One of the things we discovered during our first trip to Pembrokeshire, Wales was the friendliness of the Welsh people.
Staying the week in Goodwick, almost daily we passed a couple on the trek to our rental. They invited us for drinks.
Given that, on our second trip, Jackie and I were prepared for nice people to cross our path during our week in Saundersfoot. We had many random interactions that solidified the opinion for both of us: The Welsh are the nicest people we’ve ever met.
Here are some of our chance encounters.
The first of our delightful Welsh conversations occurred because of a mistake. We wound up on the wrong train (my bad) and the evil conductor took advantage of my novice as an American and charged me the full price for a new ticket. Even though the train was mostly empty and I was only off a half hour in getting us on the wrong train. The silver lining to this unfortunate exchange was meeting Bethan and Tracy. After the conductor left, they commiserated and our conversing started. They were returning from a good and exhausting trip to Miami—isn’t it grand how we trade countries to learn about each other and the places that make us?
Walking the road into Saundersfoot we were awed by a colorfully exploding garden at a big white house. The owner came out to get her paper and Jackie remarked on her lovely flowers. Maggie invited us to see garden after garden and meet husband John with massive hands, a big greenhouse, and vast array of vegetables. We waved to their our-age son Adam recuperating after hip surgery. Maggie asked how long we’d be here, explaining that when you meet a Welsh person they ask how long you’ll be around so they know how long they can visit with you. Rueben is their cat. Maggie said to stop by another time and have a cuppa’.
The helpful train conductor who Googled the B&B we were staying at in Merthyr Tidfil to help us decide a taxi was the best option to get there. She had shaved black hair interspersed with white on the sides and on top, a mop of thick, dark curls.
At Pilgrim’s Cafe at the Brecon Cathedral of St John’s, in response to an arbitrary question, the baker researched the closest Botanical Gardens for us.
Lorett, the Minister at the Wesley Chapel where we attended service. The entire, small congregation were so inviting we wanted to extend our stay to celebrate with them again. They were all over sixty-five and couldn’t have been kinder: Eva with her guide dog. Brian and his robust singing. Glynis and her deep purple sweater and clear speaking voice—announcing an upcoming event that included “Elevenses.” Mary, who offered us Bibles and Gwenyth, the organist.
Casual Encounter #1
The sweet elderly woman using a cane to walk the path from Saundersfoot to Wiseman’s Bridge who smiled and said, “Isn’t this the life.” It wasn’t a question.
Sara, with no obligation other than assuring us a charming rental in Edith Cottage, met us upon arrival and toured us around Saundersfoot, showed us the footpath into town and then drove us to Tenby! Her beau, Michael “Bod,” was kind enough to pick us up at the train station—in his very clean painter’s van. We were fortunate that she came to have wine with us one night. We’re sure she is now stuck with us as friends for life. (2018 note: We are renting Edith Cottage yet again!)
Casual Encounter #2
While walking to Wiseman’s Bridge, we stopped to take pictures of each other. A woman asked if we’d like her to take one of us. Another woman came along and asked if she could take a picture of the three of us. The first woman answered, well I’m not with them … then she looked at our matching attire of hiking pants and colorful jackets and said, we could be together! We saw this woman time and again, walking her dog on the beach—along with fifty other people—where the signs state, “No dogs on beach after 1st May.”
At the harbor near the “No Swimming” signs, Jackie snapped action photos of three adolescent boys jumping into the water. A bit later, the trio walked toward us and Jackie showed them the pictures, which they thought was great fun. She asked if they wanted her to email them the shots. One asked another, “What’s your Mum’s email?” I was stunned that somewhere in the modern world twelve-year-olds don’t have their own email. I asked, “Perhaps your mom shouldn’t know you were jumping in the harbor?” One answered, “Mum was watching!” They were sweet and polite and thanked Jackie for showing them the pictures.
Two men were fishing over the harbor walls where there are “No Fishing” signs. Jackie asked what they were catching. Poles non-moving, of course one of them replied, “Nothing at the moment.” They chuckled and the other fellow said they were trying to catch dogfish, they eat it in London, where it’s called Rock Salmon. We discovered it is a very small shark!
Casual Encounter #3
The crazy elderly lady we met on the Coastal Path to Amroth. She detained us a half hour and could have talked for hours. Her monologue wandered as much as she seems to have over the area hills. She went from telling us about the Tenby hike to about her brother living with their parents who wasn’t nice although he would help you if you were stuck beside the road. Get the idea?
Casual Encounter #4
At the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path east of Amroth, we asked a gentleman to take our picture. We immediately got into a conversation with Peter about the beauty of Wales, our life’s purposes, and God. When we saw him again, the discussion was about rocks and the magnificent randomness of striations within them and how they came to be. We’ve traded emails about Wales and what travel teaches an open mind.
We watched a long boat being launched at the Wiseman’s Bridge beach. This was a feat because the truck pulling the trailer had to drive over huge rocks marking the top of the beach. An elderly lady strolling by told us they have boat regattas at Saundersfoot and that these people were training.
We stopped while walking home for Jackie to take a picture of a stone wall covered with ivy. A car turned into the alleyway. The driver clearly saw us, but we scrambled out of the way, which made him laugh and wave. As we reached where he’d parked, I said, thanks for not hitting us. He replied, “That’s okay no problem, I’ll get you on the way out.” And he roared.
Trevor (he gets more than the Encounters heading!)
I left Jackie in the corridor of the public works building in Tenby while I used the restroom. Returning, I found she’d made a new friend. In less than two minutes. Trevor, seventy-something, is the former mayor of Tenby. More on Trevor’s role of tour guide in the upcoming Tenby post. Suffice to say he spent a half hour showing us around. Better than Lonely Planet.
Casual Encounter #5
Talking to a man in Saundersfoot at the bus stop. We asked him about the proper bus to Tenby. He said you could see Caldey Island from there. The island has been the home of Cistercian monks for a thousand years. Jackie asked if he’d been there. He said no, he’s lived in Saundersfoot for forty years, originally from London, but he’s never gone to the island. He looked puzzled by that.
Casual Encounter #6
Waiting at the Saundersfoot bus stop, we chatted with Anna (maybe 70s), originally from Ireland, and Ann (maybe 60s), originally from England. Riding the bus, they shared stories about moving to Wales as youths. Anna told us about supporting herself and never taking a handout even though she was a poor immigrant. After she left, Ann, often laughing so hard she was close to tears, told us about things to see once we got to Tenby.
Casual Encounter #7
We made friends with the young checkout man at the Tesco store, a small market with everything from freshly baked breads and pastries, to wine and vegetables. In almost daily for fresh fruit, he remembered us as we had issues with a non-chip credit card working one time and not the next. We made a final stop to say goodbye. He welcomed us back to Saundersfoot anytime.
The random kindness, intentional conversations, and encompassing friendliness of the Welsh combine to make it a great place to return to time and again.
PS. The Spending Police in action in Elements–a wonderful shop that sells only items created in Pembrokeshire.