Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Wales: Day 7 The Book(s) of Three (Castles)

On this morning I marked my one week anniversary of living in the UK! Haha. It was nice to be able to notice how I had adapted to the time change, as the last remains of jet lag were succumbing to general physical fatigue due to our pace. The weather was lovely (we've been incredibly lucky), so it was a good day to be out and about.

The morning was spent in touring three Norman castlses, lumped together locally and historically. They were built by the Normans to keep an eye on the Welsh. The Welsh were remarkably good at remaining autonomous and sovereign despite the number of invasions of Britain. They resisted the Romans (Boudicca), Normans, and later (and somewhat still are resisting) the British. Nothing was particularly stunning about these castles, but it was a light, pretty morning.

White Castle was first. It was the biggest and included a moat, so it was clearly my favorite. Maybe I'm naive or immature, but if a castle has a moat, it's automatically totally legit in my mind. And I'll remember it more clearly. Such is certainly the case with Raglan Castle (still my favorite).

Also, I quite like taking pictures on top of castles, because not only can you see the tops of these magnificent buildings, but the surrounding countryside is nearly as captivating. We take LOTS and LOTS of photos. How else will we remember this in 20 years?

Next we took a short drive to Skenfirth Castle. Very similar to White Castle, but smaller and less well-preserved. We were privileged to hear a presentation on Welsh author and poet Leslie Norris. I was able to read his short story "A Roman Spring" before we left, and it's really cool now to connect the imagery in his story to the scenery around me. Literature is amazing. Also, we got a good workout in by scaling the inside walls of the keep. :)

The last but 2nd place of the three castles was Grosmont. The small town of Grosmont was having their festival that day, so we didn't stay long. It did have a cool tower that set it apart from the other two Norman castles in its pod, however.

The best part of the day was our trip to Hay-on-Wye. Hay-on-Wye is a tiny, winding town set on a hill. This town boasts of 15+ small used book shops. Sometimes 3 or 4 right in a row. It was fantastic. I was feeling particularly pensive and solitary this day, so I plugged in my headphones and walked the city by myself. Bookstore after bookstore, I walked my fingers along the edges of shelves, caressing the spines of books, lifting heavy tomes and rifling through boxes of yellowing paperbacks.

The town is very quaint and small, so I enjoyed walking through indoor and outdoor bookstores and glass-filled antique shops like I was in a movie. I was quite hungry, so I found a small farmer's market on one street and purchased a fresh apple and a Diet Coke, then turned back to searching for books. I wasn't looking for anything in particular. I saw some cool things that I thought would make good souvenirs, but books might add too much weight to my luggage to bring home.

But then the stars aligned. Really. I was walking slowly along a shelf that didn't seem to get much traffic. It was at my eye level (so probably lower than the eye level of most customers), and, like every shelf, crammed with books. I saw a small paperback twisted behind two larger hardbacks. I carefully slid it out and what did I find? An old, but usable copy of Jane Eyre!!! For only one pound! It was fantastic. Isn't that like a scene from a movie? Solitary young female, quietly perusing bookshelves in a pretty, sleepy British town on a hill, stumbles across a used copy of Jane Eyre and spends her afternoon immersed in it.

I bought a chocolate bar from another little shop (chocolate is pretty cheap here, and higher quality than it is at home - Tiffany.... I know. I'm bringing you some) and found a quiet spot on a bench overlooking the valley and countryside. I ate chocolate and read Jane Eyre and gazed at the beautiful green countryside for a couple hours until the group reunited and we drove home.


No comments:

Post a Comment