One sunny Saturday, we set out for Wales from Reading. After a few initial hiccups, the journey started off enthusiastically. 3 cars-15 bachelors- a splendidly smooth M4 motorway....needless to say was the fire-cotton-oxygen combination. Once we were on the highway, the straight stretch of smooth silky asphalt compelled us to test the cars' potential. It was hard to keep the dictum 'Speed thrills but kills' in mind. Almost everyone was envious of the one in the driver's seat. A rotation policy was set in place, so that everybody gets to control the car for sometime before reaching Wales.
The huge hanging 'Severn Bridge' across the Atlantic was our gateway to Wales from Bristol, England. After a burger break at wayside service 'Welcome Break', we were on our way to Swansea. Trying to interpret the English meanings of welsh signposts and traffic rules on the road, kept us engaged and entertained till Swansea. We gathered and remembered that 'Araf' means 'slow down' and 'Arafwch' means 'Slow down now' by the time we reached Swansea(still unsure on how to pronounce that).
Swansea is a beautiful city with a few beaches, green landscape and mainly the cliffs directly opening into the sea. The sea breeze at Swansea Marina with the vast expanse of water for a view was pretty relaxing, considering, the usual other scenic encounters we have are the windows screensavers. We learnt that Swansea is also called 'Abertawe' or the mouth of river Tawe! Photographs in ‘poses like our Darwinian forefathers’ and a beer or two later, everyone decided to head to Cardiff, the Welsh capital.
The drive again was a heavenly endeavour and we reached Cardiff Bay. The Cardiff bay was in midst of a summer festival. The folks were blithe listening to live band and carousing. The Wales Millennium Centre was the most dominating structure of the bay. It is a centre of Welsh performing arts. The bronze colour of the dome was beautifully different from the regular buildings, it being created with steel treated with copper oxide. The welsh words on the dome proclaimed "Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration" and in English it said "In these stones, horizons sing". Though it looked a jumble of letters when read there (thanks to the alien welsh language), a simple search on Google cleared the clouds. A wishing well in the compound was a good place to spend some one penny coins we abhor to carry around.
We went around the Cardiff Bay taking in the gala atmosphere. Cardiff bay was lively with every pub, bar and restaurant overflowing with crowd in festive mood. When our stomachs reminded us of their existence, we found a fantastic Italian restaurant called ‘Bellinis’ near ‘Signor Valentino’. The chardonnay we ordered was best we all had ever had and was enough for couple of us to say no to car driving for that night. After gorging on a sumptuous dinner, like sharks in Wales (pun intended), we made the two birthday boys with us, cut the cake.
We were on the road once again. This time, the destination was ‘Blacksheep backpackers’ in a small village of Abergavenny in Monmouthshire town. The adventure was about to begin. We knocked (and later banged) on the door of the hostel, called them on the phone, but to no avail. Couple of us managed to peep through the back window and bang on it to awaken the sleeping watchman while the rest were revving the cars and discussing the features as if they were to appear in Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson. After about half an hour of toil, the watchman woke up but swore he would never let anyone of us enter. As we were planning to drive back to Reading, the cops appeared out of nowhere and parked their cars so close to ours, so we couldn’t move without hitting it. Luckily, for us, we had the booking printouts handy and cops managed to get us inside the hostel while the watchman apologised (supposedly, the manager hadn’t informed of our arrival). Whew! The double decked bed was inviting after a rapid day full of interesting adventures.
Sunday morning brought with it clouds and showers, though it was quite bright luckily. With 15 of us in one small backpacking house, it was almost felt that we had taken over the place. The owners gladly filled the empty racks with cornflakes and bread and made us feel at home. Our next plan was to see Pembroke and head back to Reading.
Pembroke castle was worth a visit as we were able to access the towers and view the panoramic beauty of Pembroke. Though, this was not among the best of the castles we’ve seen, castle with river flowing beside them always is a treat to see. Castle done, we reached the airfield where we had booked a helicopter ride. The anticipation of being in a helicopter for the first time was big for all of us. Weather played a spoil sport and only four of us could get a ride in the helicopter. The incessant rain hampered the flight and due to safety reasons, pilot decided against taking anymore on the bird.
Plenty of photographs later, we were off to Reading stopping by at the Pembroke beach to adore the scenic beauty of cliff falling straight into the sea. A drive on M4 was again exhilarating. Raring to have a go, all the cars raced against each other, though keeping safety first. The gang in Volkswagen Golf got a free picture taken by the speed camera.
Thankfully, everyone was smiling at the time!