Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Down in the River To Say "Bore Da": Wales May/June 2014

Down in the River To Say "Bore Da": Wales May/June 2014

Jun 9th, 2014, 07:02 PM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Down in the River To Say "Bore Da": Wales May/June 2014

We returned Friday evening from two weeks in Wales with Mr. Pickle's a capella men's choir, de Profundis. I was one of the two main itinerary planners, and I'm happy to report that everyone had a great time and enjoyed all the activities.

Pictures (in process) and a briefer report are here: https://plus.google.com/photos/10725...LWcwM_VsoC8tgE

Friday, May 23rd

We left Albuquerque at 6:00 a.m. had a long layover in Minneapolis, then flew overnight to Amsterdam and finally to Manchester. Mr. Pickle and I had planned to sleep on the MSP to AMS leg of the trip, but the screaming toddler right behind us put a stop to that plan. When she wasn't crying, she either kicked the seat or reached between the seats to poke one or the other of us in the side. Oy!

In Manchester, we met Alan Bullock, owner of Bullocks Coaches, who loaded everyone (except the Pickles) on the bus so they could get money and visit the Imperial War Museum.

I must say how pleased we were with Bullocks. Alan went above and beyond the call of duty to make our trip pleasant. Our bus driver, Bill, was excellent, and did a little tour guiding as he drove. At the end of the trip, he drove several of us into London (we tipped him generously for this). When Bill had a day off, Alan sent him back to us with several bottles of Penderyn whisky. He supplied a great tour guide, at no extra cost, for the Gower peninsula, and came down to Bristol to bid us farewell. He even came to one of the concerts! If you ever need to charter a coach. I highly recommend Bullocks. http://www.bullockscoaches.net

Mr. Pickle and I had rented a car for the day so we could visit the Peak District. We figured if we slept on the plane, and took a nap somewhere along the road, we could get to Stanage Edge and hike a bit. We've done it before with no problems.

However, after we promptly got lost, and couldn't get on the right road even with really clear directions and a GPS, we realized driving wasn't a good idea. We returned the car about an hour after we'd picked it up and got on a city bus to Altrincham.

When we arrived at the Altrincham Lodge Hotel, our tour bus had beaten us there. I'm not sure many of the group really appreciated much of the Imperial War Museum due to lack of sleep and jet lag. We checked in, had some lunch at the pub next door, and took a short nap. In the evening, we walked up the street to the nearby Aldi, picked up snacks and some takeaway dinner at Shandaar http://www.shandaar.co.uk/ (really good!), and collapsed.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 10th, 2014, 03:30 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,825
Looking forward to more. Your pictures just confirm my desire to return to Wales one day!
texasbookworm is offline  
Jun 10th, 2014, 05:08 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 7,057
Enjoyed the pictures, and smiled at Rohan shot, as in "Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last."
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Jun 10th, 2014, 11:38 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
That's what I was thinking, Fra_Diavolo!

More pictures and report to follow in the next few days.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 13th, 2014, 01:37 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
I've posted more picures, up through the guys' concert at St. Fagans. On with the report!

Sunday, May 25th Manchester to Rhuddlan

A couple who gave us trip ideas, but wasn't able to go with us, arranged for the men to sing at the Sunday morning service at The Avenue Methodist Church in Sale. We had a really nice time. The morning's theme was "God's way of loving," and since the minister wanted someone from our group to speak, David, our director, asked Mr. Pickle to share on the topic. Everyone seemed to enjoy what he had to say, and it sparked some interesting conversations with folks in our group.

After lunch with the church congregation, we boarded our bus and drove to Rhuddlan for the next two nights. Originally, we'd planned a joint concert that evening at the Marble Church in nearby Bodelwyddan with the Trelawnyd men's choir, but the Trelawnyd group backed out due to the bank holiday.

We stayed at the Premier Inn in Rhuddlan; there aren't a lot of choices there, but everyone seemed to like the hotel. http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/RHUMOR/rhuddlan

We dropped our bags in our room and headed up the hill to Rhuddlan Castle. Bullocks had arranged for everyone to get the CADW pass at the group rate, and this was our first chance to use it. http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/rhu...astle/?lang=en

It was the anniversary of the Battle of Rhuddlan, and a group of reenactors spent the weekend at the castle showing people various crafts and skills. We missed the battle reenactment, but it was still fun climbing around the castle walls.

