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Wales, a lost bit of heaven. 


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If there is one thing that I would never forget about this tiny yet spectacular part of the United Kingdom, it is the sound of water gushing out of the many freshwater springs found in the north-western parts of Wales. As though to complement the freshness in its air and water, the unmatched beauty of the Welsh countryside took my breath away, even as we just entered Wales.

But it was when we drove into the little village of Betws y Coed in the Conwy valley, that I could finally tell how distinct the landscape looked.

Photos of Wales, a lost bit of heaven.  1/31 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Enroute to Conwy valley!
Photos of Conwy, United Kingdom 1/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Conwy, United Kingdom 2/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Betws-y-Coed, United Kingdom 1/1 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It wasn't just the spell that autumn cast in early November that added to the charm. It was as though I was in a place that was a live version of desktop wallpapers. All around the little village rose high peaks that caught the light of the sun in some places and were simply bathed in mist, in others. The description will never sound as pleasing as what I saw. Amidst all the wonder, there was also that little struggle to read names like 'Betws y Coed' (PS: I still don't know how to pronounce it! ). Even though their script is English, the Welsh way of spelling names out is quite different. Infact, Wales isn't even called 'Wales' in Welsh :D

In the company of some amazing friends, a drive through the countryside seemed to be the best way to explore the hidden jewels of this paradise. We stopped at our will to savour views that only kept getting better as we neared our first destination, the Swallow falls. Shrouded in mist, the raging river made its way into the orange-red canopy of the dense thickets in the village. Due to a drop in temperature in November, snow had started settling in some parts of the surrounding land. Little did I know that there were many more such surprises to come, many of which, we discovered enroute to the Snowdon mountain.

Photos of Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed, United Kingdom 1/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed, United Kingdom 2/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

We saw enough lakes for a lifetime. Yet, each one and its surroundings were more magical than the others. Although I would probably need another lifetime to learn all of their names, here are a few pictures to keep my memory fresh forever!

Photos of Snowdonia, Bethesda, Wales, United Kingdom 1/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia, Bethesda, Wales, United Kingdom 2/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia, Bethesda, Wales, United Kingdom 3/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia, Bethesda, Wales, United Kingdom 4/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Finally by the time we reached the Snowdonia National Park, it was almost 3 pm and making it to the peak seemed like a tough bet. The only disappointment during the season was daylight savings. Nevertheless knowing well that we wouldn't make it while there was still some daylight, we still proceeded to trek through the wooded national park. I believe, it was the best decision we made that day. Not only did we come across some interesting wildlife, but also got to drink from the fresh water springs that surprised us now and then, from beneath a bush.

Photos of Ogwen Valley Works, Bethesda, United Kingdom 1/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Ogwen Valley Works, Bethesda, United Kingdom 2/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia National Park, United Kingdom 1/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia National Park, United Kingdom 2/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia National Park, United Kingdom 3/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Snowdonia National Park, United Kingdom 4/4 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Halfway through the trek, light started dimming and we had to return. But that day not making it to the peak was no regret. It was all about cherishing the experiences along the way.

Even though north-western Wales was the main highlight of my visit to Wales, its south-western parts had another beautiful story to tell. The Skanda Vale temple of the Sri Lankan origin was certainly worth the visit too. The atmosphere here completely relieved me of the home sickness I had been feeling since last September (when I came to the UK for higher studies). Probably it was the customs and prayer songs that sounded familiar, followed by an Indo-Sri Lankan lunch for all visitors! Unfortunately photography was prohibited within the temple premises. However, a short trek through the surrounding Welsh thickets turned out to be great for spotting some unique flora and wildlife in their natural habitats.

Photos of Skanda Vale, Llanpumsaint, United Kingdom 1/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Skanda Vale, Llanpumsaint, United Kingdom 2/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Skanda Vale, Llanpumsaint, United Kingdom 3/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Finally, if you are wondering where to stay...

Hostel world and booking.com may find you the cheapest hostels around Wales, but find an airbnb amidst the mountains. Wake up to the sound of a nearby stream and watch smoke billow from the chimneys in the neighbourhood on a cold wintry morning while munching on some fresh baked Welsh cake. Trust me, the melody of fresh water streams is the spirit of the mountains.

For me, it is indeed a wonderful feeling to be drunk on the beauty of Wales. Perhaps the effects won't wear off until I start planning my next adventure!

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Hi again!

Having had much trouble in traveling to different parts of this beautiful country in one go, I had to visit Wales more than once to take in all that is worth seeing here. So I have put together all my experiences in one blog for those of you who wish to plan a long vacation in this paradise. PS: Perhaps it is worth considering a visit in different seasons for their perks. Now that you have already seen how this country glows in the magical colours of autumn, let me tell you a bit about my mind-blowing summer expedition along the Welsh coastline in Pembrokeshire.

