I wish I could say when I stood on the deck of the ferry in Dublin harbor on my way to Wales I bid a fond farewell to Ireland, but it was too early in the morning and I was too sleepy to wave good bye to anything or anybody. Josh and I wandered around until we found an almost empty lounge and stretched out for a nap.
Perhaps you might think that we were foolish to sleep away any moment on a trip to Europe, but you’ll soon find out your body doesn’t care where it is. When your body wants to crash, it will crash. Luckily we woke up just as the jagged mountains of Wales appeared on the horizon. We stumbled off the ferry and found our new tour bus and driver. The countryside architecture in Wales was somewhat similar to Ireland but not really. Our tour guide announced not to get too comfortable because we were about to tour the “greatest castle never built.” Okay, that didn’t make any sense so I thought I needed another quick nap.
Just then we found ourselves on a lovely tree-lined country road along a broad river with old brick houses built along its banks. Ahead of us was colorful village with a pier and Ferris wheel (It was closed for the season; after all, it was March. We were lucky the sun was out.) The bus stopped, and the tour guide said we had two hours to tour the castle and eat lunch before meeting back at this very spot.
There it was before us—Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey Island. Beaumaris means beautiful swamps—sounds like a name we’d use for a bit of dry land in the middle of the Green Swamp of Florida. English King Edward I conquered Wales in the 13th century and started building this castle to make sure Wales stayed conquered. It was designed on the wall within a wall concept, meaning if your troops made it through the first wall you would now be caught in a small enclosed space and much easier to kill. I don’t think Josh and I made it entirely around the ramparts of the outer wall, but we could see how a small population could have lived quite comfortably and safely within its confines. In a small room off of the center courtyard we watch an informative movie on what was built and they didn’t get around to because Edward (known to his enemies as Longshanks) lost interest. He decided conquering Scotland would be more fun. For movie fans, this is the fiendish king in Braveheart who had William Wallace drawn and quartered.
Josh and I have always been fascinated by history so we found ourselves in a bind when we saw we only had a half hour or so for lunch. Luckily we wandered down a side street and found a fish and chips place next to the Ferris wheel. We knew the food had to be good because all the locals were crowded in. That also meant we had to wait. We decided we had to hone our time management skills. I don’t know why we worried. We still weren’t the last ones back on the bus. Remember, we were traveling with a group of teen-agers.
I sat by the window searching the countryside for Llanwelly village and Talbot castle. Fans of old horror movies know that’s the location of “The Wolf Man” with Lon Chaney Jr. “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers at night may be a wolf when the wolf bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” Saying that to myself a couple of times put me back to sleep and the next thing I knew we were in England on our way to Birmingham.
There was nothing really exciting in Birmingham but a nice hotel with a nice dining room and a lot of nice rooms with beds. When you are as tired as I was that day, the only descriptive word you’ll be able to think of is nice. Which isn’t so bad after all.