U.K. Holiday: April 2017

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Monday, 10 April - Side trip to Wales

Our goal was to spend the day in Wales, visiting two cities (Cardiff and Chepstow) and an abbey, so we had to get a bit of an early start -- we were up at 7:00 and started breakfast right at 8:00. We like to book hotels with breakfast included on big trips like this one. At Homewood, breakfast was both a small buffet and hot entrees that were cooked to order. Everything was delicious! Our pre-arranged taxi picked us up at 9:00 and zipped us to the train station where we got our regional tickets.

We didn't exactly plan everything right when we got our complicated tickets on the spot, but it all worked out OK. We meant to go to Chepstow and Tintern Abbey first, then Cardiff later in the day, but the train we were on didn't make a stop where we would change to go to Chepstow, so we were "stuck" going to Cardiff first. We arrived around 10:45, and, unfortunately, only had about an hour and a half in the city due to the train and bus schedule for the trip to Chepstow, but we at least got to walk one of the main streets up to the castle. We had just enough time to take a briskly paced tour of the castle and grounds before getting back to the train station. We headed for Chepstow where we jumped on a bus to our ultimate destination for the day: Tintern Abbey.

Photos of Cardiff Castle and the city (24 images)

At Chepstow, we made the short walk to the bus station and got the bus to Tintern Abbey, the first and most anticipated deconstructed abbey on our list -- we had a good 2 hours to walk around and take it all in. This was a functioning abbey from its founding in 1131 up until King Henry VIII decided to destroy a great many abbeys out of jealousy around 1536. Essentially, he was jealous of their wealth and treasure. This abbey though is remarkably intact. You can still see enough of the walls and transepts to allow your imagination to fill in the blanks.

Outside the abbey was a small café and souvenir shop where Ginger supplemented her Cliff Bar with a panini and Neil got a coffee -- a bad americano made OK by adding another espresso shot. We got to the bus stop in plenty of time for the next bus (no one including drivers seemed to know the schedule), and we got back to Chepstow by 4:00.

Photos of Tintern Abbey (37 images)

The town of Chepstow essentially marks the end of England and the beginning of Wales. We had till almost 5:30 to get to the train station, so we had time enough to go to stroll through some of the streets making our way to another optional sight, Chepstow Castle. There isn't much left of the structure but its size and what is left of it makes it worth the stop if you have a bit of time. We got there at 4:30 and it was closing at 5:00, but we decided to spend the money on entry fee, and we're glad we did because it turned out to be really cool. We were done just after 5:00, and back at the train station by 5:15, where we rode back to Severn Tunnel Junction, where we switched to a train back to Bath.

Photos of Chepstow Castle and the town (32 images)

Back in Bath, we figured out the best way to get back to our hotel, and figured out the bus schedule for the next day. We had more than an hour before we needed to catch the train back toward the hotel, so we set off to get something to eat. Little did we know, most shops and eateries closed at 6:00 or 7:00, so after 7:00 our choices were limited. We got a couple sandwiches from the Costa coffee shop. Ginger wanted a coffee, so we stopped at Nero coffee shop across from the train station; Neil got an espresso drink and we shared a big chocolate muffin for dessert.

We had scouted out how to get back to the hotel in a more economical manner than a taxi from town, so we took a regional train to the hamlet of Freshford. We sat not moving for a minute, and once again some nice people came to our rescue. The guy sitting across from us had overheard that we needed to get off here, and we hadn't realized the doors wouldn't open automatically, so we sprang up and pushed the door open button. When we got off, the train operator was coming our way and told us he was coming to fetch us because he knew we needed to get off there! Ginger had read that the walk through Freshford was a bit of a shady, other-side-of-the-tracks area, but it turned out to be a lovely and quite safe little hamlet. It still took us a 30 minute walk to get to the hotel, but such lovely surroundings at least made it more pleasant -- certainly more so than the country road with all our luggage the previous day!

Photos from the evening (6 images)