Betws-y-Coed, Wales: Day 3

On Sunday after breakfast, everyone checked out of their rooms to make the journey back to Harlaxton with a few stops along the way.

Our first stop into our drive was Swallow Falls in Snowdonia National Park. Visitors pay 2 pounds to see the marvel and let me say the view did not disappoint! Honestly, who doesn’t love a waterfall?

After the brief waterfall pitstop, we continued onwards to Betws-y-Coed. This village is just downstream from Swallow Falls and has numerous local shops, hiking trails, and cute cafes and restaurants.

Since I had only a couple of hours at Betws-y-Coed and the weather lovely, I decided to do one of the shorter hiking trails before grabbing a quick lunch and hopping back onto the bus. I chose to do the easiest and shortest path that went along the river. With the sunny weather, trees, and river rushing by me, I felt so relaxed and just in awe of the Welsh nature.

Once I wrapped up my hike, I went and grabbed a quick lunch from a cafe. I opted for a brie, cranberry, and bacon panini, which was fantastic! The cafe also had traditional Welsh cakes too. Of course, I purchased one to try! I would say the Welsh cake is dense like a biscuit in pancake form. The “pancake” had cranberries and sugar coating the outside, which made it sweet.

Cranberry Welsh Cake!

After my quick lunch, I walked around and stumbled upon an Art Gallery dedicated to exposing poaching and saving wild animals. The artwork and photographs were vivid and unique.

An orangutan sculpture made from beach waste

By the time I finished looking around the art gallery, I had to get back on the bus for the remainder of the drive back to Harlaxton.

My time in Wales was very relaxing and beautiful! I am glad I decided to go on this trip last minute with the school. If I were to return, I would probably spend my time hiking in the National Parks versus staying along the coast because I feel the Welsh nature is worth exploring and I did not exactly get the time to hike.

I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

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Caernarfon Castle & Llechwedd Slate Caverns: Day 2

After breakfast at the hotel, I boarded the bus to head to Caernarfon Castle. This castle was built by King Edward I in the late 13th century. In British Studies, I had learned about Edward I’s reign and how he built several castles throughout Wales to exude his dominance over the country. I was looking forward to connecting the information I learned in class to the physical evidence in real life.

Once we arrived at Caernarfon, I found myself seeing a quaint little town nestled near the coast. Our whole group walked to the castle entrance where we were given our tickets and permitted to go inside the castle to explore and learn at our leisure. I headed to one of many entrances and scaled the spiraling staircase to the top of a turret and saw a wonderful view of the town. During my time at the castle, I continued to go up and down the sets of stairs (there were quite a lot) and walked along the wall connecting all parts of the Caernarfon Castle. In the first few areas I went, there was not any information regarding the construction of the castle. As I made my way around, however, there happened to be informational exhibits about the myth behind the castle, Wales’ role in wars throughout history, and the well-known and highly regarded Queen Eleanor of Castile, wife to Edward I. Truly, my photographs do not adequately capture the size of the castle and its maze of passageways and stairways.

After exploring for 1.5-2 hours, I left the castle in search of lunch and to explore the quaint town.

For every country or city I visit, I have been trying to purchase a Christmas ornament. My goal is to have an international Christmas tree in my home that brings about memories of my travels when I put it up each year. However, I do not purchase just any plain ornament from a tacky tourist shop. I seek out local stores that sell ornaments made in the country and made by local artisans (if possible).

The reason I bring up my ornament mission is I happened to find a local shop selling handmade ornaments in Caernarfon. I selected a slate ornament with a red sparkly dragon on the front, which pays homage to the Welsh flag. When I made my purchase, I spoke with the shop owner about the ornament purchases I have previously made during my European travels. Come to find out, his wife had handmade the ornament I purchased and the slate is Welsh. He said himself shopping local in tourist destinations truly makes a difference for the local community. His shop specifically serves as a storefront for 30 different Welsh artisans. With both of my parents being small business owners and self-employed, I found myself relating to his statement. Local purchases make a HUGE impact for families in small towns and tourist destinations. Maybe it seems like I am rambling, but I hope that this little off-tangent blurb will cause you to intentionally seek out local businesses to purchase souvenirs. For me, I have found my ornaments hold a lot more meaning to me because of the care that has been put into each unique piece. Just some food for thought!

