Hi there, my name is Anthony and I run ‘The Travel Tart – Offbeat Tales From a Travel Addict’. I write about the funny, offbeat and downright weird aspects of world travel today. Anyway, I was asked by the nice people at VisitBritain to write something about Wales, which I was more than happy to do. I visited Wales in July 2010 for a travel blogging trip – and I loved it!
Unfortunately, not many people manage to venture past the hustle and bustle of London when they visit Britain. But they are short changing themselves as Wales is a gem that’s only two hours by train from London, and has a tonne of things to offer.
After a while, I find London exhausting - sure, it’s a great place, but it becomes a bit cramped and in your face. So when I turned up to Cardiff and headed out into the Welsh countryside, I was feeling a lot more relaxed and looking forward to see what this small country had in store.
Now at first look, most people think of Wales as lots of sheep and rugby - like a New Zealand parallel universe. Sure, there are many things in Wales involving sheep, like watching sheep dog trials and buying something made from Sheep Poo PaperTM (yes, seriously! You should check out the ironic air freshener product!). But Wales is way more than lots of animals that look like big blobs of cotton wool against a lush green background that bleat continuously.
First of all, there is the unique language. One that I’m completely hopeless at comprehending. Sure, I only spent an afternoon learning some phrases, but I must have sounded like the Welsh version of Borat based on the amount of difficulty I had in recalling even the most basic words. Surely, a language that has the town name of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch in its vocabulary must be having a bit of fun at my expense! Apparently, this tongue twister means ‘The church of St. Mary in the hollow of white hazel trees near the rapid whirlpool by St. Tysilio’s of the red cave.’ I haven’t been there, but maybe the town sign is bigger than the town itself!
I think I only mastered how to order a beer in Welsh, but that’s not much of an achievement for me because I try to learn this essential phrase for any country I visit. But that’s okay. I like how the Welsh have kept this part of their culture going, and it’s great to hear the odd person conversing in the street. But don’t be afraid – everyone speaks English!
One of the most awesome adventure activities I’ve done in my life happened in Wales – it’s a thing called Coasteering. I’ve done skydiving, bungee swings, mountain biked down the world’s most dangerous road and even risked my life on a flatulent camel, but Coasteering is right up there in terms of fun and adventure. The name sounds strange- Coasteering is like canyoning, but along the coastline. This involves dressing up in a wetsuit and a helmet, traversing rocks and cliffs, and then jumping into the ocean to get to your next destination. There’s even a part where your whole group is pushed into a sea cave by the waves and it’s like being thrown around in a human washing machine. There’s nothing like letting nature determine what your next move is!
The Welsh countryside is worth having a drive around too. It’s a pretty place that’s dotted with quaint, charming towns (and pubs!), and this green landscape is often interrupted by the rugged coastline, or imposing mountains in the Snowdownia region.
If you like the great outdoors, Wales won’t disappoint with the variety of hiking trails and other fresh air activities to unwind that city stress. But the best thing about Wales is its people. There is always a helping hand around if you need it, and start chatting to a local for the first of many friendly encounters.
I also loved the quirky Welsh sense of humour, and no one takes themselves too seriously! That’s why you are more likely to receive a Visit Wales poncho as soon as you set foot into the country, when it rains! As an example of Welsh hospitality, one of the funniest nights out I have ever had was when our guide, Steve, from Griffin Guiding, told me to visit the Golden Cross Hotel that was across the road from my hotel for a pint of Brains Beer – the local brew.
I really like beer, and even have my own Beer Index that rates the affordability of a country. However, Steve forgot to tell me that it was drag queen night, but that didn’t matter because I managed to score a great interview with Mona and Fanny who were really great value! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC9d9HJ0t5Q.
So anyway, if you are planning to visit Britain soon – consider a detour to Wales. It’s not that far away from London, and you might just be surprised at what unique experiences this place can dish out. It truly punches well above its weight!