To the rest of the UK, Wales is technically a principality, but to the Welsh, Wales is its own country and the rest of the UK doesn’t exist. Pembrokeshire is a lovely coastal countryside of rolling hills and craggy beaches. We met some horses and they shared a laugh with Karen.
We camped at windy Windmill Hill between Pembroke and Maidenwells, and met another camper named Pat, an English woman in her 70s who got bored of retirement and took up long-distance walking. She’s walked the entire coast of England, and now she’s doing the same in Wales. We took the Coastal Cruiser down to a bay called Freshwater West to see where they filmed Shell Cottage for HP7, pt. 1. Our driver said it was a huge event when they came to film, people everywhere, and has a picture of his son in front of Shell Cottage. He also said he’s been to just one state in the States: Florida, and to just one place in Florida: a boggy swamp. Just kidding: Disneyworld! An additional thing said driver said was that as soon as he opened his mouth and his accent escaped into the American air, he was swarmed by girls exclaiming, “You’re from England!” He tried in vain to explain no, he was from Wales, to which the swarm replied, “That’s in England!” This perfectly illustrates the plight of the Welsh.
This is where we guessed Dobby’s grave was located. Compare it to the movie and see what you think. We used a flat rock to simulate the headstone, and our flat cutouts recreate the scene. Somehow, it doesn’t pack the same emotional punch. Hmmm…
After a fine afternoon scrambling around on the dunes at Freshwater West, we took the Coastal Cruiser back to Windmill Hill, where we asked the owner of the campground if we could buy some eggs to boil for dinner. He said “Sure, water the plants,” and handed me the garden hose while he went to fetch a half dozen eggs, which he sold to us for 50p plus the two minutes of manual labor.
Pembrokeshire is in south Wales, and next we took a train all the way across the country (principality, technically) to the north, to a region called Snowdonia. It was a full day of riding trains, so I tried out one of the e-books I had loaded onto my phone before the trip. It’s called “Among Others,” and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it takes place in Wales, and the main girl rides a lot of trains, describing cities and towns as we were actually passing through them on our journey north. Cool coincidence! Her family even goes on holiday in Pembrokeshire.
Compared to Colorado, Snowdonia has large hills, but compared to the rest of Wales, Snowdonia has vast mountains. We camped directly outside a tiny town called Betws-y-Coed, and directly inside a cloud of tiny insects that liked to land all over our faces. They weren’t mosquitoes. We think they were midges? We looked ridiculous, swatting and flailing as we tried to cook noodles on our tiny camp stove. There are no pictures of Betws-y-Coed, even though it was probably the prettiest place we’ve ever camped, with its ferns and thick green moss, because all hands were occupied swatting and/or flailing. In the morning the bugs had settled down enough for Ryan to get in a quick sketch.
A National Trust site, the Bodnant is an incredible 80 acres of pristine lawns, terraced gardens, lily ponds, flower beds, streams, bridges, waterfalls, fountains, and forest, all planted with rare and exotic flora collected on plant-hunting expeditions by five successive generations of the McLaren family.
It felt like walking through Narnia, and, lower down where it’s wilder, Middle Earth. It’s easily one of the highlights of our trip so far, and Snowdonia’s hidden gem, nestled right there among the sheep farms.
In the lily ponds, hundreds of tadpoles had just grown into frogs, and were trying out their new legs, crawling out and hopping around in the grass. Karen made friends with one. We think Lily and Savannah will like him.
We couch surfed at the home of Daryl, an English botanist, Janna, a German girl working on a PhD in ocean science, and Tom, who is also studying the sea. We ate delicious omelettes, bread dipped in some kind of French melty cheese (I forget the name), burned toast (“It’s not done until the smoke alarm goes off”), cake, and lemoncello, and they told us all about the fascinating, if brutal, hunting habits of dolphins and orcas (yes, Ben & Alex, killer whales!). Daryl gave us a quick tour of the town, including a row of shops that aren’t real shops, but are actually sets for a Welsh TV show that is shot in Menai Bridge. Visitors get really confused trying to go in and buy things. The show is called Rwnd-y-Rwnd, I think. (In Welsh, w’s function as vowels, like the “u” sound, or “ou”). They also pay Daryl to use his front door as one of the exteriors in the show, with characters going in and out. Look it up out YouTube, his is the black door with the number 2. We had set off to see Harry Potter filming locations, but never dreamed we’d also stumble into the set of an obscure Welsh TV show. Too had they weren’t filming while we were there. We could have been famous. I mean “famws.”
Pembroke’s beach, Freshwater West, is home to Fleur and Bill Weasley. Shell Cottage was used as a safe haven for many witches and wizards during the dark ages and Bill Weasley is the secret keeper for the cottage. Just near Shell Cottage Dobby was laid to rest by Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Luna.
While visiting Holyhead, we were able to glimpse the Holyhead Harpies- Wales’ National Quidditch Team practicing for their Saturday match.
We also had time to visit the burial ground of one of Wales’ most famous witches, Helga Hufflepuff.