Wednesday, March 3, 2010: Our tour bus navigated the narrow roads of Wales — the driver bent over the enormous steering wheel on what, to me, was the wrong side of the vehicle. Of course, the traffic was all coming at us on the wrong side of the shoulder-less highway as well. I was just glad not to be driving, as intersections seemed to all be little roundabouts without the straight driving lanes I was used to, being from Saskatchewan.
One of the group asked about the speed limits, and our bus driver, Chris, told us that buses were limited to 60 mph and cars to 70 mph, which seemed enough given the width of the road. Seeing a small car take over $80 worth of fuel at the gas station also proved that the gas in Wales was much more than the $1 per liter I was paying back home!
Along the roadside, the fields were green, even though it was still the first week of March. Sheep grazed in the pastures — Chris advised us that it was lambing season coming up, so there weren’t many young ones yet. We were, I guessed, a good two or three weeks ahead of the leaves coming out, even though the temperature was 5 degrees Celsius.
Welshpool lay beyond a detour and road construction, something common no matter where in the world you travel! I was booked for the night into the historic Royal Oak Hotel in this interesting little market town.
The Royal Oak had the homey feel of the farmhouse I’d grown up in, with its plaster walls and original woodwork, along with a couple of small parlors for guests to relax and visit in. My room was at the top of two sets of stairs, tucked away behind another set of doors and hallways. It was like the old houses I’d always been drawn to as a child, with nooks and twists to always provide new discoveries.
My room was comfortable, with a lovely old headboard on an amazingly soft bed made up with fine white linens. The desk had an Internet hookup, which connected easily. A small couch made a good place to leave my coat, rather than using the closet. I was also happy to find a completely renovated bathroom with a deep tub for soaking in!
A walk around Welshpool revealed a variety of shops, from groceries to shoes and hardware to a whole window full of jars of candy for Mother’s Day. Buildings were mostly brick, some in their original red, others painted neutral colors. The only disconcerting thing I discovered on my walk was that both the paved streets and brick sidewalks were narrow, so when a bus passed, I felt the whoosh of air as it rolled by close enough to reach out and touch.
Stores closed early, so at 5 p.m. many were window shopping only, and by 5:30 p.m. most of the rest had put away their goods, except for the grocery.
My walk done, I wandered back to the hotel, snapping pictures, getting used to the cadence of the local accent as people passed me, deep in conversation with their companions. Dinner was next on my list of activities.
Here’s a YouTube video of the Olympic Flame in Welshpool in May, 2012: