22.03.2009 - 27.03.2009 9 °C
My flight from Grenoble saw me back in Birmingham in time for lunch, which turned out to be a humungous roast chicken dinner in the pub under New Street railway station. Of course, by evening I was hungry again, and I had a plan: I'd picked up a train magazine (like an airline one, but produced by a train company) which rated some restaurants in Mosely (a suburb of Birmingham) very highly. I picked the Thai place, and the food was very good. I don't know if it was the fact that I rode up several hills to get there, or the fact I was on French time (making it a long day), or the travelling had tired me out but I had an unusual encounter with the woman running the restaurant. She'd told me that something put on my food was good for "energy", and then when it came time to leave, there was a curious degree of intimacy: she was saying that I'd looked so tired when I came in, wanted to make sure I was taking care of myself - generally the sort of conversation you might have with a close, caring friend.
Another food highlight was my visit to the Asian greasy spoon near the station, where I'd previously had a good curry. They'd run out this week, so I went for the roast duck and pork on rice: amazing and under six quid! The duck was totally succulent (and probably just that little bit bad for me, as it was quite fatty). Over a week later as I write this, I can still taste the crunchy, slightly charred skin of the pork (helped a little by the fact I've been back for more since).
Wednesday was a bit of a mixed day: I had a seminar to give on Thursday, so spent the day preparing, finishing with a neat outline of what I wanted to say. When Word asked if I wanted to save, I thought "yes, better save, ah but I should print it out so I can take it home and think about it, so no I don't want to save". Now, when you say don't save, Word takes you at your word: I had a near blank document rather than the six page outline I'd spent the entire day working up. I really couldn't face a rewrite at that stage, and besides I had an appointment - I went out to Lichfield and had a bit of a pub crawl with one of my colleagues. Unusually, he lives there but expected me to be the guide - we did have a good time. After several pints and in a state of not quite complete sobriety, I rewrote my seminar notes and then, when giving it, had to give an acknowledgement: "if my paper is any good, it is thanks to Marston's Pedigree ale".
Friday, I had a rental car waiting for me at the Avis depot in Telford (northwest of Birmingham, near Shrewsbury). Or at least I thought so: somehow it took them half an hour to get it ready, a half hour I spent wishing I'd booked with Hertz ("if you wait more than ten minutes, your rental is free"). But Carly, the Avis lass, was a real charmer, so we hung out while her off-sider did wheelies in my car in the car park and it was about 4:40 before I could finally leave
The drive out through to Wales was pretty standard, a main road with lots of roundabouts, but once I hit the Wales border, things just got more and more special. The road narrowed, and took on stone borders
with lots of quaint villages
One of particular interest is Betws-y-coed
A couple of the many hotels made me wonder how good the place I had booked into was going to be, as these places looked cool, and I'd hate to find myself somewhere skodie when I could have been here
No worries, my hotel was pretty good, certainly worth what I paid, although in a different style (and quite pink inside)
Llanberis (the ll in Wales is a bit like the hard ch in English, but seems to have a bit of sqelch added - so you have a fairly soft k with a hint of the h sound, but also quite a soft sh) is the "capital" of Snowdonia, a fairly rugged area centred on Mt Snowden. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't good enough to permit me to take the train to the summit, and I wasn't going to walk so I never saw the mountain. Still, it seemed like a nice area, very reminiscent of New Zealand, with subtle differences. This is Dolbadarn Castle, from the 13th century, which was directly behind my hotel:
Lake Padarn, which is surrounded by the town of Llanberis (both are small)
A couple of random scenes from the road
Timing was pretty good: it became dark just as I arrived in Llanberis, so I had a pub dinner, wandered the mean streets (very little to see, even on a Friday night) and retired to the bar of my hotel.
Somehow I was still reading the Sunday paper on Tuesday, so little progress on reading Aldous Huxley's Brave New World.