3rd April 2022
Today I learned a hard lesson: Never scrimp on paper, simply because you think you might run out!
We awoke early and eager today, had a quick breakfast together, all 24 of us plus two RS Leaders, and were able to identify our first contenders for the title of “Keep an Eye on So-and-So”. The last person on the bus is not necessarily a problem, unless their tardiness puts a real crimp in the tightly choreographed plans for the day. David, a charming, retired philosophy professor from Houston, was the first one to show potential. He was the last to get on my coach (we travel with two small coaches, much easier on the narrow roads). Suddenly, just as we were about to leave, David realized he had left his hat and walking stick on the chair next to him in the dining room. Yup, David has potential. We shall see….
We rode the coaches for about three hours today, which was no problem at all because it was broken up by a few stops and gorgeous scenery the entire way. I drew a tiny map in my sketchbook last night to help me picture the day (based on a Google map on my phone). Unfortunately the map got a bit crowded out by not one but two other sketches I tried to cram in together. In the future I will use a lot more than a page a day. Live and learn…
Our first stop was at Bodnant Garden, established in 1874. I walked around a little bit with the others, admiring how advanced their April gardens are compared to those where I live (in NH we still expect occasional snow for most of April!) Keeping a close eye on my watch, I decided to pause at a lovely bridge and waterfall scene for a quick sketch.
We had our lunch at Bodnant Garden as well, and got to know each other a little better, quickly identifying the extroverts in the group.
After getting back on the coaches we traveled along the River Conwy toward our second destination, Conwy Castle, built in 1283-1289, under the unwelcome rule of English King Edward I. The struggles between the Welsh people and the rulers of England go way back. Unfortunately that is often the theme of any travel exploration focused on humankind: ‘history’ is often the history of conflict, if not all out war. I admit that regardless of the lessons being taught about struggles between warring cultures, I continue to be on the lookout for beauty, or at least what I perceive to be beauty. That can include crumbling ruins, piles of slate surrounding slate mines, as well as pristine gardens. As usual, it is all in how you see things.
Late in the afternoon, after a scenic ride along the northeastern side of Snowdonia National Park, we arrived in Betws-y-coed, and finally at our hotel, the Royal Oak. Stunningly beautiful, with a rich history of its own that I will be sure to explore during the days we are here.
After a delicious dinner (as always, we were unreasonably hungry for the tiny amount of exercise we had had all day!), we gathered in a small meeting room of the hotel for a lecture by our Study Leader, where we learned more of the back-story to the places we would be visiting in the week ahead.
It was a very full day, could easily have taken two days for all we covered, but of course I see a worthy-of-sketching vista around every corner. Lucky me!
(Humility Confession: This is what the whole page actually looks like…apparently I forgot all about the value of White Space!! )