On our way back, we stopped at The Village Massala for some of the best Indian food I've ever enjoyed. We liked it so much we had dinner there the next evening as well. http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...les_Wales.html

In the evening, de Profundis sang at the Marble Church in Bodelwyddan. It's quite lovely and worth a stop. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marble_Church,_Bodelwyddan
Unfortunately, they didn't do much publicity (especially since the concert was intended to raise funds for church upkeep), so there weren't many people there. But the sound was really good, and I think everyone enjoyed the concert.

The guys did a mix of sacred and American pieces, with a couple of Celtic songs as well. My favorite odd bit was their arrangement of "Down In the River to Pray," followed by the Biebl Ave Maria.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 13th, 2014, 01:51 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Monday, May 26th Conwy and Eryrys

Today's important lesson: count the number of people on the bus *before* you leave the hotel in the morning. We didn't realize one couple had overslept and missed our departure time until we were ready to leave Conwy that afternoon. Picture 30-some jetlagged people saying, "Did anyone see E and C today?" and you get the picture.

As soon as we got off the bus, David assembled the guys by the car park to sing a "Welsh Greetings" song they'd memorized. It was the first of *many* times I'd hear "If you want to say 'good morning,' just say 'Bore da' " on the trip.

Mr. Pickle and I had visited Conwy Castle on our last trip to Wales, so we walked through St. Mary and All Saints churchyard to Plas Mawr. http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/plasmawr/?lang=en It's an Elizabethan townhouse, which we found to be very interesting. The narrations on the audio guide could have been better - they seemed to be more suitable for kids than adults. But we enjoyed it just the same.

The nice thing about Conwy is most of the historical bits are inside the city walls, so it's easy to walk where you want to go. We walked across the Telford suspension bridge to the tollkeeper's cottage, and learned a little about Telford, the bridge, and its restoration. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/conw...ension-bridge/

From there, we spent a few minutes in Aberconwy House (it's small and doesn't take long to see) http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/aberconwy-house/

After all the history, lunch beckoned. We stopped at Edwards of Conwy to get some takeaway items; I remember being impressed by the shop the last time we'd been in Conwy, but we didn't buy anything then. This time we had their excellent Welah lamb oggies - basically, it's a pasty.

After lunch and a stop at the Spar across the street (Mr. Pickle managed to split a seam in his slacks and we'd forgotten a sewing kit), we had enough time to walk along a portion of the town walls before we got back on the bus to Rhuddlan.

While Mr. Pickle fixed his trousers, I had dinner again at the Village Massala with other group members who had heard us rave about their food. Their portions are large, and I had plenty of leftovers for Mr. Pickle.

A friend of David's had arranged a last-minute get-together with the Cor Dewi Sant community choir in a tiny village called Eryrys. This was a *lot* of fun, overall. The community choir sang several pieces, then our guys sang several of their American numbers (spirituals, folk songs, a little doo-wop, etc.)

After the choirs finished, a man named Alan Birchall treated us to a rather rambling version of "Sixteen Tons." He was once a member of the George Mitchell Singers, who had a blackface minstrel show :-0 on the BBC in the late '50s and early '60s. If I remember correctly, he had something to do with helping to arrange our visit to this choir. At any rate, he was there and sang that song, as well as chiming in with our guys for another number.

Afterward, we had tea and biscuits with Cor Dewi Sant and their families and friends until someone broke out the '60s folk songs, and a mass singalong ensued.

At this point, Mr. Birchall decided to get right in the face of one of our group members (I'll call him E, since we have several Es in the group) and sing at him. We weren't sure if he was flirting or trying to get him to sing louder. It was awkward, but sort of funny in a cringe-inducing way. We all decided to spare E any more discomfort, skipped going to the pub across the street and headed back to Rhuddlan.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 14th, 2014, 01:31 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,571
Did you go to Bodnant?
MissPrism is offline  
Jun 14th, 2014, 09:42 AM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Bodnant is coming up in the next installment.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 14th, 2014, 09:49 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 2,571
I thought I recognised the laburnum arch
MissPrism is offline  
Jun 16th, 2014, 02:38 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Tuesday, May 27th Bodnant Garden, Betws-y-Coed, Llanberis

Mr. Pickle and I had wanted to visit Bodnant Garden the last time we were in Wales, but didn't have time. This is one reason I volunteered to plan the itinerary - to fit in the bits we missed in 2007. ;-)

We pushed back our departure time a little, and arrived at the garden a little past opening time. Lesson 2: let the accountant in the group collect entry fees and count the money. Even after we'd counted a couple of times, we still came up a little short, but one of the group members covered the difference. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/bodnant-garden/

What a fabulously beautiful place! The laburnum arch was in full bloom, as were their many varieties of rhododendrons. The roses were just beginning to bloom, but the irises were lovely.

