So I am off on adventure #2 in 2022: Wales and Scotland ending with two days at the 150th “Open” at St. Andrews.
My trip started with a day in London and a lot of unknowns. I had landed in the middle of a three day rolling strike by some of the railway unions. I had missed the first day (Tuesday), but landed in the middle of the second day (Thursday) which left me at Heathrow wondering if the Heathrow Express was running. It was, but only on an intermittent basis. Fortunately, I arrived about 30 minutes before the next scheduled train was leaving for Paddington. By 8:00 a.m., the train (with me safely in a seat) was heading towards London and Paddington Station. By 8:20, I was walking through Paddington and heading to my hotel close by. Unfortunately, Google Maps did not cooperate and sent me in a massive circle. Over half an hour later I was still walking in circles while pulling my luggage. I finally stopped a very kind traffic worker who pointed me in the correct direction and wouldn’t you know it … the hotel was literally a five minute walk straight out Paddington Station’s exit. Good grief.
Anyway, I checked into the hotel, had the desk manager store my luggage until my room was ready and then sat in the lobby and checked out the Tube map to figure out how to get to Richmond. The plan was to do a little wandering in the home of the Richmond Greyhounds and visit the Ted Lasso sites courtesy of a map I had found on the internet.
By the time I hit the road, the sun was out and the temperature was climbing. It was a rare gorgeous, hot day in London. Once I found the Paddington tube station, I bought my ticket and climbed on the Green train to Earl’s Court and then changed to the District train to Richmond. Easy peasy.
Once I left the Richmond station, I followed the map to the various sites. There was the theater from season one (site of the fundraiser), Rebecca’s house, Nate’s parents house, the car park where Keeley and Jamie had the Pavlovian talk, the promenade where Keeley and Roy had their first date along with the perch where the paparazzi was stationed and Gaucho, the restaurant where Roy, Keeley, Rebecca and John Wingsnight had the double date. But the coup de grace was the little square and alley where Ted’s flat is located, the phone booths and bench where Ted and Beard sit and of course the Prince’s Head Pub, aka the Crown and Anchor Pub as it is named in the show.
And of course I had to stop for a beer and low and behold, the bar actually had a little memorabilia corner dedicated to the Richmond Greyhounds and the show. Pictures, jersey and of course, a sign for Nelson Road. It was a pretty awesome way to spend an afternoon. (And the bartender told me that they average about 500 people a day who come by solely because of the show!)
So after my Ted Lasso afternoon, I jumped back on the tube, made my way to the hotel, changed, grabbed some dinner at a local pub and called it a day.
I was up early the next morning for (my fingers crossed) train to Bangor, Wales where I was going to ride up Snowden Mountain (the highest mountain in Wales) on a steam train. Fortunately, the strike was not being held on Friday, but was disrupting my Saturday plans to take the train from Bangor to Cardiff so the gentleman who was picking me up in Bangor and taking me to the hotel agreed to drive me from Llanberis (the location of the Snowden train) to Cardiff. The price was ridiculous, but I had no other way to get to Cardiff.
Anyway, when I arrived at Euston station, the train to Bangor was listed as 10 minutes late. Not bad. However, it went downhill from there. Once the platform number was listed for the train, there were literally hundreds of people rushing to platform 14 because all of the trains to Wales the day before (day of the strike) had been cancelled. And of course, there were far more people than seats. Not to worry I told myself, I have a reserved seat. Uh think again. Apparently they cut 5 cars from the train and with only 5 remaining cars some of us with reserved seats were out of luck. I had no idea what to do except get on the train and hope for the best. I literally went from car to car dragging my luggage looking for a seat. Finally, a young woman with two children sitting in separate seats gave up a seat for me (thank you lady with the very noisy, but charming children from Holyrood). Once seated, I put in my ear plugs and dozed in out for the 3 ½ hour trip.
Once the train arrived in Bangor, I dragged my luggage off the train, met my driver and was ensconced in the Management Hotel (part of Bangor University) within 15 minutes. I wandered back to the little town in search of lunch, found a funky little place, had a fabulous chicken sandwich and was back at my hotel by 4:30. I ended up reading for a bit, but by 7:30 I was sacked out. The time change was still a bit of a challenge. And, unfortunately, my grand nephew decided it would be fun to call me about the hockey game, forgetting that I was 8 hours ahead of him, so I was awakened out of a dead sleep around 3:00 a.m. Thanks little dude! And then it was virtually impossible to go back to sleep. The wind was howling outside and it sounded like it was pouring so the next couple hours was a pretty restless sleep.
I finally got up around 5:30 a.m. and decided to go for a walk. As it turned out, it was gorgeous outside, albeit a little chilly. I wandered around the grounds, grabbed some breakfast and then jumped in the car with my driver and headed to Llanberis. I got a quick tour of the area (there was even remnants of a castle) before going to pick up my train ticket for the steam train ride up Snowden Mountain.
Now the mountain is a huge tourist attraction and there were literally hundreds of people milling about getting set to hike up the mountain. And looking at the skies, I thought this was a bit of risky proposition. While it was still sunny in Llanberis, the clouds over the mountain were dark and it was blowing really hard. Yikes. No thank you.
By 10:30, we were loaded on the little steam train and off on the 45 minute ride up the mountain. Unfortunately, the train was not going to the top this year because of track repairs, but we were supposed to go about 2/3 of the way up to Clogwyn Station. Once on the train, the schedule, we were told, was probably going to change again because of the high winds and might only go as far as halfway up the mountain. Thanks Mother Nature!
Anyway, as we chugged along up Mount Snowdon, we passed houses near the station, waterfalls, a little forest and then open fields filled with sheep and cows. We eventually passed the ruins of an old church, and on the other side of the train we passed a long line of hikers. Now at this point, while it was windy, it was still sunny. However, that soon changed and by the time we reached the first checkpoint, the rain started up. And while it made for lousy picture taking, at least we were dry and could still see the scenery. The poor hikers were getting pelted with rain and winds.
As we continued up the mountain, the scenery changed from green pastures to rocky hillsides. Eventually we reached the midway point and continued on for another ten minutes or so before we had to take a wind reading and … it was a no go. So at this point, the train was put in reverse and we headed back down the mountain in the wind and rain. And of course as we headed lower, the rain and wind let up. But the reprieve was short lived. Once we got off the train, the rain and hail hit us. Yikes! What wacky weather.
I had planned to hike up to see the remains of the castle before meeting my driver for the trip to Cardiff, but the weather made it a no go. I ended up in a pub for a drink and some hot soup and then went to a fish and chip shop for lunch and ended with a cup of hot tea and a piece of cake at the neighboring coffee shop.
By 2:00, we were on the road to Cardiff. Now I am not sure what I expected on the drive across Wales, but I swear if I blinked during the drive I missed a change in scenery. We passed through little forests, tiny villages, rolling hills, mountains, farmlands and then repeat. I swear that the scenery changed as much as the weather. One minute it was brilliant sunshine and then the next it was clouded over and pouring rains (with some hail thrown in) and once that was over, the sun would come back out. And the temperature fluctuations were hysterical. At one point there was a 5 degree swing in the span of 5 minutes.
The villages were probably my favourite part of the trip. Gorgeous stone houses surrounded by rolling hills and lovely little flower gardens. We also stopped at a beautiful reservoir that had been visited by Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 (at least that is what the plaque said).
We finally rolled into Cardiff just after 6:30 p.m. just as a huge storm was pummeling the city with rain and hail. But like the entire trip, by the time we reached the city center, the sun was out and the skies were clearing. What a wacky country for weather. But, I can safely say I have seen more of Wales than I would have had I only taken the train. So there is that!