Since (as of last Thursday) we finally have a car that will get us somewhere, we decided to go somewhere .
To take the car, and the kids on a maiden voyage across this small island (which feels rather large when driving with four kids!).
After deliberating about where to go (and spending way too much time on the internet researching where to stay and what to see – ug, I hate the internet sometimes) we decided to take off on Saturday morning to Wales. Despite all the hours I wasted on Friday researching, the only thing we really knew before we left was where we were going to stay – in a little bungalow in a town called Angel at nearly the very western most point of the Wales. We weren’t sure what we were going to see, or even what we wanted to see. We just wanted to see something beyond London.
We packed a change of clothes for each kid, toothbrushes, some diapers, peter’s little sleeping tent and the Beco and we were off. Off to see this big island.
And it felt good. We didn’t even break down on the M25 (a first for us). The further we got from London the happier Jeff and I were feeling as green valleys cut up by hedgerows stretched before us for miles. We drove through some amazing patchwork hills and valleys spotted with daffodils and baby lambs, past Bath and Bristol and into Southern Wales.
We decided to visit a random castle that was on the way to our little bungalow and we put the address into our GPS. The kids and I decided that our GPS lady (who we have named Ruthie Gonzalez) has quite a sense of adventure because the roads she took us on to get to the castle were crazy. They were unlike anything I’ve ever driven on. Tiny and built up on both sides with hedgerows so tall and wide that they were scrapping the sides of our car. And then, at one point, there was suddenly a small river that we had to drive through, I’m not kidding, a small river! On most occasions I might have been a little annoyed at Ruthie for taking us such a precarious and round-about way, but all of us were on the edge of our seats as we drove, smiling at the thrill of it all.
Finally we reached the castle of Carag Cennen and that thrilling feeling swelled inside us all as it crept into view. An old ruined castle perched on a cliff smack in the middle of the most beautiful hilly farmland you’ve ever seen. I almost cried as we walked up the slope towards the castle, the beauty of it all was that much to take in. The sun was just squeezing through the layers of fog, bathing the hills in a glowy green light. The landscape was all craggy and moorish with bouncy grass.
There was a small wedding going on and the bridesmaids wandering the grounds in their ethereal white gowns just added to the dreaminess of the scene. As you can see, I took way too many pictures. I just couldn’t help myself.
The castle itself was a ruin. No “do not touch” or “no access” signs, no wax figures or replicated rooms, no plaques to read, no guides or welcome centers -- just a big open castle begging to be explored. As we all (peter on my back) began to run free, climbing up old broken spiral staircases and exploring dark rooms I felt a part of me wake up. My thrill seeking side that, for the past 7 1/2 years has been meagerly fed on adventures in motherhood, like childbirth and adding a new little soul to an already crazy mix of kids. Now, don’t get me wrong, those things are ‘thrilling’, but they’re hard thrills, more like challenges and they take a toll.
But this castle? It brought back all those thrilling feelings from my pre-motherhood days of exploring and discovering and I felt remote corners of me suddenly start up again - all tingly with life. Having my children share in the discovery and adventure made it all the more exciting. I could see the delighted twinkle in Hazel and Charlie’s eyes, the seeds of adventure being planted and it made me realize that the older they all get the more chances I’ll have to wake up those dormant parts of my soul and bring them in. And that thought was almost as exciting as the castle itself.
For the most part, I’ll let this pile of pictures tell the rest of the story. But please keep in mind that these pictures don’t come close to doing this place justice….I wish I could have captured the way the air felt and smelt and the way our hearts and imaginations jumped into life as we roamed free in this place.
I think this picture should be a McClearan ad. This is about as far as the stroller made it though. I think Peter was pretty happy to be let loose on that soft grass -- till his pants got too soaked and muddy and he got captured by the Beco.Emmeline insisted on bringing Lamby to the castle. I think she knew he fit in there with all those sheep grazing pastures around.Here is the poop hole….the place where all the sewage was drained from the castle. The kids, of course, loved that part.Emmeline is really into making poses when I take pictures. You’ll see a lot of these poses on the blog, I think they are fantastic.Seriously, I could not get over the light at that place. Everywhere I looked begged me to take a picture.Here we are inside the castle. The lord’s chambers.view from the courtyards.Emmeline and Hazel are going places. Love those struts.
The whole castle was built on top of a cave and you could take your torch and descended down this old walk way and down some steps into a pitch black cave. It was slick and spooky and we made our kids go down with us. They were pretty darn brave and only complained once we got into the belly of the cave and Jeff went ahead with the flashlight to check out how far back it went. The kids and I huddled in the dark and sang some primary songs. With the exception of Emmeline who slipped on the way back up, everyone emerged from the underground adventure feeling brave and strong. Like they’d conquered something. I love that feeling.
After exploring the cave, at Hazel’s insistence, we played “villages,” a game where you each declare a certain place to be your home, you set it up and arrange what is where and then you visit each other. This game is kind of painful for me……but Hazel convinced us all to play for a little while. This (above) was Hazel’s house. She fed us all a feast around that table. It was delicious.Here is Charlie in his “house” which was really an old fireplace or oven. And Peter, who kept trying to climb the rocks (successfully in some scary cases) was confined to his dungeon where he couldn’t climb out. Emmeline had to poop, so she found a little house for her and her Lamby with seats in it and invited Hazel over for tea. I think this picture (above) is one of my favorites of the day. Awesome, and very fitting expressions on these kids faces. Before leaving Hazel convinced us all to play villages outside in the crags. Emmeline had other ideas.
Peter tried his hand at rock climbing.
Charlie posed for some pictures (miracle of miracles). I only got this kind of smile out of him when I mentioned Mila (Amy’s little girl his age….they are like two peas in a pod).Don’t worry, this is an illusion, he’s not really climbing up the face of a cliff.Even peter’s sense of wonder and discovery was sparked.We met a cool little Welch kid that Charlie made friends with, or rather, he made friends with Charlie. His name was Leo and he was super friendly and had a killer accent.
Thank you Carag Cennen for the thrill and beauty. For sparking up the joy of thrills and discovery in my children and for quenching my thirst.