Up early this morning as we head off to Wales to catch up with my Mum’s brother Eric and his partner Gill. They live in Newport in South Wales.
We do breakfast and pack away the last of our stuff ready for the trip.
It will be a sad parting with Uncle Jim and Auntie Pat. They have made us extremely welcome and we have both been very comfortable staying with them. We fully appreciate that they have gone out of their way to make our stay here happy, with chauffeured tours of the surrounding area, visits to various landmarks and the introduction of Rowena to the delights of mushy peas.
We could not fit everything into the time we had (I would have liked to get to Stratford upon Avon) but the stuff we have done, and the family we have thus far met has been gold.
The conversation as we sit in our (now) individual places still revolve around what is specifically British or New Zealand, or is common to both countries. We talk further on family and the odd anecdote (usually funny) is given.
But it is soon time to look at moving on.
I go and get our luggage from the upstairs bedroom and bring it down to the car. That all done it only leaves hugs all around and very nearly teary eyes. Uncle Jim is quite emotional and it is so lovely that Rowena and I are held by them in such high regard. We will miss them both.
We head off in the car and make a left turn onto The Main Stratford Road and join the reasonably heavy traffic flow. Realising our mistake we make a u-turn and head in the opposite (correct) direction and before you can say “unplanned detour” we are on the motorway west.
The trip to Newport takes about two hours. It is quite an uneventful trip with only two minor stops. Both at roadside cafés that, because of horrendously ridiculous over charging for food, we end up not patronising.
It rains off and on, becoming more frequent as we get to South Wales. We could be driving through New Zealand here. The countryside here and that of much of rural New Zealand is remarkably alike. The main difference being that in South Wales (as in much of UK) there is always a small village or town just a short way away. A reminder that this tiny island is home for over 61 million people.
Newport is a small harbour town, in that I mean the town is on a small harbour, on the southern coast of Wales. The buildings reflect that its heyday was during the early part of the 20th century and later part of the 19th century. The rows and rows of tiny brown brick houses mingle with the occasional very old or very new edifice. Because of this there are few landmarks to find and we are soon lost. We have printed out a Google Map, but this is not of much help as we struggle to identify where in the world we actually are and where that would be on the map.
After about 20 minutes of searching we finally find a road identification number that makes some sense. It still does not tell us where we are but gives us an approximation by knowing the road that we are on and which way it is towards the next motorways (the A4). We head off in the hope that by heading towards the A4 we will intersect the area that we want. That of the suburb of Bassaleg.
Marvels, this happens and once back on the scent we are outside Uncle Eric’s home before you can say “I hate getting lost all the time”.
The area around Uncle Eric’s is very nice. Although it just at the edge of the town it feels like it is deep in the countryside. The area feels like a tiny village, complete with a very old church with a massive steeple, an old weir across a fast flowing stream and short rows of cottages on the edge of a railway line.
Uncle Eric is still on his way up from Weymouth where he has a holiday caravan by the coast, so we wander off to explore the area and look for some late lunch. A short ride along the main road out of town and we have passed several hotels advertising Sunday Roast Lunches and other fare.
We choose one called the “Rhiwderin Inn” (a more Welsh name one would struggle to find) due to its advertisement of BBQ on Sundays and in we go. It is very old world and quaint with a low roof, dark, but comfortable, interior, small tables and obviously well stocked bar and a landlady who calls us “Luv”.
A glass of coke, a glass of white wine, a baked potato dripping with prawns in sauce (Rowena) and a very large individual steak and ale pie with chips and salad (me) cost only about eleven pounds. The friendly service was priceless as was the experience because of it.
Lunch done (we take our time as Uncle Eric was an hour away when we called him) we head off back to his house.
A short after lunch walk is called for so, grabbing the camera, we wander off towards the church and the river. Both get thoroughly covered by digital images from all angles. I can not get enough of this place (UK) with its old buildings and everything gets photographed where ever we go. I am sure that we will look at all our pictures and wander to ourselves “Why did we take that?” as with my photographic skills and the lack of a good zoom on our little camera the pictures do not really do the subject justice.
A circular walk up passed the river and the small “railway” cottages, up through the churchyards and around the church itself, down through the small village and back to the house. Although it is overcast and a little wet (still lightly raining) it is a lovely walk. We settle back down in the car to await our host.
Uncle Eric, Auntie Gill and Smokey the Dog arrive in good time and we head off inside for a good catch up. Uncle Eric and Auntie Gill have been to New Zealand twice and they are two of only a small handful of family that I have had anything to do with for over 38 years. But it is good to catch up on all the news (and gossip) and get reacquainted.
Uncle Eric has found us a room at a local hotel (only 32 pounds a night) and we head there to book in and drop off our rental car. That done we head back down to Aunty Pat’s car and off we go again.
We are in dire need of some food. After all it has been several hours since our huge meal and we are starving again. Well not really but the plan is to go a local carvery that Uncle Eric knows and have a nice tea there.
Tea is a choice of meat, a small mountain of vegetables and rivers of gravy or sauces. It is really nice (and Uncle Eric pays, tut tut tut) and I am glad that I am not having to drive the vehicle as I can now hardly move. We do a short tour of the township with the guys pointing out various landmarks and giving us a history of the place as it pertains to the family.
But soon we find ourselves back at the hotel and wishing the guys a good night. Up to the room and I lie flat on the bed, stomach so full that I feel like a beached whale, TV on and set to self extinguish and in no time flat I am asleep.
A busy, bitter sweet and long day.