1. You can be a novice at trains and buses.
In South Wales, you quickly learn that knowing what you’re doing isn’t a prerequisite for having everything work out as it should. The recent adventure Jackie, aka Seester, and I had in Pembrokeshire is proof of that.
We tried to be good tourists and decipher the Arriva trains, the (driven by the best drivers ever given licenses!) buses, the sometimes too expensive taxis, and the multitude of footpaths. We knew from our previous trip that one or a combo of a few could be the best way to reach our destination. For instance, to leave the Brecon Beacons Park, we walked a mile to the bus stop, journeyed two hours through the hills, switched to a train at Swansea for another hour and a half to arrive at the Saundersfoot stop, where we caught a ride in a painter’s van. There’s a story there, but not for this blog.
2. You’re sure to laugh with someone new.
What’s more fun than decrypting train schedules, bus passes and dickering with taxi drivers over fares, is knowing there’s one thing to be relied on throughout your journey: the kindness of the Welsh people to laughingly (with you, at you—it’s all the same) help you and set you on the proper course. Time and time again.
3. Exploring Pembrokeshire is a study in unique people.
As Maggie told us when we met over her blooming garden, “As soon as you talk with a Welsh person, they’ll ask how long you’ll be here. It’s not rudeness, it’s to see how much time we’ll have with you.” What a delightful approach to meeting strangers, don’t you think? This complements their willingness to befriend the lost and set you on your intended course—or, quite often—offer a new idea that’s better than your plan.
4. The size keeps it manageable.
At around 8,000 square miles, Wales is about the size of the state of Massachusetts. Because Wales has 3,074,067 people compared to our state’s population of 6,547,629, it allows a lot more space between humans.
5. Wales has a notable simplicity.
If you’re one of those crazy Americans who’ve allowed an unhealthy amount of stress to pervade your life, I recommend a leisurely stay in Pembrokeshire. Inland towns from Brecon to Haverford are pretty, but it’s the coastal villages that captivate my wanderlusting heart and had me saying eighteen times a day, “Have I mentioned how much I love Wales?”
As soon as I set foot in one of these quaint communities, from Fishguard to Goodwick to Saundersfoot to Tenby, I think to myself: How soon can I return? How can I stay longer?
These lovely, quiet places along the Coast have a pervasively relaxing approach to life that reminds me of a California beach town where the daily attitude was, “Surf’s up, be happy.” Not a surfer, I didn’t get that so much. This peacefulness, I get. My heart is boundlessly happy when I’m walking the turf of this land.
6. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Since first reading about the Path a few years ago, I’ve had a mind to walk the length of it—186 miles. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the trooper to do this in one fell swoop, I must have time to enjoy a glass of wine, savor a bit of chocolate, marvel at the design in my latte. Rather, I’ll continue to conquer bits of the trail anytime one hike at a time.
Summing it all up…
The simplest way to enjoy South Wales is to ready your shoes for walking, whether it be a stroll or a hike, a town path or the coastal trail. Know that your best-laid plans may go awry and decide now not to let it bother you. Kick back, put on your brightest smile and start trekking. The sights will be varied and the people you meet are guaranteed to captivate your soul.
Next week: Genuine Conversations with the Fun-Loving Welsh