The Real Salem’s Lot … (Canadians Driving in Wales, Part II)

Again, this post has nothing more to do with Doha than a recounting of silly tales by Doha expats off on a short summer driving adventure.  

Duly impressed by my selection of lodging in Cardiff, Smilin’ Vic decided to wow us by booking a posh room for the next leg of our trip in a lovely seaside university town on the Western Coast of Wales.  It was to be our last night in Wales before moving on to Ireland, and he hoped to make it a memorable one.

It was to be memorable, for sure, … but perhaps not in the ways he’d hoped.

Our destination was Aberystwyth, and we took our leisurely time getting there, stopping in a quaint little village called LLandarrog, at a lovely pub with a thatched roof and the most impressive interior I’ve yet to see.  Unfortunately, for reasons we can’t quite explain, we left without taking a single picture of the interior of the White Hart Thatched Inn and Restaurant.

 The White Hart Thatched Inn & Restaurant.  Lovely food.  Lovely cider.  Lovely hosts.  Just lovely.

The White Hart Thatched Inn & Restaurant.  Lovely food.  Lovely cider.  Lovely hosts.  Just lovely.

 Added bonus, the Inn was also a brewery, so we got to sample the cider (me) and the ale (Smilin' Vic)

Added bonus, the Inn was also a brewery, so we got to sample the cider (me) and the ale (Smilin' Vic)

We did enjoy a little afternoon stroll down a country lane however, and some lovely cider and lunch before continuing on our way to Aberystwyth.  We arrived in the town around 7:30 p.m., having stopped in a few more small picturesque fishing villages along the way, and allowed our GPS to guide us toward our much-anticipated seaside destination.

 Afternoon stroll down a country lane ... little things you don't get to do when you live in the ME ... (you can't believe how meaningful walking on a dirt road surrounded by green and grass becomes when it's just NOT a possibility).

Afternoon stroll down a country lane ... little things you don't get to do when you live in the ME ... (you can't believe how meaningful walking on a dirt road surrounded by green and grass becomes when it's just NOT a possibility).

 On the way to Aberystwyth ... The roads don't get any wider, we're on the wrong side, and it's a steep drop on MY side!

On the way to Aberystwyth ... The roads don't get any wider, we're on the wrong side, and it's a steep drop on MY side!

 Fishguard.... low tide.

Fishguard.... low tide.

Kiddo and I really had no idea where we were headed, as Smilin’ Vic wasn’t spilling all the beans, but we later came to learn that he actually believed there was a proper Four Seasons Hotel in this town.  He was partly right; there WAS a Four Seasons.  Just not the legitimately branded sort.  What more would you expect for 90 £ per night one street back from the waterfront?

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I had an inkling all was not as it should be when I spotted THIS directly across the street from our lodging for the night.  (Stephen King fans ... I think this is where it all began ....)

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A subsequent Google search showed that, had we done our homework, we would have been forewarned of the hotel’s (town's) dubious ratings and questionable accommodation.

Smilin’ Vic headed in to the hotel to check in, leaving us parked on the eerily empty street to wait.  He proceeded to smack his head HARD on THIS …  

  Another sign?

Another sign?

He got back into the car, bruised and battered, and drove us (bleeding cranial wound and all) ‘round to the back, where we parked our car for ‘free for the night’ into a local car park.  We would only be charged if we left the car there past 8:00 a.m. apparently.  Possibly another indication as to the state of our setting.  As we manoeuvred our way up to the first floor and through FOUR sets of fire doors, visions of the room awaiting us played havoc in my head.  When we finally arrived at our room, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was clean, even though the luggage carrier immediately collapsed under the weight of our smallest duffel bag.

 Note collapsed luggage carrier folded uselessly behind pleather upholstered chair...

Note collapsed luggage carrier folded uselessly behind pleather upholstered chair...

Settled in, we decided to make our way down to dinner.  Though still bright as daylight outside, it was closing in on 8:00 p.m.  Our hostess informed us that the hotel restaurant was closed, but that we could find a kebab shop or Chinese takeaway open down by the pier.  I remained hopeful that we’d find a quaint seaside oyster shack …

We walked the block to the pier, winding our way for about 5 minutes through what can only be described as the walking dead.  Sad, twisted, angry faces, shouting out ‘f you’ and ‘burn in hell’ to stalkers visible to none but them.  Drunken bodies lying twisted and seemingly lifeless on benches and boardwalk, beggars staggering about bumming cigarettes, and middle aged couples such as ourselves weaving raggedly down the boardwalk in a drunken stupor.  Smilin’ Vic tried desperately to tuck away the Canon EOS camera that so blatantly marked him as a tourist as we retraced our steps as quickly as possible, ignoring the dishevelled youth who ran drunkenly after us shouting ‘wait for meeeee’.  