We stopped in Betws-y-Coed for lunch and spent a couple of hours looking around the town. There's a lovely church on the main street,a river running through town, and plenty of places selling and renting outdoor gear.

Eventually, we headed through misty mountains and over Llanberis Pass - lots of hikers there going up and down Mt. Snowdon - to the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis, our home for the next three nights. http://www.theroyalvictoria.co.uk/ It's in a great location on the main road into town, very close to the Snowdon Mountain Railway, the National Slate Museum, and Llyn Peris.

Breakfast and dinner were included in almost all the places we stayed, and the food at this hotel was pretty good. We had our choice of continental or full Welsh breakfasts, and dinner always had a good variety of choices. The hotel also has a couple of bars and a lounge with a nice view.

After dinner, we walked down the High Street to find a laundrette we'd been told was in town. We didn't know that most laundrettes are the "drop off your clothes and we'll wash them for you" variety; we just wanted a do-it-yourself place like we have at home. As it turned out, there wasn't one available, and we ended up doing a lot of tub laundry on the trip and using the heated towel racks and radiators to dry our clothes.

On our way back to the hotel, we saw a good number of our group headed our way. David had asked if there was a pub nearby where we could sing and which would be OK with kids coming in, as we had a 17yo, a 14yo, and an 11yo with us. The hotel staff recommended the Dolbadarn Hotel and pub. We had fun singing a few songs, teaching the boys to play snooker, and enjoying a pint. One of the guys in the pub was a member of the local men's choir, who were scheduled to sing in the hotel lounge a couple of nights later.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 16th, 2014, 03:05 PM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Wednesday, May 28th Ffestiniog Railway and Llechwedd Slate Caverns

This was one of our busier days! We had prebooked group tickets on the Ffestiniog Railway http://www.festrail.co.uk this morning, so we boarded the bus for Porthmadog and spent an hour or so there before those taking the train needed to leave. There's a Tesco next to the bus park, and we picked up lunch there.

The rest of us got back on the bus and drove back up into the mountains to Blaenau Ffestiniog to wait for the train's arrival. We had a nice cream tea while waiting for the rest of the group, and wandered about the town a bit. There are some pretty cool sculptures made of really thin pieces of stacked-up slate, with Welsh poetry engraved on the sides. Above the town, there are huge heaps of slate left by the miners - it was stone they couldn't use, and there wasn't anywhere else to put it.

After lunch, we drove a short distance out of town to the Llechwedd Slate Caverns. http://www.llechwedd-slate-caverns.co.uk/ This was really interesting. You ride little cable cars down into the mine (quite a feat squishing six of us, including two tall men, into one!), then a guide walks you through various caverns in the mine. What a hard way to make a living!

When you're finished in the mine, you can watch a man splitting slate shingles. It's amazing how thin they are. They'll also engrave pieces of slate to order for you - sayings, house numbers, whatever you want and can fit in your suitcase to take home.

That night, we tried valiantly to use the hotel's wifi; it's available in the hotel's public areas, but we could only get it to work while sitting in one particular chair in the lobby. Oy!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 18th, 2014, 09:53 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Thursday, May 29th Caernarfon

Caernarfon Castle was on Mr. Pickle's must-visit list for this trip.

When we arrived, we took a quick look around to find a spot to sing. The guys ended up inside the base of one of the Well Tower, which had great acoustics; people walking above us and outside the tower could hear well. They also did a couple of songs in the courtyard next to the Eagle Tower.

I toured the exhibits in the Eagle Tower, and spent a little time in the Welch Fusiliers Museum before going back into the open areas of the castle. Both are really interesting. It was kind of neat seeing the site of the Prince of Wales investitute as well - a huge slate disk. I vaguely remember Prince Charles' investitute from when I was a child, and I imagine I'll get to see another such ceremony in a few years.

Mr. Pickle and I walked around the town so I could see the yarn shops. We had lunch at a fish and chips place at Castle Square. The kids and I had seen a Globe Trekker episode where the presenter had chips and curry, and I told them I would try it when we were in Wales. It was tasty, as was the fish.

A couple of the women in the group are weavers, and they wanted to stop at the Trefiw Woolen Mill on our way back to Llanberis. Our regular driver was on his day off, so they asked our substitute driver to take us to the place where we could see weaving.

