A Weekend in Wales
let’s call this YELLOW for the year-round blooms of gorse on God Bodwain
Where to start describing my mini-sojourn on a northwestern peninsula of Wales?
The first bite of my Cheesy Leeks might do.
Their arrival in a small ceramic side dish with my Sunday Special lunch order of roast beef made for an especially memorable moment. Accompanied by a half-pint of Robinson’s “mild” and the companionable faces around the table at Y Bryncynan pub at Morfa Nefyn, the lunch was just one of several scrumptious meals I shared with the Chapman/Watkins family. Many punctuated, as expected, with cups of tea.
Maddy and Martin (of Charlottesville), Ellen and Elliott (of Williamsburg), plus Katie and Sophie (of London) were the good souls sharing their own Wales family gathering with me at Maddy and Katie’s dad Jim’s home in Llannor, just outside of Pwllheli (say Poch-quelli with a kind of back-of-the-throat breath on the “q”. I think that’s right, anyway.)
Our Sunday lunch followed a healthy hike up the sometimes rocky escarpment of God Bodwain. A group photo on the top was requisite, of course, after stops along the way to admire increasingly spectacular views of Cardigan Bay to the south or the town of Nefyn on the narrow Llyn peninsula to the northwest. More than once we also stopped to pick the small blueberry-like birberries (sometimes called winberries) and ripe blackberries.
After arriving the day before in a bit of rain squall, five of us had visited the historic home, Plas Glyn y Weddw, in Llanbedrog, now turned art gallery and cafe, perched above a curve of beach where we all walked off hearty slices of cake and banoffee pie.
Accompanied by tea.
The next day our Sunday pub lunch was followed by a second favorite family stroll along the curve of another beach, the one we spotted from the peak of our hike, Port Dillaen. Wales, a country within the United Kingdom, is known for its 1,500 kilometers (750 miles) of coastline. With rock and sand mixed shorelines, water temperatures in the 60s even in the summer, and sometimes steep access stairs from the cliff-like headlands, this is hardly the same Atlantic Ocean that Virginians visit in great numbers along the Carolina beaches.
Maddy and her sister Katie remarked how quiet and isolated Porth Dillaen had been when they visited the beach as young girls with their mum and dad. A DJ under a tent, and lots of wet-suit clad children were part of the busy scene on our August afternoon.
Jim Watkins, Maddy’s father, at 91, was a most generous and gracious host all weekend long, chartering a mini-bus Saturday to carry us from the train station at Bangor to his white-painted stone cottage in Llannor. An early document in loopy cursive suggests the old farm structure dates to the mid-1800s. Low ceilings, natural wood beams and massive fireplaces spoke to a rugged past. Bookcases lined with travel guides, computer monitors, an electric kettle and a grand piano spoke to a more comfortable present. An elegant dinner Sunday evening at Tremfan Hall could have belonged to either time frame, but with orders of Louisiana Sea Bass and a Chilean red wine, we claimed it for the current day.
I probably first met Jim when he and his wife traveled to Charlottesville in the late 1980s, when the Silers and the Chapmans were next-door neighbors. Many holidays and graduation parties have reinforced our friendly relationship. Ellen and Elliott’s wedding added another. To have those two with us on this weekend jaunt only made more of a pleasant muddle of Virginia and British conversations. I have my fingers crossed Jim will make another trip “across the pond” at Christmas. By then the Chapmans will have been back for months, but me just for a few days.
Even as I begin to relax enough to appreciate my UK travels and daily suitcase checks, my brain is still stretching to comprehend the full scope of my journey that is already well underway.