Falling In Love: A Travelogue
Love comes to us in various forms. I love lots of things: my family, my friends, my cat, One Direction videos-a lot of things. And, I can honestly add that I love the place I’m from, Las Cruces, NM. However, I’ve returned from a trip overseas, my first actually, and now I think I know what being IN LOVE feels like. No, I didn’t meet a person and fall in love. I met a country, a town, a people and fell madly and deeply in love.
I fell in love with Wales.
About a year ago, my friend Morgan and I began hatching a plan to go to Wales and London for a bit of fun. We spent a long time researching where we would go, and what we do. We also spent a hell of a lot of time thinking about what we would eat. Anyway, we plotted out where we would go on our adventure: Cardiff, Fishguard and Hay-On-Wye (all in Wales) and London (obviously in England). Before this trip, I had never left the United States except for the few times I’ve crossed the border into Canada to have lunch while visiting my dad in Northern Idaho, and the one day I was in Cozumel on a Backstreet Boys cruise (yes, it happened. Yes, it was awesome. Yes, I’m over it.) Needless to say, I was really excited. I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know how any of it was going to be, but I knew I was ready to find out. I felt ready as I spent basically the entire year watching nothing but television and movies from the UK and immersing myself online in what I needed to know. I felt like I had a good grip on what I would see, but I wasn’t ready for how it made me feel.
Wales changed me. There’s really no other way for me to put it. I do believe traveling, in general, changes people, and I’m ready for more adventures and more changes. But, something about Wales made me feel things I didn’t even think I had in me. Our first day and night in Cardiff was hard because we’d traveled for 10 hours on a plane and then another 4 hours by train (massive train delays and re-routes) so by the time we go to our B&B, all I cared about was eating and drinking a beer. Even that didn’t go well, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this city yet. Thankfully, a delicious Welsh burger and some sleep changed my perspective. We only had one real day in Cardiff so we tried to make the most of it by walking down into Cardiff Bay and seeing all the we could see. We saw Cardiff Castle, we ate an incredible cheese lunch at Madame Fromage and shopped and bought as many Welsh Lovespoons as we possibly could. Also, I finally got a beer. It was all glorious. FYI: if you're in Cardiff, do yourself a favor and get yourself a Brains Beer!
Sadly, we had to move on to our next destination, Fishguard. I didn’t know much about it except that it was a coastal town and my friend and I both thrive by the water.
My heart sang in Fishguard.
I really feel as though my heart found a home there. Everything about it was beautiful, quaint and amazing. Our Air BnB cottage was fantastic, with shabby chic furniture and a welcoming plate of welsh cakes, fresh bread and real Welsh butter. When we set off on the coastal path, I wasn’t ready for what I would see or feel. Something in me opened up, and I felt this flood of warmth and happiness. It’s not as though there was anything that I can pinpoint to say: “THIS IS THE MOMENT I FELL IN LOVE” but the entire time I was there, I felt like I’d found home. Fishguard is a small village, really, but it felt so big and lovely to me. People were wonderful, the pubs were great, and if you asked the cheesemonger to help you with picking out some Welsh cheeses, they were more than happy to help. We ate fish and chips one day, and the older woman behind the counter kept calling us “Love” and it was all I could to not burst into pieces because I fancied it so much. I don’t like being called terms of endearment, really. But, the Welsh do it so casually, and it made me feel so welcome and so loved that I never wanted it to end. We relaxed a lot in Fishguard, and for me, that’s very difficult. As I’ve talked about before, I have anxiety and suffer from PTSD and insomnia, but there wasn’t a problem when I was there. In fact, the whole trip, I felt pretty relaxed and never really got wound up over much. That’s a new thing for me! We even took a seriously insane bus ride up to St. David’s Cathedral and while I did get a bit car sick, I never once thought I was making a mistake. I did, however, think of texting my family that I loved them just in case the driver turned a corner too sharp, but she was a pro and clearly, I survived.
I’ve realized that when a person travels, they are allowing their minds to be unlocked and new ideas to flood inward. I’ve always wanted to be a traveler but was afraid of how costly it would be. I really worked on turning that voice off because it wasn’t that costly, and I knew I deserved to do something for myself. I can’t imagine never having seen Fishguard now, and I can’t imagine what would’ve made feel the way this small place did. When we moved on to Hay-On-Wye, I felt very sad to leave. But, moving from a beautiful coastal town, to a village chock-a-block full of bookstores was pretty much a dream.
Hay is a pretty sleepy village at night, but during the day, the “downtown” is bustling with bookstores (there’s over 20), cafe’s, pubs and shops. We rented an Air BnB cottage as well, and while it wasn’t as spacious as our cottage in Fishguard, it was so beautiful and cozy. The village itself is picturesque, and it also has a castle in the middle of it; the cobble-stoned streets were full of locals and guests all searching for great books (I purchased a set of three books of “New Brit Lit” for £1!), and enjoying the mild weather. Finding food after 5 PM was a bit more diffcult as it’s not a place where there’s a bustling nightlife, but we had so much fun trying new things.
Eventually, we had to leave Hay-On-Wye as well, and drag most of our purchases with us to London. And, I was excited for London, I really was! We had High Tea with a Mad Hatter’s theme, and also went out to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour of Harry Potter, and that was one of the best days of my life! But, leaving Wales felt hard for me. Maybe it’s because I’m a new traveler? Maybe it’s because I haven’t seen many other places? I felt sad sitting on our bus going to the train station, and my friend kept telling me this is what it’s like every time you travel, but you get through it because you see more places. I know she’s right, and I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but my heart will always hurt a bit for Wales.I know I left my heart there, but I don’t want anyone to bring it back to me. I’ll be there again. I have to.
Coming home has been hard. I mean, I’m happy to be home as I missed my cat a LOT and it’s good to have my routine, see all my friends again, however, my heart feels something it hasn’t felt before: longing. I am longing to be back with the ocean breeze in Fishguard. I long to hear the welcome greeting “Hiya!” as you walk down the street. My mouth waters at the mere thought of true Welsh butter that is so creamy and delicious I could’ve eaten it with a spoon. In fact, last night, I was looking at the clock on my phone in which I have Wales time set, and when I saw what time it was there, my heart physically hurt. I know it’s post-trip letdown, and it’s something we all experience, but I know I’m changed. I know that Wales will always be with me, and I know how damn lucky I was to go. I just really miss it, and while I know it’s all idealized, first real love is pure and true, isn’t it?
Also, I suppose I should say that when I came home, I got my Welsh love permanently marked on my body.
I hope you all travel some place special and you carry it in your heart as I will carry mine. The world really is a whole lot bigger than the area around our homes, and home is lovely, but sometimes, home is where your heart is. And, sometimes, your heart is in a small town in Wales.