Feb 13th, 2012 | By | Category: Senior Travel

‘Not To Be Missed’Trip

Croeso i Gymru Seniors, that’s Welsh for welcome to Wales. Known as the Land of the Song, Wales is also a land of mountain and flood, where wild peaks challenge the sky and waterfalls thunder down steep, rocky chasms. The country is a part of the British Isles and over the years many of its inhabitants have immigrated to the US.  As a docent at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, I share that Frank Lloyd Wright’s ancestors came from Wales to settle in SW Wisconsin in 1844. The clan were of the Unitarian Faith and their motto was “Truth Against the World.”  They, like many persecuted for their beliefs, left their country to move to the US.

Today Wales is a destination not to be missed and seniors have discovered the many delights that make this a “not to be missed” trip. Wales is bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 8,023 sq mi. Wales has over 750 miles of coastline, including it’s offshore islands.

Situated in the southeastern portion of the island of Great Britain, Wales never developed into a fully integrated kingdom as did Scotland and England. The Celtic principality was joined by force to England way back in 1284, but has managed to retain its distinctive language, culture, and sense of nationhood through the centuries. The Welsh traditionally eked out a living by mining coal and slate.  Today Wales still lags behind the other regions of the UK in terms of economic development and prosperity.  Nevertheless, both Wales and Scotland have seen a resurgence of nationalism in recent years. You will find during your visit that both English and Celtic names are on all the road signs.

Cardiff, the capital, was largely rebuilt after WWII and lies on the Severn River.  It is rapidly developing into one of Europe’s finest maritime cities, famous for its parks, choirs, and ancient Cardiff Castle. At the time, Cardiff Docks was the biggest coal port in the world and, for a few years before WWI, it handled a greater tonnage of cargo than either London or Liverpool. Cardiff has changed dramatically in recent decades. It is now a lively and modern capital city, gaining popularity with tourists interested in its history and Welsh culture. It is quickly becoming one of the United Kingdom’s tourism hot spots.

You won’t want to miss Caernarfon,  famous for its breathtaking castle.  It is totally HUGE and one of the best places in the world to hear a living Celtic language, with over 80% of the local population speaking Welsh. Cardiff Bay attracts many seniors as it is so unique and full of fun things to see and do. Take the train 2 1/2 hours from London to Cardiff with these folks and enjoy their first-hand description.

You will find that Wales is divided into five regions, each with it’s own history and culture.  These regions boast of national parks, 45 Blue Flag beaches and a host of other attractions. And how about trying to visit just a small portion of the 641 castles that dot the skyline just around every corner. That’s more castles per square mile than any other country in the world.

Seniors will find that the Welsh speak English in Wales but the Welsh language is thriving. It’s spoken fluently by over half a million people in Wales.  That’s over 20% of the population.  Called Cymraeg,  it is a language with entirely regular and phonetic spelling.

Swansea is Wales’ Golden Coastal City and it is the region where Catherine Zeta Jones called home along with Dylan Thomas, Richard Burton, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Milland and Tom Jones.

Seniors Will Enjoy the Food, the Restaurants and Pubs

The Welsh pride themselves on supplying some of the finest produce in the world. Their landscape reflects freshness, quality and variety.  Fresh and local are two words senior visitors will hear to describe the food. There’s meat fresh from the farm, fish fresh from the coast and vegetables dug up that morning. If you like to try new dishes, like my wife, you might like to try this specialty and if you can say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch you can have some. Better just write that one down and show it to the waiter.

The new Wales is a vibrant place where history is alive and Welsh culture finds new forms of expression. The mix of defiant tradition and New-World sophistication is one of Wales’ greatest assets today. The male voice choirs may still keep a welcome in the valleys, but an alternative culture flourishes in urban hubs.  Like Cardiff, a healthy dose of hedonism oozes from gourmet kitchens and hip hotels, and a strong motif of environmental awareness underpins the country’s forward-looking perspective.  Enjoy good museums?  The National Museum in Cardiff is home to the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings outside Paris.

Britannia calls itself “America’s Gateway to the British Isles since 1996” and can provide seniors a wide choice of tours depending on personal interest. Many seniors make the mistake of thinking that they can see Wales in a day or so, but that’s only enough time to scratch its surface. Do check out Frommer’s Complete Guide to Wales especially for information on specific cities and regions.

This was one of the most fun travel blogs I have written for some time. I learned lots myself. I hope that you enjoy your visit to Wales as much as I have writing this piece.  jeb

Tags: , , , ,

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.