Lili's Travel Diary #8: Wales


I was initially very hesitant to sign up for this trip to Wales. It was offered by my uni here in London as part of a social programme to get students to meet each other. I ended up not signing up for it and missing the cut-off and immediately regretting it, so when the cut-off was extended I dropped the $200 and didn't look back. Tour guide? Crappy 2 star hotel accommodation? Executive coach included? Nothing could be bad in my eyes. Sure, I had been to Wales before, but it was for the same reason I came to London when I was 12 and I was homesick and barely remember my adventures.

This was my first trip in the UK and I knew it would make my travel bug bite even harder than it has already, so I was game.

We woke up at 6AM (I died a little inside when that alarm went off) to catch the bus to Wales. Did you know that on buses you are required to wear seat belts here? It is so strange to me because buses in the US don't even have seat belts as an option. But anyway, we are heading out and we know we are nearing Wales when all we are seeing are beautiful green hills and lots of sheep. The running joke is that Wales is apparently the land of sheep.

Now, this is where things start to go bad a bit. We are driving along, doing all the mandatory rest stops for food and because there are laws about how long a driver can drive for a set period of time here, and then we stop in this town called Chester. Chester is still in England, on the Welsh border, and according to our guide it is where people in the UK go to shop. There's a huge drag with everything from a Disney store to high-end fashion retailers. But at this point we made a 4+ hour journey on a bus and we wanted to get to Wales, we didn't want to spend 4 hours in England, you know?

Upon getting to Chester our guide took us along the walls of the city so that we would get to the second most photographed clock in Great Britain behind the infamous Big Ben. It was pretty! And
then at that point he's like, cool, we have four hours here so just scatter and do your own thing. So we all kind of looked at each other because we paid for you to guide and you're not guiding us, dude, but we shrugged it off and decided to make the most of it.

But we all decided to roll with the punches and find other stuff to do. We found the gorgeous Chester Cathedral and took a brief tour of it. It was absolutely breathtaking! Some pictures are below, but I can tweet out many more if you are interested.


After the Cathedral, a small group of us that linked up decided to get food. We toured around the busy streets and stumbled into a closed Central Perk (*sad face*) and even an American Candy Store! I kid you not! I walked in there and was in heaven. However, I had only been away from home for 3 weeks at that point and had my January box of sour patch kids courtesy of my lovely #otspsecretsister Sondra, and decided it was not worth buying anything. But, oh man, I hope there's one of those in London for when the middle of my trip (March-ish) hits!

At this point, we got food and just wandered for another hour because there was nothing else within the walls of Chester that we could do. We were ready to leave because we wanted to get to Wales! But we still had a long ways to go and did not end up pulling into our lovely two star hotel in the town of Llandudno until about 7:30PM. By then it was pitch black so we couldn't even properly explore the area. My roommate and I stood on our balcony taking in the fresh air and snapping our view because we knew it would be gorgeous come morning.
Our view at night.
Our view in the morning.
That night we just wandered around looking for a place to eat dinner that was open. It was a Saturday night and so many places were just...dead. And then we found out our guide texted all his friends in the area that a ton of young Americans were out and about exploring and that made it super creepy because a few people started following us. We ended up ducking into the first thing we saw which was this gorgeous renovated theater turned into a pub and shoveled food and a few margaritas in our face because we needed it after spending over 6 hours on a bus in one day.

We were all lamenting about how cute Llandudno seemed, and how we wish we could have just come straight here to explore and enjoy instead of wasting what precious daylight we had in a town in England where there was nothing we could really do. But alas, around 10PM everyone but the two of us decided to head back to the hotel with its beautiful views and really smelly bathrooms. We were exhausted and ready to relax. We all hung out in a girls room till about 1AM just talking and making future travel plans that I'll tell you about as they come together, and getting to know each other. My roommate and one other person ended up going on an epic adventure in Wales where they bar hopped for five hours with random Welsh people, which sounded awesome, but I just didn't have the energy for it.

We woke up at 7 AM to head to our hotel provided breakfast where we shoveled food in our face because, let's be honest, we'll take whatever we can get if it is free. And then we finally headed out to explore Wales! It was drizzling the entire day, down pouring at other parts, but we were determined to make the best of it.

About a 20 minute ride from Llandudno is a town called Conwy. Conwy Castle is not open to the public on Sunday, so our guide pretty much led us through this trespassing back entrance from a railroad so we could walk along its walls and see the views, which were absolutely killer.