I was back in the country over a weekend and booked my stay in the coastal town of Pembroke. It was indeed a warm welcome into the cheapest accommodation which sits on St. Patricks hill, the most famous view point in town! Having woken up early to watch the sun rise, I sat meddling with the owners' pair of binoculars in their fancy lounge wondering what people must do with these in the age of cameras. Sure enough I found my answer the very same afternoon. Read on to know ;)

Photos of Lakeland Guest House, Saint Patricks Hill, Pembroke Dock, United Kingdom 1/1 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

After a scrumptious breakfast, I headed for my day out for a hike along the Pembroke coastal past that starts at the Stack Rocks car park. 10 minutes into the bus ride to the place, my apprehension was met by the much needed relief when the only other passenger boarded. She was from Germany and no surprises here, we obviously got into a friendly conversation. From her I learnt that we were actually quite lucky to be allowed to take a walk around this region. It mostly remains closed to public access except on weekends as it lies within the military firing range! "Seek and you shall find", wasn't a statement made in vain after all ;)

Photos of Stack Rocks Car Park, United Kingdom 1/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Stack Rocks Car Park, United Kingdom 2/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Stack Rocks Car Park, United Kingdom 3/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Being solo travelers, we also exchanged views on our experiences in different countries. While I fondly recalled my experience in Bavaria(Germany), she related her experience in Tunisia. These were her exact words, "Just because I have golden hair and fair skin, it does not mean I want to be touched. All I wanted was to walk along the beach by myself". She went on to say how this experience had bogged her down whereas her own sister familiarized herself in self-defenses to travel for 6 long months in India. Being an Indian, I surely felt a jibe at my pride, but I felt even worse about how the westerners feel. So instead of quipping mindlessly, I gave her the best piece of advice I could, hoping that it would encourage her to pay a visit to our 'Incredible India'. I said, "Even though I myself haven't really solo-traveled in India, if I were to visit a new city, I would probably stick to day-time and avoid being by myself after dark. It is a beautiful country that I regret not having explored as a citizen. I know situations can get demanding, but I would consider learning a bit of self-defense and think of it as a new skill that I am picking up, so I can get going!" It wasn't my intention to give her any false hopes about safety nor was it to bring down the prospects of solo-traveling in our beautiful nation. A country may be ours, but it is a free land of beauty for anyone to see and love. As a responsible traveler, all I could do was to welcome someone to visit my country with some honest facts that people have a right to know! Nevertheless, by the time our discussion ended, we made it to the Green Bridge of Wales and went our ways! :) Someone must have got it right when they said that the true spirit of travel can only be savored during journeys and not at the destination! :)

PS: I am unable to tag the 'GREEN BRIDGE OF WALES' :/ but here it is! ;)

Photos of  1/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of  2/2 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Lydstep, United Kingdom 1/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Lydstep, United Kingdom 2/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Lydstep, United Kingdom 3/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

I spent the next two hours taking a coastal walk and finally when I decided to relax a bit by the Green Bridge of Wales, Matthew turned up next to me and asked if I had noticed the seal which sat on a rock, far below (100 ft apprx). Taken aback by the sudden encounter with a friendly stranger, I was at a loss for reaction. He quickly handed me his super-powerful binoculars so I could take a better look. I realized then how nobody else had seen the little fellow either. Finally when I thanked him, Matthew said, "A lot of people like being left alone when I try to start a conversation. Thanks to you, it would be a shame to come all the way and miss out on the little things in life."

He is a ranger who works as a coastal guard during his days off to protect endangered species of animals such as the seals. He even showed me to the one-week old baby seal that lay on the shore and with his binoculars I could see how the mother kept a watch from the sea. My camera wouldn't even detect the seal, as it lay there, camouflaged with the grey rocks.

When I expressed my surprise about why the new-born was so big, Matthew knew the answer. He told me more facts about the seals, about how the little ones feed on milk which is 70% fat, unlike regular milk which is 70% water (exposed to adulteration right at birth, aren't we?) :P and how seals abandon their babies just after 3-6 weeks. It was sad to know that they have a hard life surviving against predators from there on. Soon afterwards, Matthew said good bye and left to tend to his duties and I wandered for a bit before taking the bus back into town.

Photos of Pembroke, United Kingdom 1/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Pembroke, United Kingdom 2/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photos of Pembroke, United Kingdom 3/3 by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

It was a great evening in town at sun down. Looming beside the Pembroke river, their medieval fortress was an ultimate date point, except I was on my own. But they say sun sets are magical and sure enough, it more than made up for the occasional loneliness that creeps in during solo travels :)

NOTE:

Buses run only once a day, but the timetables gives you enough time to see everything (10:40 am-out, 3:55 pm-pick-up) and here's an itinerary for you to follow!

10:30 am(pembroke dock)-->11:12 am(Stack Rocks car Park)

11:15 am --> 3:30 pm (easy coastal walk from Stack Rocks to St. Govans and back)

3:55 pm(stack Rocks car park)-->4:45 pm(Pembroke town)

5 pm onwards-How about dinner by the Pembroke castle at sunset, followed by a stroll along the nearby lily ponds! :)

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