June 30, 2007

This was our last day on our own, as we were on our way to Exeter to visit Paul’s uncle and aunt. As on previous days we awoke to rain. We had ordered our breakfast the night before, but instead of the hot breakfast we had decided to have cereal, toast, and tea. This cost us ₤2.10 instead of ₤4.20 for the hot meal.

Driving to Exeter would involve crossing most of Wales, but as we had told the relatives we wouldn’t be there until 7 pm or so, we could do a leisurely drive, sightseeing along the way. Our original plan was to basically follow the A470 right down the middle of Wales towards Cardiff. But after reading some guidebooks, we diverted eastwards to Welshpool, the site of Powis Castle.

We arrived at Powis soon after 11 am; the house didn’t open until 1 pm so we went through the lovely garden beforehand. It was a series of terraces all beautifully landscaped, but again not many flowers were in bloom. By noon it was raining very heavily, so we decided to have lunch at the café. Paul had the cauliflower and blue cheese soup, and Rosemary had two fruit scones and tea. All the food was good and by the time we finished, the castle was just opening.

Inside the castle we followed the route through various rooms. The whole house was very elegant, with huge painted murals both on the walls and ceilings. Some rooms were hung with enormous paintings of various family members, and other rooms had lovely tapestries. Many of the carpets were Indian with beautiful patterns. Unlike the other castles we had visited, Powis was actually lived in by a single family up until the 1950s. So besides the furnishings, it still contained an immense quantity of artifacts like old books, photographs, stuffed birds, and objets d’art. It was mind-boggling to imagine even what the heating bill must have been, let alone the whole cost of running such a place.

After a quick visit to the toilets (the men’s had arrow slits for windows but the women’s didn’t) we got back into the car and turned south on the A483. South of Newtown it climbed steeply up a pass and then plunged steeply down the other side. Here there were cyclists powering uphill towards us. At first we thought they might be professionals doing a bit of Tour de France training, but they weren’t wearing team jerseys so they must have been just regular folks.

We decided not to go to the Red Kite feeding place near Rhyader, as it was already past the feeding time, so we continued on southwards. The weather was mixed, but more showery than not. One more castle before we left Wales: Raglan Castle. It is a ruin because it was mostly torn down during the Civil War, and the visitor centre was closed for reconstruction. So we took a quick walk around and then carried on to Exeter.

The weather was still inclement, so it was a good day to be driving rather than walking. In South Wales the roads are quite a bit wider and do not have stone walls on either side, so travelling along them was easier than in North Wales. Very soon we were down to Newport, and we turned east on the M4, then out of Wales over the new Severn bridge. From here it was motorway all the way to Exeter. We stopped at a service stop and had a pizza for dinner. We also filled up the car with enough fuel to get back to Exeter but not much more.

We had printed instructions on how to get to Chris and Ruth’s house, but we still managed to choose the wrong road off the roundabout. We couldn’t find our way back, so we had to spend almost half an hour driving around. But eventually we stumbled across the industrial area where the car was to be returned. We had instructions on how to get there, too, so we used them to back-track our way to Chris’s house. He lives close to the University in a lovely house. The main floor has an L-shaped living/dining room and a kitchen, plus three bedrooms and a bathroom. We unloaded the car and Paul and Chris drove it back to drop it at the car rental office while Rosemary visited with Ruth. Before long Paul and Chris were back and we were enjoying tea and chocolate cake. We sat around chatting until about 11 pm and then went to bed.

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