You can see how windy it is because of my hair!
Despite it being overcast and gray, this was an awesome experience. Going down was a bit scary though because it was a stone walkway that was very wet from the rain for the day. I don't really have a huge fear of heights. I can get up just fine...it's the coming down part that scared the heck out of me. My friends were kind enough to take it slow and encourage me every step of the way throughout the many times on this trip that I gave myself anxiety, and it was much appreciated. Small fear conquered? Let's say it's a work in progress.

On our way out of Conwy we passed The Smallest House in Great Britain. This thing is kind of adorable looking and it can be yours for a measly 400 pounds a month! haha A wee bit expensive if you ask me, but it is a tourist landmark I suppose. And it's a house instead of an apartment even though an apartment is probably the significantly better deal in this case.

Next we hopped on the bus to go to a small tourist stop. We spent 45 minutes in the town in Britain with the longest name. 58 letters! Crazy, right? There I was able to buy a snowglobe for my collection, some post cards for friends, and some people stocked up on food. This was how I wish our stop in Chester was. Can you tell Chester really dampened a lot of the trip for everyone who went?

After we left the long town name that I am not even going to attempt to spell we did some more driving (and much needed power napping) on the bus as he headed to Caernarfon to see Caernarfon Castle where the Prince of Wales is always given his title since the castle was built by King Edward I when he took Wales back in the day.

This castle was so gorgeous and it was everything I wanted it to be and more! I had an absolute blast exploring and falling in love with it even though the rain began falling hard shortly after I took these pictures and I got sick as a result. Places like this that are so rich with history are hard for me not to enjoy. I explored every nook and cranny, climbed all those tours and slowly worked my way down with the encouragement of my friends (no thanks to the guide who took us into the castle and again told us to scatter), and then took refuge in a Subway restaurant because that was all that was open on a Sunday afternoon when we needed lunch.

I feel like my selfies have improved significantly on this trip.
We took refuge on the bus where everyone promptly fell asleep, so I proceeded to make travel plans to Edinburgh (next weekend!!!) and start planning for Switzerland (about a month away!!!) while I watched the sheep go by outside the window. There was one terrifying moment when we were careening down twisting roads on cliffs with no guard rails where people actually started screaming and the girl next to me hyperventilated because she was so terrified, all the while our crazy bus driver and guide laughing and talking about death. Like what the hell? I have never disliked two more people after knowing them for such a little while.

They decided to take us the scenic route home, which would have been awesome if it wasn't down pouring. We were unable to see anything out of the windows, which is sad because I hear the views are amazing. We also spent about 8 hours on the bus instead of the estimated 5 because of this, so I was sufficiently exhausted, slightly sick, and convinced I no longer had a behind when we finally pulled into campus. My roommate and I headed back inside and were content for the rest of the night.

All in all, Wales was a bit disappointing in the sense that I could have gone on a cheaper trip and enjoyed myself a lot more if I went on my own and not through the school. What is the point in paying for a guide if he refuses to guide you? Why is it called a Wales Mountain & Coast Tour if we don't even get to Wales until more than 10 hours after we initially leave? So many questions that can't be answered because the school refuses to do so.

But let's look at the positives...I got to see some amazing sites. I got to cross off a beautiful country from my list. I got to travel. And then I enjoyed it so much I made more plans to travel that are set in motion. I made some really amazing friends that I have seen several times since and plan to see some more in the future. I got to learn a tiny bit of history from guide books. And I've got some crazy stories to tell about near death experiences, creepy tour guides, and how much British people crave American candy.

To sum up Wales in a single picture, look to your left. It was fun, and we had amazing friends and beautiful views, but the weather really got in the way of things and made it frustrating on top of the lack of organization. But, gosh, does this picture make me laugh! haha

Perhaps my good hair days are behind me.

Until next time!

3 comments:

  1. Ah, it's so cool that you were able to go to Wales, Lili! I think it looks really fantastic (even though it does look quite windy), and I'm glad you had a good time in spite of all the shenanigans :D

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    1. Haha thank you <3

      IT WAS RIDICULOUSLY WINDY!

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  2. Seems like you had a great trip! I haven't been to UK, yet. I hope one day when my writer at essay kings me helps me complete all my written work, I'll go for a trip there.

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