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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Crossing Cardigan Bay

The title sounds like it should be a Celtic song, about the sea crossing between Wales and Ireland, two of the seven Celtic lands. (For reference, the others are Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany, and Cape Breton—I’ve missed out only Galicia in Spain.) And music was the theme, as we were accompanied on the ferry by coachloads of Welsh rugby fans, on their way for today’s big match against a Munster team. From the other end of the ship I thought I must be imagining it, but no, the fans had assembled on deck and burst into a series of songs, including “Sosban Fach.” I have never known exactly what “Sosban Fach” is about—something about a saucepan and Nellie catching her finger in the door—but the fact that I recognized the tune from the foredeck once again reminds me of what I love about Wales. England may be all about the Football Association Cup match today, and Scotland the Scottish cup final, but there is only one game for the Welsh.

The weather could not have been sunnier for driving down to Fishguard (Abergwuan) in Pembrokeshire, a part of Wales new to us, or for the crossing to County Wexford in Ireland. There was a slight delay while a Garda (policeman) took away my passport and brought it back with a large green stamp, dates written in by hand. For a passport stamp it is lovely, but it also takes up an entire page; I sincerely hope this is not repeated at every border I cross or my new passport will very soon be full!

Co. Wexford features numerous berry stands by the side of the road. In places like Wiltshire, these stands crop up often too, selling strawberries, cherries, and other fruits of the field. Here, being in Ireland, every one sells potatoes as well. 

So after twelve hours of travel (leaving Abersoch early in the morning) we arrived in Co. Wicklow, and here is where things got a little bit interesting. The Airbnb model is based on people opening their homes, or extensions of their homes, to others for a budget price, and so naturally the hosts’ addresses and contact details aren’t posted on a public website the way a hotel’s would be. All very well, but somehow we didn’t have anything printed or saved. Text messages sent from the mysteriously uncontactable host were truncated, and we couldn’t access WiFi because the pub we stopped at in Rathdrum doesn’t have it.

What to do? Well, we ordered cold Cokes from the publican and the next thing you know, he’s fetched his wife Geraldine from upstairs, and they have WiFi in their home, so she’s on her phone looking for our hosts (by name—T. guessed they might all know each other here). Several laughs and Euros later T. had successfully found the directions via Geraldine’s phone. We will definitely be back at the Corner House to say thank you properly, now that we’ve had a rest!

Airbnb seems to know its market, which is proper coffee drinkers. After the initial scare of not being able to find instant coffee, T. is an overnight expert with the cafetiere. So this morning we were outside the little log cabin at the bottom of our hosts’ garden, drinking coffee at a picnic table and listening to the birds and sheep. Then the rain came. In we went to the glorified outhouse, which is part kitchen now, to fix a basket of eggs I am pretty sure were laid by the chickens we met scratching in the yard last night. 

So there are your recommendations: the “Cozy Cabin” near Rathdrum; the Corner House pub; and not to forget the customer service before you sail from the ferry dock at Fishguard. That guy must be the cheeriest person in the world. It was a pleasure just to ask him a question.

I foresee the weather being a big part of our travels, at least in Britain and Ireland. When we arrived in Snowdonia we had low cloud, so low that mists appeared to be rolling onto the beach and we couldn’t see the island across the water. The next day required sunscreen, but there’s no danger of burning today! 

One of the perils of planning a trip like this, especially talking about it in advance, is that for every idea we have, others have an equally good suggestion. Even before we got to Ireland, we were told we must go to the Causeway Coast. (We aren’t going to the north this time.) Or, “How can you not go to India?” (India deserves a trip of its own; you could spend months there.) “Are you going to China?” (Weren’t planning to.) The world is round and there are as many ways to circumnavigate it as there are people to try.

Finally, a couple of additions to “Great things about Britain.” Real ale!
And my all time favorite: British signs.

No room for subtlety here.

It comes to us all. So get out there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Finding the "Cozy Cabin" cost "Several laughs and [unexpected] Euros," but it sounds like it was worth it--just the kind of adventure you are likely to have again (and again?) in the course of your odyssey.