Since they didn't give him more specific info, he just drove us over the bridge to Anglesey and dropped us off at James Pringle Weavers in Llanfair PG. For those of you who have driven on I-40 through New Mexico, it's like a more upscale version of Clines Corners. No actual weavers on site, but a lot of stuff you can buy! However, most of the people enjoyed the stop, and I noticed several of them wearing items they'd bought there.

When we returned to Llanberis, Mr. Pickle and I walked up to Dolbadarn Castle, which is right behind the Royal Victoria. http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/dol...astle/?lang=en We took the official route on the way up, which involves several flights of really steep stairs. It was beautiful, and has fantastic views of Snowdonia National Park, Llanberis, Llyn Peris, the train, and the slate museum. We took the easier route back, which winds down the hill and ends beside the hotel.

After dinner, we listened to a local men's choir. Several of their members were on holiday, but I'm not sure the extra guys would have helped the sound much.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 20th, 2014, 09:33 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
If anyone is still reading this, I think I need to put the rest of the report on hold for a week or so. I'm flying to New York Wednesday night so I can tape Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? on Friday.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 20th, 2014, 09:52 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Posts: 7,057
Good Luck!
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Jun 21st, 2014, 08:20 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 24
I'm still reading this! My mom and I are traveling to many of the same places in Wales in September and I'm enjoying your account. We'll be staying in Betwsy-y-Coed and Beddgelert - are you able to recommend a place nearby that we could hear a local men's choir?
sheandme is offline  
Jun 21st, 2014, 10:05 AM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Sheandme, I don't have a specific recommendation, but try this link: http://www.choirs.org.uk/wales.htm

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jun 24th, 2014, 12:23 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 9,171
You must tell us how you did or at least when it will be on tv. How interesting! Loving your report.
flpab is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 12:44 PM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
I'm back, mostly recuperated and caught up on laundry again.

Friday, May 30th Aberystwyth to Carmarthen

Today was one of our longer travel days, driving from Llanberis to Carmarthen. It was nice having our regular bus driver, Bill, back with us to point out places of interest.

We stopped in Aberystwyth for lunch. Before we left home, I'd asked Welsh knitters where I could find yarn shops. One young woman, Sara, lives in Aberystwyth, so we got together for lunch down by the beach. She's from Sweden, moved to the town for graduate studies, and now teaches and researches at the university. We ate at PD's outdoor cafe near the bandstand - good sandwiches, and it was a lovely day to be out and about.

After lunch, we walked around downtown, visited the two yarn shops, and walked up the hill with Sara so she could go back to work. It's always nice to meet online people!

Mr. Pickle and I spent a little while in the National Library of Wales. www.llgc.org.uk If I remember correctly, they are one of the places in Great Britain that has a copy of everything that is printed in the UK. We went through several of the public rooms and spent a little time looking at their Hengwrt Chaucer collection. http://www.llgc.org.uk/collections/d...aucerpeniarth/

Our home for the next two nights was the Ivy Bush Royal Hotel in Carmarthen. http://www.ivybushroyal.co.uk/ Apparently it was a favorite hangout of Lord Nelson and his mistress, Lady Hamilton. This hotel had some of the best food on the trip, and everyone liked the place.

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 11th, 2014, 12:05 PM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 11,469
Saturday, May 31st St. Davids

We spent the whole day in St. Davids, which isn't far from Carmarthen. It was the next-to-last day of the St. Davids Cathedral Festival, so a few in the group went to the morning concert featuring a flutist who won a youth competition. The rest of us wandered around the Bishop's Palace next to the cathedral. http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/daysout/std...alace/?lang=en

David, our director, hoped the guys would get a chance to sing in the cathedral after the morning concert, but they were busy setting up for the evening concert and it wasn't possible. There is some really nice artwork and carved wood at St. Davids, and it's well worth a visit.

We had lunch and wandered around town a bit, then got on the Celtic Coaster, which takes a loop of sorts around the area, stopping at St. Non's, St. Justinian, Whitesands, and the Pembroke National Park visitor center. It only costs a pound, and it was a fun, easy way to see parts of the coast. We thought about getting off and walking from St. Justinian to Whitesands, but decided not to; instead we rode to the last stop at the park visitor center, where they were having a local arts and crafts fair with some really nice pieces.

Some of the group took a boat tour to Ramsey Island to see birds and marine critters. They enjoyed it very much.

St. Davids was lovely. I'd certainly enjoy spending more time there!

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 12th, 2014, 04:57 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 1,825
Well done as always; hope your New York trip was good and looking forward to the rest of this.
texasbookworm is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:29 PM.