On the one hand, 2018 might have qualified as the most adventure-packed year of my life. As my husband (then-fiancé!) and I finished up our last few months of long-distance love, I visited the United Kingdom twice in six months – a new record for me! We enjoyed a brief period of quiet time in our new home after that final visit resulted in the happily-ever-after of a granted visa: and then the rest of the summer concluded with a trip to my home, our wedding, and a mini-honeymoon.
I always enjoy looking back over my various voyagings in a given year, so I hope you will indulge me as I post my virtual travelogue nearly a week into 2019!
The last time I visited Wales, crossing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct seemed an impossible venture – ice, cold, and wind might have complicated such a quest. I’m glad we didn’t even try, because the summer experience proved absolutely idyllic!
Clad in my standard uniform for British adventures – a Sophie Hatter-esque dotted blue dress and an enormous, SPF-strong sun hat – I stepped into the sky with a canal at my side!
The aqueduct (a World Heritage site!) naturally appealed to my romantic sensibilities. That’s funny, considering that it constitutes an engineering highlight of the Industrial Revolution – probably the opposite of what would satisfy most actual Romantics – but in the twenty-first century, it possesses a distant historical aura that I adored. Imagine an alternate world in which such airborne canals became commonplace, and man-made rivers stretched like highways throughout all of New England!
A flock of ducklings and their watchful mother crossed our paths near the edge of the canal. Make way!
Of course, I most enjoyed the marbled, glimmering glimpses of the sky and trees in the water! On our way back, a few tourist-bearing canalboats sliced through the reflections, creating an even more dizzying pattern of colorful ripples. Now that I’m back in Massachusetts, I can’t help peeking into creeks with some disappointment…
Chasing down the exact etymological history of the Great Orme in Llandudno is akin to pursuing an elusive dragon across the high seas. The most widely disseminated information suggests that it derives from the Old Norse ormr for “serpent” (think wyrm/worm in the Old English/Anglo-Saxon/Tolkienesque sense, depending on your personal preference). Whether that’s fanciful or fact, I would love to believe that this great cliff rising from the shimmering water reminded someone, Viking or Victorian, of a massive beast standing sentinel at the coast.
When I captured the first photo above – the dramatic view of distant Castell Dinas Bran radiant in the sunlight and mist – I felt as though I’d stepped into a painting by Thomas Cole, one of my favorite artists associated with the Hudson River School. (The thematic similarity of castle ruins immediately made me think of The Present, a painting I used to teach with almost daily in my previous job, but it could really be any glorious Cole landscape!)
I expected a grey, wintry Wales awaited me during my trip in January, so the verdant pastures and generally vernal signs of life took me by surprise. If only the bleak New England beginning-of-the-year could take some tips from Great Britain!