There is something suspicious about the European public transportation system. For example, yesterday I took a two hour ferry ride from Dublin to the tiny town of Holyhead, Wales. In Holyhead, I walked down a short hallway to get on a train. An hour later, the train stopped two blocks from my hotel in Conwy, another tiny Welsh town. Really?
Since I am American, I kept thinking “what’s the catch?” Probably the ferry really doesn’t leave every hour for Holyhead. Or the ferry doesn’t actually dock near the train. Maybe the train doesn’t really stop in Conwy. But none of my fears had any basis in reality.
And the train ride was really nice. Real seats with little tables, clean and quiet. Between Holyhead and Conwy, there is almost nothing but gorgeous Welsh countryside, which is a lot like the Irish countryside except that the sheep and the cows are in the same pastures. I had never seen that before but everyone seemed to be getting along.
Besides pastures of sheep and cows, the train went through this town:
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is Welsh for “St Mary’s Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel near a Rapid Whirlpool and the Church of St. Tysilio near the Red Cave.” It is a town of 3,000. It employs people whose job descriptions include telling tourists how to pronounce the town’s name.
Four stops after Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, I was in Conwy, which is so cute and tiny I was reminded of “Welsh rare bit” (get it?). Welsh rarebit is actually cheese sauce on toast. Although it is not a very interesting dish, Welsh rarebit, the name, has an interesting history. http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2014/07/origin-welsh-rabbit/. The short version is that hundreds of years ago, it was ironically called “Welsh rabbit” because someone who wanted rabbit had to eat cheese sauce. And then the name changed to class it up a little.
Anyway, Conwy is very attractive for many reasons. Its old town is circled by an impressive medieval wall designed to protect a medieval castle that sits above a beautiful beach. The streets are lined with traditional townhouses and lovely brownstones that house banks and shops. Pots of brightly colored flowers line pathways and hang from doorways. Small fishing boats bob in a harbor. The town of Conwy is immaculate and historic and loved.
This morning I left my hotel to walk the perimeter of town along the top of the castle walls. The town is so small this only took about 15 minutes but the views of the hillsides and the Irish Sea were wonderful.
And then I walked through the adorable town where I discerned a theme. A lot of mature tourists were eating in authentic pubs and cafes. A lot of mature tourists were strolling through small art galleries and milling around the castle. A lot of mature tourists were walking along the harbor path. I saw more B&Bs than ATM machines.
I am glad I came to Conwy and I am sorry I didn’t know in advance about the Bluegrass Festival here this weekend. With its many talented young musicians and student backpacker audiences…
Tomorrow, I will get back on the train and probably go to a place where I will occasionally smell ganja smoke drifting out of a window or see somebody with body piercings. Maybe I will have to dodge three 20-somethings walking abreast on the sidewalk. Maybe I will stay in a hostel or die my hair green….