Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wales Day 2 - St. David's

For our second day in Wales, on July 28th, I had planned to drive up north an hour from where we were in Pembroke Dock, to a tiny town called St. David's. There's an old cathedral in the town where a Christian church has been for 1500 years!!!! Nearby is a beautiful coastline (like all of Wales) with a promontory jutting out into the sea called St. David's Head. There is a walking trail/hike to get to it which starts at a nice beach called Whitesands Bay (Porth Mawr in Welsh). My hope was to start at the beach, walk up and around St. David's Head, and end up back on the beach to play for a couple hours. I knew rain was a very likely probability but planned to take rain coats and wellies and just play anyway. Besides, after checking the weather multiple times the day before, night before ,and morning of, it allllll said that the rain shouldn't start until around 3pm. Which would give us plenty of time to accomplish all this.

Well, we drove up to St. David's.... and it rained the ENTIRE DRIVE haha. But incredibly, as we neared St. David's the rain stopped and while it wasn't clear skies by any means, at least it was dry! So instead of starting at the cathedral (St. David's Cathedral) and hoping the rain would lighten up, we just went straight for the hike to take advantage of the dry weather while it lasted. It started out great! We suited up in our rain boots and jackets, I strapped Claire onto my back, packed in a few snacks and some suckers and Fruitellas for an emergency (candy usually solves problem when in a pickle. Use very sparingly as an antidote though ahah) and we set off. Max saw the sign posted at the beginning detailing that the hike to St. David's Head was 1 mile long. "Well, we'll see if we make it that far." he said, while I replied with, "Oh, we'll make it." I was Determined. Alice is a fabulous walker now thanks to our time in England and having to walk a 1/2 mile to school every day plus lots and lots and lots of other walks. And Jane is getting bigger and better all the time. I had pretty much made up my mind that we would not turn around until we had made it to our destination. 

It was so beautiful! The walk followed the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, so just right along the coast, with a few stretches right on a cliff. Like, right along a cliff, like 4-5 feet from the edge maybe? We held on to the kids' hands pretty tight in those stretches and told Jane repeatedly that there was a strict NO RUNNING rule. She was actually quite obedient, for how rambunctious she is, she does tend to get timid, cautious, even fearful when things are strange, uncomfortable or scary to her. Anyways, it was gorgeous. Lovely rock cliffs jutting down into the ocean backed by rolling green hills and fenced off pastures that eventually turned into rolling fields of heather and gorse (spiky evergreen plant with bright yellow flowers) the further from the parking lot we walked. And of course the sea was gorgeous as well, crazy and full of movement from the stormy weather. I loved watching it crash into the cliffs below us and seeing the white spray shoot up onto the rocks. 

It really was a lovely walk and amazingly, all of the kids were fabulously entertained. Claire never once whined to get down, which is totally unheard of, I think she was mesmerized by the sights of the sea and hills. Jane and Alice were entertained by the path we had to follow which was full of rocks, small mounds and ramps on the edges to keep their little feet entertained, as well as gentle slopes either up to crest a rise or down into a valley. I hope they appreciated the views as well, I tried to point things out to them, like all the heather everywhere, the ocean and waves and how it smashed into the cliffs, the grass and the streams we saw. Anyway, neither of them complained the entire time! 

Until we finally got to St. David's Head, which was when it started raining. English/Welsh/Irish rain is very different than rain I've experienced other places, like Utah, Idaho, even Jerusalem when I lived there. It's such a fine, thick rain, it begins and you don't think it's raining much at all, but then give yourself 5 minutes out in it, maybe 10, and you're completely soaked. 

I really regret that we did scramble up the rocks of St. David's Head more... we got there and weren't really sure that was it, there wasn't any on site signage and I was trying to make sense of a map I'd downloaded on my phone and the corresponding step by step directions for the hike. We'd missed a turn somewhere and had gotten a little mixed up, skipped a few sections of the hike, so I wasn't sure exactly where we were (which, it ended up being good we did because if we'd stuck to the trail that I'd originally planned, which wasn't just to St. David's Head but around the whole area, it would have probably doubled our time). On our way up we'd seen one landmark that I knew I wanted to check out, called Coetan Arthur, which is the site of an ancient burial chamber marked by two massive stones leaned onto one another (which Wikipedia tells me is from 3,000 BC!!) We had seen its silhouette on the hill rise as we came down and up one of the preceding valleys on the hike and I wanted to go get a closer look. So we set off for that, assuming that it was just a bit further inland from St. David's Head, and that we'd go see it and then come back and climb up to St. David's Head to look around. Well, I was right that it was nearby, and it was really awesome, although I didn't think to get a great picture of it on its own, but by the time we came back down to the promontory we were just all completely soaked and still had nearly an hour hike back and Max and the girls weren't having it. Had I been on my own I TOTALLY would have climbed up there to have a good look around, and looking back, if we'd done that first we probably could have done both.... but oh wells. So we hiked/walked back and it was quite fun and silly for the first half of the hike, dripping in rain, watching the waves, even bigger now, crashing around below us. But we got to one big long uphill, and it kind of became just drudgery and we were all ready to be done. Luckily, although we were soaked, even with all our rain gear, we thankfully weren't cold. Just super, super, soggy wet.

Here's the National Trust website for St. Davids Head

Cool natural jetty. The far side of it is Whitesands Beach, where the car park was and we started.

The vicious looking gorse was all over.

Jane at the Kissing Gate.

