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2005-08-27 - 10:58 p.m.


I am back from a truly wonderful holiday with K in Wales. In fact it was darned near perfect. The weather was sunny and cool almost the entire time (we were both sunburned! Imagine! In Wales!).

We got off to a rocky start of trying to find each other in greater London... complicated by the fact that neither of us had cellphones or email, and that K missed his train to Waterloo. This situation was not helped by my perpetual red-eye-flight- induced coma...I slept at a friend's apartment in the Barbican and fielded logistical telephone calls until the evening.

The following morning we zipped directly off to northern Wales. Our first stop was Llandudno - a fantastic northern coast town that has such a Baltic feeling to it. We stayed in a hotel at the very top of the hill where we had a splendid view of the promenade, the coast, the inlet, and even the Snowdon Mountains in the distance. The only glitch was our unseasoned hotel manager, who greeted me with, "What a horrid colonial accent." Having lived amongst the English (he was NOT Welsh) for several years, I am not offended by such banter - merely bored by it. And a little bit surprised to find it in an industry that thrives only with courtesy. The gentleman continued to impress by changing his rant to French-bashing.. and asking me why Americans hate the French so much. yep. still boring. But nevermind - the place was splendid and we were not deterred.

Our second B&B was near the town of Brecon and broke all records for hospitality, beauty, and peacefulness. We were in a Victorian farmhouse snuggled right between the Black Mountains and the Brecon Beacons, right in the National Park. Each night, after a day of driving or getting lost on the trails on the tops of the beacons, we sat and enjoyed wine or tea while watching the sun set over green patchwork hills, dotted with sheep.

A word or two about sheep. Although rather lacking in intelligence, sheep have an amazing capability to calm the soul. As we looked out at the landscapes we took to calling them "dots" because they were spread at random, EVERYWHERE on the sides of the hills. And up close, they seemed so simple. Eat. Poop. Sleep. Climb. Lay Down. Repeat. The dots were wonderful.

We left this BB for another hike along a river scattered with waterfalls. This was not my favorite hike. I'm more of a coast and mountain person, and less interested in forested wood with waterfalls - in particular because the ups and downs were murder on my knees. But K saw and photographed all of them from every angle possible. Thanks to our dreadful un-map, he even saw more waterfalls than required...

Our third stay was down on the Pembroke coast, in another farmhouse in a tiny town called Dale, right on the Pembroke Coast Path. This B&B was not quite as nice as the one at Brecon, but the Pembroke Coast Path exceeded all of my expectations, and I was in walking heaven! We wound up on a 12-15 mile hike that day, all along the rocky coast overlooking waters as blue as the Mediterranean Sea. The weather was brilliant. And amazingly enough, there were so few people there. Although there are many places to see in this world, I so hope that I have the chance to go back to Wales! It was so wonderful, and a great way to spend my birthday.

The day after our long drive back to London, K surprised me with my birthday present - two tickets to see The Producers. We are big fans of the original movie, and we both loved the musical, too. Mind you, Zero Mostel and in particular Gene Wilder are impossible acts to follow! Although Kevin Applegate did a fine job in the role of Max, I found the actor playing Leo to be rather flat. Also we were a bit disappointed at the expansion of the weakest part of the film: the character of Ulla, the stupid Swedish secretary. But apart from the critique, I'm very glad we saw it, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and the small little hidden tributes to Mel Brooks buried in lines for acute listeners.

Our last day was spent visiting my best friend who lives out in east London, near the border to Essex. We brought presents for her three children and had a great time just sitting around in her kitchen and playing in the backyard - and later (ahem) getting more-than-mildly wasted on an excellent bottle of tawny port.. As I said later, we drank enough so that I could fit my head in the empty bottle the next morning...

That is a very brief synopsis of the holiday without email and computers. I do wish that I had had a means of writing down my thoughts in real time - there were so many interesting observations that have slipped past me now that I am home. But alas, I needed to be entirely away, so the sacrifice of a few observations is okay with me.

And now that I have returned, I've been surprisingly successful with preparing my lectures for the fall - I am up to Lecture 7 already - almost four weeks worth out of the way! We shall see how long this upbeat manner is allowed to hold...

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