dijous, d’agost 11, 2005

Rainbow Tour 2005 Travel Log - Day 16 - Friday 7.22.05

I was up early, far too early no matter what had gone on the night before, but the amount of alkie made it all the worse. 4:30 AM and my cell went off; I had to be at airport by 5:30. Dörthe got up to and made herself alert enough to shuttle me across the city to catch my plane. I did, and made the flight to Brussels without difficulty aside from being way too tired. The flight was short though, and so was the wait between flights. In little more than an hour I was on the Brussels Air flight to Manchester.

Once in Manchester I picked up my rental car, a little silver Vauxhall Corsa Life, but this time without the automatic and AC. I left Manchester airport around 10ish, and headed west along the M56 to where it eventually joins the A55 and the pretty sign that reads "Croeso i Gymru", Welcome to Wales. To Wales, and to "home."

Shortly after crossing the border the mountains rose up to my left into the cloud cover and sea roiled to my right. The A55 hugs this coastline of North Wales where the majority language is still Welsh and where the mountains and the sea collide. Shortly after leaving Manchester I had stopped in Chester, still in England and grabbed a Whimpyburger for lunch and made a needful pit stop. Now that I was in Wales, I could travel non-stop to the Caernarfon exit and turn south toward the beginning of the Llŷn Peninsula where I would stay for the next 17 days.

I got off the dual carriageway at Caernarfon and turned eventually on the A487 toward Porthmadog. I went through the ancient town of Caernarfon and the massive Edwardian castle where the Prince of Wales is invested, and south to the roundabout for Llanllyfni where I turned off and went through the small village. To drive in Wales, or anywhere in the UK is not just a question of getting used to doing things on the opposite side of the road, but it is also a question of adapting to size and space differences. In most Welsh towns, and cities for that matter, on any give street, unless it's a very big and well travelled street, you can expect no more than one lane of driveable space, and such is the case with Llanllyfni. I navigated the main road through the town with no resistance in traffic. Sometimes the cars were parked along my side of the road, other times I had a clear right of way, but from Llanllyfni to Tai'n Lôn you have to take a B road, which are often just one lane wide to begin with, and in the Welsh countryside, often lined with the improperly named "hedgerows," hedges which often conceal very hard stone walls. Such is the road to Tai'n Lôn where Mary Jones and Olwen Thomas, two sisters, make their homes on opposing ends of the Aber Rheon council estate.

Tai'n Lôn is a funny place really, not really a proper village, it's more of a dot on the map in a ninlle, a nowhere, between two bigger villages, Clynnog Fawr and Pant Glas, the latter of which produced the now world-famous opera singer Bryn Terfel. Tai'n Lôn is small, with little more than a dozen houses, and no businesses at all except the British Telecom red phone booth in front of Aber Rheon. The name of the place literally means 'houses in a lane,' and that's exactly what is, a string of houses in a lane running along a small hollow, or pant in Welsh. On the hillsides above the hamlet you can always see sheep and cows, and behind Aber Rheon, across the Rheon creek rises the bulk of the majestic Bwlch Derwin, a minor mountain the peak of which is often obscured in mist.

I arrived around 1PM in the afternoon, and spent the rest of the day visiting with Mary and Olwen before heading to bed. It was good to be back in Wales, and to hear a Celtic language not quite so endangered as the last one I had left behind.