In a restaurant in Porthmadog, Wales ... writing in my journal about the day I've just spent, May 3, 1999 ...
7:15 p.m. An amazing day. I was slow to realize that I would not get back to London tonight—not w/out the most superficial and perfunctory visit here to Porthmadog—& Tremadog. And since today is one of the truly most gloriously beautiful days of my entire trip, I knew that it would be beyond stupid to get crazy about returning. So—after taking a few shots of the Embankment (called “The Cob” here), I went in search of a little hotel, found one called Owens Hotel (£27 for a room w/ shower!) & have a nice room overlooking the street.
What I don’t have are toiletries [I thought this would be just a day trip], so I scampered around & rounded up the basics: toothbrush, toothpaste, comb. Found some slide film, too, and a nice taxi driver named Stephen Dukes (he owns the little local company). He took me to Tremadog, about a mile away, and drove me up the hill to Tan-yr-allt, which has few vantage points now it is so overgrown, but I popped out & snapped a couple of backlit shots (sigh), then back down to Tremadog, where he dropped me off, after letting me know that “Lawrence of Arabia’s” birth house is just down the road—& so it is.
The light was very good (& has probably sunburned the shit out of me!), so I got a lot of the little village, the stone church, then back to the Cob where I tried to shoot Tan-yr-allt, which I could see, but even w/ the 300mm lens, I don’t think I got much of value. Sadly, the tide was out, so it doesn’t look so dramatic, but I will try in the a.m. Out roaming for a place to eat, I found this little steak house, a “real” Welsh restaurant patronized mostly by locals (except for me)—called Yr Winwydden (the grapevine) Bistro. On the way, I saw the same cab co. & the same driver. He’s going to pick me up at 9 at my hotel [tomorrow a.m.], drive me the same route, & then drop me at the British Rail stop in Porthmadog, where I’ll pay out the wazoo for a ticket back to Euston Station. I also picked up a tourist book & some postcards, which I’ll mail tomorrow a.m. from Tremadog.
The train I rode was a tourist train that took 1 ½ hrs. to traverse 13 miles thru the mountains. I was really too nervous about getting back [to London] to enjoy the ride. Oh well. What I didn’t expect is that the train would cross the Cob to Porthmadog, & I hung out the window like, well, like a tourist when I realized what was happening and fired off a couple of shots. I must have looked pretty funny at first: I just could not decide whether to stay or try to get back. And so I was starting & stopping, going & coming, my little heart racing, my head spinning w/ indecision (and worry: would I find a room?). It seemed, too, that the Cob was the intersection of the universe: There was an endless stream of cars across the narrow 2-lane road: weekenders heading back to wherever.
The town is basically a tourist town (think: “Cannon Beach” [Ore.]), but one of the businesses, right on the main drag is a tattoo & body-piercing parlor. Spilling out onto the sidewalk were some/many of the less savory patrons of the establishment, a beery, dissipated crew whom, unfortunately, I had to pass 3-4 times, each time pretending I didn’t notice the spilled beer (the vomit?) and the bizarre clientele sprawled in the sun like so many wacked-out sea lions. (I think I’m getting the out-of-towner treatment here: The locals are waited on & served much more briskly.)
I am really happy—so far—that I decided to swallow the few $$ this will cost me; I mean, when would I ever get back here again? I would’ve regretted it, just as I regret, in Italy, not taking one more train ride that day to San Giuliano/Baths of Pisa. Now, I can see this place when I write about it down the line. (Note: Must call Hotel Phoenix when I get back.) This is a leisurely meal, that’s for sure (it’s 8 & I’ve not seen the entrée.) 8:10 No sooner spoken … In J’s honor, I ordered the lemon-chicken stir-fry (a dish she makes well) and was so hungry that I ate it all, even the green & yellow peppers, the cucumber slices, the little yellow-things fashioned to resemble ears of corn—all of it, save the parsley.
8:35 I’ve been waiting for check for more than 20 minutes—& this place is hardly busy. I don’t know what my hurry is—I guess I’m just U. S.-impatient. 8:45 I finally just got up & headed out. That got the server’s attention ….
Will post photographs tomorrow ...