We’re in this place called Camarthen.
I’m not 100% sure if its it’s own town, or just a suburb, or maybe even just a county or sorts, but this is where we are located. From what I can gather, its a pretty quiet little area of Wales. People seem to get along (not like we’ve had to interact with many of them), and nothing seems too out of the ordinary.
We wake this morning in a real bed.
Last night, we even got to have showers and everything. Now, that was something special. We head down stairs into the warmth that the real fire place has to offer, and lo and behold, Helen, Simon and Gez are already up. Bec told Gez that we would be getting up around 8, so Gez made sure that he was up before us (being the good host that he is), and Gez is kicking back on the couch with his old boy, while Helen is kick around in the kitchen.
We come down and are greeted with a few smiles and questions about the quality of our sleep. Kinda what you should expect. Simon and Helen have ensured that we are going to eat well this morning and have begun to cook us up a good old fashioned Welsh breakfast.
We sit down to eat, and this conversation between Gez and his parents about where we are headed today begins. Needless to say, this conversation went right over our heads. Names of places that sound more like insults than landmarks begin being thrown around as the three of them strategise the best means of combatting today’s sight seeing and the rain that we’ll be encountering.
Gez and his trusty advisors collectively decide that the best course of action would be to head to a little seaside town. That is about all we got to know. Was there anything in particular?
Just gonna head to this spot. I mean, the name (which escapes me at the moment) got mentioned a couple times during the morning’s planning session, so I am assuming that is worthwhile checking out.
Knowing Gez and his family, I know that we will be spending the majority of our time out doors. Being that it is raining today, and I don’t want to be cold all day, Bec and I decide to chuck the layers right on. I have got my singlet, shirt, polar fleece and then my big jacket on top of that. Just for extra measure, I have brought my rain-proof over coat. Bec’s arrangement is pretty much the same.
We don’t think anything of it.
We’re just doing our thing getting ready to head out for the day, then as I am getting my whole shoe situation sorted, I hear Helen start laughing. I look up to see her leaning beside the bench top with the most genuine look of amusement on her face.
Yeah. Nothing wrong with that.
Except she was staring right at me.
This is not a good thing. Then it clicks. I look at what she is wearing, which is pretty much just jeans, a shirt and a thin jumper. A smile creeps across my face, and I join in her laughs.
“Spot the tourist, right?”, I say in acknowledgement that I understand the lengths we have gone to to stay warm. In the end, it didn’t really do us any favours anyway rain is rain and the cold is cold.
We chuck our gear in the black Peugeot, and off we head.
It doesn’t take us long, and in the spirit of being a true local, Gez is aware of where he should and shouldn’t park if he is to save $. I’m all about it. If I don’t have to pay for it, I won’t. As I am sure you found out by the whole climbing the fence situation yesterday.
We park just outside the city area and walk in.
The area is nice, but nothing is blowing my mind. The closer we get, the more I beginning to like this place. One thing I have begun to notice about European cities/towns in the UK, is that a lot of the roads seem to just follow where it was easiest to build them at the time. I mean, nowadays, if we want a road somewhere, we’ll just do whatever we want to make it happen.
Back when they would have been building these cities and towns, it seems as though the roads were built where the land let them build it. I have no doubt there are exceptions, but it just seems like so many of the roads just have no apparent order to them. They twist, turn and wind with the contour of the land.
Its super pretty.
As we come up the road leading into the city, we are met with this old world stone wall. Its about as tall as the houses and apartments that surround it. “That is the city walls” Gez notifies us. This is really cool. As if City walls are a thing. I mean, I know that they were, but this little tiny town, or all places? I wouldn’t have expected that it would have had walls like that guarding the contents inside.
We walk through them, and reach the city centre.
The walk ways are narrow and the shopfronts are welcoming. Its a small enough town that the town centre lasts about as long as the next sentence, but oddly enough, they still have these big name stores there. Niche stores, but still well known.
We follow the road, down to it’s end, and we are met with the view.
The ocean lies ahead of us, and the bay, sitting at low tide has left the boats nestled on the sand bank, rather unceremoniously. Joggers run the edge of the water’s tides, while others let their dogs run free after the ball. The houses are all painted these soft pastel colours, as they sit right on the edge of the rocky slopes.
This feels like a Welsh version of the Amalfi Coast, just with loads more soft pastel coloured houses.
It’s certainly a sea side town. Everything about it suggests that it is nothing less. Especially the fact that is is right by the ocean. That may just give it away.
