Every winter holiday, my family made the drive to my grandfather’s home for an early Christmas. When greetings died down and my father and his brothers would get into conversation, year after year my grandfather would sneak me off into his study and reveal pages and scrolls of his research about our family’s heritage. I read names under dim lighting, breathed in the musty air released from old books, and followed his thin fingers over names and linage charts that had a language I couldn’t read.
My wide-eyed youthful wonder never translated to mature inquiries with my grandfather. While I was in college, my grandfather passed away.
I always knew when I had another chance to venture across the Atlantic, I would go to the village in Wales our family came from as a sort of personal pilgrimage. When a friend got engaged, moved to England, and announced her wedding date, Matt and I started planning our trip – Wales a priority.
Over 12 days we’ll visit Wales and England, and be witness to a beautiful wedding. We’re currently in our hotel room in London having left Wales this afternoon, and I can’t believe we’ve been in the U.K. for nearly a week. I’ve decided to divide our journey (the emotional and practical included) into three posts: Wales, the wedding, and London.
Snacks / (Plane) Seattle to London // Self-reliant: Our Delta flight offered two dinner options of Chicken or Pasta. The pasta had a cream sauce, side salad with Caesar dressing, and a side of shrimp. Our breakfast box contained a cheddar biscuit, Greek yogurt, and a slice of cheese. So nothing I was able to partake in. Since our flight was late in the evening, I was luckily able to have dinner at home, and relied on what I brought. Plane snacks included toasted pumpkin seeds left over from carving pumpkins, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars (Apple Cinnamon), and Cybele’s Free to Eat Chocolate Chip cookies.
We arrived in London Friday afternoon and went to our hotel just outside of Euston Station. Saturday morning we were on a train to Wales.
Dinner / London // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We walked down some streets with pubs and restaurants under a few levels of apartments and offices. Dinner was at Ravi Shankar, a cozy Indian restaurant.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We ate at our hotel and were offered typical breakfast items. I went with fruit, hash browns, beans, mushrooms, and bread.
Snacks / (Train) London to Dyffryn Ardudwy, Barmouth, Cardiff to London // Self-reliant: On our first train, we had a lovely fellow find me multiple Soya creamer cups that I’ve carried with me ever since. Snacks for all of our train rides up to this point included remaining plane snacks: toasted pumpkin seeds, Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars (Apple Cinnamon), and Cybele’s Free to Eat Chocolate Chip cookies.
The train stop at Dyffryn Ardudwy is considered optional, which means we had to request it when our tickets were checked. We stepped off the train with one other person and found ourselves in a quiet sea of green. There is one road intersecting the train tracks with closed gates. Unlatching the gate, we walked into town. Carrying the knowledge that my Welsh family went back to Richard Humphreys, a reverend in Dyffryn Ardudwy, I stopped to look at every church, wondering if he had been there. Matt pointed up a road called Chapel Road and up we went. A large chapel appeared across a graveyard. We scanned the headstones, but a nagging feeling brought me to the side of church.
If my footsteps were guided, I’d like to believe my grandfather stood laughing with me in triumph when I once again ran my hand over a string of Welsh as I had as a child in his study.
We left Dyffryn to spend the night in Barmouth, a 10 minute train ride south, that sits on the water as a resort town. The town reminds me of a quaint, small beach town in Florida with novelty shops, cafes, and seasonal homes.
Dinner // Vegetarian Friendly, Vegan Possible: The only place we could find was Saffron, another Indian restaurant.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We ate at our hotel, Tal-Y-Don. They tried to be as accommodating as possible, and I ended up eating nearly exactly what I had at our hotel in London – Hash browns, beans, mushrooms, and bread. I had coffee and used my Soya creamer cups.
We spent Sunday night through Wednesday afternoon in Cardiff. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was already feeling at home. Wales reminds me so much of Seattle. The weather tends to be only a few degrees off, the rain keeps the landscape green, mountains and hills expand along the horizon, and spending so much time in coastal towns hast kept me from missing the ocean.
We got into Cardiff after dark, and went straight to our hotel.
Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: Due to the hour, we ate at the hotel. I had Thai Green Curry, which was the only vegan option on their menu, but I love Thai food so it worked out just fine.
To be honest, we had no game plan. We looked online and in the maps given by the hotel, but the main focus seemed to be on shopping. There is a large mall and several arcades, narrow, covered alleys with shops and cafes lining them. We spent the day walking St. Mary Street and Victoria Pl., browsing the shops and cafes.
Breakfast // Vegeterian and Vegan Friendly: We went to a coffee shop that was close by (with several more dotted around) called Caffè Nero. They carry Soya – which seems to be the soy milk of choice – and I had porridge with Soya.
Lunch // Vegeterian and Vegan Diverse: Down Morgan Arcade we found a lovely spot called Crumbs Kitchen. They offer a variety of salads, soups, and small plates.
Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: When places started to close, we weren’t sure where I’d be able to find something to eat. Luckily we found Wok to Walk, a made-to-order noodle and rice place. You pick noodles, toppings, and sauce.
Although it was Halloween, we went back to the hotel and had a drink at the bar. We’re very exciting.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We went to Barkers, a place we saw the day before that sits on the corner of Castle Arcade. I had Avacado on Toast and Matt had an amazing looking waffle (vegetarian).
We revisited some places we hadn’t gotten to on Monday, and then made our way to Cardiff Castle. Starting out as a Roman fort, taken by Norman invaders, and renovated in a Gothic fashion hundreds of years later, the castle is surrounded by roads, buildings, and Bute Park.
Lunch/ Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Diverse: After spending time at the castle, it was later in the afternoon than we realized. Stores close fairly early, so we went to the Cardiff Central Market and grabbed some things to go from Clancy’s Vegetarian Emporium. Items included mushroom and lentil pie, potato balls, a vegan sausage roll, and pumpkin spiced cupcake.
The original plan was to leave Cardiff on Tuesday, but we realized somewhere we wanted to go was closed both Monday and Tuesday. An extra half-day in Wales was perfectly okay with me.
Breakfast // Caffè Nero
After breakfast (soy latte and porridge), we headed to Cardiff Bay for our final Welsh adventure.
There’s an half an hour interactive experience that was a lot of fun. They’ve done a great job with the writing and execution of it. After the experience, you enter a two-story museum with original set pieces and costumes from Classic Who through the most recent episodes.
It seemed fitting that our final hours in Wales, a place that has held magic and adventure in its name, that we walk the pieces of a show that has made me remember what believing in magic felt like as an adult.
I’m missing Wales already. I feel so fortunate to have been within its borders and to have surrounded myself with some of the magic it’s long held over those who’ve known it.
To be born Welsh is to be born privileged.
Not with a silver spoon in your mouth,
But music in your heart and poetry in your soul.