Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wales

It takes a long time to get to Wales from England via train (especially if you buy the cheap seats) and even longer to get to a small town from one of the larger cities with a train station. I left the house in Basingstoke around 1 pm, and finally settled into my room in Lampeter around 9. In between came two trains and two buses. This trip's travel was by far the most stressful for me because it was the least prepared. I could only plan my trip in advance as far as Aberystwyth, and I counted on being able to find help locating the proper bus to Lampeter. Luckily, everybody in Wales is so nice. A helpful bus driver told me exactly what I was doing, and during the two bus rides, I chatted with a computer science professor headed in the same direction as me. We spoke about the Welsh language, the Welsh countryside, the tragic and disastrous reorganization of the University of Wales system, the history of railway and ship travel in Wales, how he ended up in computer science after majoring in Welsh, and many more fascinating topics. I've always dreamed of having an evening in the UK to just listen to an elderly gentleman talk about his life and his experience of British culture.

Wales is stunningly beautiful, and rainy (currently), and full of sheep. The gentleman on the bus told me why there are so many sheep everywhere: they can't really grow crops here. Rolling green hills divided into fields by hedges; bushy trees; and sheep everywhere. Here are some photos taken from the train window:

 




 Finally I arrived in Lampeter, this "quirky college town," as my contact in the library described it. It was a little eerie to walk away from the train station towards the university. My phone couldn't get any internet, so I was reliant on the instructions the bus gentleman had given me. None of the shops were open, and there were very few cars and people. The street felt deserted, as did the campus. It took me a while to figure out where I was supposed to go to check in for my stay at the university. Yet again, a friendly passerby came to my rescue! And once I arrived at reception, everything got easy. The folks who work here are among the cheeriest I've met; the dorm room is really cozy; the library is right across the way; and in the daytime, there are plenty of shops, bakeries, and cafes.

The original college building, which houses all kinds of things including the room I stayed in and the university chapel.
A view of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David Lampeter campus
Another view of campus
They take their rugby seriously here. Rugby was introduced to Wales from Lampeter.

In a way, Wales feels like Montreal: every sign is bilingual, with the non-English language given precedence. In theory (though not always in practice--occasionally the order is reversed), every sign is supposed to be in Welsh first, then English. The government has mandated this, although the bus gentleman told me that only about 1 in 5 Welsh people actually still speak Welsh. I've no idea if this statistic is true, especially since I've heard a lot of Welsh being spoken around me. It's a beautiful language. I still can't figure out what it reminds me of (German, maybe?), and I've no idea how to pronounce any of it. Written Welsh all seems to have either too many consonants or too many vowels.

After a solid day's work at the archive, I had a bit of time to wander the town. By now, of course, as is usual in Wales (apparently), it was drizzling, but I didn't mind a bit. I didn't have anywhere to be, and I didn't need to be all that presentable. I popped into several charity shops, looking for a wool jumper (with all these sheep around, surely they've got properly warm sweaters here?). I didn't find one, but I did walk away with a book. (Typical.)

I am drawn to churches like a moth to the flame. This one, the Roman Catholic St Peter's Church, wasn't actually open, but it was still worth walking around.
St Peter's has a sizable churchyard
You can't actually see them in this photo, but the far hill is also dotted with sheep.
A view of Lampeter from the churchyard.
A view of Lampeter from the top of a hill. Wales is so pretty!
Seriously, sheep are everywhere, even in town!
My brain is a little fried from the archival work today, so I plan to settle in for a movie night and dinner of  a crusty roll, a ball of mozzarella, a whole thing of strawberries, and a pair of mini custard tarts. In the morning, I'll attend Morning Prayer at the university chapel, check out, and catch one of the hourly buses back to Aberystwyth. I'll have plenty of time for lunch there before catching the first of my two trains back to Basingstoke. It's been a wonderful trip to gorgeous and charming Wales, and I sort of regret doing such comprehensive photo-taking that I shouldn't need to return to Lampeter to view these books again!

2 comments:

  1. Came across your blog while searching for recent photos of Lampeter. It's so weird to see through your photos how the University campus has changed since I left back in 2002. Thanks for making me melancholic in such a nice way. Take care and enjoy your trips, life is full of surprises! Greetings from Greece.

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    1. I'm so delighted to have provided you with a nostalgic moment. I had a marvelous time in Wales and I hope your school experience there was a great one.

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