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Tuesday, May 23, 2000

Today would be very different from any other day to this point. Today would be a driving day. We needed to be in Ruthin, Wales by nightfall. Ruthin is located in the North Wales. Driving directly there would probably take 3 hours or so, but we planned on taking a more scenic route.

We were up at 7 a.m. and carried our bags downstairs in time for breakfast. None of us wanted to climb 57 stairs back to the room. Once again breakfast was very good. We talked with another couple that was also going to Ruthin that day. They also had plans to attend the Ruthin Castle Banquet the next night, as did we.

After breakfast I went to get the car. I parked in the street in front of the B&B, and we quickly loaded the car so we wouldn't block traffic very long. With only a couple of wrong turns I found my way out of Bath. We first stopped for gas at an Esso (80.9 per litre, 44.5 litres, £36) before heading out of town. We also drove through Pennsylvania, England.

We reached the M4. This is a 6-lane road where you zip along, and we soon were approaching Wales. To reach Wales you cross Bristol Bay over the a toll bridge. I had some fun kidding Pat that we needed Welsh money to pay the toll.

Our first stop today was to be the Roman Baths and Amphitheater in Caerleon. Caerleon is a small town located on a small road. The Roman Baths are in a very nice covered building. These are not as impressive as the baths in Bath but were worth the stop - besides, our Heritage Pass got us in for free. There is also another Roman Museum next door that we did not visit.

The amphitheater is a few blocks away, and this was what makes stopping here worthwhile. Standing in the middle of the theater you can imagine a crowd of 5 or 6 thousand people watching some ancient sporting event. All morning it had been alternating between a slight drizzle and a heavy rain. With it starting to pour, we decided to skip the old Roman fort in the adjacent field and headed out of town.

About an hour later we stopped in the town of Llandovery Bwyty at the West End Café. This is a very local diner filled with local diners having dinner. Pat had soup, bread and a hamburger. Alan had chicken, peas, and chips. I had Bangers and Mash. Afterwards, Alan and I both purchased ice cream for a dessert. One thing we had noticed this day was the small roadside "portable" snack bars where hot dogs, hamburgers, etc. were being sold. These seemed to be very popular and there was always a car or two stopped at them. Makes me want to watch the movie "The Van" again starring Colm Meany.

It was now time to go on the Wild Wales Tour. This is a scenic drive outlined in the Eyewitness Guide to England that takes you through the heart of Wales and starts just outside of Llandovery Bwyty. With the rain this was a good day just to drive and sightsee. I only hoped it wouldn't turn foggy and cover the mountains - which luckily it didn't.

The tour is about 80 miles long if you don't make any wrong turns. At one point we missed a turn and drove 10 miles down a one lane, roller-coaster type road before realizing we were going the wrong way. It wasn't until we came to the next intersection that we realized our mistake. We had a choice to go a different way or to turn around and go back. I decided to go back and off we went. The amazing thing is that on this entire 20 mile round-trip I believe we only passed one other car.

A funny thing about Wales (and England) is that you find phone booths are the most unusual locations. You will be twenty miles from nowhere, turn a corner, and there on the side of the road is a red phone booth. In fact, these booths are even indicated on road maps!

If you enjoy mountains you will enjoy Wales. We were ooohing and aaahing to our hearts content. And I thought Ireland had sheep....I don't think they have any sheep compared to Wales. We did stop at the Llyn Brianne Dam, Spillway and Reservoir. No one else was there and we had the place to ourselves. The reason no one else was there was it was about 10 degrees Celsius, the wind was blowing at gale force, and there was very fine steady rain coming down. That didn't stop us from getting out and walking around.

We continued to drive around the Reservoir working our way up and down the windy mountain road. It was getting late in the day so we decided to skip some of the tour and head in a more direct route for Ruthin. I had let our hostess know that we would be there by 6:30 p.m. in an email I sent out before I left for England. If we weren't there by 6:30 I would call. We made a quick stop in Madynlleth for a toilet break and continued on our way.

Ruthin is nestled in a wide valley between large barren hills. The views driving in to town are beautiful. We reached Ruthin right at 6:30. I had a map and the address but was unable to locate our B&B. Finding ourselves in the town center I stopped at a phone booth to call. It turned out we had driven by the place and were only two blocks away. Our hostess met us on the street and told us where we could park on the street behind the inn. We ended up parking inside a small lot in a gate. I thought this was where our hostess said we could park but she meant on the street. However, she said we could leave the car there and it would be fine.

We were staying at the Manor House B&B. The Manor House is actually more of a small inn. There is a small pub/restaurant on the premises as well as another pub in the basement that wasn't opened while we were there. We had two separate rooms. Pat and Alan had a room with two single beds and I took a second room that had a double and a single bed.

We first walked to a nearby grocery store and looked around for a while. I purchased some water and Alan purchased another magazine. We dropped these off at the room before going out to find somewhere to eat. We stopped in one pub but it didn't look very appetizing. Our next stop was the Seven Eyes Restaurant and Wine Bar located on the city center square.

Alan had prawns, vegetables and fries. Pat had the Chef's Pie (chicken and ham), cauliflower, carrots and a baked potato. I ate about half of this myself and it was delicious. I ordered curry chicken and rice that was also very good. I also ordered another hard cider.

We were back at the room by 8:30. I was very tired from driving all day. There was a TV in my room and I kicked back to enjoy some good British entertainment. There was a very amusing show about traffic accidents....ok, it wasn't really amusing at all. I finally fell asleep about 10:30. I had my window open and there was loud traffic noise all night. This was a drastic change from the previous night.

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