We continue walking along, as Gez leads us through little streets to another view. On the other side of the area we were headed, we found an island, which it’s use and origin is largely unknown to us all. It reminds me of something that should have featured on Shutter Island. Swarms of Seagulls hide among it’s rocky inlets, while others soar above. There is a walk way out there, but it certainly seems as though this specific fortress of sorts would only be accessible during low tide.
Extra points to the guy who can do it on high tide, but this is some bloody cold water too.
We walk and talk and check out the Boat shed, which goes and collects the boats that aren’t boating very well, as we make our way back into the town centre. We find ourselves to have done a loop and ended up back with the view of these houses lining the coastal walls. Its a cute sight to see.
We head back to the car, and make our way to location #2.
I remember there being a bridge involved in the name of this spot, but the term “bridge” is very misleading, since I didn’t see a bridge, only rocky, pebble infested beaches. We park the car, and by this point, we are all wet to at least some sort of a degree.
We grab our gear and head down to the beach.
We are on the beach for no more than 2 minutes, and Gez has located some dried up and stiff fish. Holding it up with pride, I while my camera out to snap the shot before it passes. One thing I chose not to photograph was Gez pretending to kiss the fish.
All kinds of no, thank you.
We walk, and Bec finds herself a few little rocks that tickle her fancy. I am snapping away that the things that tickle my fancy. I’m not sure what was tickling Gez’s fancy, but he seemed to be enjoying his time also. We walked along the beach stopping where we so felt like it. We joined up with the road instead of soaking our feet along the beach.
As we got further along, we saw that the road was coming to an end, but it was only the beginning. As the road ended, a tunnel emerged, and our next path to follow was through the tunnel. I can’t say I have seen a tunnel made just so that people can walk through it. Moreso, why didn’t they just do that thing where they just chip a bit out along the edge of the rock and make a path out of that?
I’m not against it at all.
A tunnel through some bloody hard rock would seem like a bit of a last resort to me though. Oh, and it is dark. Like, if you wanted to make some body piss themselves, this is the place to do it. I have no doubt at all, that everyone who walks through here is playing it cool, but inside, they’re using their peripherals to scan for any slight movement in the rocky shadows.
We reach the other side, and in the middle of nowhere is this fancy restaurant.
Just the establishment.
As you do. From the sounds of things, they’ve dropped their prices and got a rebrand. Not ideal.
We head past the parking lot, and into another tunnel. On the other side of this tunnel is another little town, where is the best little fish & chip snacks. We follow Gez, while using the corners of my eyes of any rational threat lurking in the shadows of this tunnel.
We make our way to the fish & chippery, only to discover that the best food that Wales has to offer is shut for another couple weeks. Well that is aids. We literally come all this way for nothing. We turn round, empty handed and hungry-bellied.
We mish it back through the tunnel, and decide to head down to the beach and walk along there back to the car. Heading down the steps toward the beach, Bec tells me that the steps are slippery. I kinda expect them to be, but I trust my own centre of gravity, so I don’t take it on board too much. As I get closer to the bottom of the steps, I place my feet intentionally where I think will be the safest bet. Being that I am holding my camera, each step is carefully thought out.
I reach the safety of the beach.
We walk along, all the while, I am taking photos of Bec and Gez and anything else that grabs my attention. We’re having a jolly good time, while walking among these rock formations petruding from the ground. As I’m off in la la land chatting to Gez and Bec, my footing goes. I do a bit of a salsa while I try to gain my footing again, all the while holding my camera, ready to lay my life down in the event that it may end up in the water.
I gather myself, and with a sense of accomplishment and relief, turn to Gez and Bec who are both having a laugh at my expense. I say something about having cat-like reflexes, and how good I am at not falling over. No longer had those words been out of my mouth, before I began to slip again, and this time, I thought it was for the worst.
Luckily, my cat-like reflexes prevailed again, and I was just able to save myself.
Unsurprisingly, Gez tells me that “it would have been soooo much better if I had fallen on my ass, after what you just said”.
We are all soaking wet, and yes, there are more places for us to head to explore, but no, we aren’t interested in doing them when we’re drenched. It hasn’t been pouring, but it has been constant, and constant is enough to make you want to call it a day.
We piled back in the car, and nominate the back driver’s side seat as the “wet clothes seat”.
We head home prematurely, but we are fully aware that a warm fireplace, beers and a roast aren’t too far away, so that eases the pain of an afternoon of exploring cut slightly short. We arrive to see Helen sorting the kitchen right out. The smell is just beginning to linger, just enough for us to really get our appetites fired up.
