Nov. 4 2018

The Misty Mystery of Wales in 25 Photos

Once in the late spring I took a train trip to the misty environs of Wales in the United Kingdom. Shooting away from the London train station and into the outer countryside, I found myself transported back in time to a place the evoked the romance of Welsh fairytales. A place where you wouldn’t be surprised to see a dragon crawl out from behind a dewy patch of daffodils.

In Wales I stayed with the spirited Nancy, a former CBC video journalist who reported from the Balkans during the Bosnian war, where her Philosopher-turned-accountant husband Bill also made the harrowing journey between his alma mater Oxford and the university in Bosnia. During the siege of Sarajevo he would fly into the university, his plane making tight spirals while landing to avoid being shot by the hillside snipers.

Now the two run a lavender farm in the Welsh countryside. Their farmhouse home stands beside rolling hills, where sheep wander lazily between pasture and flowery fields.

The train to Builth Wells. The open windows provided both a refreshing breeze, and the reminder that sheep are best seen, not smelled.
I stayed at a lavender farm run by a former CBC journalist and her husband, both expat Canadians.

Bill and Nancy were the most gracious hosts. Have you ever slept in an old barn house in the middle of the country on a moonless night? It’s a different kind of dark. The kind where you can’t see your hand in front of your face. I slept well there. They taught me how to play backgammon, fed me chicken with creme fraiche and dijon, cured ham belly, and broccoli from their garden with potatoes.  There was homemade rhubarb ice cream. And, Nancy showed me behind-the-scenes of their successful lavender business, Farmer’s Lavender.

Nancy and Bill are the kind of people who do everything with care, and so whether lecturing at Oxford, reporting from a war zone, or producing lavender – these are the kind of people you know will make good at whatever they choose to do.

Nancy is a war reporter turned entrepreneur.
Young lavender grow here before being planted.
Celebration of the Welsh farmer lifestyle is everywhere.
Farmhouse kitchens can’t help being charming. I’ve never met one I didn’t like.
The latin on the sign, ‘quid est tempus?’ means, ‘what’s the weather like?’
Learning how to play Backgammon with Nancy. It’s popular in the Balkans, and I was heading there after my visit with them.
The charming homes of Builth Wells. 

I’d love to go back in the summer when the lavender is in full bloom, but in the spring the hills held a kind of misty mystery that made you feel like you were walking through a daydream.

If you’re ever in London, you really should make the trip out by train to Wales. It’s like its own country. When I went to purchase my ticket at the station in London, the ticket agent had never even heard of the stop, ‘Builth Wells.’ On the train, every once in awhile horn would blow to clear sheep off the tracks. The station I departed at was someone’s garage, where Nancy picked me up in her car with a red leather interior, her oxblood Doc Martens on the gas pedal, and a streak of crimson in her hair.