We tried unsuccessfully to find anything other than a filthy KFC (occupied by a sole patron sitting amidst chicken skin and paper packaging strewn across the floor) that might provide some sustenance, eventually settling on crusty rolls, ham and tomatoes from a local grocery store.  

Armed with our grocery spoils, we headed back to the relative retreat that could barely be referred to as a courtyard at the back of our hotel.  There we sat on the patio backing onto a rather suspicious alleyway, enjoying our picnic as best we could while a flock of hungry seagulls, the vultures of the sea, hovered anxiously overhead.

 Only one lone gull standing guard over the 'courtyard' ... but the poo on the roof gives credence to the fact that the flock was not far behind ....

Only one lone gull standing guard over the 'courtyard' ... but the poo on the roof gives credence to the fact that the flock was not far behind ....

To their credit, the hotel owners really did try to make our stay as pleasant as possible, but everything about our experience in this town would have fit perfectly into a Stephen King novel.  Zombies on the boardwalk, boarded up shop fronts, circling seagulls, 3 gaunt AA members who emerged from the church basement just before sunset, gum-chewing boxers at the local grocery shop with butterfly ears, death-pale vacant-eyed 16-year-old goth chick with the pasty belly walking down the street in ripped fishnet stalkings and a crop top.

We hunkered down for the night in our room in what we’d come to refer to as ‘Fort’ Seasons, anxious for morning to come to get as much distance between us and this haunted town as possible.  Sunrise couldn’t come soon enough.  

 June 19 in Aberystwyth ... with the looming summer solstice, light still shines lights the room at 9:30 p.m.

June 19 in Aberystwyth ... with the looming summer solstice, light still shines lights the room at 9:30 p.m.

The one good thing that has come from our stay in Aberystwyth is that we’ve narrowed down Kiddo’s university choices by one.  She will NOT be going to Aberystwyth U!

P.S.  My views on the town of Aberystwyth are mine (and my little family's) alone; feel free to visit and make your mind up for yourself.  On the upside, the subsequent ride to Holy Head was glorious.  The countryside in Wales is truly something to behold.

 ¨Pitstop ... Kiddo on her way up the hill to mingle with the sheep...

¨Pitstop ... Kiddo on her way up the hill to mingle with the sheep...

 Narrow roads in Wales ...

Narrow roads in Wales ...

 You can't see me, but I'm reaching for the flask of wine I've hidden in my bag ... Close encounters of the Welsh kind ...

You can't see me, but I'm reaching for the flask of wine I've hidden in my bag ... Close encounters of the Welsh kind ...

 Thanking the gods for no oncoming traffic ...

Thanking the gods for no oncoming traffic ...

 There is a line down the middle - deceitful - because there is in fact no room for two cars. ...

There is a line down the middle - deceitful - because there is in fact no room for two cars. ...

 I'm two fists into the bottle by now ....  enjoying the glorious scenery ....

I'm two fists into the bottle by now ....  enjoying the glorious scenery ....

 So how we gonna get by this dude Smilin' Vic?  I don't really care.  I'm three sheets to the wind!  Yeeeeeehaaaaaa!  Gooooo Wales and teeny tiny roads!

So how we gonna get by this dude Smilin' Vic?  I don't really care.  I'm three sheets to the wind!  Yeeeeeehaaaaaa!  Gooooo Wales and teeny tiny roads!

 Gorgeous scenery.  Learned by reading the maps that 'Lynn' actually means 'Lake'.  Very relevant in our family.

Gorgeous scenery.  Learned by reading the maps that 'Lynn' actually means 'Lake'.  Very relevant in our family.

 Serenity.  Enough to sober me up :-)

Serenity.  Enough to sober me up :-)

 These dudes are like:  'Hey Canadian Woman.  RELAX!  Enjoy the ride and just chill.  De-stress for the sake of us all ....'

These dudes are like:  'Hey Canadian Woman.  RELAX!  Enjoy the ride and just chill.  De-stress for the sake of us all ....'