Speaking of food, I ended up at a local cafe for lunch with some students and had a falafel sandwich. Absolutely delicious!

A falafel sandwich with some fresh greens! Yum!

After lunch, I boarded the bus again with my cohorts to go to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns for an underground tour. During the tour, we went underground and learned how slate used to be mined in the 1700s-1970s. I saw rickety ladders the workers went up and down, the chains in which the men would wrap around themselves carefully to avoid cutting off circulation, and the tools used for harvesting the slate. Our guide’s father and grandfather both worked in the slate mines. He experienced firsthand the detrimental impact of mining slate on a workers’ health through his family. The tour lasted about 1.5-2 hours and all-in-all was very interesting!

So much slate!

When the slate tour concluded, everyone hopped back onto the bus to head back to Llandudno for the evening where a beautiful sunset greeted us. In the distance, you can vaguely see the offshore windmills working hard to generate power.

Sunset at Llandudno, Wales

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo

Llandudno, Wales: Day 1

On Friday morning, I boarded a bus at 8:30 am to head to Llandudno, Wales.

I elected to do the Northern Wales trip with the school for a few different reasons:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed my day trip to Lincoln, England. The courier for that day trip said, “If you love Lincoln, you will love the Northern Wales trip!” Well, sign me up!
  2. By visiting Wales, I would have seen the entirety of the United Kingdom.
  3. I do not think I would ever travel to Europe to specifically visit Wales; therefore, I figured I should grasp the opportunity before me to see another part of the U.K.

After driving for three hours, we stopped near the England/Wales border in the town of Chester, England. This city is known primarily for its clock, which is the second most photographed clock after Big Ben. Chester also holds a lot of Roman and medieval history, which is seen through the remnants of an amphitheater and the wall that surrounds the city respectively.

We were given roughly three hours of free time in Chester. My friend, Tenshi, and I started off by visiting Chester Cathedral. Admission to the church is free, but donations are accepted. The interior of the cathedral was very beautiful and had a courtyard area with a fountain. There were volunteers selling lego bricks to help fund the building of a 4-meter high replica of the cathedral out of legos. Pretty cool!

When we had our fill of the church, Tenshi and I walked towards the Roman amphitheater to eat our packed lunches in the sunshine. The weather in England has been unseasonably warm and sunny as of late. I am not complaining! On our way, we saw the famous clock of Chester and walked down the shopping area known as the Rows.

Our next stop happened to be another church, which was much smaller. Then, we decided to head down to the river where a super cute suspension bridge served as a walking path.

Next, Tenshi and I walked to a nearby set of steps that would take us up onto the wall that surrounds Chester. We walked on the wall for a little bit until we arrived under the clock and back to the Rows again. At which point, Tenshi and I disembarked and traversed the Rows during the rest of our free time. I was surprised at the lack of local shops in Chester. Perhaps Tenshi and I did not go to the area of the city with local businesses. We mostly encountered chain stores.

At 2:30 pm, I hopped back onto the bus for the 1.5-hour drive to our final destination: the coastal city of Llandudno, Wales.

Around 4 o’clock, the bus arrived at the hotel. I checked in, ditched my suitcase, and headed outside to walk around this beachy town before sunset.

Like Chester, I did not find there to be a lot of small businesses in Llandudno. Granted, February is the off-season for a beach town so some stores may close up shop during the winter.

However, the town had a great little hike that provided a fabulous view of the city.

After my hike, I decided to walk to the opposite side of the town to catch the end of the sunset.

A beautiful Welsh sunset!

When the sun sunk below the horizon, I went in search of dinner. I ended up at a pub with Tenshi and two other Harlaxton students. Once dinner wrapped up, I headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Leave a positive impression,

Sydney xo