male choir who were giving a performance at the church.

                                             Brook Flowing Through Middle of Bewts-y-Coed
                                                                 Bewts-y-Coed Church

July 13th

I visited nearby Swallow Falls and Castle before heading to Conwy, a town along the North Coast of Wales.  
                                                                       Swallow Falls

I found a track to do a workout on before heading to the Airbnb room I had reserved for the next three nights.  The Airbnb was great.  First of all, I was able to enter.  Second, it was inexpensive.  Third, the hosts were both runners who had written a book about trail running in Northern Wales.

                                                               View From My Room

July 14th

I ran the first route suggested in my hosts' book.  The path follow the shore.  The footing varied from pavement to grass to sand.

I spent the rest of the day exploring the Anglesey region.  I visited the Beaumaris castle, the former largest copper port in the world, and Holyhead.

                                                                    Beaumaris Castle
July 15th

My hosts tried to convince me to run up Snowdonia, the largest mountain in Wales, but I had to spend the day as an athlete.  I spent the morning doing the track workout, core, and stretching.  I spent the afternoon getting a leg massage and acupuncture.  

I've been craving fish n chips for a couple weeks, so I finally got some at a place that claimed, "probably the best fish and chips you've ever had." I was very surprised they were, by far, the worst.  

July 16th

I was very relieved to drop off my rental car at the Manchester airport without any damage.  I'm excited to be traveling on public transportation for the rest of my journey.

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