In keeping with our plans for this trip, we had nowhere to be today until our 1:00 boat ride. After a full Welsh breakfast (remarkably like an English one, sans baked beans), we set out to see St. David’s cathedral, the only cathedral in Wales.
The problem was the Vikings, who had a habit of crossing the sea to pillage and plunder, so the builders sited the cathedral in a hollow where only the top of the tower appears from the town, in hopes that no one would notice it. Their plan was not entirely successful (the cathedral was sacked seven times, most recently in 1078), but it does make for a breathtaking reveal. You walk through the gatehouse, having seen only the tower, and there at your feet is an imposing building, hiding in plain sight. This was all we could see from the road the evening before.
Inside, the highlights are a beautiful wooden ceiling, the playful carvings on the misericords, and a casket holding the bones of St. David himself! We had a very pleasant walk around and then wandered over to the remains of the Bishop’s Palace next door. Only walls and what’s left of an extensive parapet are still there, so we made short work of it. Exit through the gift shop (slate coasters) and back into town in search of an early lunch.
We found sandwiches at a little cafe and packed them along as we set out for St. Justinians, where the boat leaves from the lifeguard station. Though it’s only two miles away, the boat people recommended leaving half an hour for the trip, I guess because the narrow roads could be filled with traffic from fellow tourists. We made it in good time and without nicking any other cars we passed, and ate our sandwiches on the site.
The boats for the Voyages of Discovery leave from the St. Justinian’s lifeboat station which we should have visited. The station is high up in the air, in preparation for high seas, I guess, allowing the lifeboats to be lowered as needed. Our launch, on a big inflatable boat, was in the water far below the station.
We borrowed heavy waterproof jackets that kept us warm but also made us look like Michelin men. Luckily, we will never see these people again, so who cares! Toby was our guide, obviously well educated, especially in geology, and interested in wildlife. His commentary was somewhat canned, but entertaining.
We went into caves, of which there are many along the coast of Ramsey, and then saw some seal pups onshore, plus the ‘Bachelor seals’ consisting of adult seals and young male seals, who sun themselves on a beach while the pups are born and raised. The bull seals had the most amazing whiskers.
Toby also pointed out the lichens, some of which thrive on sea water, others not so much; the fulmars that have the habit of vomiting a horrible substance that keeps other birds away; a gannet flying off over the water; a shag, and then puffins. Or were they?
As we rounded another corner of the island, Toby cautioned us to be quiet because this was a great photo opp. Wet thought we wouldn’t see puffins here, but… could it be? No, of course not, it was a joke for the tourists. An infestation of rats about eight years ago made the puffins stop nesting here, but the Royal whoevers have installed plastic puffins to encourage them to return, now that the rats are gone. This year puffins visited for several weeks, but since they have not yet bred here, it can’t be counted a success – yet.
All in all, the trip was great. We were both a little wary of this inflatable boat, especially when it bounced up and down on the waves, but we surrendered to it and had a good time. At the end, of course, the driver felt compelled to make a big figure eight that made us lean first to one side, the to the other, which you either love or hate. But all in all, well worth it.
Returning to St. Davids, we spent a pleasant hour or more napping, reading, connecting online, and not worrying that the pleasures of St. Davids lay at our feet while we diddled about. A little before 6:00, we returned to the cathedral for evensong.
A visiting choir was singing tonight. The soprano, though a bit breathy, sang Mendelssohn’s Wings of a Dove with piercing beauty, well supported by the rest of the choir. The minister, who read tales of betrayal from both Old and New Testaments, was very jolly as he greeted us on departure (and greeted us again in his civvies at the Saffron Restaurant). It was a wonderful moment of beautiful music in a most imposing setting.
Dinner at the Saffron, the only Indian restaurant in town, was quite good, spiced up with discussions of faith and the belief in belief. Goodnight and sleep tight.