I tried to write a summary of the whole trip, but it didn’t work!
Sorry it’s so long - but after all nobody’s forced to read it!
Here’s my tour diary (next days will follow, for those who dare keeping on reading).
At Swansea Bus Station
Just hopped off the coach from Stansted Airport, I walk in to ask for information. I wonder if the guy speaks Welsh. Maybe, maybe not. I think “Well I’ve just arrived. I’m too tired. I need to be sure I understand what he says. I’ll use English, this time. Just this time.”
I ask where I can catch the bus to Carmarthen. He doesn’t understand Carmarthen. I try to pronounce it in a few different ways, until he goes “Ooh, Carmarthen! Yes, in 15 minutes, at Stop X”. I wait at the stop for a while, then ask the driver, to be sure. Turns out that’s a local line, I should go to Stop S instead.
Luckily, the right bus is still there. Now I got a bit too anxious to remember to speak Welsh. I ask for a ticket to Carmarthen; he asks “Carmarthen?” (I suppose, again, with a subtle difference in pronunciation that I cannot perceive), I get my ticket and off we go.
I should really memorize Caerfyrddin, though: names in Welsh seem very complicated when you first see them. But once you figure out the alphabet, it’s easy because there’s only one way to pronounce each letter or combination of letters - like Italian and unlike English!
Anyway, since I crossed the England-Wales border, all the road signs and are blilingual. Occasionally, on shops and houses, even in Welsh-only. So I can entertain myself reading them and learning something.
“Edrychwch i’r chwith”
“Anaddas i gerbyd hir”
“Mae ysmygu yn y fangre hon yn erbyn y gyfraith”
The latter in particular seems very common and related to a lot of incredibly different activities. Until…uhm…got it now, it’s because it means “Entrance”. D’oh!
Carmarthen and The Warren
On the bus, nobody is chatting in Welsh. I reach Carmarthen… naaa, Caerfyrddin, Caerfyrddin!..and I have time for a coffee before getting on the bus to Pencader. I remember hearing on S4C the story of a bar-restaurant that had launched a successful crowdfunding campaign and then opened over here. It seemed really neat, guaranteed Welsh-speaking and close enough, so I head for The Warren.
When it’s time to order…oh, damn…I chicken out again and speak English. Right before going out, at least, I ask if they all speak Welsh: yes, although two of them self-declare as still learning and point at the third as the only fluent speaker. Now, I’d love to say I’m a learner myself and stop for a chat; but unfortuately now it’s too late: I just can’t miss the bus. Well, next time. Loved the coffee and the scone, though!
On the bus, still nobody chatting in Welsh. At the next stop, a guy wearing a fleece jacket completely covered in cat hair - just like my grandma used to have! - sits next to me and starts talking about the weather. We’re in Britain after all, aren’t we? I don’t understand his question in English and ask “Sorry?”. He asks me if I’m Polish (?). I reach Pencader, get off the bus, have a short walk, catch Bwcabus to Llandysul. Reminder: local buses accept cash only; go to the ATM machine first and/or make sure to have pounds and not euros in the wallet, to avoid complications and/or embarrassment.
Dee and Cymraeg
At the bus station I finally meet @Deborah-SSi in person, my host for the next few days. It has started snowing a little, but I’m really glad to walk a bit after sitting in planes, coaches and buses for so long. She already knows that the main purpose of my trip is practicing Welsh. So, no more excuses, from now on the official language is going to be Cymraeg. I have to admit that the image of an Italian and a Kiwi chatting in Welsh while walking in the snow in a small town in Wales seems slightly bizarre. But who cares? For the rest of the evening I’ll do my best to communicate, putting together sentences with my limited vocabulary and asking Dee (so patient, poor her!) for the missing words. I’m exhausted and happy to fall asleep in such a cozy and quiet home. Very busy schedule ahead, tomorrow!
Note: to find out how and why ended up here or read just a super compact report, see:
My #2 Trip to Wales.