Friday, July 13, 2007

Logbook: Dawlish - Groesfaen

Img_1472I’ve had 48 great weeks so far on The Voyage, but last week was one of the very best! My friend Betty was waiting for me when I arrived at the little train station in Dawlish last Sunday and we made a very quick drive through the heart of town -- a lovely little oasis on the shores of the English Channel -- on our way to her home -- also lovely little oasis! Betty is such a warm and delightful woman that it is really easy to just relax and have fun with her, so we wasted no time picking up where we left off in April -- when we were shipmates on the Polar Star -- and caught up on all our news and gossip since then. For the next three days we had a wonderful time, driving around the area, seeing sights, visiting some of her friends and having a lot of really good laughs.

Img_1430Devonshire is a strikingly beautiful and surprisingly varied place. With coastal influences, charming little towns, tidy farmlands and vast moors, it has just about everything in a relatively small area. There have been many places I’ve been so far on The Voyage where I’ve thought “I could come back here sometime”, but Devon is the first place where I’ve thought “I’ve got to come back and spend some time here!” Of all the good laughs we had together, some of the best were at mealtimes.

Betty has been having great success recently being on a very strict diet, one of those programs where all of your food comes in some form of snack bar, powdered drink or soup. She drinks four liters of water a day and her only “electives” are that she can have as much tea/coffee as she wants. Img_1443So, at mealtimes we would go to a restaurant or pub and I would announce to the server that “I am taking my friend out to lunch/dinner. She can have tea or coffee, and I will have...” usually ending up with some huge plate of food. We were quite a sight and had good laughs, even if others in the restaurant didn’t get the joke! Really, we had a lot of fun, relaxed time together and being with Betty for three days was a real treat for me. On Thursday, she insisted on driving me to my next destination, the little town of Groesfaen in Wales about two hours away. Upon our arrival at the home of my friends -- a Welsh family with whom I had sailed on the Discovery between the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica back in January -- we were warmly and enthusiastically greeted by my next “hosts” before Betty and I bid fond farewells and she headed back to Dawlish.

Jan, Rhian and I had about an hour to catch up before their three lovely young daughters -- Jess, Billie and Poppy -- got home from school. It was the “calm before the storm” because the moment we were all together, a happy whirlwind ensued and rarely paused for the next three days. Jan and I did have some time on Friday while the girls were in school to take a little tour of nearby Cardiff and to visit the Brecon Beacons -- where we hiked/climbed up Pen y Fan, the highest point in Wales -- but most of the time was high quality “family time” and I was both delighted and honored to be included in all of it. Over the weekend went to the waterfront in Cardiff, to a historical park and museum, to the beach, to the movies and even bowling. We had many, many great times, but the best for me was just being in their warm, fun, energetic and loving family.

Img_1468The girls, of course, are simply darling -- as you can see in the Photos and the “Welsh Folk Song” Report -- and I especialy enjoyed being with them. Jan commented several times about how “surreal” it seemed to be in Wales together when we had only met by chance on a ship on the opposite side of the world, and we both agreed that sometimes you just get lucky to meet the right people. I’m determined that we shall meet again! On Monday morning we dropped the girls off at school, then Jan and Rhian dropped me off at the train station in Cardiff for my day-long train ride here to Edinburgh, Scotland.

I have spent the past three days catching up with myself after my two excellent, whirlwind weeks with “new” friends in London, Pangbourne, Dawlish and Groesfaen. I have mostly been bringing this website up to date, catching up with folks on Skype and doing some of the usual “chores” -- haircut, laundry, etc. I have held off doing much exploration of this ancient and attractive city, waiting for my mom to arrive later today. We will have a couple of days here then head down to Newcastle to start our eight day walk along the entire 84 mile length of Hadrian’s Wall, something I have wanted to do since I first saw a piece of the Wall over twenty years ago. I not quite sure why, but I’m sure I find out. So, I will probably be offline again for a couple of weeks, but stay tuned... The Voyage of Macgellan continues!

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