The only issue is that we now have to wait…
We fill some of the time with showering to warm ourselves back up. Its certainly needed by now.
We head down stairs, and nothing has changed whatsoever.
Simon is a laid back kinda bloke, who I feel seems to take a lot more in of what is going on than he gives away. I’m probably wrong, but I am going to stick by my guns. He’s got this really cool and collected demeanour about him, but at the same time, wants it black and white from you. For instance, at one point, he has asked Bec whether she wanted milk in her tea or not. Bec tells him that she doesn’t care.
Being that I have lived with Bec for a fairly decent time now, I can tell you that she really doesn’t care. But, from what I have picked up from Simon, is the he just wants a straight answer. When you get someone who genuinely doesn’t care, and someone who just wants to know what you want, you end up with tea going down the sink.
Simon wanted a straight answer.
Bec didn’t give him a straight answer.
Bec lost some tea.
Simon made another tea.
Simon is a good sort. This time, however, simon is just perched up on the couch, with the cat (which I think they have just adopted in a roundabout sort of way) snuggled between his torso and his arm. He’s not fussed, while he is reading his book about how the Norwegians go about chopping their wood.
What the hell?
But, fair play to him, cos when I asked him what the book was about, I found out that the best way to dry wood wasn’t to let it dry out and then chop, but to chop and then let it dry out, because the less it has to penetrate, the sooner it will dry. Cool fact that I learnt right then and there.
Makes sense, but I have never really thought about it in regards to letting wood dry.
Also, another Simon fun fact, he and his brother (or cousin?) built this house. He’s not exactly a builder, but still, they have done a pretty bloody good job of it. They built it when Gez and his siblings were just toddlers, and they were all living in a caravan while they were building it. Good on them. I would like to do something similar one day.
We decide that a couple drinks are in order.
Well, Gez decides that a couple drinks are in order, so on come the beers. I’m not complaining in any way.
We occupy most of the afternoon with lively conversation and drinking our hearts merrily. We begin to probe deeper into the adventures of Helen. So, long story short, Helen is a GP, who will regularly attend charity fundraising events as the doctor on call. When I say charity events, I don’t mean the annual Ronald McDonald Ball. I mean, these guys will go climb Kilimanjaro, or the Great Wall of China, or Everest Basecamp, or the London to Paris bike race. Doesn’t matter whether it is cycling or a marathon, Helen is pretty much the go-to person for the events now.
She doesn’t make a living on it, but she doesn’t have to pay for the trips. Its bloody brilliant. I’d be doing that for sure.
Not so say its all duckies and bunnies though. On one of the trips, they had a truck run into her and another of the members on a bike, and she had woken up after being unconscious in the hospital. The other bloke who got hit, actually ended up passing away. So yeah, there are perks, but it’s not all unicorns and fairy dust either.
Still though, you can quickly pick up that Helen is the sort of person who would get her kicks out of the thrill of challenge and (I think I would be safe to assume) having an element of risk. She and Simon really do seem well suited to each other too. The little moments of embrace or a little kiss between them allude to the fact that the romance still is alive and well.
Helen is far better travelled than the wealthy student friends of mine, and flippantly says that she has 12 trips booked for this year. A combination of events in the UK and abroad to make this up. Casually, it comes up in conversation that Simon also has 9 trips this year.
Not too bad.
Here I was thinking that Simon was left to his own devices while Helen runs off and explores the world.
How naive of me.
However, this isn’t to say that it hasn’t come at a price. Anyone who knows a doctor at all, will be able to tell you that they work bloody hard. This is proven by the fact that as we all are wrapping up dinner, Helen is getting ready to head to work. She starts at 9pm, and won’t finish till around 8am.
I rest my case.
Anyone who is going to pull an 11 hour shift after being awake all day, the day after flying back in from a trip away, deserves to be able to have those kind of experience.
All in all, the Mansfield family are the kind of people we all need in our lives. Its been great to see the TV more as something in the back ground, than something that our lives operate around again. Its brilliant to hear stories about travel, and travel on a regular basis, while still holding up a job with a pretty decent profile.
This is what I feel travel is about.
I never want to meet someone on this trip, without having had my mind expanded that touch more.
As a wise man once said, “A mind expanded cannot return to it’s original form”.
I’m ok with that.
We play cards, introduce the guys to Zilch, and are introduced to Perudo, which is a dice game that everybody should learn to play. They actually played it on Pirates of the Caribbean. It is pretty much poker, but with dice.
Do yourself a favour and check it out.
Come back tomorrow,