“The sea weather's poor today, so they've canceled the five o'clock ferry. You won't be able to make it to Ireland tonight”, the clerk lady says to me.
“Are you sure?”, I ask. But it's not necessary, of course she's sure. She does take mt tickets, though, and scribes magic symbols upon them which she says will ensure that my ferry pass will still be good the following day.
She asks what I want to do next, and I tell her I'll need to think about it. Leaving the desk, I walk out of her cubby-office, and to the station's entryway. A round-trip ticket to Manchester, where I have relatives, would be about £18. Without aim, I head to the street and rubberneck. There's a hotel to the right. Hotels have internet.
Inside, the carpet is worn and there's a feeling of age. But the chairs are comfortable and the WiFi is, mercifully, free. I spend a half-hour or so looking up hosteling options between Chester and Holyhead. I could stay with my relatives, but I know what will happen (only good things!) if I do, whereas a grander adventure may await if I do not. Decided. I make a Skype call and reserve a spot. Then I email Tatjana, “I won't be making it to Kinsale tonight,” and leave.
On my way up to Keswick, I'd been searching for a UK power adaptor for my laptop. They were all hideously expensive for something which could (essentially) be pieced together from paper clips and duct tape. Shaving adaptors were less expensive, though. I bought one, only to find later that it didn't work at all. (I still can't figure out why!) Accordingly, I head down a long road on a dishevled sidewalk. The day's warm enough that I need only a T-shirt and the grass around me is green.
Turning off the end of the road, I stop into the electronics store where they patronizingly explain that of course you can't use a shaver adaptor for a laptop, even if all the prongs fit where they should. Afterwards, I drop into the grocery store emerging with basil pasta and Sainsbury's version of Innocent. On the way out, a man is asking for donations for a children's disability fund. He tells me that if I give him five pounds, I can have a shot at winning The Prize; I give him two and he gives me a card anyway, telling me that the previous donors have also given too little, but it's added up.
Back at the train station, I head westward. Before long the track is running just a few feet from the sea with epic views of gray waves and distant water-borne windmills. I leaf through the route map absently… and discover that we're passing through a town I have wanted to visit for years! Except that the train doesn't stop there. That problem's solved easily enough, though: I can just get off early. But how will I get back on? I ask the passengers behind me about it.
“You just walk down the track and wave. The train'll stop.”
So I get off in Bangor and walk out of the train depot to the bus stop. I've been to Bangor before, or nearly so. But things are much more beautiful here, by the sea. Low cliffs rise up sharply just beyond the row of buildings facing me. But I don't really have time to poke around! My plan is to catch the next train west so that I am sure to make it to Holyhead before nightfall.
I look at the bus schedule and realise that it's going to take too long. By the time the bus picks me up and gets me where I'm going, I'll have only a few minutes to do what needs to be done. I walk back around the corner to the train depot and lurk a few moments for a taxi. Discouraged, I walk around to the other side of the building and find maybe six waiting. I choose at random.
“There is a town near here with a long name. Please, take me there!”
The driver eases out of the station and we fall into natural conversation. Which part of England am I visiting from? Oh, I'm not visiting from England, actually; I'm visiting from Minneapolis. Have I been to Atlanta? Yes, a couple of times. Oh, you have a brother there? It's a nice city, but the wealth differential is uncomfortably apparent at times. You're Scottish? Why did you move here?
As we go along we cross over the high bridge and turn to the south following a narrow road. Out across the channel which divides the Isle of Angelsey from the mainland of Wales, Snowdonia rises into the rain-shrouding clouds. I ask the driver to bring me to the train station and he leaves me there, miles from everywhere.
But just where I wanted to be… in the little town of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Which translates to “The Church of Mary in the Hollow of the White Hazel near the Fierce Whirlpool and the Church of Tysilio by the Red Cave”.
Listen to the pronounciation
Broken down, it goes like this “[St.] Mary's Church (Llanfair) [in] the hollow (pwll) of the white hazel (gwyngyll) near (goger) the rapid whirlpool (y chwyrndrobwll) [and] the church of [St.] Tysilio (llantysilio) with a red cave ([a]g ogo goch)”.
I stop into the visitors center and leave with a bundle of postcards. Since I still have at least fifteen minutes, I take a little walk up and down the road.
In the distance, the clouds have drawn in thicker around Snowdonia, but here it is all sun. I begin to worry about how I'll stop the train when it comes and resolve to get to the train station with enough time to figure that out. Fortunately, it's just across the parking lot.
The first sign I come to is unhelpful.
So I cross the little bridge.
A construction worker offers to take my picture, while warning me not to cross the tracks, though it is obvious that nothing is going to suddenly appear to schmuck me.
Finally, I find the instructions I'm looking for, just as the train pulls into view.
As it approaches the bridge, I stand to the edge of the platform and wave in what I hope is a clear manner. A moment later the train slides to a stop next to me and I climb on.