We were fortunate to spend a week in South Wales.
By we, I mean Jackie, her husband John, me and Alex. Jackie and I had been planning this trip for ten years. We thought we’d go to Wales, the Griffith heritage, when we were elderly ladies and have cool walking sticks and tweed jackets. But life changes and sometimes plans have to be pulled forward a decade or two.
So off we went.
We found a charming 100-year-old house in the tiny town of Goodwick (Good-ick) to rent. It was a four bedroom, two story duplex, and the owner’s in-laws live in the other side. If they could have been nicer, I wouldn’t know how!
The view from the front deck was of the Goodwick Bay. Being the most early of risers, I took a lot of sunrise photos. The colors spread out across the water and turned the clouds multiple shades of grey, red and pink until the blue overwhelmed everything and a puffy white cloud strolled in.
Our first day there, we took an arbitrary walk along the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. This had been our main goal: walk as much of the park path as we could in seven days. We headed south out of town, following the upside down acorn signs that symbolize the trail.
John, spotted an abutment with a tower on it, way out there, off the path. I had to join him. We trudged over the treacherous rocks getting closer to the water. He heard a moaning growl. What? Two seals!
We ran into a Welsh couple and told them some of the things we’d like to do. We mentioned the male singing groups we’d been told about and Peter broke into song. I find myself seeking out Welsh a cappella CDs!
Taking their instruction, we walked a bit further and found 18 seals, both adults and babies. We were on a cliff above them, just as well because they did not seem to like us being even that close.
The next couple of days found us going south to St. David’s—the tiniest city in the UK, with the most massive cathedral I’ve seen outside of Milan. We saw a casket with an effigy we think was a long ago Griffith. We traveled to Pembroke to see the castle. I’ve seen a number of castles in various stages of wholeness or destruction including the lovely, still in use Heidelberg Castle in Germany. Pembroke Castle is the largest intact castle I have walked in. And up. And down. And around. And under. Amazing to see.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Continuing on the Coastal Path, we went north to Newport and walked south several miles. Each bend in the path gave a beautiful view of the bay, the ocean, the Preseli Hills to the north, Fishguard and Goodwick to the south.
Being without experience driving on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the right, we wisely decided not to rent a car. This led to many bus riding adventures. If there are better drivers anywhere in the world, I wouldn’t know it. What speed! What execution of the tightest of turns on the most narrow of streets! And guess what, they know their passengers—both the regulars and the transient. After a day, we didn’t have to show our passes anymore.
The above are things we did and what we saw. It was wonderful and the sights are embedded in my mind. But what left the deepest impression are the people. South Wales is full of a vigor and life and friendliness that has been ingrained in people for decades, if not a millennia. They show genuine interest in you, in answering questions, in helping in any way. We ran into one delightful couple a few times—their home was at the bottom of the Goodwick Hill we walked twice a day. Karen, she invited us to stop by if we had time! Sadly we weren’t able to do so, but what a delightful invitation.
Our first day, we ate a delectable snack at Ffwrn in Fishguard. The proprietor, Rhod, was a riot from the moment we stepped in the door. In St David’s we missed our return bus and had to wait an hour. More exploring. We walked in the door of a pub and who shouts at us? Rhod, “I see you’re getting around.” We sat with him and his childhood friend, Garth, and killed a pint and the time by learning about the area.
We had coffee each morning at the Farmhouse Kitchen in Goodwick Square (which is really a wide rectangle). The coffee, scones, and food were good, the owners were delightful. One day we were admiring an earring display as a woman, Andrea, was displaying more. We admired the artistry. But what did she do? Gave us two pairs of earrings before leaving the place! Who does that?
Witty words from the Welsh…Old man in a pub on why everyone seems so relaxed: “We’re welded in first gear.” Click To Tweet
Grand dame walking a great Pyrenees on one of the trails: “It doesn’t really matter where you go during the day as long as you end up at the right place at the end.” We told her we’d gotten off the Coastal Path. Wise words.
The proprietor of Ffwrn when we asked him why there was a booted leg hanging out of his ceiling: “That’s Marvin. He’s catching mice. I tell the little ones who come in to keep their eyes on him, he’ll move. That occupies them for at least ten minutes.”
Shop owner of antiques and locally made woolen goods when we asked him how long one of the Coastal Paths would take: “The walk will be as long as you want it to be, now won’t it?”
- A pastry shop owner when I comment on how nice the Welsh are, “Only the southern Welsh. The northern Welsh are snobby. If you don’t speak their version of Welsh, they won’t talk to you.” Another man told Jackie and John the same thing, “I was waiting for restaurant service and they sat everyone but me—they spoke their language and I’m from south Wales.”
- Taxi driver Tony, “I saw the driver of this car jump out and leave the keys were. I thought, that looks like fun. I got in and the phone rang and it was you. I thought, I can earn a bit of money and later, I’ll return the car to the owner.” (Yes, it’s his business.)
- Haverfordwest bus driver when we asked him to explain a timetable, “These books came out a month ago.” Scratches head, “I can’t figure it out, I’m not sure how a tourist is to do so!”
- Jackie and John asked someone at Pembroke Castle which way to go. He answered: “Well, you can go up and you can go down and you can go around. Really, it doesn’t matter. You know, it’s kind of a castle.” Meaning, it’s in a big circle, so however it’s seen is fine.
- Birmingham, England for the flight home. They have one of the most efficient security systems I have seen in my travels. I say to the tallest man in the bunch, “This is much better than the USA.” He quips, “Give it time, it won’t be,” and smiles. He must be Welsh.
Read: No place is too far away