Feb. 4, 2017
I made it to North Wales – and so did an onslaught of rain and cold temperatures again.
I’m staying in Penllyn and Llanberis tonight and tomorrow, both little villages at the base of Snowdon. I really don’t know a thing about Wales in comparison to Scotland and England, so it was a bit of a surprise when the bus spurted out Welsh and English for every bus stop. Welsh sounds like a combination of German and French – it’s pretty cool to see all the street signs in Welsh after being in primarily English-speaking places for so long.
Despite the rain and me being permanently crippled (I walk ridiculously slow now), I still walked to the top of a hill overlooking the lake next to my bunkhouse. I luckily got some stunning photos before the storm rolled in at noon. Snowdon was visible in the distance, with only a little bit of snow on its peak, but obviously not apt to climb in this weather and season. Maybe another visit!
One of my friends asked if I was camping at the base (my bunkhouse/inn doubles as a campsite). I laughed. I’ve never camped in the pitch dark alone, nor in the pouring rain and ice cold. I wouldn’t have lasted – I barely was able to walk around until sunset before catching the last few buses and racing to shower and get under the covers. This might be the earliest bedtime I’ve had since Thailand.
So in super cold days like today (especially with the wind chill), I completely understand why everyone hits the pub. It’s very much a cultural thing. Heaters are blasting, everyone is drinking, football/rugby/cricket is on, and everyone is just glad to be out of the cold.
I ended up going in massive circles today (took the train from Chester to Bangor; bus from Bangor — Caernarfon — Penllyn to drop off my bags; then back to Caernarfon to explore, back to Bangor, then back to Penllyn on the same route). I think I spent more in bus fare today than I would have on a 2-hr train ride somewhere, ha.
Caernarfon is a small town but had a massive castle and castle walls surrounding the city centre. I opted not to go to the castle since it was raining so much, and there are far more beautiful castles I want to see in Wales. It was still a lovely castle and quite unique with its polygonal towers and ties to King Edward I, though.
Bangor, about 30 min from Caernarfon by bus, is the smallest city in the UK – but has all the shops, resources, and a beautiful university right in the middle of the city centre. It even has a Pandora, which usually indicates that it’s a pretty affluent community. It’s more of a cutesy place, and I quite liked Bangor Pier – the views would have been stellar if everything wasn’t shrouded in gray fog and misty rain, but it was still nice to explore.
From what I’ve seen thus far, Wales seems like the New Zealand of the UK, very much similar to the Scottish Highlands – and yet, still different. North Wales is probably starkly different from South Wales as well – I’m looking forward to South Wales a bit more, especially Cardiff. And I can’t help but laugh and think of New South Wales in Australia… everything is either the same exact name or they ripped everything off from the UK based on the whole Commonwealth factor.
Also, from hopping around from towns — villages — cities and back again, I’ve realised that I definitely prefer staying overnight in cities. I LOVE the countryside and exploring it all, but when it comes to staying somewhere, it’s hard to explore past 4pm when everything shuts and the streets go dark – whereas in big cities like Liverpool and Edinburgh, there’s just a never-ending amount of stuff to see and soak in. I think a better strategy for my next trip is to just Google all the biggest cities in that country and pick hostels accordingly – it’s always cheaper to stay in big cities as opposed to little towns and villages (at least on this trip). Especially when you can easily find a hostel in London for as low as $10 USD/night…
Cheers to you, Wales! And as much as I love the rain, I really hope it subsides enough for me to soak in the beauty of North Wales for the next few days.