Pretty purple heather. From far away it doesn't look so purple, more brownish, but look how vibrant those blossoms are up close.
Stone seat for a rest.

The peak behind Max is Carn Llidi, you can climb up it for some great views of the St. David's Peninsula, but with the kids... we could've, but we didn't ...
I'm 90% sure that rocky promontory is St. David's Head.

Heather and gorse covered the whole peninsula.
Heather, gorse, and Carn Llidi.

Windswept but happy.
Probably one of my favorite pictures of Jane, EVER!

If we had scrambled over these walks we would have been able to climb out to the actual "St. David's Head" promontory. As I said earlier, we had decided to save it until after we had hiked a bit further to see Coetan Arthur, the neolithic burial site. The only problem is that after we went to check that out, a downpour opened up from the sky and all we really wanted to do was hike back to the car (except for me haha, I was willing to continue in the rain, but 4 against 1 so....) .
Anyway, here we are taking a rest before continuing on to Coetan Arthur.
Just as it began to drip drop.
Claire trying to snuggle in during the rain.

Heather in the rain.
And Jane in the rain.

Misty, angry sea and wild, savage boulders.

Coetan Arthur

In a crisis suckers work really well to lift spirits ;)
It was starting to rain, the kids were tired, I whipped out some suckers and, despite Jane's face, it did give them a rush of cheerfulness. 
My lens was all fogged up and smudged from the rain = fuzzy pictures.

Taking shelter from the rain. The burial stone was a perfect, giant umbrella.

While the others  enjoyed their shelter, Claire and I climbed up to the top of the nearest rocky outcropping. Poor Claire didn't have much choice in the matter... maybe I should have taken her off my back first haha. We got pretty wet... But it was a cool view.
Straight ahead from where I was standing with Claire is St. David's Head.
I got this pano at the top of the outcropping. If you look in the center to the lift a bit you can make out Coetan Arthur, or rather Alice's bright yellow coat underneath it.
The heather and St. David's Head.

Max getting soaked...

When we finally made it back to the car, we decided to peel of our wettest layers and stash them in the trunk, and just eat our lunch in the car, again haha, instead of the lovely beach picnic I had envisioned. But everyone was so sick of the rain that no one wanted to go down to the beach  and play, so after a nice long break of eating and relaxing with the heater cranked all the way up, we left Whitesands/Porth Mawr/St. David's Head and drove over to St. David's Cathedral.  When we got there it was like all hell had broken lose on the kids. They were insane; crying, whining, completely irrational, and I was close to scrapping the idea, because we really were all soaked still, the kids were crazy, and it sounded kinda sorta nice to just go back to the hotel and change into dry clothes and find something else to do. But, I just couldn't. We were right there!! I couldn't just scrap it, I'm too stubborn. In the end, Alice actually decided to go with me, which I was really surprised about, because she was crying and miserable, but the two of us went to check it out while Max held down the fort in the car. She moaned and cried on and off the whole 7 minute walk from the car to the church and I kept asking her why she was crying and why she was sad and why she even had wanted to come... and she said it was because here pants were soaked and her legs were freezing haha. Well, we found some toilets (partially the reason I didn't want to just leave; we needed the toilets) and then walked around a bit, there was a bishop's palace in ruins that was cool to peek into, and then walked around and inside the cathedral. Honestly, the cathedral was not so impressive inside as outside, and I would have liked to walk around outside more, but the rain drove us indoors, where we stayed too long because of an art show they had on display that Alice enjoyed perusing, and when we finally got back to the car Daddio was not too happy about being left for so long with the 2 hooligans. Shoot, keeping track of time has never been my strong point...

Here are some of the road signs we passed en route to St. David's. Some really cool Welsh names like  Ddiwydiannol, Llandyfal, and Abergwaun

And some lovely, cute pastel houses. I think maybe this is a Welsh thing? I hadn't really seen it, at least not to this extent, before.
There's the lovely St. David's Cathedral, mist-ified from the rain.

Cute little cow pasture leading up to it.

Cathedral on the right, Bishop's palace on the left. 
Cow pasture in the foreground.

Below is the front of the Cathedral, it actually looks very different than the side and tower, probably they were built at different time periods. 

Off in another direction, this is the Bishop's Palace.
Inner courtyard of the bishop's palace.

And here's the interior.
I loved that rustic, wooden ceiling.

More ceiling details.

Looking up into the square tower.
And with the top of the organ...

Aaaand back outside.

I'm not sure what that was just up the hill from the cathedral, but I liked this shot showing the pretty, rolling hills surrounding the church.

After Alice and I got back to the musty, angry car haha, we began our drive back to Pembroke Dock, the town where our inn was (Shipwright Inn - nice, clean, cute, cosy & budget friendly). Once in the city we stopped at the nearest Asda to pick up some stuff for the next day's breakfast and lunch, and way too many treats. Why do I have such a strong sweet tooth????

The inn has a cute ship themed restaurant/pub on the ground floor so after changing into dry things in our room, we were still a bit damp at the end of the hour drive, we went down for some dinner and then had the kids in bed before 9PM, which, while on vacation, felt pretty dang early!

And that concludes our day! Really only did the two "things", but man, saw some really incredible views.

One of the one-too-many treats I bought. These things are soooo good.

And more signage:
Aberdaugleddau, Hwlffordd, Maenorbyr, and Dynbich-y-pisgod

I seriously loved that majestic red dragon everywhere.

One more day from Wales and then on to other things.