The other day, someone asked me what my favorite thing was about living in Wales. I had to think for a moment, because while I do like living here, it is hard to place why. In some ways, I adapt very easily to new places, I think. Of course, I have only really moved 2.5 times in my life: to my dorm at my first university in New Jersey, to North Carolina, and to here. Of the three, I can only really say that I like living in North Carolina and here in Swansea. Something that the two have in common? The coast.
I didn’t grow up in a coastal area of New Jersey, but the beach was only 1.5-2 hours away, so it was relatively easy to access. And I have always loved the ocean. It’s hard to imagine being away from it. So being here, with the bay basically at my doorstep, makes me feel at home.
I always find the beach beautiful, but Wales has an especially beautiful coastline. People say that a lot—at least I heard it a lot as I was preparing to come here—and it really is true. Southwest Wales has some really stunning views. And I was lucky enough to see a few of them on my third day here—the first day of the presessional.
Now, finally, I will begin to share my journeys with you. This one is rather small, but it is still one of my favorites.
So on the first day of class (January 23), we didn’t really have class. We had a mini-orientation, then we began the process of getting ready and enrolled. By lunch time, we were boarding a coach bus to take us out to the Gower Peninsula. The Gower Peninsula is the first ever Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which (according to Wikipedia) is “an area of countryside in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland which has been designated for conservation due to its significant landscape value” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_of_Outstanding_Natural_Beauty). Having been there, it is easy to see why.
Our first stop was Rhossili. Pictures really can’t do it justice, but here are a few.
There are sheep ALL over Rhossili (and really all over Wales). They like to leave black beans behind, and it is very difficult to avoid stepping in them.
I can’t even begin to fathom how they can stand (or climb) on a vertical surface,
It’s really just disgustingly beautiful. I didn’t want to leave it.
After Rhossili, we went to Caswell Bay.
It was pretty, but after Rhossili it was a little anticlimactic. At least that’s what I thought. But maybe I will go back there sometime and change my mind.
After Caswell, we headed back towards Swansea, making a stop at The Mumbles. I have heard about The Mumbles for years because my great-grandfather was from there. Years ago, my family was sort of planning a trip to Wales (which never happened), and The Mumbles was a top priority. So when I started to seriously look into going into Swansea, I had to look up how close The Mumbles was to it. I was thrilled to find that it is super close—only a few miles away. I have now walked to Mumbles and back (about 8 miles round trip from Singleton Campus) several times, and I love it immensely.
Here are a few pictures of my very first visit to Bracelet Bay in The Mumbles. Tell me that you don’t understand why I fell in love.
These are three different rock islands; the lighthouse is on the third. When the tide is really low, you can walk from one to the next. However, the tide can come in very quickly. I believe Swansea/the Swansea area has the second greatest tide differential in the world—or something like that. I can’t remember what the technical terms for it are. But tide can get absurdly low and then rush back in. Apparently it is not uncommon for people to get stuck out on one of the islands. So if you’re going to attempt to get out to the lighthouse, make sure you check the tide tables to see if you have enough time.
Anyway. We were given an option at The Mumbles: to take the coach back to campus at around 4:00, or to stay and hang out. There were buses we could catch, or we could walk back. I liked the idea of walking back, as did most of the rest of the class. Most of them stayed up on the cliff until sunset—I’d found out later—but I was hungry. I had barely eaten more than an apple all day; my tea (in my amazing Contigo travel mug, which I filled at around 8:30 in the morning and which was still warm at 5:00) was all that was sustaining me. So I left with a few other people to get some food. I’m glad I did, because I went to this restaurant called The White Rose (where I left my Contigo, much to my devastation. But it’s okay—they found it and, after two more trips into The Mumbles, I got it back), but I am a little sad I didn’t see that sunset.
Ah, well. There will be more beautiful, sunny days (warning: these are few and far between) where I can go back and see it on my own time. I can go as often as I like because I live here. Sometimes I still can’t believe it.