Welcome back amici. I hope you’ve all had a great week and you are looking forward to the next installment of my Welsh diaries. Last time we had set up camp in Betws y coed and visited Swallow falls after a delicious lunch. And now our story continues…
We strolled back to the car after enjoying Swallow falls but our appetite for waterfalls and natural spectacles hadn’t been quenched, and so it was time to find our next adventure; Conwy Falls. Turning the corner at the crossroads and bumping into the gravel filled carpark, I had an inexplicable feeling of deja vu that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. After going inside the little cafe to ask for directions to the waterfall, I slowly walked back to the car and saw a familiar sign out of the corner of my eye.
A few years ago one of my best friends got married and for his stag do we all went to Wales and had a weekend of caving, go karting and drinking too much beer. That was the first time I had ever been to Wales and although it didn’t really count as “travelling” I did do lots of things I had never done before. Having a petrifying fear of heights I had never even considered doing something like caving but after some encouraging words I was roped in and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Although I may not have completely got over my fear I have definitely started to reduce it. A big achievement for me!
Now to my surprise, on my second ever time in Wales I had pulled up at the same place we met the bus for the caving excursion. It’s funny how coincidence strikes and you cross your own path many years later.
With my mystery deja vu solved we dropped our change into the turnstile, having prepared thoroughly this time, and start worming our way along the thin mud tracks along the cliff edge to admire the falls below. It was really lovely. Turning around we were surrounded on all sides by the forest with the mountain peaks jumping up in the distance to frame the blue skies and slowly setting sun. As we followed the track further in the sound of crashing waves and thundering waterflow was getting louder and louder until the crescendo at the base. No matter how many times we see something like this I always forget the sheer power and volume of water that appears to create this kind of scene. I think that is why I love waterfall hunting so much; it never gets old. Exploring nature and seeing the beauty of the world around us… can’t get better really can it?
With the sun slowly descending, we had around an hour of daylight left, which was just long enough to find one last destination; The Fairy Glen Gorge. As the name suggests it was a gorge further down the river from Conwy Falls. Taking a sharp turn off the main road and trying my best to avoid all the potholes we arrived at the small car park outside the entrance to the gorge. We happily paid the voluntary entrance fee and start to work towards to the gorge entrance. I know some people will think it is strange that you have to pay to see something which was always there, but if there are people that take care of the land and ensure that it is there for generations to come I think a couple of quid is a small price to pay. Don’t you?
Coming to a small crossroads we chose the gorge walk which wormed its way along the cliff and down to the mouth of the gorge. Along the way we saw a lot of photographers, cameras and tripods in hand, clearly waiting for the impending sunset which was manifesting in the distance. I really enjoy taking pictures (as I am sure you can tell) but waiting for hours to get a single shot isn’t my idea of a holiday well spent. When time is limited and we are in a new place I think you want to capture a small piece of an amazing memory to look at later, rather than aim for the perfect photographical masterpiece. Photos are there to remind you of amazing memories and I always have to remind myself that you can’t make those memories always hiding behind the lense of a camera. That is my opinion anyway.
Standing in the mouth of the gorge, after getting a very nice little tip from the photographer setting up behind me, I got a perfect view straight down the middle. I’m not sure what I was expecting but the height of the cliffs were a lot bigger than I thought they would be, especially when you think they had been eroded slowly over decades, or even centuries, to create the cliff faces. Whenever I feel like I am stuck in a rut with my language learning I always remind myself of things like this. There may only be a small trickle of water but it can create massive changes when it is done over a long period of time; just like a little bit of effort to learn something new each day. It all builds up and makes all the little efforts worth it.
On our return to the car we took the second path along the riverside track which was very peaceful. Most photographers had themselves set up higher to catch the scenery in the distance so this spot was deserted which was very much to my liking. Although I can only imagine how busy it must get in the summer when the weather is better, nights are longer and all the picnic benches along the waterfront are full of families enjoy themselves. I think it may be worth another visit when the weather is a bit more reasonable for a picnic.
With the light fading we decided to call it a day and head to the hotel restaurant to get a nice meal to finish of our first night in Wales. Whenever I book a hotel I spend a lot of time looking at the restaurants to see if it is the kind of place we would enjoy to eat in. Although there are always nice restaurants in the places we do, it’s always a good idea to have a good place to grab a bite just downstairs; especially after a long day of exploring when I might be feeling a little tired. I had booked a table at the restaurant for our first night but I had clearly underestimated how early we eat and how quiet it is in the hotel on a weekday in January.
The place was completely empty so we got the choice of any table. Naturally we chose the table snuggled up next to the log burning fire with two comfy seats. It might have been a struggle to keep my eyes open because of the warmth wrapping around us, but it was lovely.
The menu itself was a lot more varied that I was expecting from a traditional Welsh pub. Steak, fish and chips and thai green curry. All the authentic Welsh fayre right? I was a little spoilt for choice so it took me a while to make a decision. The fiancèe opted for the reliable choice of fish and chips; it’s hard to go wrong with that isn’t it. On the other hand, I opted for the lamb wellington. Although I wasn’t exactly sure what all the ingredients were, Duxel for example, I can’t refuse a good Wellington. Meat and pastry are like my Kryptonite. As I ordered I was asked if I wanted vegetables or chips and I chose chips, not realising that it already came with suede and potato mash. Well nothing wrong with 4 or 5 different carbs in one meal is there. I even got the tartar sauce from the fiancèe’s fish and chips, as well as a bite of fish, so happily dipped my chips into that on the side. Waste not want not, I always say.
The meat was really juicy, crispy pastry and the mash was just the right texture. Not too thin and not too lumpy; the Goldilocks of mash. The gravy, though, was the real star of the show. Really rich and full of flavour. My only complaint was that I could have had a jug of it on the side to keep pouring over all the food.
With both our plates licked clean, not literally of course, it was time for a cheeky dessert. We are only holiday so no point worrying about a little dessert here and there. Both of us chose the honeycomb and chocolate cheesecake which was definitely the right choice. Soft and creamy cheesecake with a crispy and crumbly buttery, biscuit bake. As an added garnish we even had a praline brittle with a lovely caramel flavour which was the perfect combination to the cheesecake. Although, I only had a few bits as I don’t really like getting it in my teeth. A little strange I know, but we all have our quirks don’t we?
After a lovely meal by the fire it was finally time to retire to our room and set up camp for the night. Luckily we found Pulp Fiction on the TV which sent us off for the night. I have only see it once before and completely forgotten the whole story, so it was like watching it again for the first time. This is a rare experience for me, as I usually remember everything that happens in films, and I really enjoyed it. The perfect end to the perfect day, and we still had two to go.
Quite an eventful first day don’t you think? Day two is even more jam packed. Stay tuned for the next installment of our Welsh adventure.
Ciao for now!