The Rugged Beauty of North Wales
I've always loved trains. My sisters and I used to take them to New York when I was a child and when I was 12, my parents and I took a train one summer from Chicago to San Francisco and back again. Today we took an old- fashioned journey on a coal fired steam engine through the Snowdonia Mountains in North Wales.
The Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railway runs several restored trains daily. At the station in a small town, a Sunday morning vintage car show was taking place. Families with children were all dressed in 1940s outfits. Children wore straw hats and women wore fancy hats and nylons with seams up the back. Small tables were set up selling handmade afghans in pastel colors and for children, a paint your own rock table The train cars have wood paneling and run on a narrow gauge causing them to rock to and fro. I love the clickety clack of the wheels, the long lonely toot of the whistle, and the smell of smoke from the hot coal burning in the engine.
The scenery was spectacular: mountains covered with green grass and ferns with sheep grazing. Other mountains near the old slate mines were covered with bits and pieces of slate. I've never seen anything like it.
At the end of the line, everyone had time to stop for a quick bite to eat. Beside me sat a woman who lived in this small port town on the Irish Sea. "Excuse me, guess what's in the bag?" she said pointing to a green plastic bag rolled up on the table. I had no idea so she proudly opened the bag. It was a lobster! Throughout the cafe there was a festive holiday atmosphere. "My grandchild asked me the other day why I sign my letters LOL," said another woman to her friends. "I told her I thought it stood for loads of love!"
The National Slate Museum was much different than I expected. Thinking it would be a timeline through the history of slate.mining I was pleasantly surprised to find it was actually an old mine that closed in the 1969s. In addition to houses you could visit that showed the life of the miners in the last 200 years, it had the biggest water wheel in the UK. Walking through the foundry, a dusty dark place, you could see how grim a job this must have been. The countryside on the way here was rugged and desolate.
Tonight we ate at the Castle Hotel in Conwy where we dined on fresh local fish. On the way back to our hotel, We decided to climb the twin walls one last time for a view. We'll miss North Wales. Tomorrow we head to Portugal.