It started with a remark to my lifelong friend at New Year’s, something about it being an anniversary year of some status of our friendship and wasn’t it worthy of a trip together. Twenty years ago our anniversary trip had been to the Eastern Townships for an extended weekend. Ten years ago it was five days in Vancouver. This year it would be a trip to …. well, we had trouble figuring that out. There were more than a few phone calls, some skyping, joint web sessions, an in-person session in Niagara-on-the-Lake, some grumbling from her husband about not having decided yet, and a number of ideas pursued and discarded before we confirmed that this anniversary would be spent in Wales.
In recent travels we have taken to naming our trips with an acronym—FRIT for our sojourn to FRance and ITaly, etc. Now if Deb and I had gone to Ireland it would have been easy, it would be DebLynne … I considered WALO …WAles andLOndon … as in JLo? … but in the end I’m sure it’s just going to be called WALES.
I consider Wales to be a forgotten corner of the United Kingdom. A lot of people visit England,Scotland,Ireland, and so few consider Wales. In fact, when I called my credit card company to advise them of my travels I was queried, “How to you spell that … W-H-A . . . and where is that?”
My retired husband was an airline employee and so when we travel it is on his benefits, which means: Standby. During the weeks leading up to departure I checked and re-checked the Toronto/London flight for loads. While it fluctuated a bit, at no point was it necessary to consider changing our departure time or date and we stayed at the top of the contingency passenger list. My flight Ottawa/Toronto on the other hand got too tight for comfort and so I departed the house at 11.00 a.m.to arrive in Ottawa at 12.30 for a flight departing at 2.00 to arrive in Toronto for 3.00 for a flight departing to London at 8.00 p.m.
We met in YYZ as planned, if a little past the appointed hour – just enough for me to get anxious – you never know what’s ahead of you in the standby check-in process. However, we received seats right away and thus the stress dissipated. On to the duty-free shop for some vacation libation and then dinner.
After arrival in London, the next leg of our journey was by bus from Heathrow to Cardiff, purchased and pre-paid on-line during our planning process. However, not knowing if our flight would be on time, or how long it would take to clear customs, or the difficulties that might be involved in finding the bus station within the five-terminal Heathrow airport, we had booked a 12.05 departure … but arrived at the bus counter ready to go with luggage in tow at 9.30. Moving forward to the 10.05 departure cost us an additional £5 each AND we found out that pre-booking on-line hadn’t saved us any money in the first place.
The final leg of our day’s journey was on foot with bags over our shoulders and luggage in tow along the sometimes cobbled walks of Cardiff in search of the Sandringham Hotel, 21 Mary Street, said to be just a couple of blocks from the station. It was indeed just a couple of blocks but we walked right past it and didn’t find our way until I stopped to ask. Happily it was still within pointing distance though my friend just shook her head at me in defiance and momentary refusal of dragging her bags one more step. I think this was when she cursed the six pairs of trousers she had packed, or maybe it was the four pairs of shoes. On arrival at the less than up-scale Sandringham we found that reception was on the 2nd floor with no lift available, and then our room was yet another floor above that. Luckily, a cup of tea does have some restorative powers. A Cardiff couple we later met grimaced when we told them we had stayed at the Sandringham – not a good introduction to Cardiff, they said.
With a last reserve of energy we set out on a walk about town. We passed Cardiff Castle, but declined on visiting, strolled along the embankment by the River Taff past the Millennium Stadium, waited for a water bus on the Taff that didn’t come, and returned to Mary Street, hungry. We found a pub that was good for some victuals, and tried to stay awake.
Finally, I was in need of a hot shower. From behind the closed door Deb heard crashes, grunts and a few cursing words. First, a paper jam on the toilet paper roll, which caused the gubbins to fly off, hit the floor and roll (first crash). In reaching for the paper, the toilet seat came unhinged and fell off (second crash). Then in stepping over the higher-than-usual side of the tub I stubbed my toe (the grunt), and then hit my head, twice, (the cursing words). It was the end of a long day.