Green, green grass

Indeed. For a minute or two, the sun meekly peeked out this morning and cast some promising light onto the exploding plant life in the yard, but the twilight has returned that tells me that if I checked my Google inbox, I’d be greeted by sheets of rain. For its first three days, May has been a wet month. A perfect time to continue with the travel stories…

The Tuesday after Easter starts out just as gray and dark. Ulli and I have spent our first night as roommates, and everything’s gone well. Breakfast is served at the pub across the way, where we’re asked for our order if we want a hot breakfast. Just one tiny snag: there’s no HP sauce. This “we’re sorry, we’re out” will become rather nerve grating towards Friday, when they seem to have run out of everything from porridge to croissants to sauce to fruit. In the end, all it takes to rectify the situation is for someone to actually physically check the kitchen, but at this point, we don’t know that yet.

Refreshed and eager, we climb aboard the coach to learn our first phrase of the day: bore da (or good morning). Then we’re off to Pontypridd. Mike Salt leads us through the Merthyr Lewis coalmine where he used to work as a young man until it closed in the 1980s. We see the engine house, from where the elevator cages were raised and lowered that carried men, coal and supplies, watch two films about mining in the Rhondda Valley and how the miners and their families lived, and finally descend into the shaft to see first hand what it was like to work in those conditions. Meanwhile, Roger organizes a room for us to have lunch in, and I completely miss the opportunity to order my sandwhich in Welsh.

A bit later, we arrive in Porthcawl, a coastal town where miners used to spend their short vacations. A bitter wind greets us and makes me wish I had bothered to wear another layer under my jacket. Roger lets us out at the far end of town and makes a u-turn back toward the beach and boardwalk, where some sad looking donkeys carry the few visitors in a straight line to the water and back. While everyone else traipses off into the dunes, I start heading back in search of a hot drink. On a day like today, this place looks dismal and forgotten, its glory days long over. I would imagine that in the summer, the picture would be quite the opposite, although the boardwalk with its carousels and snack stands does rather appear like something left over from the Sixties (and may well be).

I watch two grandparents play football with their grandkids down below while a seagull looks on. A bit further up, a young family is enjoying a picnic. On the opposite end of the beach, I can just make out the famous iron lighthouse, but I’m too lazy and chilled to walk all the way over there. While looking for some kind of shopping opportunity, I do manage to find a lovely clean public restroom by a playground. Shopping on this end seems non-existent, but I count at least four fish and chips shops in a two block radius. Back at the beach, I run into Ulli. On the bus we find out that there must be actual stores someplace around, because Matthias has purchased a brandnew pair of shoes.

Roger continues on along the coastline, and we enjoy the spectacular views despite the gloomy weather. Next, we stop in the small hamlet of Llantwit Major where the one person we have to ask for directions to the Church of St. Illtud turns out to be a local politician handing out flyers! He and his friend point us in the right direction, and after a brief chat in the street, we head off to see the old part of town with its Tudor houses.

Our final stop is East Aberthaw where a lovely dinner has been arranged for us at the historic Blue Anchor Inn. Opened in 1380, it now boasts several comfortable rooms, a good selection of ales and wonderfully tasty modern cuisine.

The next day promises some changes in the weather, and I look forward to seeing a friend.


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