llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. Just sayin'.
17.04.2011 - 18.04.2011 70 °F
Wales and Ruthin Castle Apr. 17th, 18th
So, as a super quickie lesson for anyone who doesn’t know… The United Kingdom is made up of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
Day 8 of our trip consisted of wandering over the border of England and Wales to check out some scenery and castles. I knew that Welsh was a language all unto its own, but had NO idea how incredibly different it is than English. I posted a few pictures of the signs we’ve found, just to give an idea of the total lack of similarity. The second you pass the border, all of the signs start being in Welsh and English. (Right, reading the sporadic road signs here wasn’t hard enough before when it was in ONE language….)
Mum was explaining that it’s a Celtic derivation, and was around for several centuries before French or German. We’ve been listening to Welsh radio, and it’s almost impossible to pick out anything from it, since there are no Latin roots or anything in common with words we know and speak. Of course, as the roadtrip silliness set in over time, we would shout out words that we thought we understood, or English words the speaker would drop in occasionally…. “Farfig-nuten!!” “Ooooh!!! I heard MP3!!! I speaky the Welsh better than you!!!”
It’s a fascinating mix of the rolling R’s of Spanish, and the guttural flemmy bits of German. Seeing as I’ve managed to get a bit sick over the trip so far, I’ve been trying to hide my hacking as Welsh practice. I got away with it for a bit, but mom’s a pretty smart cookie… she checked on my insistence that it was always spoken with Kleenex in hand (for propriety’s sake) with a local tourist guide, and he not only sold me out on that, but also on my claim that Menthol was an ancient secret for communing with those long dead. I’d curse him in Welsh, but it takes too much typing.
Just as an aside, I have to share with you the name of a town in Wales, just for a little example. It is: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch. I s**t you not: Google it.
Thankfully we didn’t go by there, seeing as we have a hard enough time with the shorter names with a distinct lack of vowels… (One town was “Cwn Llwmn”) If proper names were allowed in Scrabble, you would be SET for life if you knew a few towns in Wales.
Actually, I’ve been thinking about recording mom and me talking as we’re driving and trying to get to places… My mucus-induced leg up on the language notwithstanding, neither of us has ANY idea how to even begin to pronounce the names of towns or streets we’re headed for, so our Navigator/Pilot conversations usually are something along the lines of:
“Okay… so on the.. twenty seventh roundabout this mile, we’ll be taking the third left to go towards…. Pen… Peny…. Peneblebbblebbellllllll…..lll…Pblebeby-beeb-e-bebby.”
“Wait, didn’t we just pass Pblebbeby-bbebby-ty-beebty?”
“No, no, that was Pensy-wald-cwn-bbeb-yly-bebbtibbys.”
“Oh, right, right, I forgot there was another “B” in that first one we went by.”
This (and the 400 miles worth of similar inane banter) is all said totally dead-pan, as there’s unwittingly been some unspoken agreement made between the two of us to not point out that we’re both helplessly lost and couldn’t ask for or understand directions if our lives depended on it.
I’m now convinced our rental car is equipped with two way radio, since between the Welsh stations we’ve been listening to, it throws in such songs as “I Will Survive”, “Living on a Prayer”, and “Stayin’ Alive”. Fairly certain the car rental place is trying to boost our morale and the chance for the car returning safely, OR the radio is sentient and desperately wants to live past its second birthday.
Despite the dizzying amount of retracing steps and wrong turns, we did eventually make it to Caernarfon Castle, where the Princes of Wales have been crowned. They had a lovely display and history of the events, along with lots of photos of Prince Charles’ big day. We also got to drive by Conway castle and read some history about it as well.
Our BIGGEST castle find of the day was in Ruthin, where I’d booked a room for us at the Ruthin Castle. Thinking it was more or less of a gimmicky name (especially considering the low room price) we had a hard time finding the place. Turns out, yeah, it really WAS an actual castle, and the only one in the city.
We took one of those ancient elevators up to our floor (complete with the rusty little old guy that pushes the buttons and locks the cages behind you so you don’t lose an arm), and the view was just lovely! Looked out over a garden, and had a huge porcelain bathtub, and a KING SIZED BED!!!!
I’ve made every effort to try for separate beds for mom and I, for while we’ve never been weird about sharing a bed, Double beds are the standard size here for two people. When I learned that we could only get a one bed guest room at the castle, I was a little worried. She and I have gotten along splendidly so far, but I was definitely afraid that sharing a small bed might be that last straw to push one of us into breaking. So, while we both spent our time commenting on the fine furnishing AROUND the bed, there was a palpable relaxation of the tension in the air over who would kill whom in their sleep during the night. I was able to return my “souvenir” knife to the gift wrapping and take the No-Doz out of my nightly pill regimen.
We woke up to the sounds of a peacock on the roof across from us… and while we have those in the Northwest, it sounds so much fancier coming from the roof of a castle. Mom had a charming little pretend-conversation with him while he was squawking, going over how MARVELOUSLY she slept and thank you for asking, etc. Rather darling, actually.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that about two seconds after she left the window, the couple in the room adjacent across the garden (the peacock was on their roof, out of view) quickly shut their window and kept peering suspiciously up at our room.
Actually the only hiccup in the Castle stay was over brekkies… We had a delightful Welsh bakery breakfast with croissants and coffee and meats, set up in a lovely dining room that overlooked a little plaza just crawling with peacocks and flowers. Unfortunately, they made the horrendous mistake of letting the underling staff pick the music, so we were stuck listening to some awful morning-show uproar. They were rehashing some terrible audition for Britain’s got Talent or something, so it was awful singing, then cutting to hip hop/rap mixes in between repeats of this poor tone-deaf soul.
Overall, it was another gorgeous sunny day with the most amazing scenery and new adventures for us both. Every day is bringing new challenges and surprises, and I’m so blessed to get to do this with my mom right now in our lives! Mostly because we’re both old and senile enough to forget the small offenses that do occur, and both totally distract-able enough for pretty, shiny things to dissolve any brewing tensions over travel-snafus.