Friday, October 22, 2010

Adventures in the Very South of Wales!

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W hile we were planning, multiple sources recommended that we check out the Gower Peninsula, which sticks off the southern coast of Wales near Swansea. Since we were meeting a friend in Bristol that night, we thought it was a good thing to fit in between there and Brecon Beacons, and headed south.

Rhossili

We wanted to avoid city driving, but unfortunately the main road out to the Gower Peninsula goes right through Swansea, and the signage had us going through neighborhoods and everything. At some point we almost got in a wreck at one of these "traffic circles" that is actually just a normal intersection with a circle painted in the center - NOT obvious if you're not familiar with it! Anyway, we made it out to Rhossili, at the end of the peninsula, physically unscathed. :)

Rhossili Okt 10

The town of Rhossili sits up on a cliff above a huge beach, which was nearly empty the day we were there. You can park at the church in town for a donation in an honesty box, or park in a (pay and display? I think) lot at the end of the road. We parked at the church and checked it out - they were selling postcards for 20p there and I bought a few. We knew we'd be going to a beach when we were in Cornwall so instead of walking down to the beach, we walked along the cliff and had great views of it. At the end of the cliff is a sort-of island called Worm's Head, which you can walk to at low tide. Unfortunately it was totally the wrong time of day so we couldn't go out there, but just having a look was really nice.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a visitor's center/gift shop on a whim and found the Ordnance Survey map of the peninsula. We weren't going to be there long enough to justify buying it, but we were very intrigued by the photo on the cover. It looked like some kind of old dwelling built into the side of a cliff! On the back it said the photo was of a place called the Culver Hole in Port Eynon. We set out to find it!

Port Eynon

Port Eynon is just a short drive from Rhossili. Instead of being on a cliff, it's down at sea level, and at this time of year is practically abandoned. We looked at a map in town that indicated the very general location where the Culver Hole could be found, so we set out in that direction. We never saw any more signs or markers indicating where it could be found! First we followed along the water, but the path ended so we went up on a cliff, and saw no markers there either. Finally after going down the cliff on the other side and going along a scary path above the water, we found it!!

Port Eynon Okt 10

Isn't that awesome?! They aren't sure what it was - it might be a pigeon breeding house, or a pirate headquarters! (I like the second theory better.) Apparently there are rooms and stairs and stuff inside but we didn't have any way to get in and it's supposedly pretty dangerous in there anyway. Just getting to the thing was scary enough for me.

We were pretty hungry after leaving Port Eynon, so we pulled in at a roadside cafe on our way back toward Swansea. There we found a guy who was super chatty and wanted to talk and talk about the US and how he wants to move either there or to New Zealand. "I want to move to the US" is something we virtually NEVER hear from Europeans. (Although it should be said that the British don't really put themselves in the same category as the rest of Europe!) It was particularly interesting to us because we're so torn about going back to the US. He spent a lot of time there during his time as an engineer in the Royal Air Force (so not like Lionel Mandrake, but close). He informed us that on just one particular air base in the US there are more of some kind of airplane weapon than there are in the entire UK Air Force (and admitted that there is no way we needed them all). He also said that on practice runs the American pilots always dropped all their bombs, while the English always came back with some. I guess this idea of having too much of everything and just throwing things away is appealing for him. It was really interesting. Anyway, he's selling his cafe in hopes of pursuing these dreams so if you're looking for a business venture on the Gower Peninsula, there you go! He told us that Rhossili gets 6 million visitors a year so there are plenty of potential customers going by!

Monknash

After our snack break, we were back on the road through Swansea and on toward Monknash, which is near the coast sort of between Swansea and Cardiff. We wouldn't have ever gone there if not for the following recommendation from my husband's sort-of colleague (they know each other because of work but never actually worked together) who used to live in Cardiff:
There is a great fossil beach near the Plough and Harrow pub in Monknash
The pub has decent food but I go mainly for the great outdoors and the selection of beers from small wooden barrels. From the pub drive down the small road until a parking lot near a farm (lawn parking) and then walk downhill (through a little forest) until your reach the beach in about 15 mins - very spectacular).
By the time we arrived at the car park the sun was threatening to set very soon so we did this walk in a bit of a hurry since we didn't have flashlights or anything with us.

Monknash Okt 10

Coming out here was a little bit out of our way but it was absolutely worth it! The walk to the beach was short but gorgeous - after going a little further along a road through pasture, it turned into a little wooded valley with the ruins of an old mill and a bunch of little tiny waterfalls heading toward the shore. There it opened up to cliffs, rocks, sand, and a sort of interesting rock plateau where the creek went into the water. We didn't really see a lot of fossils, but with more time I'm sure we could have. I wish we could have stayed!

When we got back to the town, where there had previously only been a couple of cars parked at the pub, there were now so many we had to park in overflow! Apparently it was happy hour! I was skeptical when we walked in and it was about 40'C in there and packed and I felt like an outsider, but then they started playing Caribou and I was swayed. Yay, the power of music. We just wanted to drop in for a drink, but the menu looked great and I wish we could have eaten there! I swore I was going to try spotted dick at some point on this trip and I never did, but it was on the menu there. They also had faggots and peas, which I was still wondering about at that point. While we waited for our drinks (and by the way, my cider was really excellent), some spots to sit opened up and we shared a table with a couple who live in the area. It turned out the woman was an American! Then the conversation got rolling on American foreign policy and living abroad, which was really fun. They also swear that Marmite is good. (Recommended Marmite recipe: toast with butter, marmite, tomato slice, and salt/pepper.) They were really nice and I so wish we could have had a few more drinks there. Who am I kidding, I'm ready to move to Wales RIGHT NOW PLS. Unfortunately we had already stayed too long and were super-late meeting our friend in Bristol! (Getting lost on the way into the city probably didn't help....)

Song o' the Post!
Some Caribou, just like in the Plough and Harrow!


Coming soon: We go to jail in Bodmin!

4 comments:

  1. i heart today's giant letter! rainbow w!

    also: pirates!

    there was something else i wanted to say about this post, but it's gone.

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  2. Holy crap — just watched/heard that song here. That was outstanding. I'm going to check them out. THANKS!

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  3. You should check out tour dates! We are seeing Caribou here in HD in mid-November!

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  4. Alas, the tour dates are not compatible with my life...except for the November 8 date in Munich, maybe. I got all excited when I read that you are seeing them mid-November in Heidelberg, because I'm taking 3 days in mid-November off of work...but alas, my scheduled vacation is after the tour rolls through Heidelberg.

    I watched all your slide shows — breathtaking!

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