This morning we had our last cooked-by-someone-else breakfast and bid farewell to Gloria and Rob. We had noticed the sign offering the B&B for sale, and Gloria had cheerfully alluded to their need for prayers when we mentioned we were off to the cathedral. It turns out that they had hope to retire a few years ago and only this week got a firm offer to buy the property. They are ready for something else to do, and who can blame them? It must be a hard life, and though Gloria is an effervescent extrovert with a warm manner and great sense of humor, even she must find it hard to greet people every day of the week. Plus she does all the cleaning and cooking, while Rob hauls the bags, serves breakfast and displays a dry sense of humor. We parted on very warm terms, us wishing them the best and hoping that the offer comes through.
Back into the car we went. Ah, the car. On the first day out of Cardiff it gave us an alarming message, Engine Failure, Repair Needed, complete with a loud warning bell and flashing red exclamation marks. Nothing happened, however, and though the message came up a few more times the car continued to drive normally. Once in St. Davids we managed, with some difficulty (why do mobile phones work only intermittently when you’re abroad, why?) to contact the company who contacted a mechanic (whom Rob happened to know, which was heartening) to check it out. In the end, he topped up some fluids but could find nothing wrong, so we are going on regardless.
The road from St. Davids to Aberystwyth, our first stop, revealed a new side of Wales. If, like me, you think of Wales as mining and mountains and dark woods, you’ll be surprised at how many sandy beaches it has. Some of the views were spectacular. The mostly level land around St. Davids gave way to hillier country where you could look over and see fields and sheep and cows and hedges (no stone walls here).
Coming in to Aberystwyth, we kept our eyes peeled for the National Library. I was hoping for a look at one of the original copies of the Mabinogion, but it and the Black Book of Carmarthen are no longer on permanent display, unfortunately. Instead we wandered through some mildly interesting exhibits, one on communication in Wales that probably meant a lot to the Welsh but was too insider for us, and another on great Welsh writers that included John Cowper Powys. I knew the name, but that’s all. Based on the exhibit, he is worth a better look.
After a light lunch in the cafe (featuring this classic library sign), we were on our way again. The countryside changed as we went farther north. Somewhere above Aberystwyth we realized that we were seeing stone walls instead of hedges. Also, the terrain changed dramatically, until we were staring up at hills that reminded us of Scotland or the Lake District: steep, bare and subtly colored in shades of brown, gray and green.
The country leveled out again as we neared the Menai Strait, the river-like sea that separates Anglesey from the mainland of Wales. We were searching for the Britannia Bridge (not the more famous Telford Bridge), after which we were to take the first exit and turn right. Well, we took an exit but it didn’t seem to be the right one. Reversing was a bit scary, especially when I came to a fork and couldn’t quite work out which side we were supposed to be on. But apart from a little honking and blinking of lights, the reversal was successful, and on our second attempt we found ourselves on the right road for Moelfre.
We found White Pebble Cottage without any trouble. Despite its name, it’s not a cottage so much as a townhouse kind of place, fairly newly built and very nicely done. The main floor flows from kitchen and dining table to living area, to a deck bordered with a small garden. Beyond is a little stream, separated from the walkway by a low fence. Two doors down appears to be a year-round resident, complete with dogs and washing on the line. The houses on either side of us appear to be empty or on holiday. Upstairs are two bedrooms and bath. All is new and Ikea-like and very comfortable, if not exactly what you picture with the words “a little cottage in Wales…”
At the cafe next door we asked about a grocery and were directed down the street to a small store that provided all the necessities except for ground coffee. We got back in the car and drove to Benllch where we’d spotted a Tesco and, with some difficulty slotting the car into the tiny car park, we successfully rounded out our shopping. Home again to scrambled eggs with cheese, toast and bacon. Yum!!